Thinking is the use of the ability to use knowledge to create results.

If you wonder why you haven't succeeded much or as fast as you wanted to or why others succeed so highly, the key lies here (except for luck or a super-talent athlete).  If you've not succeeded at the level you want, you just didn't do the necessary higher level thinking, you stayed in amateur thinking or stopped at  "expert thinking" (doing thinking well and rationally, but stopping there) and not true high level thinking.  You can't succeed at a truly higher level without that thinking.  Yes, you'll do pretty well with "expert thinking", but you'll be assisting someone else rather than operating at the top level of your personal power. (See Be An Expert Thinker - Don't
Be An Amateur Thinker!!!  This is the step before going to the higher levels.)

By "success", I mean "life success".  If you aren't having the greatest life, it is because you are still engaged in "lower level thinking" (aka "lower order thinking) and too much non-thinking, with little higher level thinking.  Higher level thinking guarantees your success, as it leaves nothing to chance and you yourself assure that you are living the greatest life at a powerful level - it is not left up to chance, circumstance, or having to depend on being rescued.

While the prototypical high level thinker will use the normal problem solving process (and some forms or prompters), he will use it for moving forward rather than just mechanically solving something wrong.  He is careful to avoid the thinking of an amateur so he pushes through to assure facts and rational thinking are fully in place.  He pushes higher and higher compared to the  passive thinkers (who, of course, don't go anywhere).

The high level thinker is always looking for what needs to be fixed, what is going right or wrong, opportunities, models of how things work better, messes to clean up.  The most aggressive might use The Life Improvement Journal approach daily.  

He insists on results, not intellectual or incomplete actions going nowhere.  He does not get stuck in hesitancy or uncertainty/doubt and waffle all around on a decision.

He only makes decisions in context to what is most important, he holds things "in perspective" and from a "higher perspective", doesn't just go off and do something that seems urgent right now or exciting or strikes his interest or would be nice to do...  While he gets "down into the weeds" to get the details done, he makes sure that he has scheduled times that prompt him to look at things from a higher perspective.

He quickly assimilates what he can do better to understand, organizes the information and understanding and what to do, he keeps track of it, systematizes it (often, whenever he notices anything not producing the right result!), he makes it easier and better, and figures out and explores better ways to produce more value.

He can make quick decisions wherever feasible (while assuring he is operating at the level of key factors being, also, well-considered in terms of tradeoffs of time and risk and benefit). He sees things from a higher perspective, knows what is unimportant and not critical,filters out the irrelevant, isolates what is less important that might need to be traded off. .  (See The Mattress Decision for an example.  This looks simple, but notice the thinking process, the simplifying, and how the decision is made.)

He uses his energy only in the super  power quadrant of life (Quadrant II) so he is as effective as if he actually had a "superpower".  He spends no time "fire fighting" because he proactively assures fire prevention.  He always stays on the high value path...

He spends alot of time thinking, much like Warren Buffett and his partner Charlie Munger, and all highly powerful successful men/women. 

He assesses periodically in even more depth, but is always assessing what could be done better, produce more value, prevent problems.

He rises to a higher perspective so he can see the big picture and is not stuck down in the weeds playing "small ball" (a small game)...or failing to see the "big picture".

This is a person who keeps himself in Quadrant II almost all the time, uses the idea of what's best not just what is "of some value".  He will not settle for low value results or thinking that doesn't work.


Where do relationships fall on this spectrum?  Will a person be like Sam Walton, who regretted not relating to his family enough or Bill Walsh who was so stuck in hypercriticalness of himself that he had no time or energy left to relate to his son?

Well, no high level perspective thinker would make that mistake, as he would be looking to see how things are working and be aware of what works and what is more important.  He will always be looking at the "marginal return" of what he does and knows what is of value in life - and be sure to take care of them, trading some lower value item (such as making more money) off to get what he knows is of higher value.  Those two great achievers didn't go up to the higher level perspective....

The value of relationships is very, very high and failing to recognize the human benefit to you, and your life, is a major mistake.  Often, we have poor standards related to relationships and their value, so we treat the time in them as if they were expendable when we need more time for work or some other activity. 

He doeosn't just do the mechanical in a job, he innovates, raises things to a higher level.  He doesn't stay at the level of a manager (who moves things around and seeks efficiency) but rises to a higher value creativity level, which can dramatically increase his compensation - since compensation is based on value created. 

But what we are focused on here is our personal life and life success.  Indeed, the higher thinker gains "high compensation" in terms of life value, so that he lives a personally rich life.  If a person is living a life of stress and/or anxiety, he is living a low level of life and, easily inferred, not engaging in high level thinking (even if he thinks he is, as the test for high level thinking having been done is to see that there are excellent resutls). 

