[Book summary] Liminal Thinking by Dave Gray

-Beliefs are created models

Belief is reality ADAPTED into our point of view. Therefore, understanding will be LIMITED and reality is still unknowable (at least as a whole).

When people confuse their understanding with reality, they get into arguments with their own “OBVIOUS” because what seems obvious to one person does not necessarily seem so to others.

As said by Buddha, teachings were like a finger pointing to the moon, you can see in that direction, but others may not.

The obvious is not obvious, right and wrong are just distractions



-Beliefs are self-sealing

When facing a new idea:

  • firstly, people will check if that idea could be integrated with other beliefs or whether it makes sense internally?
  • secondly, they will test it empirically, externally but they will create blind spots because they barely test ideas for external validity if they cannot make sense internally.

Blind spots + the tendency to choose friends having the same beliefs = self-sealing bubble

Reality is that which, when you stop believing in it, doesn’t go away

-Philip K. Dick

-Beliefs are tied to Identity

When people feel that they do not have control, they will tend to form a theory that explains their inability. This theory within a group is called “governing belief”.

The governing belief is very hard to change because its existence depends on not talking about it. When someone brings them up, they can create rage or violence because they challenge the “self-worthiness” of others.

What is essential, is invisible to the eye.

-Anoine de Saint-Exupéry

-How to acts?

  • Assume that you are not objective
  • Beginner’s mind/empty your cup
    • Just because you can predict someone’s behavior does not validate your theories about them (statistically)
    • People can argue not because they disagree, but they FUNDAMENTALLY misunderstanding each other. If someone says or does something unreasonable, ask yourself “What would I need to believe for that to be true?”, try different points of view.
  • Connect the dots
  • Disrupt routines/autopilot behaviors: some of your beliefs are based on those you do everyday, try to do them differently

The issue is not that we misjudge something, it’s that we don’t even judge in first place.

-Ulrich Boser

  • Make sense the story
    • fact + beliefs = story
    • When people tell a story, they want to express their belief, set a rule for actions
  • Evolve yourself: be open to change and risks


I wrote this one to sum up the book and to answer an email from my friend, which proposed 2 questions for my studying in the last 1.5 years: what is my worst and my best experiences.

Fortunately, they are the same. It was when I realized how wrong I was about my ability.

It is both relieved and painful to know what I don’t know

I was not knowledgeable and objective (enough):

  • what I was taught was just surface of an iceberg and I was over-confident about that.
  • my strength was linking knowledge but that also created many blind spots and false connections, leading to many misunderstandings.
  • I judged people more often than I thought. I depended on: (i) my past experience (ii) my assumptions which I thought were their characteristics (iii) my insufficient knowledge about their past.

When I realized those things, I regretted a lot about the time I lost, people I hurt and how arrogant I was.

But also:

  • Linking things and ideas are the best way to learn, I just have to be more open to be wrong
  • Co-operation is slower but better in the long run, it is interesting to see in others’ points of view
  • Logic does help. If I cannot make a logic explanation of some things, I have failed to learn. Thinking and learning in a logical way is the best thing ever happened to me. Additionally, my coding experience has facilitated the progress.
  • Restraining my unstable behaviors by observing how anyone could be blinded by emotions.

In summary, studying is about:

  • changing the way to think, not cram more information into your head. It is rather a method than a result, a path than a destination.
  • empathizing with people, think in their way.
  • applying in my daily life the knowledge from (seemingly) irrelevant fields .




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