Strategic thinking is a muscle. Creative thinking is a muscle. Critical thinking is a muscle.
Without consistent use, those muscles begin to atrophy.
Exercise your strategic thinking muscle today by playing devil's advocate with your colleague or boss to ideas which may seem obvious or "correct" on the surface.
Note: If someone ever tries to rationalize a decision by saying "this is the way things are done" or "this is the industry standard" or "this is the way the competition does it" - you are free to tell them that those are bad reasons to do something.
Exercise your creative thinking muscle today by writing down a list of 10 ideas for new businesses.
They don't have to be great ideas. The point is just to do the exercise. Then share your list. I'll make you a deal - if you send me your list, I'll send back mine.
Exercise your critical thinking muscle by starting a friendly debate on a divisive topic with someone you disagree with.
Can you critically defend your beliefs? Why should we expand gun control regulations? Why shouldn't we have an open border policy?
Note: It's important to frame discussions like this before you begin them, so both people are on the same page about the rules of engagement. Rule #1: Never let it get personal. Rule #2: Nobody is right or wrong.You're both smart people with different perspectives.
It can help to actually set it up as an exercise. You and your counterpart can explicitly agree in advance to exercise your critical thinking muscles together. The goal is not to have a winner, but to go through the process.
Think of it like exercising together - going on a run or something. Not always fun, not always easy, but totally worth it.
Just like your other muscles, your "workouts" compound over time. Your first 10 business ideas (or book ideas, or recipe ideas, or whatever) may seem really bad to you. But soon, as you continue to strengthen your critical thinking muscles, you'll be flexing them without even realizing it and seeing a world of opportunity everywhere you look.
This post is inspired by James Altucher and his writing on the "idea muscle."