Mindset Summary

Categories Behaviour, Mindfulness & HappinessPosted on

Mindset takes a look at the difference between people with a fixed and a growth mindset, how one trumps the other and what you can do to adopt the right one.

Look at your hands. How long have been this way? As long as you can remember, right?

That’s because we have almost no control over our appearance and features, such as height, the shape of our nose, or the color of our eyes.

What we do control, however, are our skills and abilities, at least according to the latest research.

Carol Dweck is one of those researchers and in her book Mindset she discerns between two attitudes: the fixed mindset and the growth mindset.

People with a fixed mindset believe talent is everything. If they’re not gifted with the ability to do something, they think they’re doomed to be a failure. Their skills seem to be written down in their genes, just like their looks, which is why they never try to improve in something they suck at.

To contrast that, people with a growth mindset believe that whatever they want to achieve is theirs for the taking, as long as they work hard for it, dedicate themselves to their goal and practice as much as they can.

Since our mindset has a big influence on our performance, both are worth taking a closer look at.

You might have heard the quote “Hard work beats talent when talent fails to work hard.” People with a fixed mindset take a different view. In their world talent is king.

Naturally, they want to look talented all the time. The hiring practices of big corporations like McKinsey or Goldman Sachs make this evident. They hire the best graduates in the world and then expect them to perform perfectly and instantly.

Instead of being trained on the new job, employees are thrown into cold water and monitored closely for errors. Whoever doesn’t do a great job right away is instantly fired. This is hurtful for both sides.

Not only do the employers rob themselves of some great people, their black-and-white thinking also cultivates a fixed mindset in others. Since the applicants already assume they’re always being judged as good or bad, the employers behavior turns it into a self-fulfilling prophecy.

As a result, most employees spend their time trying not to look stupid (instead of working productively), in order to not be branded as a failure forever.

Compare that to the growth mindset, where, if you give kids hard math problems, they love working on them and want more of the same kind.

Their desire to face more and tougher challenges doesn’t necessarily come from wanting better grades, but from the satisfaction they get from pushing themselves as much as they can.

They take any chance they get to learn from the best, always try and test new strategies and adopt the mantra “Practice makes perfect“.

Two famous examples are Lee Iacocca, who ran Chrysler, and Lou Gerstner, former CEO of IBM.

Both came in when the companies were down in the dumps, and both successfully turned them around. The difference lies in what happened afterwards.

Iacocca became complacent, he took all the credit, surrounded himself with worshippers and worried more about his own image than about the company. Seeking approval from others to compensate his low self-esteem led him to making bad decisions, like ignoring dwindling sales and even firing innovative designers, which brought the company right down again.

Gerstner, on the other hand, recognized the internal battles at IBM were taking away from teamwork and customer service, so he broke up old hierarchies and even put himself on an employee level to communicate well with anyone and everyone. By focusing on teamwork and learning from past failures he showed a true growth mindset and brought sustainable success to IBM.

In a similar manner, a furious, fixed mindset golfer might fire his caddy or throw his shoes into the crowd. Michael Jordan, on the other hand, never let a mistake stop him.

He says: “I’ve missed more than 9000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. 26 times, I’ve been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.”

His Airness has spoken!

Note: Michael Jordan has recently become the first billionaire basketball player in history.

Trying to avoid difficult situations is characteristic of the fixed mindset, because the longer you spend time working on something, the less of an excuse you have to fail.

Had Christopher Reeve (actor of the original Superman movies) adopted this kind of mindset, he probably would have died soon after his riding accident, which paralyzed him from the neck down. Instead, he put up a tremendous fight, became an activist for spinal cord research and was finally able to move his arms, legs and even upper body.

Eventually, he even walked across the bottom of a swimming pool.

Surprisingly, we are all born with a growth mindset. Babies know no limits, they want to learn anything and everything. However, between the ages of 1 to 3 a mindset can already be determined.

Babies with a growth mindset tend to try and help other crying babies, while fixed mindset babies are disturbed by it.

Apart from our parents, our teachers also play a major role in how our mindset turns out. A bad teacher might tell a D student that she’ll never amount to anything, whereas a good teacher would encourage her to study more and do better on the next test.

Lastly, anyone can develop a growth mindset.

For starters, try this: The next time you spill your coffee, don’t say: “I’m clumsy!” and associate the failure with your identity.

Instead, see it as an external, one-time event and resolve to do better the next time, for example by saying: “What’s done is done, I’ll just mop it up and pay more attention the next time.”

This way you’ll spend more time working towards your goals and dreams, and less time worrying about what’s wrong with you. You’ll develop a growth mindset soon and be well on your way to reaching your full potential.

Final thoughts

This reminded me a lot of the book Learned Optimism, where the difference between success and failure is mostly determined by the perspective you choose to take on it.

I love the topic and have written about it before. 3 things I found valuable in cultivating a growth mindset are reading, learning about other people’s stories and going on a quest for love.

I wish the summary had quoted the original study Dweck did to make her discovery, but even without it it did a great job at explaining where these mindsets come from, what consequences they have and a lot of real-world examples.

Who would I recommend the Mindset summary to?

The 37 year old who thinks it’s too late to change careers, the 16 year old, cocky high school student, who never studies because good grades fall into his lap and anyone who believes talent is all you need and if you don’t have it, you’re screwed.

The Book in Three Sentences

  • Skills can be cultivated through effort.
  • People with a growth mindset thrive on challenges.
  • The fixed mindset: “I can’t do it”. The growth mindset: “I can’t do it yet”.

The Five Big Ideas

The view you adopt for yourself profoundly affects the way you lead your life.

“Believing that your qualities are carved in stone—the fixed mindset—creates an urgency to prove yourself over and over”.

“People in a growth mindset don’t just seek challenge, they thrive on it”.

“The growth mindset does allow people to love what they’re doing—and to continue to love it in the face of difficulties”.

“Those with the growth mindset found success in doing their best, in learning and improving. And this is exactly what we find in the champions”.

Mindset Summary

“[Children with a growth mindset] knew that human qualities, such as intellectual skills, could be cultivated through effort”.

“Not only were [the children with a growth mindset]not discouraged by failure, they didn’t even think they were failing. They thought they were learning”.

“What are the consequences of thinking that your intelligence or personality is something you can develop, as opposed to something that is a fixed, deep-seated trait?”

“Robert Sternberg, the present-day guru of intelligence, writes that the major factor in whether people achieve expertise ‘is not some fixed prior ability, but purposeful engagement’.”

“For twenty years, my research has shown that the view you adopt for yourself profoundly affects the way you lead your life”.

“Believing that your qualities are carved in stone—the fixed mindset—creates an urgency to prove yourself over and over”.

“This growth mindset is based on the belief that your basic qualities are things you can cultivate through your efforts. Although people may differ in every which way—in their initial talents and aptitudes, interests, or temperaments—everyone can change and grow through application and experience”.

“Why waste time proving over and over how great you are, when you could be getting better? Why hide deficiencies instead of overcoming them?”

“The passion for stretching yourself and sticking to it, even (or especially) when it’s not going well, is the hallmark of the growth mindset”.

“The fixed mindset makes you concerned with how you’ll be judged; the growth mindset makes you concerned with improving”.

“When you enter a mindset, you enter a new world. In one world—the world of fixed traits—success is about proving you’re smart or talented. Validating yourself. In the other—the world of changing qualities—it’s about stretching yourself to learn something new. Developing yourself”.

“Benjamin Barber, an eminent sociologist, once said, ‘I don’t divide the world into the weak and the strong, or the successes and the failures…. I divide the world into the learners and non-learners’.”

“People in a growth mindset don’t just seek challenge, they thrive on it”.

“We gave fifth graders intriguing puzzles, which they all loved. But when we made them harder, children with the fixed mindset showed a big plunge in enjoyment”.

“For it’s not about immediate perfection. It’s aboutlearning something over time: confronting a challenge and making progress”.

“‘Becoming is better than being’. The fixed mindset does not allow people the luxury of becoming. They have to already be”.

“People with the growth mindset know that it takes time for potential to flower”.

“College students, after doing poorly on a test, were given a chance to look at tests of other students. Those in the growth mindset looked at the tests of people who had done far better than they had. As usual, they wanted to correct their deficiency. But students in the fixed mindset chose to look at the tests of people who had done really poorly. That was their way of feeling better about themselves”.

“John Wooden, the legendary basketball coach, says you aren’t a failure until you start to blame. What he means is that you can still be in the process of learning from your mistakes until you deny them”.

“French executive Pierre Chevalier says, ‘We are not a nation of effort. After all, if you have savoir-faire [a mixture of know-how and cool], you do things effortlessly’.”

“People with the growth mindset, however, believe something very different. For them, even geniuses have to work hard for their achievements”.

“They may appreciate endowment, but they admire effort, for no matter what your ability is, effort is what ignites that ability and turns it into accomplishment”.

“The growth mindset does allow people to love what they’re doing—and to continue to love it in the face of difficulties”.

“Those with the growth mindset found success in doing their best, in learning and improving. And this is exactly what we find in the champions”.

“Those with the growth mindset found setbacks motivating. They’re informative. They’re a wake-up call”.

“People with the growth mindset in sports (as in pre-med chemistry) took charge of the processes that bring success—and that maintain it”.

Recommended Reading

If you like Mindset, you may also enjoy the following books:

Drive by Daniel Pink

The Happiness Advantage by Shawn Achor

The Obstacle Is the Way by Ryan Holiday

Buy The Book: Mindset

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Grit by Angela Duckworth: Notes

Categories BehaviourPosted on

Grit describes what creates outstanding achievements, based on science, interviews with high achievers from various fields and the personal history of success of the author, Angela Duckworth, uncovering that achievement isn’t reserved for the talented only, but for those with passion and perseverance.

