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The Art of Thinking Clearly

Book Notes

I loved this book. If I could, I'd have this be a textbook that every high school kid had to read, to understand biases and how they are being externally manipulated. Can you imagine how much better everyone would be if we were all aware of our biases and the cultural and commercial manipulations happening? WOW!

Anyway, ahem, this book.

This book lists a whole slew of cognitive biases, logic fallacies, and faulty thinkings that, once you know about them, you can see everywhere.

I suspect that, sadly, even if a lot of people know about them, they won't care enough to do anything positive about them, but for people who do care, for people who want to improve, knowing about them is incredibly powerful.

I loved this book. I found it amazing and will buy you a copy if you promise to read it fully.

To fight against the confirmation bias, try writing down your beliefs—whether in terms of worldview, investments, marriage, health care, diet, career strategies—and set out to find disconfirming evidence.
Page 24

Since this behavior was discovered, nearly every airline has instituted crew resource management (CRM), which coaches pilots and their crews to discuss any reservations they have openly and quickly. In other words: They carefully deprogram the authority bias. CRM has contributed more to flight safety in the past twenty years than have any technical advances.
Page 26

Whenever you are about to make a decision, think about which authority figures might be exerting an influence on your reasoning. And when you encounter one in the flesh, do your best to challenge him or her.
Page 27

If something is repeated often enough, it gets stored at the forefront of our minds. It doesn’t even have to be true. How often did the Nazi leaders have to repeat the term “the Jewish question” before the masses began to believe that it was a serious problem?
Page 32

We prefer wrong information to no information.
Page 33

availability bias. Fend it off by spending time with people who think differently than you do—people whose experiences and expertise are different from yours. We require others’ input to overcome the availability bias.
Page 33

Life is a muddle, as intricate as a Gordian knot.
Page 37

We want our lives to form a pattern that can be easily followed. Many call this guiding principle “meaning.” If our story advances evenly over the years, we refer to it as “identity.”
Page 37

“We try on stories as we try on clothes,” said Max Frisch, a famous Swiss novelist.
Page 37

Stories are dubious entities. They simplify and distort reality and filter things that don’t fit. But apparently we cannot do without them. Why remains unclear.
Page 38

Whenever you hear a story, ask yourself: Who is the sender, what are his intentions, and what did he hide under the rug? The omitted elements might not be of relevance. But, then again, they might be even more relevant than the elements featured in the story,
Page 39

The real issue with stories: They give us a false sense of understanding, which inevitably leads us to take bigger risks and urges us to take a stroll on thin ice.
Page 39

The hindsight bias is one of the most prevailing fallacies of all. We can aptly describe it as the “I told you so” phenomenon: In retrospect, everything seems clear and inevitable.
Page 41

So why is the hindsight bias so perilous? Well, it makes us believe we are better predictors than we actually are, causing us to be arrogant about our knowledge and consequently to take too much risk.
Page 41

Overcoming the hindsight bias is not easy. Studies have shown that people who are aware of it fall for it just as much as everyone else.
Page 41

Keep a journal. Write down your predictions—for political changes, your career, your weight, the stock market, and so on. Then, from time to time, compare your notes with actual developments. You will be amazed at what a poor forecaster you are.
Page 42

but the diaries, oral histories, and historical documents from the period. If you can’t live without news, read newspapers from five, ten, or twenty years ago.
Page 42

The more we like someone, the more inclined we are to buy from or help that person.
Page 64

According to research, we see people as pleasant, if (a) they are outwardly attractive, (b) they are similar to us in terms of origin, personality, or interests, and (c) they like us.
Page 64

Of course your vote counts, but only by the tiniest of fractions, bordering on the irrelevant.
Page 66

So, if you are a salesperson, make buyers think you like them, even if this means outright flattery. And if you are a consumer, always judge a product independently of who is selling it. Banish the salespeople from your mind or, rather, pretend you don’t like them.
Page 66

If someone says “never,” I usually register this as a minuscule probability greater than zero since “never” cannot be compensated by a negative probability.
Page 72

