5 Key Principles About Thinking That Will Change Your Life


Today I am reviewing and summarizing one of the more interesting self-development books I’ve recently listened to. It’s called “The 5 Elements of Effective Thinking” and written by Dr Edward Burger and Dr Michael Starbird. This book offers a fresh perspective on fruitful thinking. It is well written and goes straight to the point without wasting any time. In fact, it is designed to be read at least 3 times to have the maximum effect.

1st time read to understand and take in the information, see it as a whole.
2nd time read to dive deeper into the elements and extract the techniques.
3rd time read to really develop and master the elements and become a truly effective thinker.

If you are short on time, here are the elements.

  1. Earth – Understand deeply
  2. Fire – Make mistakes
  3. Air – Raise questions
  4. Water – Follow the flow of ideas
  5. Change

If you don’t have 9 hours of time to spend on this book, you’re lucky. I’ve listed major takeaways from it below.

1. Understand Deeply

Student: “I knew the material, I just couldn’t explain it.”

Professor: “If you can’t explain it, you didn’t know the material.”

Understanding deeply focuses on diving into the subject you are learning. It uses mathematics to explain the importance of not skipping any one of the topics. I was never good at math as I kept on skipping classes. Now I understand why I wasn’t good. It’s too easy to say “I’m bad at this or that” but actually putting in the work to understand it deeply is the way to go if you truly want to master a subject. Consistency plays a big role here.

2. Make Mistakes

I know too many perfectionists who never achieve anything. Some of them manage to do a thing or two in months but some just sit and do nothing all day. For months and years. Giving excuses saying its because of this reason I couldn’t do it or because of that reason.

One key practise and principle that resonated with me most was 9 mistakes rule. It simply goes like this “I will start now and will fail 9 times before I will succeed at this project”. This mentality frees you from the shackles of perfectionism and allows your creativity to flow freely. Much like writing every single post since I’ve started this blog. I never start out with a perfect copy. Its first a rough draft and then multiple revisions that make it look good and read well. I may be far from pro’s but I am much better than where I have started.

Stop being afraid of making a mistake, get out there, f*&k up and learn, rinse and repeat. That’s how experts are made.

3. Ask Questions

This is one of my favourites. Throw myself back 5 years – I was scared to ask anything as I was stuck with a fixed mindset. I thought I had to have an answer to every question. How wrong was I. Don’t make the same mistake. Today I ask questions all the time. This allows me to dive deeper into the subject (Element 1) which in turn allows me to get better and better.

Quality of the questions matters the most. Professor explains even if we don’t know the answer, we should ask questions continuously to eliminate the wrong answers. Every wrong answer takes us closer to the right one.

4. Follow The Flow of Ideas

Ideas come continuously, make sure you follow them no matter where it takes you. Yes, it does mean you will have to get out of your comfort zone more often than you would like to. But that’s the only way to discovery. It’s too easy to get stuck at a current time. Try to open up and see other options.

10 mistakes, 10 wrong answers and understanding 10 core principles of the problem will lead you to a place where you will have ideas flowing every minute or every hour. Those ideas come hidden away in your thoughts. Make sure you note them down and try to explore each of the thoughts to see where it will take you.

5. Change

Last but not least. In fact, this element to rule them all. If I am not willing to change my habits or to change my thinking then all other principles are rendered useless.

This element is very dear to me. I had to undergo some serious soul searching to finally learn the importance of change. Not everyone is willing to consider making a serious change. That’s why too much mediocre and just average people are out there.

It’s not easy to give up going out every week. It’s not easy to stop procrastinating. It’s not easy to read and learn every day. It’s not easy to go out there and create. But that’s the only way to grow.


I still need to read it the 2nd and the 3rd time to dive deeper into the subjects. But the key principles are clear and wildly covered in many other self-help books out there. If this is the only book you consider reading this year, it might very well change your life. That, however, will depend on you.

The book itself is very smart, well organised and to the point. Short but very effective. I would definitely recommend.

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