When I hear the word grit, I always have the same image in mind immediately. A soldier has to crawl through the mud, barbed wire around him, and due to the heavy rain, he suddenly gets stuck and can’t move. But then, in a moment of almost angry defiance, he grits his teeth, pulls his foot out of the mud and crawls onward.

I’m sure it’s no coincidence the expression “to grit one’s teeth” lends itself to the title of this book, the word as a noun means courage, perseverance and fortitude. Angela Duckworth needs a lot of it herself, coming from a family in which her father often criticized her for her “lack of genius.” However, her work in psychology, which led her through Harvard, Oxford and the University of Pennsylvania, making her a 2013 MacArthur “Genius” Fellow – ironic?

No. She just knew that perseverance and passion drive effort, and effort drives achievement. That’s grit and that’s what you’ll learn about today in these 3 lessons:

Even though we say hard work is more important than talent, we still believe the opposite deep down.

Effort has a much, much bigger impact on achievement than talent.

Combine small, low-level, daily goals with a larger vision to stay consistently motivated.

Ready to become that soldier, that person who’s willing to go on, long after others have quit? Then let’s get gritty!

Lesson 1: When we say we think hard work trumps talent, we usually just bullshit ourselves.

If I approached you on the street and said: “We’re conducting a study and would like your opinion. What’s more important: hard work or talent?” you’d probably say “hard work.” It’s what you think you believe. It’s what you want to believe.

And it’s also what 66% of people say when they’re asked this question. They want to believe it too. But when it gets hard, when the other guy gets the promotion, when the third business idea fails, do you really hold on to that belief? Or do you maybe think, deep down, you don’t have enough talent after all?

In 2011, Chia-Jung Tsay made a shocking discovery. She studied that last question by giving music experts two written descriptions of a “naturally talented” and a “hard-working, striving” musician and then letting them listen to a recording of the musician performing.

The majority of the experts ended up preferring the piece by the “natural.” The kicker is that on both occasions, the exact same recording was played.

We like to tell ourselves that we believe in hard work more than in talent. But we don’t really mean it.

Lesson 2: The impact effort has on achievement is exponentially greater than talent.

The funny thing is, we have no reason to. Because if you said that hard work trumps talent and really believed it, you’d be right.

After looking at successful people across a wide range of disciplines, from politicians to athletes to writers, Angela set up a set of two equations, which simplify the way talent and effort are related, to make it clear how much more important effort is.

In order to achieve something, you first need the right skill to be able to even start working towards the achievement. However, once you have it, you still need to use and apply the skill for a long time in order to actually get there. With a certain amount (or lack) of talent, your starting points for those two “movements” then become:

Talent x Effort = Skill.

Skill x Effort = Achievement.

Your first bit of talent, combined with effort increases your skill level. Your increasing skill, multiplied by effort, leads to achievement.

That means effort counts twice. Once for skill and once for achievement. But that doesn’t mean it’s twice as important. If you substitute the skill equation into the achievement equation, you end up with:

Talent x Effort x Effort = Achievement, which means that Talent x Effort² = Achievement. Your effort is exponentially more important than how talented you are. That could be a factor of 2, 7, 10, or 500.

Regardless of how big the difference is though, there always will be one, and that’s what’s important to remember.

Lesson 3: You can stay consistently motivated by combining small, low-level, daily goals with a larger vision.

Okay, but a lot of effort means you’ll have to invest a lot of time and stay motivated for the long haul. How do you do that?

According to Angela, with a combination of two things:

A large vision, a big dream, something greater that’s meaningful to you and that can inspire you for a long time.

Small, achievable, daily goals, to help you get wins, make progress and stay motivated.

One without the other is meaningless. Do I want Four Minute Books to be a huge, global brand, with bookstores all around the world? Sure, but thinking about that every day gets depressing.

Only if I focus on doing nothing but publishing a summary, every single day, do I feel happy with my achievement and am motivated to show up yet another day.

Small daily goals, big scary dreams – not one or the other – have both, okay?

My personal take-aways

The only caveat I have about this book is that you should be very cautious about the big dream you pick. There is something to be said for quitting as a strategy, but once you’ve quit the wrong things, go all in on grit. Great book!

Grit Summary

The Book in Three Sentences

The secret to outstanding achievement is not talent but grit: a special blend of passion and persistence.    

Grit is about having passion and perseverance for long-term goals.

Gritty people are able to maintain their determination and motivation over long periods despite experiences with failure and adversity.

The Five Big Ideas

Grit is about holding the same top-level goal for a very long time. (A top-level goal is your ultimate concern, a compass that gives direction and meaning to all the goals below it.)

Paragons of grit have four psychological assets: (1) interest (2) practice (3) purpose (4) hope.

Gritty people do more deliberate practice and experience more flow.

For paragons of grit, the long days and evenings of toil, the setbacks and disappointments, and struggle, the sacrifice—all this is worth it because, ultimately, their efforts pay dividends to other people.

Often, the critical gritty-or-not decisions we make are a matter of identity more than anything else.

Grit Summary

Our potential is one thing. What we do with it is quite another.

Compared with what we ought to be, we are only half awake. Our fires are damped, our drafts are checked. We are making use of only a small part of our possible mental and physical resources.

The “naturalness bias” is a hidden prejudice against those who’ve achieved what they have because they worked for it, and a hidden preference for those whom we think arrived at their place in life because they’re naturally talented.

In Duckworth’s view, the biggest reason a preoccupation with talent can be harmful is simple: By shining our spotlight on talent, we risk leaving everything else in the shadows. We inadvertently send the message that these other factors—including grit—don’t matter as much as they really do.

In a study of competitive swimmers titled, “The Mundanity of Excellence,” Dan Chambliss, writes, “The most dazzling human achievements are, in fact, the aggregate of countless individual elements, each of which is, in a sense, ordinary.”

Great things are accomplished by those “people whose thinking is active in one direction, who employ everything as material, who always zealously observe their own inner life and that of others, who perceive everywhere models and incentives, who never tire of combining together the means available to them.”

Talent—how fast we improve in skill—absolutely matters. But effort factors into the calculations twice, not once. Effort builds skill. At the very same time, effort makes skill productive.

Consistency of effort over the long run is everything.

Many of us, it seems, quit what we start far too early and far too often. Even more than the effort a gritty person puts in on a single day, what matters is that they wake up the next day, and the next, ready to get on that treadmill and keep going.

Grit is about working on something you care about so much that you’re willing to stay loyal to it. It’s not about falling in love; it’s about staying in love.

Grit has two components: passion and perseverance.

Enthusiasm is common. Endurance is rare.

Duckworth on passion:

What I mean by passion is not just that you have something you care about. What I mean is that you care about that same ultimate goal in an abiding, loyal, steady way. You are not capricious. Each day, you wake up thinking of the questions you fell asleep thinking about. You are, in a sense, pointing in the same direction, ever eager to take even the smallest step forward than to take a step to the side, toward some other destination. At the extreme, one might call your focus obsessive. Most of your actions derive their significance from their allegiance to your ultimate concern, your life philosophy. You have your priorities in order.

Grit is about holding the same top-level goal for a very long time. Furthermore, this “life philosophy,” as Pete Carroll might put it, is so interesting and important that it organizes a great deal of your waking activity. In very gritty people, most mid-level and low-level goals are, in some way or another, related to that ultimate goal. In contrast, a lack of grit can come from having less coherent goal structures.

When prioritizing goals, ask yourself, “To what extent do these goals serve a common purpose?”

The more they’re part of the same goal hierarchy—important because they then serve the same ultimate concern—the more focused your passion.

Don’t beat your head against the wall attempting to follow through on something that is, merely, a means to a more important end.

Giving up on lower-level goals is not only forgivable, it’s sometimes absolutely necessary. You should give up when one lower-level goal can be swapped for another that is more feasible. (Note: to learn more about when to quit and when to stick, read The Dip by Seth Godin.)

As a species, we’re getting better and better at abstract reasoning.

Grit grows as we figure out our life philosophy, learn to dust ourselves off after rejection and disappointment, and learn to tell the difference between low-level goals that should be abandoned quickly and higher-level goals that demand more tenacity.

Duckworth on “The Maturity Principle”:

Over time, we learn life lessons we don’t forget, and we adapt in response to the growing demands of our circumstances. Eventually, new ways of thinking and acting become habitual. There comes a day when we can hardly remember our immature former selves. We’ve adapted, those adaptations have become durable, and, finally, our identity—the sort of person we see ourselves to be—has evolved. We’ve matured.

Like every aspect of your psychological character, grit is more plastic than we might think.

If you’re not as gritty as you want to be, ask yourself why.

Any of the following four thoughts might go through your head right before you quit what you’re doing: “I’m bored.” “The effort isn’t worth it.” “This isn’t important to me.” “I can’t do this, so I might as well give up.”

Paragons of grit don’t swap compasses: when it comes to the one, singularly important aim that guides almost everything else they do, the very gritty tend not to utter the statements above.

Paragons of grit have four psychological assets:





From the very beginning to the very end, it is inestimably important to learn to keep going even when things are difficult, even when we have doubts.

Passion for your work is a little bit of discovery, followed by a lot of development, and then a lifetime of deepening.

Interests are not discovered through introspection. Instead, interests are triggered by interactions with the outside world.

What follows the initial discovery of an interest is a much lengthier and increasingly proactive period of interest development.

Longitudinal studies tracking learners confirm that overbearing parents and teachers erode intrinsic motivation. (Note: to learn more about motivation, read Drive by Dan Pink.)

Kids whose parents let them make their own choices about what they like are more likely to develop interests later identified as a passion.

Duckworth on the motivational differences between expert and beginners:

At the start of an endeavor, we need encouragement and freedom to figure out what we enjoy. We need small wins. We need applause. Yes, we can handle a tincture of criticism and corrective feedback. Yes, we need to practice. But not too much and not too soon. Rush a beginner and you’ll bludgeon their budding interest. It’s very, very hard to get that back once you do.

