The 5 Elements of Effective Thinking

A short and simple book to effective thinking, with examples and how-tos. My personal favorite.


Earth (Understanding), Fire (Failure), Air (Questions), Water (the flow of ideas), and the Quintessential (Change)


Who needs to read this book?

University students in any years, job seekers, and basically everyone who wants to be a better thinker.

What did it tell me?

The geniuses of the world are not a special breed – they just have a habit of using their mind differently. This book showed me five elements of effective thinking that we need to embrace to finding imaginative solutions to difficult challenges and discovering new ways of looking at our world to reveal hidden opportunities.

1. Earth (Understanding) 

When you learn anything, go for depth and make it rock solid. Any concept that you are trying to master is a combination of simple core ideas. Identify the core ideas and learn them deeply. Be brutally honest with yourself, if you do not understand it, go back to the core concepts again and again.

2. Fire (Failure)

Mistakes are great teachers. They highlight the unforeseen opportunities and flaws in your understanding.

Try something: see what’s wrong; learn from the defect; try again. When he said the invention is 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration, the perspiration was the process of incrementally making mistakes and learning from them to make the next attempts apt to be closer to right. When Edison was asked how he felt about his countless failed attempts at making a light bulb, he replied, “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work”

3. Air (Raise Questions)

Never pretend to know more than you do. Don’t build on ambiguity and ignorance. When you don’t know something, admit it as quickly as possible and immediately take action – ask a question.

4. Water (the Flow of Ideas)

To truly understand a concept, discover how it evolved from existing simpler concepts. You cannot discover everything on your own; you need to use the existing ideas and improve it.

Thomas Edison was  supremely successful at inventing product after product, exploiting the maxim that every new ideas has utility beyond its original intent, for he wrote, “I start where the last man left off.” more poignantly he noted that “many of life’s failures are people who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up.”

5. The Quintessential Element (Change) 

Each of us remains work-in-progress – always evolving, every changing – and that’s Quintessential living.

You simply need to shrug off perhaps a lifetime’s habit of accepting a relatively superficial level of understanding and start understanding more deeply. You simply need to let go of the constraining forces in your life and let yourself fail on the road to success. You simply need to question all the issues you have taken for granted all those years. You simply need to see every aspect of your world as an ever-lasting stream of insights and ideas. You simply need to change.



The 5 Elements of Effective Thinking. Edward B. Burger., & Michael Starbird. (2012)

The summary of this book was taken from:

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