This month, we’re starting a new business book review series by one of OnDeck’s very own, business book guru, Chad Dyar. For March, we’re talking about how to be a more effective and efficient business owner, so for our kick off book review we’re looking at: The Five Elements of Effective Thinking by Edward B. Burger and Michael Starbird.

This book was recommended to me by my favorite champion of learning, Adam Behrens, OnDeck’s Learning & Development expert. I loved reading this book on effective thinking, and now I often recommend it to friends and colleagues. It was co-authored by mathematics professors who filled the book with examples from their teaching experiences, but it is more than just stories and examples – it is a how-to manual for changing the way you think. It also appealed to my inner Nancy (a la The Craft) by tying each chapter to a natural element (the fifth element is the element of change).

The Earth element is the revelation of the powers of deep understanding. The focus of this section is on learning things deeply from their root. As a champion of root-cause analysis, this book came in really handy when it came time to build practical applications. Our mind wants the simplest principles (or a basic outline) when learning something new, but to gain true mastery or understanding we must understand a concept from its root.

The Fire element, channeling a trial by fire motif, is leveraging the learnings from failures to achieve future success. Failure is a part of life and this book transforms the way you view and use failures on your journey to success. This chapter frames failure as an experiment that proves one outcome that we now know. We should expect to fail and then mark that failure off the list with a plan never to repeat that mistake.

The Air element represents creating questions “out of thin air”. When absorbing new information, if you have no questions then you either completely understand everything or have no interest in learning it. Asking questions should become a habit. Developing or evolving ideas comes from asking a lot of questions and taking ideas in new and interesting directions. Questions allows you to develop new ideas that could open opportunities that you have not yet dreamed of.

The Water element addresses the “flow” of ideas. Ground breaking ideas are always built on the shoulders of previews breakthroughs. What may seem like fiction (flying cars?) could someday become a reality. The best illustration of this concept comes from the quote attributed to Sir Isaac Newton – “If I have seen further than others it is because I have stood on the shoulders of giants.” Understanding the flow of ideas that lead to a breakthrough creates the opportunity for future iterations of breakthrough ideas.

The element of Change is the fifth element which focuses on self-transformation. The basic concept of this inspiring chapter is “be a lifelong learner”. Like an Olympic athlete keeps their body in peak physical condition, a great thinker needs to engage their mind constantly. You must define success for yourself, and then use the elements of effective thinking to create your best path there.

Each element in The Five Elements of Effective Thinking contains practical and proven strategies to help the reader develop better thinking habits. In 2018, I spent most of the year reading books on transformative thinking. The Five Elements of Effective Thinking was the quickest read, yet also had the biggest immediate impact of any book I read because of how concise and actionable the content is. This book really puts the focus on being able to create your own success.  I highly recommend this quick read to anyone interested in broadening their mind and becoming a true agent of change.


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