Regular Mental Toughness commenter Mike Michelozzi, a retired educator and successful entrepreneur, stated in his latest comments that people don’t like critical thinking. Is he right? After studying and consulting companies on this topic for more than 25 years, I have a few thoughts. There’s a missing gap in corporate America waiting to be filled by the most savvy of thought leaders, and this relates directly to Mike’s comments. Watch this short video I shot today in Mount Dora, Florida, and I’ll look forward to your comments.   Steve Siebold   (3:11)

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Steve Siebold
Author and Professional Speaker since 1997. Past Chairman of the National Speakers Association's Million Dollar Speakers Group. Author of 11 books with 1.4 million copies in print.

28 thoughts on “Is Mike Michelozzi Right or Wrong?”

  1. Steve (and Mike):

    First off, I don’t think that many people really know what “critical thinking” really is. I know I didn’t, before I met Steve in 2005. So when they are first exposed to it, the reaction is often negative.

    Once you get past that, though – you find that critical thinking is actually hard work! Critical thinking is a learned skill that constantly has to be reinforced, further lessening its popularity.

    Finally, it’s a matter of exposure – many don’t like critical thinking because they’re seldom exposed to it.

    Wiz Withers

  2. Well, critical thinking is facing the truth… and the truth can be hard, and.. not so liberating if you realize YOU have work to do, and that you are surrounded by MYSTERY. 🙂

    BTW, using positive and wishful thinking has it’s benefits !
    but sometimes you got to think critically 🙂

  3. I agree that most people do not like critical thinking because it puts them into a position of being uncomfortable; they do not want to think about having to change. They scream at the top of their lungs that they want to change, they just don’t want to have to take any action to do so. A lady once asked me “Why on earth would you ever want to get out of your comfort zone? Any answer I provided was immediately refuted.
    Positive thinking can make these individuals feel good, uplifted and motivated…. for a while. When reality hits them in the face I feel many of these people then retreat, rubbing their bruised egos and confirming the “truth” in their mind that positive thinking doesn’t work. Sadly, I believe these people never really see the error of their ways and continue on this treadmill vicious cycle, never attaining that which they are capable of.
    I also feel that many people “see” the idea of critical thinking and claim to understand it and value its worth. Yet they really do not believe it enough to start using it on a day to day basis. They find it easy to nod their heads in acknowledgment of critical thinking and yet are not willing to give it a try, regardless of their present situation. It astonishes me to see the amount of people who are living lives of utter desperation and repression, who complain vehemently about their living conditions, relationships, finances and health, and yet they refuse to even try something…. anything different, choosing instead to remain in their state of misery and depression. They watch others who rise from the ashes and proclaim that those people, the successful ones, obviously knew somebody, screwed somebody over, or just got lucky. And they continue on in their everyday existence.

  4. I have been thinking about the difference between positive thinking and critical thinking, I have always been a huge advocate of positive thinking but realize what we really need is to think critically. That is not to say that critical thinking is not positive; it typically is, but critical thinking is based on a foundation of reasoning that World Class Thinkers utilize to come to their own conclusions. Conversely, positive thinking is usually arrived at by taking an emotional situation or premise and simply replacing negative thoughts about its meaning with positive thoughts. When we listen with a purely emotional heart we can become vulnerable and may distort or reframe facts through an emotional lens that supports the feeling and not necessarily the facts. Positive thinking is not always realistic or necessarily attainable and sometimes it is just plain delusional.

    Critical thinking is the essential first step on the road to future fulfillment. It is optimism expressed as a result of understood circumstances, taking responsibility and committing to an outcome that will support a healthy, achievable and sustainable thought or proposition.

    My question is how can we think critically in a confrontational moment; how do we identify a healthy conclusion, and support sustainable optimism in the face of confusion, attack or hurt and anger? I think that sometimes we just need to add some space and step away from the emotion.

    Great question Steve; as always, thanks.

  5. Steve/Mike, you are right, people don’t like critical thinking, and it applies equally here in the UK.

    From a young age we are not taught to build the ego toughness (as well as mental toughness) to look at ourselves objectively, and be constructively critical of our own strengths and weaknesses.

