Days Before the World Ends on May 21st, It’s a Good Time to Consider Reason, Rationality and Science

Never try to discourage thinking, for you are sure to succeed. Bertrand Russell, What I Believe, 1925  

In addition to knowing how to make money for Berkshire-Hathaway (BH) and a lot of BH investors over decades of consistent above-average returns, Warren Buffett is a bit of an expert on rationality. He often extols critical thinking as a prerequisite for sound investment and sensible decision-making in all areas - no exceptions. One of his themes in annual BH reports is that rational people do not get in their own way. He often says, Not getting in your own way - that's the key to success.

There are no mysteries about how we get in our own way, nor about how we can learn to stay out of it. Most do things that hurt their prospects for regularly occurring experiences of exuberance in many forms, along with sustaining good health. Think of people you know who do what they know are harmful and self-destructive - smoking, drinking too much, exercising too little and engaging in other high-risk behaviors. However, a lot of self-inflicted, getting in one's own way is done by default.  

What does that look like? How do you hurt your prospects for success, health and a good life by default? This happens when you go along with norms or customs that reinforce mediocrity or worse. It happens when you associate, longer than you must, with backward, negative or dull people. And I think it happens when you continue to respect vacuous rules, ludicrous rituals and nonsensical beliefs that you grew up. Of course, not everything you grew up with was nonsensical, and some fortunate individuals grew up with sound cultures of science and learning.

We are all responsible for doing an inventory at several points along the way after reaching the ages of reason. Eliminate those things which no longer make sense and subject all of it to critical inquiry.  

Do you think I might be on to something here?   

An important skill area that is a foundation of a REAL wellness mindset is a strong regard for and willingness to utilize reason, rationality or critical thinking. Another way of putting it - having a high regard for science. Insist  on evidence concerning customs, dogmas and the like that seem a bit odd or ridiculous. Be alert to anything in your life that no longer make sense now that you are a fully functioning, capable and well-educated adult.  

Another way people get in their own way on the path to wellness is by default. This happens if we neglect to pursue passions, cultivate gifts, express loves and celebrate talents and opportunities. 

At a seminar with Bill Gates a decade ago, Buffett said:

They've asked us to start out talking, the two of us, about what got us here...How I got here is pretty simple...It's not IQ...The big thing is rationality. I always look at IQ and talent as representing the horsepower of the motor, but that the output - the efficiency with which that motor works - depends on rationality. A lot of people start out with 400-horsepower motors but only get a hundred horsepower of output. It's better to have a 200-horsepower motor and get it all into output.

Think of ways you might be blocking your REAL wellness success potentials. Don't overlook default factors. Let rationality, via critical thinking, be your guide to needed changes. It's the best path toward satisfaction and well-being, the true measures of success.


Donald B. Ardell is the Well Infidel. He favors evidence over faith, reason over revelation and meaning and purpose over spirituality. His enthusiasm for reason, exuberance and liberty are reflected in his books (14), newsletter (576 editions of a weekly report) and lectures across North America and a dozen other countries. Write Don at