In sum: Let’s not get too excited. Improbable coincidences are precisely that: rare but very possible events. It’s not surprising when they finally happen. What would be more surprising is if they never came to be.
Page 72

Have you ever bitten your tongue in a meeting? Surely. You sit there, say nothing, and nod along to proposals. After all, you don’t want to be the (eternal) naysayer. Moreover, you might not be 100 percent sure why you disagree, whereas the others are unanimous—and far from stupid. So you keep your mouth shut for another day. When everyone thinks and acts like this, groupthink is at work: This is where a group of smart people makes reckless decisions because everyone aligns their opinions with the supposed consensus.
Page 73

Induction seduces us and leads us to conclusions such as: “Mankind has always survived, so we will be able to tackle any future challenges, too.” Sounds good in theory, but what we fail to realize is that such a statement can only come from a species that has lasted until now.
Page 94

if you want to convince someone about something, don’t focus on the advantages; instead highlight how it helps them dodge the disadvantages.
Page 96

The fear of losing something motivates people more than the prospect of gaining something of equal value.
Page 96

We can’t fight it: Evil is more powerful and more plentiful than good. We are more sensitive to negative than to positive things.
Page 97

In the West, teams function better if and only if they are small and consist of diverse, specialized people. This makes sense, because within such groups, individual performances can be traced back to each specialist.
Page 99

We hide behind team decisions. The technical term for this is “diffusion of responsibility.”
Page 100

People behave differently in groups than when alone (otherwise there would be no groups). The disadvantages of groups can be mitigated by making individual performances as visible as possible.
Page 100

When it comes to growth rates, do not trust your intuition. You don’t have any. Accept it. What really helps is a calculator or, with low growth rates, the magic number of 70.
Page 103

Second, avoid ad-contaminated sources like the plague. How fortunate we are that books are (still) ad-free!
Page 211

try to remember the source of every argument you encounter. Whose opinions are these? And why do they think that way? Probe the issue like an investigator would: Cui bono? Who benefits? Admittedly, this is a lot of work and will slow down your decision making. But it will also refine it.
Page 211

Let’s call it alternative blindness: We systematically forget to compare an existing offer with the next-best alternative.
Page 213

Warren Buffett does things: “Each deal we measure against the second-best deal that is available at any given time—even if it means doing more of what we are already doing.”
Page 213

Forget about the rock and the hard place, and open your eyes to the other, superior alternatives.
Page 214

social comparison bias had kicked in—that is, the tendency to withhold assistance to people who might outdo you, even if you look like a fool in the long run.
Page 215

Kawasaki says: “A-players hire people even better than themselves. It’s clear, though, that B-players hire C-players so they can feel superior to them, and C-players hire D-players. If you start hiring B-players, expect what Steve [Jobs] called ‘the bozo explosion’ to happen in your organization.”
Page 216

Hire people who are better than you, otherwise you soon preside over a pack of underdogs.
Page 216

Suppose you sit on the board of a company. A point of discussion is raised—a topic on which you have not yet passed judgment. The first opinion you hear will be crucial to your overall assessment. The same applies to the other participants, a fact that you can exploit: If you have an opinion, don’t hesitate airing it first. This way, you will influence your colleagues more and draw them over to your side. If, however, you are chairing the committee, always ask members’ opinions in random order so that no one has an unfair advantage.
Page 219

On a societal level, NIH syndrome has serious consequences. We overlook shrewd ideas simply because they come from other cultures.
Page 223

We are drunk on our own ideas. To sober up, take a step back every now and then and examine their quality in hindsight.
Page 223

U.S. secretary of defense Donald Rumsfeld, but at a press conference in 2002, he expressed a philosophical thought with exceptional clarity when he offered this observation: There are things we know (“ known facts”), there are things we do not know (“ known unknowns”), and there are things we do not know that we do not know (“ unknown unknowns”).
Page 225

Put yourself in situations where you can catch a ride on a positive Black Swan (as unlikely as that is). Become an artist, inventor, or entrepreneur with a scalable product. If you sell your time (e.g., as an employee, dentist, or journalist), you are waiting in vain for such a break. But even
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