    We are surrounded by media telling us that we make mistakes because we’re ‘only human’ – but as soon as a deficiency is highlighted directly, it’s taken as an affront to us as a ‘perfect as we are’ individual!

    The political correctness movement has sadly only added fuel to this fire.

    Positive thinking (in a forward looking way) is key in our lives, but also needs the balance of reality/critical thinking.

    Back to an education viewpoint, here in the UK there is no real critical thinking involved in eduction until you reach College/University, and even then it’s limited. I would argue that how and what we educate our children needs to be fundamentally updated and geared towards skills that help in the real world (self reliance, discipline, free market economics 101), not just facts regurgitated.

  6. Hi,

    Is there a central place for love in all of this?

    I think critical thinking is hard for most if not all folks because we are not exposed to the idea that we are really made up of a number of “critical parts”– like thinking, feeling, moving, instinctive, sexual, and a couple more.

    When we expose ourselves to a situation, part of us can go one way, part of us another. I think the real challenge–when I think of critical thinking–is being able to accept this “tension” and nurture it in a way that doesn’t make us “lopsided monstrosities.”

    The greatest “spectator” sport is dealing with our own life in all its many facets.


    Humbler Acts

  7. Mike,
    In times of stress and when under duress by daily life, we all make snap judgments and decision, some right, some wrong. Once the stress/duress is gone, you can revisit these decisions, analyze them with critical thinking and then, if necessary, desirable or even possible, correct them. As we are all emotional creatures, wrong decisions will be made. World-class thinking will help you find them, and take whatever corrective actions are necessary.
    I am still working on perfecting this, with rather mixed results.

  8. I often equate speaking topics such as critical thinking and “feel good” subjects to food. Critical thinking is the healthy fruits and vegetables of that diet, while “feel good” positive thinking is the twinkie and chips.

    My goal as a thought leader is to find ways to make critical thinking delicious.


  9. Yes, Mike is right and so are you in terms of Critical Thinking. I concur with a lot of the posts presented. I would add Objective Thinking to the mix as well. It is one thing to be positive, another to be critical and constructive and if you can maintain a certain objectivity throughout a critical thinking process with your personal emotions & beliefs in place, it’s a realm of objective clarity to strive towards. What is the ideal, the solution sought after here, in business, in sales, in working through the problem, the challenge, the person in need. The term subjective relativism comes to mind. When somebody thinks something is right, or feels-good it be right, it doesn’t necessarlity mean it is right. There has been too much individualism, entitlement attitude, give them more credit and inflate it, that has really affected our global economies. The time is NOW for more than ever Critical/Objective Thinking to work on resolving our present day challenges on a multitutde of fronts. Thanks everyone for your critical thinking messages! Edward Michael Raymond

  10. Mike is absolutely right. I recently had this conversation with a college professor friend of mine. She has been catching her students cheating–which is expellable even in college. She prides herself in teaching critical thinking through literature. The problem is, she is now dealing with the “technology, entitlement, I-want-it-now” generation. ” Why would I do all this thinking for myself, when I can on on line and find someone who has already done it for me?” These 18-28 year-old KIDS don’t value thinking today. That’s why I cannot hire them in my business either. They also have extremely poor people skills.

  11. Let’s relate this discussion back to the business of speaking.

    “He only employs his passion who can make no use of his reason.”
    – Cicero

    Look at the enormous, yet momentary, success of some speakers—even when that moment extends as long as a decade due to an appetite for pure passion and simple lies rather than slightly complicated truths (Toqville). Contrast this with “the greats” who have always spoken on the practice of core principles—who have always given audiences practical TOOLS.

    Consider that we might—right now—be on the brink of a new kind of speaking opportunity. A Renaissance. The rise of passionate people who motivate AND CAUSE others to do great things for themselves, their families and others. Could this be the re-birth of market conditions that DEMAND speakers who aren’t just thought leaders but behavioral provokers?

    Currently, a good number of speakers offer pure exuberance and are light on the actionable insights—tools people can actually apply in everyday life to create change. They exist in many genres and are enormously successful. But I believe we’re on the edge of a new kind of speaking opportunity. Am I wrong, guys and gals? Is this just hopeful thinking?

