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What I'm reading #11: Learn to quiet your mind and reflect

By Sam Instone - March 17, 2022

Morgan Housel, the author of 'The Psychology of Money'...

Shared a story of John D. Rockefeller, who was one of the most successful businessmen of all time.

"Rockefeller was a recluse...He rarely spoke, deliberately making himself inaccessible and staying quiet when you caught his attention. A refinery worker who occasionally had Rockefeller’s ear once remarked: ‘He lets everybody else talk, while he sits back and says nothing."

Morgan added,

"Rockefeller’s job wasn't to drill wells, load trains, or move barrels. It was to make good decisions. And making decisions requires, more than anything, quiet time alone in your own head to think a problem through. Rockefeller’s product…wasn't what he did with his hands or even his words. It was what he figured out inside his head. So that's where he spent most of his time and energy."

Despite sitting quietly most of the day in what might have looked like free time to others, Rockefeller was working in his mind.

Thinking problems through.

A deep state of thinking and reflection.

Upanishads, the late Vedic Sanskrit texts of Hindu philosophy which supplied the basis of later Hindu philosophy, would call this ‘manana’.

Manana is a part of the three-fold process:

  1. Shravana (hearing the truth)
  2. Manana (reflecting on the truth)
  3. Nididhyasana (living the truth)

When combined, the three act as the path of knowledge.

Another example might be the fictional detective Sherlock Holmes. 

A master of observation, deduction and logical reasoning.

Maria Konnikova wrote in her 'Mastermind: How to Think Like Sherlock Holmes',

"A hunter knows when to quiet his mind. If he allows himself to always take in everything that is there for the taking, his senses will become overwhelmed. They will lose their sharpness. They will lose their ability to focus on the important signs and to filter out the less so. For that kind of vigilance, moments of solitude are essential.”

Unfortunately, our minds are seldom quiet.

Our careers, family and what is happening in the world keep our brains busy.

Psychologists say that people generate about three hundred self-talk thoughts a minute.

The 17th-century French mathematician Blaise Pascal said that the sole cause of man's unhappiness is that he does not know how to stay quietly in his room.

I can certainly relate to this. 

Quiet your mind and reflect 

In a world obsessed with speed and rife with distractions, there are few things that feel better than staying quiet, sitting still, paying attention, and reflecting on what you are doing and why.

And there are several ways to quiet your mind and add pause and reflection to your life.

Take a walk.



Immerse into a hobby, or simply break away from the humdrum of work and life.

I cycle to and from work. 

An hour each way across the desert gives plenty of time for reflection. 

Time and space to empty my mind and reflect on the decisions I am about to make that day.

I think it's fair to say that we're not living in a deeply reflective time.

And if we're not careful, it's easy to go into a frenzy and busy, but not productive.  

'Never confuse motion, with progress.' 

So says the sign around the Rocking Horses neck in the lobby of Facebook...

Perhaps consider taking a pit stop to pause and reflect before continuing with your journey ahead?

Without reflection, we drift.

The military made me fully aware that 'failing to plan is planning to fail.'

Can you benefit from a timeout with a member of my team today?


"A wise old owl lived in an oak, the more he saw, the less he spoke, the less he spoke, the more he heard, why aren't we all like that wise old bird?"

- J.D. Rockefeller 

Further reading

The Psychology of Money' by Morgan Housel

What I'm reading #3: Understanding setbacks and life transitions

What I'm reading #4: A powerful force shaping your behaviour

What I'm reading #10: Whatever you are, be kind

Retirement planning for affluent expats: The right balance between spending and saving