By Phil Klutts
February 29, 2024

Clear Thinking

Unlock the secrets to enhanced decision-making with Shane Parrish’s book, Clear Thinking.

Shane Parrish spent his early career as a cybersecurity expert for the Canadian government in what he calls a “three letter agency” during a time of increased pressure and demanding workload due to growing hacking threats. He started an anonymous website and blog focused on self-improvement and better decision-making based on his own learning and desire to improve.

His blog gained popularity, leading to an email newsletter and podcast that are widely known and followed. His need for anonymity diminished as the importance of recruitment for his employer overshadowed the necessity for secrecy. He eventually retired from the intelligence service and now focuses on running his business and helping others improve their decision-making.

Parrish published his book, Clear Thinking, to condense the wisdom from years of learning and experimenting through his blog, Farnam Street, and podcast, The Knowledge Project. The content in Clear Thinking will help you make better decisions and take more effective actions.

Clear Thinking is broken into five parts:

Part 1: The Enemies of Clear Thinking

This section describes the default modes that hamper or override good decision-making. The defaults are emotion, ego, social, and inertia. Parrish expands on Victor Frankl’s idea of the space between a stimulus and response. How we choose to respond should be intentional instead of left to our less-than-ideal defaults. 

Part 2: Building Strength

Parrish argues you can’t just acknowledge your defaults to overcome them. You have to build strength in equally powerful ways to create positive inertia in your life. He discusses four key strengths: self-accountability, self-knowledge, self-control, and self-confidence. 

Part 3: Managing Weakness

We know you can’t just rely on your strengths but also have to know and deal with weaknesses. This section outlines and gives examples of safeguards to use to help manage weaknesses. Parrish outlines five strategies for using safeguards.

Two of my favorites are creating friction and using guardrails. Friction means making it harder to do the things you don’t want to do. Friction is why we don’t keep cake and ice cream in our house, because if we do, it’s easier to eat more sweets than we know we should. Guardrails help keep us in line with what we know is good or productive.

Checklists are great guardrails. They make sure we don’t miss anything that’s needed. One guardrail I use against losing my keys is making sure they always hang on the same hook by the hallway. 

Part 4: Decisions: Clear Thinking in Action

Parrish spends this section defining a clear decision model and how to use it well. His steps are to Define the Problem, Explore Possible Solutions, Evaluate the Options, and then “Do It!”

He also discusses learning from your decisions and understanding the difference between the outcome and the process. Sometimes, your decision process was good, but the outcome was bad due to other factors outside your control. 

Part 5: Wanting What Matters

This final section discusses making good decisions, not just effective ones. Good decisions are ones that help us get to the ultimate vision of where we want to be. Parrish uses a common technique in this section to think about your deathbed or funeral and if what you did would matter once you are gone. Sometimes, doing what we want now is not what we want to have done in the future. 

Parrish spent years researching and experimenting in order to get the best results possible. Clear Thinking takes all of his learnings into a book that is easily consumed. 

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About Phil Klutts

Phil is an Edmond native and has managed to keep his wife here instead of traveling the world, which they both enjoy. They have two boys who love the outdoors, adventures, and learning new things. Phil is a problem-solver at heart and enjoys connecting people to the resources they need.

In addition to being the co-owner of Edmond Business, Phil founded the CK Group LLC after working for large and small businesses in the Energy, Construction, and Fitness industries. He focuses on helping small businesses and entrepreneurs improve their systems and processes. CK Group LLC's mission is to eliminate chaos and create clarity for small business by connecting vision, strategy, and implementation.