    The opportunity I see is to re-define the term “thought leader” by creating an appetite for critical thought that has not existed for many years. This can be achieved by SSN… the collective… if we all start demonstrating (to those hiring speakers) the value of honestly NEW insights on useful knowledge. We must contrast this kind of value against the status quo:

    Speakers providing faux “new knowledge” posing as thought leadership based on the emotional appeal to natural human instinct—the preservation of the very comfortable status quo.

    Myself, I’m finding that telling stories that demonstrate how when I allow myself to get uncomfortable (start “hurting my brain”) I achieve more success, more easily. By demonstrating that the “slightly complicated truth” isn’t brain surgery and IS within reach through practical tools AND motivation is the key.

    I am honored to be among such a smart, articulate group of people here at your blog, Steve. I look forward to face-to-face time in Atlanta.

  12. Right on!

    The “Feel Good” crowd seems to be what is driving popular “movements”.

    When challenged about some environmental issue, I pointed out some of the fallacies in a friend’s comments and added that her statements were simply “feel good” gut reactions. Her comment was “What’s wrong with feeling good?”
    There, you have it.

    Who wants to do critical thinking that might challenge or shatter your belief system when ignoring reality can make you feel good?

    Sadly, it is these people who can easily be driven by their emotions. Politicians, lawyers, media people, and everybody else who is out to screw the sheeple has refined mass manipulation into a truly fine art and most of their targets don’t ever see it because they refuse to think about it.

    Now that I think about it, what I thought of as sheeple, seem to turn out to be lemmings.

  13. The masses falsely believes is positive thinking. There is a dopamine response in the brain the makes us addicted to feeling good. Critical thinking uses multiple parts of the brain which engages us to look at both positive and negative. As a society we are addicted to this dopamine reaction. Just stop and look at the weight problem, the drugs, alcohol abuse.

    The masses keep searching for things that just feel good.
    Critical thinking not only is a function of business I believe that it’s essential to look at in all areas in life. I don’t believe one can become a world class thinker without evaluating critical thinking in all areas.

    The masses just want to feel good which is usually why they won’t go through the struggles to excel themselves to world class thinking. Which in turn lies the great problem in America, we want to feel good without looking through a lens of objective reality.

  14. Great post! I believe you and Mike hit the nail on the head! As a business person, you must look at your business critically. IN my business many therapist look at their business as a some spiritual meeting, but in reality people come to see us so we can help them get out of pain. Always remember it is not about me, it is about them.

  15. Steve,

    In all the years I’ve been around you post is probably the first one to get to the root of why the U.S. is suffering economically. I truly agree with you about critical thinking. There is a REAL disconnect in our society and its subsets regarding the balance between positive and negative thinking.

    I remember in my Economics course about the law of supply and demand. There is always a tradeoff between how much can be produced and sold in terms of ‘guns and butter’. Critical thinking argues that those tradeoffs are essential to keeping balance in the marketplace.

    It seems easy to blame someone for the marketplace imbalances. The Occupy Wallstreet protests are just the latest in a long series of mass resistance. The problem with the OW movement is there is no real solution being proposed for regaining marketplace balance.

    The only solution that makes sense is to break the hammerlock of crony capitalism. Multi-national corporations working in concert with big government have spent us into the debt hole we live in today. People have become too comfortable with the idea that someone can and should think critically for them.

    We don’t need more ‘sheepole’ who just follow the trend and the latest outpouring of anger toward a perceived or real injustice. We need people willing to engage their God given intellect in order to determine the upside and the downside of their choices. Those critically thinking people must act on their evaluation or else the whole effort is useless.

    I, for one, stand up for critical thinking. That’s why I encourage my children to ask questions and discover the answers for themselves. Thank God for people like you who ‘get’ why its so important to see both the positive and the negative in life and act on the final evaluation.



  16. Yep Steve, you and Mike are absolutely right. Critical thinking is not all that popular. Critical thinkers are hard to come by, and it’s a real challenge to teach people how to take ownership and follow through. Sometimes I think I’m the only one in the world who knows how to do it, and will take time do it, but I know that’s not true. There are more of us out there. And I thank God for that because the world needs more thought leaders who will get out there and make a difference. When people can get to a place where they can stop taking things so personally and instead practice personal responsibility – and recognize the power they have in their own critical thinking, only then will we as a nation begin to see a real difference in our world. But critical thinking takes honesty and honesty is hard for a lot of folks.

