“Nature, to be commanded, must be obeyed.” –Sir Francis Bacon
Bacon meant that without knowledge of how nature works, one cannot manipulate it. And any attempts to get the elements of nature to do our bidding will fail if we do not obey the fundamental rules of nature. Bacon is the same man who said that “knowledge itself is power.” Indeed, knowledge of how nature works gives us the power to use it for our purposes.
This broad principle is useful to us because it applies to human nature as well. If we have misguided ideas about how the mind works, our attempts to improve our minds will likely fail. We must understand ourselves in order to improve ourselves. We must know our true capacities and limitations. We must know the way memories are formed and retrieved, what innate biases the human mind is prone to, and what sort of things grab our attention. Human nature, to be directed, must be understood.
I write this simply so that I won’t lose your attention when I write about topics like neuroscience and evolutionary psychology. These academic subjects might strike you as a bit dry at first glance, but they’re really important. Anyone who wants to master their mind must learn how it works, where it came from, and how it can change. I promise I’ll spend as little time as possible on the academics, and quickly get to the practical advice. But sometimes you’ll have to bear with me. This information matters.