The grittier an individual is, the fewer career changes they’re likely to make.

For the expert, novelty is nuance.

If you’d like to follow your passion but haven’t yet fostered one, you must begin at the beginning: discovery.

Ask yourself:

What do I like to think about?

Where does my mind wander?

What do I really care about?

What matters most to me?

How do I enjoy spending my time? And, in contrast, what do I find absolutely unbearable?

To young graduates wringing their hands over what to do, Duckworth says, “Experiment! Try! You’ll certainly learn more than if you don’t!”

The directive to follow your passion is not bad advice. But what may be even more useful is to understand how passions are fostered in the first place.

Kaizen is Japanese for resisting the plateau of arrested development. (Note: To learn more about kaizen, read One Small Step Can Change Your Life by Robert Maurer)

A crucial insight of Anders Ericsson’s research on excellence is not that experts log more hours of practice. Rather, it’s that experts practice differently. Unlike most of us, experts are logging thousands upon thousands of hours of what Ericsson calls deliberate practice.

Duckworth on how experts practice:

First, they set a stretch goal, zeroing in on just one narrow aspect of their overall performance. Rather than focus on what they already do well, experts strive to improve specific weaknesses. They intentionally seek out challenges they can’t yet meet.

Then, with undivided attention and great effort, experts strive to reach their stretch goal. Interestingly, many choose to do so while nobody’s watching.

As soon as possible, experts hungrily seek feedback on how they did. Necessarily, much of that feedback is negative. This means that experts are more interested in what they did wrong—so they can fix it—than what they did right. The active processing of this feedback is as essential as its immediacy. And after feedback, then what?

Then experts do it all over again, and again, and again. Until they have finally mastered what they set out to do. Until what was a struggle before is now fluent and flawless. Until conscious incompetence becomes unconscious competence.

Finally, experts start all over again with a new stretch goal. One by one, these subtle refinements add up to dazzling mastery.

Gritty people do more deliberate practice and experience more flow. There’s no contradiction here, for two reasons:

First, deliberate practice is a behavior, and flow is an experience. Anders Ericsson is talking about what experts do; Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi is talking about how experts feel.

Second, you don’t have to be doing deliberate practice and experiencing flow at the same time (Duckworth argues for most experts, they rarely go together.)

Deliberate practice is for preparation. Flow is for performance.

Nobody wants to show you the hours and hours of becoming. They’d rather show the highlight of what they’ve become.

Duckworth has three suggestions for getting the most out of deliberate practice:

Know the science

Make it a habit

Change the way you experience it.

Each of the basic requirements of deliberate practice is unremarkable:

A clearly defined stretch goal

Full concentration and effort

Immediate and informative feedback

Repetition with reflection and refinement

For paragons of frit, the long days and evenings of toil, the setbacks and disappointments and struggle, the sacrifice—all this is worth it because, ultimately, their efforts pay dividends to other people.

In Duckworth’s “grit lexicon,” purpose means “the intention to contribute to the well-being of others.”

Most gritty people see their ultimate aims as deeply connected to the world beyond themselves.

Three bricklayers are asked: “What are you doing?” The first says, “I am laying bricks.” The second says, “I am building a church.” And the third says, “I am building the house of God.” The first bricklayer has a job. The second has a career. The third has a calling. Many of us would like to be like the third bricklayer, but instead identify with the first or second.

Yale management professor Amy Wrzesniewski has found that people have no trouble at all telling her which of the three bricklayers they identify with.

Not surprisingly, Wrzesniewski’s conclusion is that it’s not that some kinds of occupations are necessarily jobs and others are careers and still others are callings. Instead, what matters is whether the person doing the work believes that laying down the next brick is just something that has to be done, or instead something that will lead to further personal success, or, finally, work that connects the individual to something far greater than the self.

Adam’s research demonstrates that leaders and employees who keep both personal and prosocial interests in mind do better in the long run than those who are 100 percent selfishly motivated.

In order to develop a sense of purpose, David Yeager recommends reflecting on how the work you’re already doing can make a positive contribution to society.

Amy Wrzesniewski recommends thinking about how, in small but meaningful ways, you can change your current work to enhance its connection to your core values.

Bill Damon recommends finding inspiration in a purposeful role model.

The hope that gritty people have has nothing to do with luck and everything to do with getting up again.

Optimists habitually search for temporary and specific causes of their suffering, whereas pessimists assume permanent and pervasive causes are to blame. (Note: To learn more about learned optimism, read The Happiness Advantage by Shawn Achor.)

When you keep searching for ways to change your situation for the better, you stand a chance of finding them. When you stop searching, assuming they can’t be found, you guarantee they won’t.

Duckworth has measured growth mindset and grit in both younger children and older adults, and in every sample, she’s found that growth mindset and grit go together. (Note: to learn more about growth mindset, read Mindset by Carol Dweck.)

Growth Mindset > Optimistic Self-Talk > Perseverance Over Adversity

Duckworth’s recommendation for teaching yourself hope is to take each step in the sequence above and ask, “What can I do to boost this one?”

Duckworth’s three suggestion in that regard is to:

Update your beliefs about intelligence and talent

Practice optimistic self-talk

Ask for a helping hand

If you want to bring forth grit in your child, first ask how much passion and perseverance you have for your own life goals. Then ask yourself how likely it is that your approach to parenting encourages your child to emulate you. If the answer to the first question is “a great deal,” and your answer to the second is “very likely,” you’re already parenting for grit.

As soon as your child is old enough, find something they might enjoy doing outside of class and sign them up and require that they stick with at least one activity for more than a year.

Kids who spend more than a year in extracurriculars are significantly more likely to graduate from college and, as young adults, to volunteer in their communities.

If you want to be grittier, find a gritty culture and join it. If you’re a leader, and you want the people in your organization to be grittier, create a gritty culture.

Over time and under the right circumstances, the norms and values of the group to which we belong become our own. We internalize them. We carry them with us. The way we do things around here and why eventually becomes The way I do things and why.

Often, the critical gritty-or-not decisions we make are a matter of identity more than anything else. Often, our passion and perseverance do not spring from a cold, calculating analysis of the costs and benefits of alternatives. Rather, the source of our strength is the person we know ourselves to be. (Note: This echoes James Clear’s idea of Identity-Based Habits.)

Recommended Reading

If you like Grit, you may also enjoy the following books:

Mindset by Carol Dweck

The Obstacle Is the Way by Ryan Holiday

Start with Why by Simon Sinek

Buy this bookhttps://amzn.to/2EeZEB8

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David And Goliath Summary

Categories BehaviourPosted on

 David and Goliath uses history, psychology and powerful examples of extraordinary individuals to change the way you think about being an underdog who’s either discriminated against, suffers from a learning disability, goes to a mediocre school, or faces any other kind of adversity.

Since last week, Malcolm Gladwell’s three most famous books – Outliers, The Tipping Point and Blink – all live on Four Minute Books. But he’s written two more, and they’re no less interesting. Sadly “What The Dog Saw” isn’t on Blinkist yet and I’ll have to get a copy later this year, but David and Goliath is.

Once again, Gladwell draws on historic events and the psychology of highly successful human beings to illustrate that being an underdog can more often than not be an advantage – just like David beat Goliath in spite of being smaller, weaker and much less skilled in battle.

Here are 3 lessons that will change your perspective about what it means to be an underdog:

  • Living in a privileged environment might hinder your success.
  • You can turn your learning difficulties into advantages in other fields.
  • Even if you’re the underdog, you can win against big competitors by relying on your unique skills.

Ready to take on the Goliath’s in your life? No worries, we’ll get you there!

Lesson 1: Living in a privileged environment might hinder your success.

I’ll be the first to come out of the gate and admit this. Growing up with rich parents makes you weak.

I come from an upper middle class family, which in today’s world means I never had to work for anything really. I never learned what it means to be hungry, both physically and psychologically. Learning comes easy to me, I breezed through school, so when life suddenly started to get serious, I was startled.

I’m sure you have friends like this as well. They know they can forever rely on the wealth their parents generated, so they relax and take life easy – but eventually, this slacker attitude comes at a high price.

If you’re poor and have to work in the family business to earn money for even the most basic of things, this makes you tough and helps you succeed in the real world later in life.

For example, if your parents send you to a private, expensive school, where everyone is the teacher’s darling, because classes consist of just 10 people, that won’t really help you learn navigate an environment with many people, which you’ll face later at work.

Going to a less privileged school will make getting good grades harder, but offer more opportunity to learn from other students and interact with them.

Lesson 2: If you have a learning disability, it might actually give you an advantage.

One of my best friends in school was dyslexic. Not only that, because of the local accent in our rural area, he also had a really hard time writing texts in proper German. He’d always get an F on his essays for his horrible spelling and grammar.

But once we were seniors, he started to make up for it with his incredible speaking and presenting skills. He could talk and entertain the entire class about any topic for 45 minutes without a problem after we translated texts together (for example in Latin class). Plus he went on to become a very skilled artist and eventually studied architecture, finishing summa cum laude, top of his class.

Gladwell says disadvantages like such a learning disability can often help us over-develop our skills in other areas, which will make far more than up for it.

When Princeton University changed the font in their intelligence test to a much harder to read style the average score went up from 1.9 to 2.45 out of 3 points. Why? Forcing people to read slower made them think longer and better about the questions, thus increasing their scores.

Remember the baseball and bat question from Thinking Fast and Slow? That’s exactly what this is about.

Lesson 3: Use your own, unique skill set to beat big competitors on your own terms.

Last year I could not stop rambling about the Spartans. Spartan Up was one of the first summaries on here. It never ceases to amaze me how those 300 Spartans beat an entire Persian empire.