  17. Steve and Mike,

    True and world-class critical thinking starts with yourself. Positive thinking is easy, as you don’t have to confront your own demons. In critical thinking you have to look yourself in the mirror and admit all your own faults. You have to re evaluate all your belief systems, you might have to questions everything you have learned in life, including your parents, teachers or other influential people.
    Just the other day a customer told me about a relative, who had home schooled their children as very strictly fundamental Christians. He tried to show the 23 year old a tiny logical flaw and was stunned, that the young man refused to even entertain the thought, there might be a logical inconsistency. Only when I pointed out that the admission of one small logical inconsistence would shatter his whole belief and value system and his relationship with his parents, did my customer understand, why he could not succeed.
    The greatest negative force we have to fight within ourselves (and often with others) is the notion, that we are wrong. The human mind is so strong, that it will make you sick, before admitting that you are wrong. However, the very basic of critical thinking is the admission of being or having been wrong. That takes so much mental toughness that, according to your book, only 5% of the population reach the world class level.
    While writing your vision old emotions are freed up, often times when you were wrong. Now that you are writing a positive vision for the future, these old emotions lose their significance and hold over you.
    The other problem with critical thinking is responsibility. Once you accept world-class critical thinking, you cannot blame others or external circumstances for your “misfortunes”. You have to admit that EVERYTHING good or bad happening in your life is caused by yourself and nobody else. That is a very tall order and again only a select few are willing to make the effort to achieve that.
    Once you have a glimpse at the mental peace, calm and happiness world-class critical thinking brings, you have found one of the strongest emotional motivator known to man.
    Mike J

  18. Steve

    From my experience, most people avoid critical thinking. The biggest resource we have inside ourselves is “effort” and this resource is lacking so often when people discuss their lack of achievement in whatever field — life, education, business, relationships. Looking at ourselves in the mirror — metaphorical or otherwise — is a fundamental process that is lacking. How often do we do this?

    It’s easy to blame someone else for our loss but how often do we rethink about the stages to this loss and ask ourselves what role did we play in this? Yes, it does hurt heads but how many of us know what it — critical thinking — really is. It is about the positive and the negative and the strengths and weaknesses of an operation, a project, an idea, a procedure, a theory and a method.

    If we realise it is about a balanced critique of something or someone, are we prepared to apply the same criteria to ourselves in our various life roles? Not too often, I suggest. From the critique — say about our health, situation, attitude — we also need to seek reasons for the key strengths and weaknesses and then make a decision about self-improvement.

    Life can be tough. Accepted. We need time to grieve a loss — family, business, job, sport — rather than delay it. But simultaneously a critique of our feelings and self-talk is essential during this time so that we can understand that emotions can aggravate clear thinking and that objectivity can help us to take steps to make a positive from a negative.

    Genuine, objective self-education is a plus. We have the answers somewhere inside ourselves if only we are prepared to discover them and learn from them.

    Associating with and reading about like-minded people can only be a reinforced bonus.

    It really is worth the … effort.

  19. My experience is that most people use “positive feeling” to determine their reality. Hence, truth becomes distorted through “feeling goggles”. We start with a preconceived belief that feels good. Just because we believe something does not make it true (ie The world is flat). Critical thinking causes us to shift our paradigms and that causes uncomfortable feelings and we resist that at our own demise.

    David Gallagher

  20. Steve,

    Mike is right. Few people understand WHAT critcal thinking is and even fewer want to do it. Most people don’t really think at all, they just spew out some pre-programmed responses according to their filtration system.

    Mike said critical thinking, “hurts their heads.” Critical thinking also hurts their feelings. So many people refuse to face the truths of their particular predicament and woe unto those who can elucidate those truths to their faces.

    I tell my clients to, “stop being so freakin’ American” whenever they start whining about wanting “the bar” lowered for them, as opposed to them pulling themselves up to the “bar”.

    Best and Be Well,


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