“A little bit of time to think—to challenge the status quo—can help you learn”
I’m an economics major, and it’s a running joke in my friend group, that us aspiring economists make a lot of assumptions. Some being more unrealistic than others.
But, why do we make these assumptions? It’s partly to make sense of the world around us. The thinking goes: economies have an infinite number of moving parts, so let’s control for some of them and see how changing one causes the others to change. In order to have any hope of extracting meaningful insights, we seek to simplify the game.
This process—knowing which assumptions are reasonable—can be quite humbling. It’s like what one of my macro-economics professors comically noted:” Let’s change income and run some experiments. Something is bound to happen.”
Over the years, economic models have evolved. After all, certain assumptions that hold in theory, might not align with the data. But those assumptions aren’t routinely tossed out completely. This is key: economics is about building layers of analysis. It’s largely about tweaking the foundation while also being cognizant enough to know when a certain theory needs to be abandoned.
This way of thinking requires flexibility. It requires one to understand that what worked in the past may not work in the future. There comes a time when certain assumptions need to be relaxed to add a more meaningful layer to your analysis.
One way is not the only way.
“To open one’s self to the lenses of different disciplines is often akin to embracing the unknown.”
One of the ways I make sense of my discipline is through reflection. It is said that reflection requires patience. In a world where everything has become so get up and go, a little bit of time to think—to challenge the status quo—can help you learn.
As learners, reflection is the tool we can use to codify our other skills. For instance, even the strongest economic policies prompt questions about income distribution. What is the long-term implication of a particular policy? Can the winners compensate the losers and still remain better off?
Of course, such questions require more than a cursory analysis. But they also require something that we often overlook: a refined way of thinking. To understand the implications of trade policy, it might be useful to know some history or international relations. If you are looking to explore consumer choice theory, then the lens of psychology can help you make sense of market decision making.
To open one’s self to the lenses of different disciplines is often akin to embracing the unknown. There’s a hint of uncertainty. Yet, embracing other ways of thinking—and asking innovative questions—was at the heart of my IB experience. It meant that when we analyzed a text in English, we framed it in its historical context, which was invaluable. Or, when we assessed former American president, Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s New Deal, we also gained an understanding of the economic dynamics of the great depression, which equipped us to write a more robust paper. The IB has taught me that two seemingly unrelated disciplines can connect with each other in incredible ways. If only we take the time to look.
I am currently taking an entrepreneurship course where, among other things, we are dissecting what it means to think like an entrepreneur. It turns out to be an effective entrepreneur you need to be an effective situationalist. Yes, entrepreneurs think non-linearly and that’s how they tend to leverage uncertainty, but they also embrace linear thinking (planning, research) when it’s appropriate.
So, when other people are worried to fail, entrepreneurs calculate what they are willing to lose. When others get incredibly competitive, entrepreneurs learn to leverage everything around them. They test challenging assumptions from day one but don’t fall in love with their first ideas.
“Come to terms with the fact that you are not going to know everything all the time”
I would like to end off by telling a story that I think will put all this in perspective. One of my most enjoyable subjects in the IB was French. I have always enjoyed language learning. But given that French was not my first language, I always defaulted to thinking in English. So, when it was time for my oral commentary, my mind would contemplate throwing in English words—subconsciously thinking in English. To grow, I had to learn to think in another language. This required me to understand the culture, the people and how diverse the French language actually was.
So, my message to you would be to learn to think in another language—whether that’s the language of music, the arts, science or even spoken language. Emotional intelligence is about allowing yourself to think in a way that is unfamiliar to you. To be a global citizen is to know how to complement these so-called languages with people skills.
You might find yourself asking questions with seemingly no correct answer. But not having all the answers unsurprisingly teaches us much more: come to terms with the fact that you are not going to know everything all the time. In the words of British Economist John Maynard Keynes: “The market can remain irrational longer than you can remain solvent.” But that has never stopped anyone from trying to forecast the stock market(s), has it?
Vidish Parikh is a graduate of Turner Fenton Secondary School in Brampton, Ontario in Canada. He is currently studying economics, with a minor in French, at Wilfrid Laurier University. Reading is one of his favourite things to do, and George Orwell’s 1984 is, by far, his favourite book. Vidish also has a passion for learning languages, and good conversation. Connect with him here.
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