Gladwell finally delivers an explanation. Interesting statistic: If an underdog army uses guerrilla tactics in battle, it wins 63% of the time. If it doesn’t and tries to fight fire with fire, it wins in only 29% of battles.

What does that mean? If you’re the underdog, don’t fight your biggest competitor in their domain. Instead, focus on how you can outsmart them with your own individual strengths.

Here’s an example I just learned on a free sightseeing tour of London. If you’ve ever been to Trafalgar Square, you’ll see a statue of Lord Horatio Nelson at the very top of a huge column. In 1805 at the Battle of Trafalgar, the English navy was clearly outnumbered with 33 ships facing 41 of the French and Spanish.

The reason they engaged in such a dangerous battle was that they knew once the French made it to the English homeland, they’d lose, because the French army was a lot stronger than the British. But at sea, they could beat them. Thanks to uncommon tactics, like approaching the enemy head on and circling off parts of the fleet, enclosing them with no escape, the British sunk one French ship and captured 21 others – without losing a single one themselves.

If you’re facing a Goliath and feel like David, don’t compare yourself in physical strength, but think about what you can do that your enemy can’t and you’ll actually have a decent chance of winning.

My personal take-aways

So many encouraging lessons in this book for people who often feel like they’re outnumbered, outwitted or just put at an unfair advantage. If you’ve ever felt like an underdog, this is the one for you. Malcolm Gladwell also gave a fascinating TED talk about this book and subject, great supplement to reading the book or summary and a definite recommend

Buy this book –   https://amzn.to/2S50unx

Bounce by Matthew Syed: Notes

Categories BehaviourPosted on

Bounce shows you that training trumps talent every time, by explaining the science of deliberate practice, the mindset of high performers and how you can use those tools to become a master of whichever skill you choose.

I remember Tai Lopez kept raving about this book back in 2014. Matthew Syed is a former table tennis professional, who was the number one English player for several years and went to the Olympics twice. Since 1999, he writes for The Times. Bounce was his first book about how high performers like himself achieve their success.

Here are my takeaways:

With intense practice, 2 changes will occur in your brain to make it more effective.

Even minor details can inspire you to work hard for your success.

You can avoid choking under pressure by telling yourself that it’s not a big deal.

Let’s look at what it takes to be successful in detail!

Lesson 1: When you practice a lot, 2 changes will make your brain more effective.

Table tennis players often seem to have lightning fast reaction times, right?

But when scientists ran a bunch of tests on the English national team’s players, they found the best player, Desmond Douglas, to have the slowest reaction times.

How does this go together?

Douglas’s brain has been trained to quickly assess situations in a table tennis match, through years of practice, but only when he’s playing.

Because he’s seen so many balls fly towards him in so many different ways, his brain can easily estimate even the most complex trajectories and give him more time to react than other players with less practice.

However, that doesn’t make him a better driver. In an everyday car crash, he wouldn’t hit the brakes any faster than you or me.

The second thing that happens is that his brain uses other areas to perform than the brain of a beginner. Since a lot of his actions happen on autopilot, the subconscious parts of his brain are really in charge here.

Instead of wasting the resources of his prefrontal cortex on trying to get the ball spin right, he can use his brain to think about tactics, because the movements of his hand are taken care of.

Lesson 2: You can be inspired to work hard by the most trivial details.

Do you know the story of the 4 minute mile?

Basically, for thousands of years humans believed it was not possible to run a mile in less than 4 minutes.

It seemed like the human body just wasn’t capable of doing it.

The record stalled in the 1940’s, for 9 years no one could get past 4:01.

Then, in 1954, Roger Bannister finally broke the mark.

Within a month, another guy did it. Over the next 4 years, 20 more people broke the barrier, bringing the record all the way down to 3:56.

When the hell did it become so easy for so many people?

The moment someone did it, that had even the slightest relation to them.

11 of those 20 people come from UK-related countries (Ireland, NZ, AUS). Roger Bannister was British.

Syed calls this motivation by association. He says if we find even the slightest similarity between someone successful and ourselves, it can motivate us to multiply our work efforts.

Lesson 3: You can tell yourself an event is not a big deal to avoid choking under pressure.

What happened to Eminem when he finally got his shot to show everyone how good he was at rapping live on stage? He choked.

Looking into hundreds of faces, knowing they were all expecting him to fail, the pressure to perform became so enormous, that all his hardly trained rhyming skills seemed to vanish.

What can happen to all performers in such a high pressure situation, is that their conscious brain takes over, because it usually allows them to take extra caution and be very alert of every movement, so they don’t make a mistake.

However, when it’s all on the line, that’s not exactly what you want. It’s right in those moments that you want your subconscious to be in charge, so you can actually reap the benefits of all your hard training.

You can combat this performance anxiety by telling yourself that it’s really not such a big deal and that the event doesn’t matter to you.

Compare it to your health, your family, your spouse or your best friends – does it really matter whether you win or lose the Super Bowl?

This will allow you to stress less and unleash your hard earned skills.

And sure enough, once he stopped giving a damn about the whole event or what everyone thinks of him, Eminem went back and crushed it.

My personal take-aways

I’m big on deliberate practice and so is Bounce. Naturally, we got along quite well. Syed also touches on related topics, such as having a fixed mindset and building confidence. Combine this with the reminder that you need incredible focus on one area from Zero To One yesterday, and you have a great recipe for success.

I like the many examples this summary used and am sure there are many more in the book plus links to some of the studies Syed quotes, which are hard to find otherwise. Look at whether the summary on Blinkist strikes you and if it does, grab a copy of Bounce!

What else can you learn from the blinks?

How many hours of work child “prodigy” Mozart already had under his belt before stunning the public

Why most people never make it to the ranks of high performers

The 2 ways in which a fixed mindset will ruin you either way and why you should praise your children for their efforts, not their talent

What happened after a South Korean won the LPGA tour for the first time

3 things that happen when you doubt yourself

When your brain switches into “pay attention mode” and why

Who would I recommend the Bounce summary to?

The 13 year old who is about to give up playing the piano, the 22 year old who loves his college football team, but is not quite sure he can make it into the NFL, and anyone who ever choked at an important event.

The Book in Three Sentences

Talent is a result of thousand of hours of purposeful practice, not inate talent.

Expert knowledge comes from experience.

If you want to be world-class, you have to embrace failure.

The Five Big Ideas

“If we believe that attaining excellence hinges on talent, we are likely to give up if we show insufficient early promise”.

“Speed in sport is not based on innate reaction speed, but derived from highly specific practice”.

“[Talent] cannot be taught in a classroom; it is not something you are born with; it must be lived and learned. To put it another way, it emerges through practice”.

“Child prodigies do not have unusual genes; they have unusual upbringings”.

“Purposeful practice is about striving for what is just out of reach and not quite making it; it is about grappling with tasks beyond current limitations and falling short again and again”.

Bounce Book Summary

“If we believe that attaining excellence hinges on talent, we are likely to give up if we show insufficient early promise”.

The iceberg illusion: “When we witness extraordinary feats of memory (or of sporting or artistic prowess) we are witnessing the end product of a process measured in years. What is invisible to us – the submerged evidence, as it were – is the countless hours of practice that have gone into the making of the virtuoso performance: the relentless drills, the mastery of technique and form, the solitary concentration that have, literally, altered the anatomical and neurological structures of the master performer. What we do not see is what we might call the hidden logic of success”.

“Speed in sport is not based on innate reaction speed, but derived from highly specific practice”.

“It is also worth noting that the development of motor expertise (skilled movement) is inseparable from the development of perceptual expertise (chunking patterns)”.

“The essential problem regarding the attainment of excellence is that expert knowledge simply cannot be taught in the classroom over the course of a rainy afternoon, or indeed a thousand rainy afternoons”.

“Good decision-making is about compressing the informational load by decoding the meaning of patterns derived from experience”.

“[Talent] cannot be taught in a classroom; it is not something you are born with; it must be lived and learned. To put it another way, it emerges through practice”.

“[Complexity] describes those tasks characterized by combinatorial explosion; tasks where success is determined, first and foremost, by superiority in software (pattern recognition and sophisticated motor programmes) rather than hardware (simple speed or strength)”.

“Child prodigies do not have unusual genes; they have unusual upbringings”.

“‘When most people practise, they focus on the things they can do effortlessly’, Ericsson has said. ‘Expert practice is different. It entails considerable, specific, and sustained efforts to do something you can’t do well – or even at all. Research across domains shows that it is only by working at what you can’t do that you turn into the expert you want to become’.”

“Every second of every minute of every hour, the goal [of purposeful practice] is to extend one’s mind and body, to push oneself beyond the outer limits of one’s capacities, to engage so deeply in the task that one leaves the training session, literally, a changed person”.

“Purposeful practice is about striving for what is just out of reach and not quite making it; it is about grappling with tasks beyond current limitations and falling short again and again”.

“Progress is built, in effect, upon the foundations of necessary failure. That is the essential paradox of expert performance”.

“Futsal is a perfect example of how well-designed training can accelerate learning; how the knowledge that mediates any complex skill can be expanded and deepened at breathtaking speed with the right kind of practice”.

“But scratch beneath the surface, and you will find that all the successful systems have one thing in common: they institutionalize the principles of purposeful practice”.

“Sometimes learning can be accelerated by something as simple as training with superior players”.

“The ten-thousand-hour rule, then, is inadequate as a predictor of excellence. What is required is ten thousand hours of purposeful practice”.

“Purposeful practice may not be easy, but it is breathtakingly effective”.

“But careful study has shown that creative innovation follows a very precise pattern: like excellence itself, it emerges from the rigours of purposeful practice. It is the consequence of experts absorbing themselves for so long in their chosen field that they become, as it were, pregnant with creative energy. To put it another way, eureka moments are not lightning bolts from the blue, but tidal waves that erupt following deep immersion in an area of expertise”.

