If you want to know how something works, figure out how to break it.

Here’s an exercise. It’s an idea I stole from Taleb.

Take anything you’re trying to understand– your company, your relationship, the economy, an old stereo. To understand how it works, you need to figure out how to break it.

When taken as a whole, things that work seem almost mystical. How does it work? I have no idea. If I knew, it wouldn’t be cool. But take the opposite approach. Pretend you’re a spy or a saboteur or a revolutionary. How would you make the whole thing fall apart and come crashing down?

This is how you practice precision in thinking. When you can break something, you know what part to destroy. And you know what part is most important. And then you know how it works from the inside out. From the ground up.

I think what he said was built on something the Stoics practiced. New problems are mysterious, and  understanding something complex involves cutting through that mystery.

“…latching onto thing and piercing through them, so we see what they really are… to lay them bare and see how pointless they are, to strip away the legend that encrusts them.”