Tool’s Lesson on Fibonacci: Think ‘Laterally’

This was originally posted by Kent Thune at The Financial Philosopher.

Whether you are an investment trader, a music fan, a mathematician, a curious observer wishing to learn more about human nature, or any combination thereof, you will appreciate this lesson on the Fibonacci Sequence (more on this after the YouTube link):

The video, created by a college student to help explain the Fibonacci sequence, features images of space from the Hubble Telescope and music from the cerebral and progressive hard rock band Tool.  What makes the video and song incredibly compelling is the lyrics, which teach a lesson on pattern recognition.

For those non-traders and non-mathematicians out there, a Fibonacci sequence is a series of numbers where, after two starting values, each number is the sum of the two preceding numbers.  For example, the number sequence 2, 3, 5, 8 and 13 are a Fibonacci sequence (2+3=5, 3+5=8, 5+8=13, and so on).

Making the video and song more interesting is that the cadence of the lyrics (number of syllables of succeeding verses) follows a Fibonacci sequence.  What’s more, the meaning and lesson of the lyrics implies that humans are hopelessly addicted to looking for patterns everywhere they turn:  The “over-thinking” and “over-analyzing,” as the lyrics suggest, have an effect of dulling intuitive thought and often results in missed opportunities.

Pattern Recognition: Strength, Weakness or Both?

Philosopher and mathematician, T.L. Fine, once said, “A keen eye for pattern will find it anywhere.” This profound statement is neither a compliment nor an affront to humankind but it suggests that a fundamental awareness of the human tendency for pattern recognition allows for a healthy balance of intuitive thought and science.

Pattern recognition is a means of making sense of randomness.  This search for understanding, which is rooted in the desire for control and safety, can be self-defeating.   Wanting to find patterns can be considered thinking “inside the box,” but the answers are not always in the box.  Additionally, being comfortable without having answers can often open doors to new ideas, new opportunities and success.  Therefore asking questions is more important than having answers.  As 19th century philosopher and spiritual leader Jiddu Krishnamurti once said, “Freedom from the desire for an answer is essential to the understanding of a problem.”

Balance Linear And Lateral: Seek But Remain Open to Discovery

Returning to the message within the Tool song, aptly named Lateralus, too many people think and live linearly (in straight lines, black and white, inside the box), whereas thinking and living laterally (randomness, color, outside the box)–embracing the unknown–is healthy.

Perhaps the wisest solution is to balance the linear with the lateral.  There is no stopping your nature to seek and find patterns; and to eliminate this nature is nothing less than attempting to become something other than a human being.  Just be aware of your nature, and its potential limitations, and you’ll open doors to intuitive thought–expand beyond the narrow-minded linear thought–balance responsibility with adventure–seek but remain open to discovery.


Kent Thune is an investment adviser, free-lance writer and blog author of The Financial Philosopher, where his philosophical musings guide readers to think independently and to place “meaning before money, purpose before planning.”

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