“In a study of sixty-six poets by N. Wishbow of Carnegie Mellon University, more than 80 per cent needed ten years or more of sustained preparation before they started writing their most creative pieces”.

“Feedback is, in effect, the rocket fuel that propels the acquisition of knowledge, and without it no amount of practice is going to get you there”.

“In order to become the greatest basketball player of all time, you have to embrace failure”.

“Excellence is about striving for what is just out of reach and not quite making it; it is about grappling with tasks beyond current limitations and falling short again and again”.

“Intelligence-based praise orientates its receivers towards the fixed mindset; it suggests to them that intelligence is of primary importance rather than the effort through which intelligence can be transformed; and it teaches them to pursue easy challenges at the expense of real learning”.

“The thing that often separates the best from the rest is a capacity to believe things that are not true but which are incredibly effective”.

“One of the most remarkable findings of modern psychology is the extraordinary capacity of human beings to mould the evidence to fit their beliefs rather than the other way around; it is our capacity to believe in spite of the evidence and sometimes in spite of our other deeply held beliefs”.

“Irrational beliefs can boost performance, provided they are held with sufficient conviction”.

“Choking, then, is a kind of neural glitch that occurs when the brain switches to a system of explicit monitoring”.

Other Books by Matthew Syed

Black Box Thinking: The Surprising Truth About Success

Buy this bookhttps://amzn.to/2SFJjxU

Print | Hardcover | Audiobook

Antifragile Summary

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Antifragile reveals how some systems thrive from shocks, volatility and uncertainty, instead of breaking from them, and how you can adapt more antifragile traits yourself to thrive in an uncertain and chaotic world.

Most self-help books, when you break them down to their core message, speak to common sense. If you read a book like Start With Why, you’ll at first be surprised, but once you get the core idea you’ll say: “Of course. In retrospect, it makes perfect sense.”

This book isn’t like that. It’s unlike anything you’ve ever heard before. The idea alone is so hard to wrap your head around, that it really takes a while to sink in.

The author, Nassim Nicholas Taleb, is a statistician and investigates problems of randomness and uncertainty. He argues that some systems thrive when exposed to shocks and crises, instead of breaking under their pressure.

Here are 3 lessons that will show you what it means to be antifragile:

  • Fragile items break under stress, antifragile items get better from it.
  • In order for a system to be antifragile, most of its parts must be fragile.
  • Antifragile systems work, because they build extra capacity when put under stress.

Ready to stop cringing at uncertainty? Let’s do this!

Lesson 1: Fragile items break under stress, antifragile items get better from it.

We all know the label on boxes with glass inside them that reads “Fragile – handle with care”, and we’ve all seen more than one scene in a movie where someone throws a package like that, resulting in a glass shattering noise.

You know that fragile things break when you shock them and toss them around – volatility does them no good.

But when you think about it, there isn’t really a word that describes things, which are the opposite, is there?

We might talk about something being robust or durable, but that really just means it can resist shocks and stress better than fragile items – but it doesn’t benefit from them.

You’d still label the boxes you ship robust things in with “Handle with care”, not with “Please handle roughly”.

Nassim Taleb took care of this dilemma by giving us a word for what we’re looking for: antifragile.

It describes things that benefit from shock and thrive in volatile environments, because as they’re stressed and put under pressure, they get better, not worse.

Can you think of an example?

Tough, right?

Here’s one: When Hercules fights the Hydra, every time he slices off one of her heads, two grow back.

So for every time the beast is hurt, it actually gets stronger. That’s an example of being antifragile.

Lesson 2: An antifragile system usually consists of many fragile parts.

There are quite a few more good examples of antifragile systems, one being the evolutionary process.

Evolution itself is incredibly antifragile – we’ve evolved from our ancestors based on the genetic features and traits which helped us survive the most and succeed.

However, that also meant many humans before us had to die.

Any individual specimen of a species is usually fragile – every human being or animal can die and quite easily so.

But, because the system can use life and death as indicators of success and failure, the evolution of species in itself is antifragile.

For example, our hands weren’t always built to handle tools so well.

Through evolution it became apparent that the more advanced our hands got, the longer we could survive, so eventually our genetic code morphed to include the incredibly refined hands we all have today.

So for an antifragile system to work, its individual parts must be fragile, because the success and failure of these parts serves as important feedback for the system as a whole and allows it to get better in chaotic circumstances.

Lesson 3: Antifragile systems work, because they build extra capacity when put under stress.

But how exactly does that happen? Why does antifragility work?

Actually you do experience it quite often, if you exercise regularly, that is.

When you go to the gym and lift really heavy weights, and when you feel the burn, you push on and do just one more rep – that’s when growth happens.

The fragile parts, the tissue in your muscles, is broken down – the failure is reported to the system.

In order to ensure future success, your body now overcompensates for this shock, by building extra capacity to handle even bigger shocks better.

Over night, as you sleep and recover, your muscles are rebuilt and they’re now a bit stronger than before.

Usually, the human body is incredibly efficient, and doesn’t want any excess capacity “lying around”. But in the case of being antifragile, your body builds redundancy in order to prepare for future extreme situations and emergencies.

That’s how stress can prepare your body for even bigger stress and it’s building this extra capacity that lies at the core of why being antifragile is so helpful to thrive in critical situations.

My personal take-aways

This book should be a mandatory read for all policy makers and investment bankers. Nassim Taleb is a trader himself and many of the lessons from this book he learned by trading in highly volatile currency markets.

I just merely scratched the surface with my three lessons here, but thought it’d be most helpful to get the idea of what antifragile even means for a start.

The man is an infinite well of wise quotes and profound insights, but they’re not for the light-headed. What I liked about the summary on Blinkist is that it broke down the book’s most important ideas for the average Joe, like me, so I could first get a feel of what the book’s actually about, before diving deeper.

The book has many more examples and insights, but is no light read, so if you haven’t fully grasped the ideas behind antifragility yet, check out Blinkist’s summary and use it to build the confidence to make Antifragile your bedtime read – you’ll learn a lot!

59 Seconds by Richard Wiseman: Notes

Categories BehaviourPosted on

 59 Seconds shows you several self-improvement hacks, grounded in the science of psychology, which you can use to improve your mindset, happiness and life in less than a minute.

Richard Wiseman isn’t your average researcher. The English psychologist has a Youtube channel with over 2 million subscribers about magic, is the only professor of Public Understanding of Psychology and created an app that helps you influence your dreams.

He loves to debunk paranormal phenomenons and has published over ten books. He’s also one of the few sources where you can learn something faster than on Four Minute Books, thanks to his 59 Seconds concept, which also gave name to this book.

Most self-improvement books lay out big plans and long journeys of transformation. Richard thinks there’s no need for that, when there’s so much you can do that takes less than a minute.

Here are 3 lessons from 59 Seconds to improve your life quickly:

  • Ask yourself what you want your speaker to say at yourfuneral to make sure you go for your long-term goals.
  • When you have a brilliant thought, jump right into executingit and skip the brainstorming.
  • Whenever you point out a flaw in someone, use “but” tosmooth out the negative.

Ready to improve your life in three ways in just three minutes each? Let’s look at some 59 second hacks!

Lesson 1: Think about your own eulogy to align your actions with your long-term goals.

One of the most popular techniques in self-improvement is visualizing your goals. You sit down, close your eyes, and imagine yourself achieving your dreams, as well as doing the things necessary to get there. I’ve done it for a while as part of my Miracle Morning and found it to be helpful.

However, there’s also some opposing evidence to this with some studies finding people tend to work less for their goals if they visualize them.

One thing that’s timelessly been proven to work is this: having a step-by-step plan. When Richard examined the New Year’s resolutions of 5,000 people, he found that planning and breaking down goals made all the difference.

But to do that, you first have to know what your high-level goals even are. A great 59-second exercise to get clarity on that is to just think about your own eulogy. What do you want the speaker to say about you at your funeral? If you want to be thorough, you can even write it down.

Similar to the funeral test, this’ll show you what’s really important to you and help you align your daily actions with your biggest dreams.

Lesson 2: Skip the brainstorming and go right from eureka to execution.

You know what ruins a great idea? Thinking about how to implement it. Brainstorming is supposedly this creative process, but it really suppresses ideas, because it creates delay and friction between having an idea and getting to work.

This is especially true for groups, where people often refrain from even voicing their ideas, because they fear the judgment of their peers. But don’t lie to yourself, you can just as well spend forever in “brainstorming hell” all by yourself – I know I have.

Instead of procrastinating by deliberating, what if you went immediately from distracted to doing, from eureka to execution?

Salvador Dalí had the perfect technique for doing so: He sat in a chair, holding a heavy key right above an upside down plate on the floor, waiting until he dosed off. The second he did, the key’d slip out of his hands, hit the plate and wake him up with a loud noise. Right on the verge between sleep and consciousness, he’d instantly start sketching the images in his mind.

This is called a hypnagogic nap, and the same principles apply any time you’re distracted and let your subconscious go to work. Right when you have a brilliant insight, drop everything and start executing it.

This’ll save you plenty of planning time and make you loads more productive, keeping the ideas flowing as you need them.

Lesson 3: Use “but” every time you point out something negative in another person.

When following couples around for a year to determine what makes some relationships successful while others break, researchers Sandra Murray and John Holmes found one word to be particularly useful: “but.”

Imagine you make your sweetie dinner, she twists her mouth upon first bite, grins and says: “You’re such a horrible cook!”

Supposedly cute, but still stings, right?

Now, imagine instead, she’d say: “You’re such a horrible cook…but at least you’re funny!”

Feels entirely different, doesn’t it? That’s because using “but” after any negative statement allows you to smooth out the minus with a plus, get the other person to focus on the upside and view your relationship in a different light.

However, it’s probably a good idea to extend this practice beyond your significant other and adopt it in any relationship, as I can easily see this greatly improve our communication with co-workers, family and friends.