Some people believe they are capable of this level but few actually do it, other than maybe a foray here and there.  The high level thinker is engaged in this every day, always thinking progressively, not falling for the thinking errors and distortions, and assuring that only high level results are occurring.

The final test, I repeat, lies in the level of excellence and value of the results!

How does the mundaneness of every day life fit in the value quadrant


Copy off those questions and put them in a place where you can find them during your "thinking sessions" where you are focusing on creating much greater value.  (Spend some time using your higher level thinking to add or delete questions that you think would be useful for you. I may modify these questions later, but they are sufficient to get you started.)

And then do a session as soon as you can, asking those questions and then implementing the answers (decisions)!!!  ASAP, not "later".

Note that this not only applies to business and life, but any endeavor you have in life.  Accordingly, you would have such sessions with your spouse/partner - and, believe it or not, with your kids all together, and then with each of them individually, assuming they are over 3 years old.

Much of this you will do in a Brainstorming format, but it is good to build it into your business plan (standard outline or see resources in Business, Contents, Links) or into your Life Plan (see its table of contents also).  Note that I have set an example of The Schedule/Calendar For All Planning - Just Follow/Modify This.

While you can do these right now at a certain level, you should be sure to assure that you have at least become an Expert Rational Thinker, who has eliminated the thinking errors!!!


When I entered the field of (real) financial planning, I interviewed beforehand the successful financial planners, especially the ones who were good at marketing. 

I entered the profession already with a class set up (for people interested in personal financial planning), which I had to postpone a week because I was not yet licensed.

I vowed to be Rookie Of The Month 6 times during the year, but only got it 5 times, getting the top of all financial "executives" the 12th month and went to the top of the company, breaking all volume records in the 3rd year. 

I, luckily, hired a truly great assistant (who rose to junior partner status when I opened my own company) who was sure to have me schedule a planning and marketing session to see how we could create an even better future.  We always did a yearly plan, which was also summary overviewed on one page (here's a personal one).

The practice of getting up to the higher thinking level had me growing and even doing a few things that were relatively intimidating at the time, where there was no guarantee that the moves would be successful.

Unfortunately, I didn't quite apply the higher level thinking to my entire life and stay in perspective and balance, so I ended up being an overachiever in business and only fair at life.  You will note however in my "About" page, the "growth" classes I did take - and they did make a difference, thank goodness!!!

What does "10X" mean?

The term "10X" means 10 times as much. 

You will be best off in your life if you adopt The Exponential Mindset.

Choose what to be

Be An "Expert" thinker - Don't Be An Amateur Thinker! 

A high thinker also has these mindsets:

Responsibility Mindset
Growth Mindset
Value Mindset
Exponential Mindset
Leverage mindset

I haven't linked them here as they are linked from The Mindsets That Determine Your Life.


More brain power:  Access and use more brains (leverage), not just your own.  Gathering expert advice, input, so that you are not reinventing the wheel 

The levels of thinking

The Levels Of Thinking - How Far Up You Go Will Determine Your Very Life!

You are only using higher thinking in this Quadrant

Higher thinking occurs fully only in Quadrant II of The Four Quadrants, which are briefly listed below.  Test to see which you are in, by using this link!

Urgent, high impact

Putting out fires,run by deadline, putting things off, doing things when tired that shouldn't be done then
(High impact, non-urgent)

Only high impact action
  and must do's

Only high impact relationships, attention


Low impact, urgent

Low value actions
Accept requests (don't say no)
Low impact relationships
(Low impact, low urgency)

The 'nothingness" quadrant, leading to wasted bits of life
The questions creating the "problem/solutions"

(Questions are "prompters" to create a "problem" - the problem of creating something greater.)

Creating/finding the problems

What problems or challenges or messes do I have in my life?  Which are most important?
How can I solve the highest importance one?

How can I/we make it better, easier, more efficient, more effective, more powerful
Quantum leap ("out of the box" thinking)

What can I do to improve/advance this?

What can I do to 10x the value (at least)

What is not running as well as it should?

What messes should be cleaned up?

What systems need to be fixed?

What opportunities am I missing out on that have a higher return for my time?

Why am I stuck at this level?  What can unstick me?  What do I need to learn or what resources would I use to speed it up and raise the level of how I am operating?

Creating/finding the solutions

What is an "outside the box" solution? 

What of the alternatives is of more value ?

What are the identified factors for success in that area or industry or career?

What do I need to learn?

How can I systematize this to improve it?

What is the most valuable thing I can do now - of all I have to do what is of the most value? 

How can I get more/better resources, money, capital...? 

How can you reach your 10 year goal in six months?

See the questions in The Life Improvement Journal.

Traits and skills that go with this thinking

Information is attained and assimilated

He assimilates information, finding and making sure it is complete enough, harvesting it and identifying what is most important in the face of a problem or challenge. 

