An earnest, sprawling assessment of how we approach learning and thinking.
Part memoir, part theory, this book has a lot of thoughts about thought. Drawing largely on his experience as a teenager who left Japan to attend a boarding school in Connecticut, Ogata explains how he approached new challenges, from learning to pronounce certain words in English to physics. His central thesis is that learning can be organized into five steps—observation, inquiry, confirmation, discovery and review. The anecdotes Ogata shares to illustrate these steps are often intriguing and enlightening, such as his detailed observation regarding the syntax of thinking in Japanese and its contrast to the syntax of thinking in English. Ogata clearly illustrates how this type of observation informed his oral and written communication. Yet as the chapters continue, the five steps become redundant, processed again and again in different examples of problem solving. Ogata defines a genius as “a person with the ability to perform rare and creative thinking.” How Ogata’s five steps lead to genius-level thinking is an approachable line of thought, but it remains somewhat abstract how and why readers are supposed to apply these steps in common dilemmas. A sturdier framework for presenting these concepts may have helped rein them in. Some of Ogata’s suggestions—such as using a how-to approach in solving problems—are concrete enough to be useful, but other examples stem from the business world and other limited arenas. There’s a lot of talk of fun—a word that appears dozens of times in the text—but not all readers will be convinced that there’s entertainment to be had in slowing down and examining personal thought processes. At best, the broad guide is an enthusiastic treatise that urges readers to be conscious of how they think and recognize the untapped resource of their own curiosity.
A fascinating premise and plenty of personal experience aren’t enough to carry this book from conceptual advice into practical application for daily life.