My personal take-aways

This was refreshing! Interestingly, a topic that makes for so many bad blog posts (“10 Confidence Hacks To Make Yourself Look Better In Front Of Your Boss”) can actually be engaging, helpful and properly argued for, if given the right amount of time. By not rushing this out the door and giving us his ideas in book-form, Richard has done the self-improvement community a great service. Thanks for that. It allows us to get some quick, yet still efficient wins. Which one will you get next?

The Book in Three Sentences

Many people are interested in self-help because it offers quick and easy solutions to various issues in their lives.

The problem is most self-help techniques are ineffective.

The most effective techniques come straight from the scientific community.

The Five Big Ideas

“When people can afford the necessities in life, an increase in income does not result in a significantly happier life”.

“To encourage people to do more of something they enjoy, try presenting them with the occasional small surprise reward after they have completed the activity, or praise the fruits of their labour”.

“To increase the likelihood of someone liking you, get them to do you a favour”.

“Fantasizing about your perfect world may make you feel better but is unlikely to help transform your dreams into reality”.

“Some research suggests that eating more slowly helps people eat less, perhaps because it fools our brains into thinking that we’ve eaten more, and allows extra time for the body to digest food”.

59 Seconds Summary

“Happiness doesn’t just flow from success, it actually causes it”.

“When people can afford the necessities in life, an increase in income does not result in a significantly happier life”.

“Materialism takes root in early childhood, and is mainly driven by low self-esteem”.

“Want to buy happiness? Then spend your hard-earned cash on experiences”.

“When it comes to happiness, remember that it is experiences that represent really good value for money”.

“If you want to cheer yourself up, behave like a happy person”.

“To maximize happiness, choose intentional over circumstantial change”.

“If you set children an activity they enjoy and reward them for doing it, the reward reduces the enjoyment and demotivates them”.

“To encourage people to do more of something they enjoy, try presenting them with the occasional small surprise reward after they have completed the activity, or praise the fruits of their labour”.

“It seems that presenting weaknesses early is seen as a sign of openness”.

“From assessing the effects of a bad-hair day to performing badly in a group discussion, those who feel embarrassed are convinced that their mistakes are far more noticeable than they actually are. Why? It seems we focus on our own looks and behaviour more than others, and so are likely to overestimate their impact”.

“If you want to increase your chances of making a good impression in a meeting, sit towards the middle of the table”.

“To increase the likelihood of someone liking you, get them to do you a favour”.

“When you gossip about another person, listeners unconsciously associate you with the characteristics you are describing, ultimately leading to those characteristics being ‘transferred’ to you”.

“We like people who are like us, and find them far more persuasive than others”.

“The more people who are around when a person is apparently in need of assistance, the lower the likelihood of any one person actually helping”.

“Favours have their strongest effect when they occur between people who don’t know each other very well, and when they are small but thoughtful”.

“Fantasizing about your perfect world may make you feel better but is unlikely to help transform your dreams into reality”.

“Some research suggests that eating more slowly helps people eat less, perhaps because it fools our brains into thinking that we’ve eaten more, and allows extra time for the body to digest food”.

“If you want to reduce your drinking, stay away from short, wide glasses, and stick to tall, narrow ones”.

“Research shows that just placing food or drink out of sight or moving it a few metres away can have a big effect on consumption”.

“To cut intake, make sure that tempting foods are out of sight, and in a place that is difficult to access, such as a top cupboard or basement”.

“People eat significantly more when they are distracted at mealtimes and therefore not paying attention to their food”.

“Try cutting down on your eating by replacing your crockery and cutlery”.

“Research conducted by the Kaiser Permanente’s Center for Health Research suggests that making a note of how much you eat can help you lose weight”.

“Research conducted by Charles Abraham and Paschal Sheeran has shown that just a few moments thinking about how much you will regret not going to the gym will help motivate you to climb off the couch and onto an exercise bike”.

“Christopher Peterson from the University of Michigan believes encouraging people to consider how they would like to be remembered after their death has various motivational benefits, including helping them to identify their long-term goals, and assess the degree to which they are progressing towards making those goals a reality”.

“To prime your mind into thinking creatively, spend a few moments describing a typical musician or artist. List their behaviours, lifestyle and appearance”.

“According to work conducted by psychologist Stephen Worchel from the University of Hawaii at Hilo, biscuits taken from a jar that is almost empty taste significantly better than identical cookies taken from a full jar”.

“To help promote the chances of a successful date, choose an activity that is likely to get the heart racing”.

“The theory is that your date will attribute their racing heart to you, rather than the activity, convincing themselves you have that special something”.

“The results revealed that just a few minutes focusing on the benefits that flowed from the seemingly hurtful experience helped participants deal with the anger and upset caused by the situation. They felt significantly more forgiving towards those who had hurt them, and were less likely to seek revenge or avoid them”.

“Surrounding yourself with objects that remind you of your partner is good for your relationship”.

“People are far more likely to agree to a big request if they have already agreed to a small one”.

“When making straightforward decisions, stick with the conscious mind by thinking about the pros and cons and assessing the situation in a rational, level-headed way. However, for more complex choices, try giving your conscious mind a rest and letting your unconscious work”.

“Research shows that when most people look back on their lives, they tend to regret things they didn’t do”.

“To help spot possible shifts, try establishing what researchers have referred to as an ‘honest baseline’. Before asking questions that are likely to elicit deceptive answers, start with those that are far more likely to make the person respond in an honest way. During these initial answers, develop an understanding of how they behave when they are telling the truth by looking at their body language and listening to the words they say. Then, during the answers to the trickier questions, watch out for the behavioural shifts outlined above”.

“Research shows that people have a strong tendency to underestimate how long a project will take, and that people working in groups are especially likely to have unrealistic expectations”.

“It seems that to get an accurate estimate of the time needed to complete a project, you need to look at how long it took to finish broadly similar projects in the past”.

“Those who carried out the mental unpacking produced estimates that proved far more accurate than other participants”.

“Research shows that people with surnames beginning with a letter towards the start of the alphabet are more successful in life than those with names towards the end”.

Buy The Book: 59 Seconds

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Categories BehaviourPosted on

Blink explains what happens when you listen to your gut feeling, why these snap judgments are often much more efficient than conscious deliberating, and how to avoid your intuition leading you to wrong assumptions.

I really wonder how one man can discover so many insights and change the way we think in several, only loosely related areas, like Malcolm Gladwell. From success to human intuition to macro-economic trends, his curiosity seems to know no boundaries.

Do you think he decides his next book’s topic in the blink of an eye, or rather deliberately after giving it some thought? While that’s a question I can’t answer, Blink can help you understand how your own intuition works, and when it’s best to trust it, or keep analyzing.

Here are 3 lessons about the surprising power of human intuition:

Your unconscious is the world’s fastest filter of information.

Stress can lead your gut astray.

Put up screens in situations where you can’t trust your intuition.

Ready to school your snap judgment system? Here we go!

Lesson 1: Your unconscious is the world’s fastest filter of information.

There’s a rule, which says you should only make decisions when you have at least 40% of the relevant information, but never wait until you have more than 70%.

It’s called the 40-70 rule and it describes the ideal relationship between time and information, ensuring you act fast, but not uninformed, without waiting until making a decision eventually becomes moot.

The funny thing is that in most situations, focusing on very few, but crucially important facts, while blocking out all the rest, is enough to do so.

For example when deciding whether to move to apartment A or apartment B, knowing location, price and having a few pictures is usually all you need. Once you over-analyze every detail, such as where the plugs are more conveniently placed, it becomes impossible to make a good call, because the little puzzle pieces of information start to hide the much more important ones.

Lucky for you, your unconscious is the best and fastest information filtering system in the world.

When first confronted with new information, it sifts through all of it, instantly tossing out the less important factors, judging the few big ones in a split second, and presenting you with the solution.

However, even your unconscious gets it wrong sometimes.

Lesson 2: Stress can temporarily lead your gut down the wrong path.

For example in a high stress environment, your ability to read other people’s facial expressions rapidly declines.

When your boss completely loses it, gets a big, fat, red head, and screams at you from the top of his lungs, flailing his arms and making wild and rude gestures, you might end up punching him in the face, simply due to the fear of a physical attack, that his current emotional state triggers in you.

Similarly, a police officer will sometimes shoot an unarmed man, just because he holds a black leather wallet. This inability to read nonverbal cues is very common among autistic people. They can’t instinctively judge a person’s intentions and emotional state based on gestures, facial expressions, and behavior, which is why they have to rely on what information is communicated.

When you find yourself in a stressful situation, this can render you temporarily autistic, and you develop a sort of tunnel vision, focusing on only the most imminent, threatening piece of information. This will lead your gut to make the wrong call often times, so it should be prevented whenever possible.

If in a stressful situation, you should try to reduce the stress as quickly as possible. Take a walk to cool off, hide and breathe for a few minutes, or continue the conversation at a later point, to make sure your tunnel vision doesn’t go into overdrive.

Lesson 3: Use screens to filter irrelevant information in scenarios where your gut tends to be wrong.

Apart from stressful situations, sometimes associations are forged so deeply in our brain, that it’s hard to turn them off, even though we might know they’re wrong.

For example, you might expect every Asian to be good at math, Fortune 500 CEOs as tall, white men and good singers to be beautiful. That last one comes from the music industry artificially pushing any singers visual image during performances, on album covers and in music videos, until we ultimately believed all singers to be beautiful.

But if you’re an agent for a record label, that’s a problem. You’re supposed to find the best singers, not models. In this case it’s good to create your own screens and filters, to keep the irrelevant information (here: looks) from ever reaching your brain in the first place.

For example, the casting show “The Voice” has judges in chairs, their backs turned to the stage, so the only information they get from the singer is what their voice sounds like. If they like what they hear, they can hit a button and turn around, automatically confirming they’d like to have the singer on their team.