He does this quickly and adeptly "applies it to the situation at hand, with full comprehension and retention." 

If the information is not organized in a usable way, he thinks through what else needs to be found or organized, so that it can be harvested properly - he doesn't stop or give up if it is not initially easy to follow or find.  He is a proactive learner and is sure to "learn how things work" and then "learn how to work them" - he may delegate such but he makes sure he knows "enough" to make a proper decision. 

Actively thinking in decision-making

He knows "how to identify critical issues, prioritize, focus energy/effort, recognize fallacies, avoid common errors, and handle ambiguity. A person who is highly skilled in Decision-Making is able to weigh available information and come to a supportable conclusion, without falling prey to common reasoning mistakes and cognitive bias."

Generates scenarios and predictions well

He know "how to create, clarify, evaluate, and communicate a possible future scenario that assists in decision-making, either for himself or another person. A person who is highly skilled in Scenario Generation is able to envision possible future events, identify likely tradeoffs, and suggest multiple options that will result in the achievement of an objective."

Self Aware, able to influence emotions, states

He knows "how to accurately perceive and influence his own internal states and emotions, including effective management of limited energy, willpower, and focus. A person who is highly skilled in Self-Awareness is able to recognize what physical and emotional state they’re currently experiencing, utilize or compensate for their current state, and intentionally elicit / reinforce preferred states."

Acquires 'sufficient' skills adeptly & wisely

He knows "how to go about learning a desired skill in a way that results in competence by finding and utilizing available resources, deconstructing complex processes, and actively experimenting with potential approaches. A person who is highly skilled in Skill Acquisition is able to continually improve their skills in any field through deliberate practice, observation, and intentional experimentation.

Quotes are from Josh Kaufman, Do You Have These Core Human Skills?

It is a "type" of thinking, but smart thinking always includes learning what is needed so that one can understand how things work and how to work them - and then applying them.  You can tell the level of thinking one stops at by observing the results in a person's life.

Are they busy?  No, only small thinkers are "busy".  "Busy" is a state of victimhood by circumstances (called "being at the effect of") and wrong cause (a form of fallacious thinking).

Are they "driven" and "anxious"?  No, as only small thinkers leave the problems in place, unsolved, to continue onward.  One cannot do one's best in either of the above states, as they diminish access to and use of the higher brain. 

They also have the mindsets that encourage/allow/cause higher thinking.  (See The Mindsets That Determine Your Life and rate yourself with regard to them - see which you need to learn to change, see which of them you are engaged in.)

He/she is, instead, a master of life, making sure nothing of import is out of balance and not taken care of. (Henceforth, in this piece, I will just use "he"as inclusive of it being "he/she".)

The thinking that occurs at this level actually creates value and designs the road to significantly more success of 10X or 100+X.  (10X means ten times more.)

It asks higher questions (see the examples in the right sidebar).  You train yourself to be more systematic, but then rise to the level of "informed" intuition, where things seem to just come to you but are based not on magic but actual knowledge and engrained training.  Like the best running back in football, the basic moves and knowledge are so well engrained that you need not focus at all on the "doing" of them so your attention is freed up to see more opportunities and fine details so that one can "intuitively" react in a much faster way then "slow thinking".    access: ask questions, access higher: ask higher questions, train self (systematic)

In higher level thinking, you

1.  Learn how to actively engage your higher brain much more of the time, when it is needed. 
2.  Learn how to do higher level thinking
3.  You train yourself to do it better and better.
4.  You practice it in your life in all the places where it makes a difference!


Rather than discuss the levels of thinking here in much depth, as it interrupts the flow, I've added a separate page for your review and learning:  The Levels Of Thinking - How Far Up You Go Will Determine Your Very Life!

Consider these carefully and build them into your way of living!


In contrast to unsuccessful people, successful people ask better and more progressive questions.   Questions cause the higher brain to be engaged - and running one's life with more usage of the higher brain transforms life from a low level to a high level. 


Essentially higher level thinking is creating bigger problems to solve.  It is "high level" problem solving, but where we create a problem (a "gap to close") to solve.

"Outside" related links

Higher Order Thinking - Wikipedia (more of a teaching discussion)

Chapter 5. Higher-Order Thinking

Analyze, synthesize, evaluate, interpret,  make decisions in ambiguous information, make judgments, detect shades of meaning, make inference, draw relevant and insightful conclusions, use one's knowledge in new situations (relate their thinking to other situations and their own background knowledge) .

The emphasis is on using information and not just knowing facts.

1st 2 levels of cognition: knowledge (remembered) and comprehension (understanding)

Four highest levels of thinking - application, analysis, synthesis, and evaluation.

The highest level of thinking is only tested and evaluated based on actually creating the desired results - and the highest valued results. 

This thinking includes the learned ability to consider nuances and ambiguity and to go beyond the "mechanics" level of thinking.