So if music agents just scout talent based on audio samples, they’ll probably make much better decisions. Think through your own life and you’ll surely come across one or two areas, where your decisions are usually heavily biased, because of ancient prejudices you hold. Try to think of a few screens and filters you could use to make sure you only get those relevant 40% of information.

My personal take-aways

Another fascinating book by Malcolm Gladwell. Packed with examples, this makes a good case for why we should probably listen to our gut more often than we allow ourselves to.

The summary provides a good recollection of the ark of the book, but of course skips plenty of the examples. It’s still a great introductory read to the topic, so you can confidently check it out before committing to reading the entire book.

Blink   –   Malcolm Gladwell


What’s it about?

Intuition can be an extremely powerful tool in decision-making

Intuition can be more effective than reasoned logic

Expert intuition can sometimes even overturn scientific evidence

The unconscious mind focuses on only the vital, relevant information

Intuition-based judgments are more common than you think

Unconscious associations can affect our judgment

Stress can negatively impact our judgment

Consumer behavior cannot always be determined accurately by market research

To eliminate prejudice we must cultivate an open mind

To make good, unprejudiced decisions we need to ignore irrelevant information

Final summary

Now read the book

What’s it about?

We live in a world where careful analysis is preferred over instinctive thinking; where we spend a great deal of time trying to come to reasoned and rationalized decisions. But what if all this rigorous evaluation could be skipped and decisions could be made based on a single feeling or thought?

Well, it is possible – and, in fact, we all do it every single day, and almost every single moment. Humans use their power of instinctive thinking to make thousands of tiny decisions every day, from what route to take to work to how to make a cup of tea in the morning. But the possibilities of intuitive thinking are far broader than the minutiae of our daily routines. How many times have you heard of someone making an important decision just because it “felt right”?

By implementing a simple technique called “thin-slicing,” we can instantly analyze vast amounts of collected information to gain insights that drive our ability to arrive instinctively at the right decision. Thin-slicing helps us learn better and operate more effectively by enabling us to tune into the power of intuitive thinking, saving us the time and effort we would otherwise spend on complicated analysis. It teaches us to rely on our innate human intelligence to find solutions or answers to even the most complex questions.

Intuition can be an extremely powerful tool in decision-making

All human beings possess something known as “intuition,” which is our brain’s ability to know or figure things out without using rational thought or extended analysis. More commonly referred to as a “gut feeling,” intuition is at work without us generally being aware of it.

Down the ages intuition has fascinated and intrigued not only medics and scientists but thinkers in the fields of philosophy, religion, and even art. So how does intuition play into our everyday life and how do we depend on it when we make decisions?

The truth is that, without realizing it, we use intuition in a wide variety of situations. Even in situations where we think that we are making a decision on the basis of careful analysis, we may actually be just using facts and analysis to support our intuition.

Interestingly, intuition can often prove to be a better method of judgment than regular analysis or research. This is because it leapfrogs over irrelevant and unnecessary information to focus on the key points of a problem. However, intuition does also have its fair share of drawbacks as it can often fall victim to preconceived opinions, prejudices, and biases. Nevertheless, if tapped into in the right way, intuition can be an extremely powerful tool that can help us make better decisions.

Intuition can be more effective than reasoned logic

When presented with the need to make a decision, the human brain relies on two common approaches. The first strategy is to carefully weigh up a situation using methods of research and analysis, going through all the facts and evaluating all the advantages and disadvantages in order to arrive at a final solution. Though, for many people, this has become their preferred method of making decisions, it is also, unfortunately, a very time-consuming one, and the time needed is not always available.

The second strategy is to make a “snap judgment.” A snap judgment is a decision made purely on intuition. The advantage of this method is that it is extremely fast – in fact, by its very nature it is immediate and instinctive. Whilst this might not sound like an ideal way of making decisions, the truth is that our brains possess a natural ability to instantly process complex information to arrive at possible solutions in a quick and effective manner. As people we tend to rely too much on carefully thought-out decisions, while underestimating the power of our intuition.

Quite often our intuition-based decisions can be more effective than reasoned ones. For instance, there are art experts who can spot errors in forgeries instinctively, without knowing immediately what has raised their suspicions. It is only later after careful study that they can discover the reason behind their gut feeling.

The point is that our brains can, at an unconscious level, identify irregularities or errors in a pattern. Our conscious mind then interprets this unconscious ability as intuition, which further influences our thoughts and decisions. Therefore, we must try to listen to our unconscious thoughts or intuitions at all times.

Expert intuition can sometimes even overturn scientific evidence

An incident involving the purchase of an ancient Greek sculpture provides an effective demonstration of the power of intuition. In 1983 the J. Paul Getty Museum was considering purchasing a life-sized, free-standing figure belonging to a type of sculpture known as Kouros. Being an extremely rare and ancient artefact, the museum carried out numerous scientific tests to ensure its authenticity. After 14 months of thorough testing and analysis, the Getty was satisfied that the statue was genuine and purchased it for the staggering price of $10 million.

However, on viewing the statue a number of experts and scholars instinctively sensed that something was amiss, causing them to question its authenticity. One of them – a former Director of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, Thomas Hoving – stated that the first word that came into his head after viewing the sculpture was “fresh” – an unusual word for an ancient artefact. Another – Angelos Delivorrias, Director of the Benaki Museum in Athens – stated that when he saw it, he immediately experienced a “wave of disgust.” The argument regarding the Kouros’ originality continued for a long time, but the experts eventually determined it to be a very convincing fake.

The experts in this example could not point to exactly what made them uneasy about the statue, but their unconscious brain acknowledged something that their conscious brain could not recognize. We can therefore see how accurate intuition can be when making judgments.

The unconscious mind focuses on only the vital, relevant information

Careful analysis is a good thing when identifying solutions to a problem. But a lot of time is wasted focusing on irrelevant details. It is much more efficient and effective to prioritize the various aspects of a problem, focusing only on the main facts and ignoring all the unimportant details.

The problem with examining every tiny detail is that it negatively impacts the accuracy of our judgment. The irrelevant information tends to distract our minds away from the most important aspects of a situation. For instance, if you are observing the relationship between two people and trying to figure out how they feel about one another, then it would make the most sense to study their facial expressions as they converse with each other. If you spend time looking at irrelevant factors such as the way they fold their hands or the way they stand, you might be wasting time observing unnecessary details. You might also end up missing their facial cues, which are a far more dependable indicator of their relationship.

In situations like these, our unconscious mind works towards removing irrelevant information and focusing only on the necessary information, thereby allowing us to make more accurate judgments. The unconscious mind therefore acts as a filter that removes unnecessary components to deliver a more refined perception of a situation.

Intuition-based judgments are more common than you think

A lot of the day-to-day decisions we make are snap judgments based on intuition. This is as true in our professional lives as it is as we go about our daily tasks. We are just unaware of how often we make them, because these decisions are processed in the unconscious part of the human brain.

If you were to ask a footballer player, for instance, what stimulated them to move around the pitch in a particular way during a game, they might attribute their successful plays to being at the right place at the right time. However, in reality their unconscious mind processes a lot of varied information that leads their conscious mind to occupy a favorable spot, enabling them to carry out their strategies successfully.

Humans are predisposed to only trust statistics and facts; but, paradoxically, it is only after we have made an intuitive judgment that we seek to back it up with facts and figures.

We can even see the role of intuition when it comes to finding a partner. Even though a person might have a list of characteristics that they would like to see in an ideal partner, they rarely end up with someone who matches that list. More often than not, our choice of partner ends up being an act of intuition, rather than something that is based on a considered list of qualities. However, after we’ve gone with our gut feeling we might attempt to modify our list to suit the characteristics displayed by our partner in order to prove that they are our perfect mate.

Unconscious associations can affect our judgment

The influence our unconscious mind exercises over the decisions that we make was clearly observed in a study that was conducted on a group of people playing the game Trivial Pursuit. The players were divided into two groups: one group was asked to think like professors and the other was asked to think like fanatical football fans. After the game had been played, it was observed that the players who had been asked to think like professors scored 10 percent more than the players who had been asked to think like football fans. This was because the players who thought like professors associated their thoughts with intelligence, while it was the exact opposite with the players who thought like football fans. Unconscious associations such as these can affect the way we think.

Unconscious association also exercises a powerful influence when it comes to our perceptions of people, and this is supported by research based on statistical analysis. So, to take one example, it seems that most of us associate success and power with tall, white men, and the statistics bear this out. Statistics indicate that it is easier for a white male to find success in his profession than his colleagues from other races. What’s more, an increase of even one inch in the white male’s height can earn him an observable increase in salary. This is probably why most senior positions in America are occupied by white men of good height.

A notable example of the detriment that can result from these kinds of unconscious stereotypes was seen when Warren Harding was elected as US President. People voted for him because he fit the image of a President. However, in reality, he did not possess any of the necessary skills and is, even today, considered one of the most ineffective incumbents of the office there has ever been.

Stress can negatively impact our judgment

Though it might sound strange, all humans possess a certain amount of “telepathic” abilities. Our telepathic strengths lie in our ability to determine a person’s mood by reading their facial expressions. The vast majority of us can tell if a person is sad, upset, or happy just by taking a look at their faces. This is a universal ability that is shared amongst the majority of humans, irrespective of race or gender.

However, there are individuals who do not possess this skill, and are incapable of picking up clues from a person’s facial expression. These people are referred to as “autistic.” They are therefore forced to rely on clearly communicated information instead of facial expressions to decipher the mood or thoughts of another person.

However, even people who are not autistic can suffer from what could be described as a kind of temporary autism as a result of stress and frustration. When we are stressed or pressured, we end up ignoring indirect signals and direct all our focus on the most obvious threat. This “tunnel-vision” approach can lead to dangerous scenarios with irreversible consequences. In an extreme situation police officers can sometimes jump to the wrong conclusion and end up shooting innocent victims based on false suspicion. For instance, a police officer might shoot a suspect who is reaching into their pocket under the assumption that they seem to be reaching for a weapon. In reality, the suspect might have been reaching for an ID to show the police officer.

To prevent yourself from having this kind of “mind-blindness,” you must eliminate stress from your surroundings or at least learn how to manage it. Stress can lead to illogical thoughts, which will ultimately result in bad decision-making.

Consumer behavior cannot always be determined accurately by market research

Market research is regarded as the be-all and end-all in deciding the success of a product. However, despite the considerable amount of time, effort, and money spent in determining how a product can achieve success in the market-place, it is not always possible to accurately predict consumer behavior.

A good example of this is the disastrous failure of the product launched by Coca Cola when over 15 consecutive years its share lead in the market slipped and its competitor Pepsi began to overtake it. To regain its former popularity, Coca Cola decided to change their traditional cola recipe and launched New Coke. The results of several rounds of taste tests indicated that the product was favorable for release into the market. Yet once the product was launched, it failed almost immediately.

In the post-mortem that followed, it became apparent that the taste tests had been carried out under the wrong conditions. For instance, tasters were asked to make their judgment based on just one single sip. In hindsight, it was discovered that more helpful feedback would have been garnered if the tasters had been allowed to explore the drink for a longer time. It was also realized that customers need to develop a comfort level with a product and this can only come through extended use in familiar environments. The unsuitable testing conditions in the New Coke taste test led to the wrong conclusions being made about the potential success of the product in the market.

To eliminate prejudice we must cultivate an open mind

To say that racial prejudice is pervasive even in this day and age might seem shocking. However, it is a statement that is based on scientific research. Using association tests, psychologists have determined that many Caucasian US citizens find it easier to associate positive human characteristics with the word “white” than the word “black.” Surprisingly, the same was also true among the African-American population. These studies unfortunately go to show how deeply ingrained racial prejudice is.

Psychologists reason that this sort of prejudice occurs because the unconscious mind learns through constant observation. US citizens have created positive unconscious associations with the color white because the country’s ruling class is dominated by white people. This is, unfortunately, a sad reality. But the most worrisome aspect is that this sort of racial prejudice still influences our thoughts and decisions. Many well-qualified job applicants might find it difficult to get a job just because they do not meet the appearance criteria of “tall” and “white.”

In order to cure ourselves of this affliction, we must learn to have an open mind. And an open mind can only come through regularly interacting with people from multiple backgrounds, and opening up our lives to fresh experiences as often as possible.

To make good, unprejudiced decisions we need to ignore irrelevant information

In order to arrive at the good judgments we desire to make, we must free ourselves from the various negative associations that we have built up in our minds. The orchestral world provides an excellent example of how this can be done.

It used to be the popular belief that only men were capable of becoming professional concert musicians. No matter how musically gifted a woman was, due to the strong gender prejudice that existed at that time it was impossible for her to even seek a career in classical music. Eventually, however, when conducting interviews, orchestras began to implement the use of screens so that the assessor did not know whether the auditioning participant was male or female, ensuring that their judgment was purely made on the basis of performance and not on gender. In conditions of anonymity, merit won out over prejudice and diversity in orchestras rapidly began to increase as women and musicians from ethnic minorities joined their ranks.

In a similar way, we can change our perceptions and pre-formed ideas about other people, cultures, lifestyles, or places just by ignoring irrelevant information we know about them and focusing only on what is needed to make the judgment.

Final summary

We have all been in situations where we have experienced a strong gut feeling, knowing in the “blink” of an eye what the right way forward was for us. This is intuition at work; an innate, unconscious power which is able to cut through irrelevant data and identify the core issue, and thus enable us to make a speedy decision about the right course of action. In Blink Malcolm Gladwell’s aim is to help us tap into this powerful mental tool by encouraging us to learn how to listen to our unconscious thoughts and feelings, which are often picking up on aspects of a situation that our conscious mind overlooks. These intuition-based judgments, he suggests, are often more effective than our carefully analyzed decisions. As well as being effective in our personal lives, Malcolm Gladwell argues that intuition can also have an impact in business and commercial environments.

Malcolm Gladwell illustrates his premise through a number of powerful anecdotes and general observations about life, which illustrate that when individuals act on their intuition they are able to arrive at good decisions and can even spot inconsistencies and anomalies which are indiscernible to the rational mind. He does, however, also point out some of the pitfalls of intuitive thinking. Since our thinking can be clouded by stereotypes or powerful associations, it is important for us to cultivate an open mind through exposing ourselves to new people and situations from diverse cultures and backgrounds. We also need to be aware that stress can damage our intuitive abilities and so we need to eliminate it or at the very least learn to manage it in order to mitigate its effects.

Now read the book

In Blink: The Power of Thinking without Thinking, Malcolm Gladwell shows us how we can tap into the hidden power of our mind. We learn that great decision-making does not solely come from research or analysis, but by becoming more aware of the brain’s innate potential.

By reading the book we can learn how to fine-tune our power of intuitive thinking – in particular, by mastering the simple technique of thin-slicing. This will help us to begin to rely on our innate intelligence to find solutions rather than always having to spend long periods of time in careful analysis, which can be both emotionally and physically draining. Malcolm Gladwell communicates his ideas using simple but powerful anecdotes, making the book both informative and enormously enjoyable to read.

We are already making decisions and judgments based on our intuition: reading Blink will help us to develop this ability further. It will also heighten our awareness of certain negative aspects of intuitive thinking and help us to free ourselves from these unhelpful associations.

Thinking fast and slow

Categories BehaviourPosted on

1-Sentence-Summary: Thinking Fast And Slow shows you how two systems in your brain are constantly fighting over control of your behavior and actions, and teaches you the many ways in which this leads to errors in memory, judgement and decisions, and what you can do about it.

Say what you will, they don’t hand out the Nobel prize for economics like it’s a slice of pizza. Ergo, when Daniel Kahneman does something, it’s worth paying attention to.

His 2011 book, Thinking Fast And Slow, deals with the two systems in our brain, whose fighting over who’s in charge makes us prone to errors and false decisions.

It shows you where you can and can’t trust your gut feeling and how to act more mindfully and make better decisions.

Here are 3 good lessons to know what’s going on up there:

Your behavior is determined by 2 systems in your mind – one conscious and the other automatic.

Your brain is lazy and thus keeps you from using the full power of your intelligence.

When you’re making decisions about money, leave your emotions at home.

Want to school your brain? Let’s take a field trip through the mind!

Lesson 1: Your behavior is determined by 2 systems in your mind – one conscious and the other automatic.

Kahneman labels the 2 systems in your mind as follows.

System 1 is automatic and impulsive.

It’s the system you use when someone sketchy enters the train and you instinctively turn towards the door and what makes you eat the entire bag of chips in front of the TV when you just wanted to have a small bowl.

System 1 is a remnant from our past, and it’s crucial to our survival. Not having to think before jumping away from a car when it honks at you is quite useful, don’t you think?

System 2 is very conscious, aware and considerate.

It helps you exert self-control and deliberately focus your attention. This system is at work when you’re meeting a friend and trying to spot them in a huge crowd of people, as it helps you recall how they look and filter out all these other people.

System 2 is one of the most ‘recent’ additions to our brain and only a few thousand years old. It’s what helps us succeed in today’s world, where our priorities have shifted from getting food and shelter to earning money, supporting a family and making many complex decisions.

However, these 2 systems don’t just perfectly alternate or work together. They often fight over who’s in charge and this conflict determines how you act and behave.

Lesson 2: Your brain is lazy and causes you to make intellectual errors.

Here’s an easy trick to show you how this conflict of 2 systems affects you, it’s called the bat and ball problem.

A baseball bat and a ball cost $1.10. The bat costs $1 more than the ball. How much does the ball cost?

I’ll give you a second.

Got it?

If your instant and initial answer is $0.10, I’m sorry to tell you that system 1 just tricked you.

Do the math again.


Once you spent a minute or two actually thinking about it, you’ll see that the ball must cost $0.05. Then, if the bat costs $1 more, it comes out to $1.05, which, combined, gives you $1.10.

Fascinating, right? What happened here?

When system 1 faces a tough problem it can’t solve, it’ll call system 2 into action to work out the details.

But sometimes your brain perceives problems as simpler as they actually are. System 1 thinks it can handle it, even though it actually can’t, and you end up making a mistake.

Why does your brain do this? Just as with habits, it wants to save energy. The law of least effort states that your brain uses the minimum amount of energy for each task it can get away with.

So when it seems system 1 can handle things, it won’t activate system 2. In this case though, it leads you to not use all of your IQ points, even though you’d actually need to, so our brain limits our intelligence by being lazy.

Lesson 3: When you’re making decisions about money, leave your emotions at home.

Even though Milton Friedman’s research about economics built the foundation of today’s work in the field, eventually we came to grips with the fact that the homo oeconomicus, the man (or woman) who only acts based on rational thinking, first introduced by John Stuart Mill, doesn’t quite resemble us.

Imagine these 2 scenarios:

You’re given $1,000. Then you have the choice between receiving another, fixed $500, or taking a 50% gamble to win another $1,000.

You’re given $2,000. Then you have the choice between losing $500, fixed, or taking a gamble with a 50% chance of losing another $1,000.

Which choice would you make for each one?

If you’re like most people, you would rather take the safe $500 in scenario 1, but gamble in scenario 2. Yet the odds of ending up at $1,000, $1,500 or $2,000 are the exact same in both.

The reason has to do with loss aversion. We’re a lot more afraid to lose what we already have, as we are keen on getting more.

We also perceive value based on reference points. Starting at $2,000 makes you think you’re in a better starting position, which you want to protect.

Lastly, we get less sensitive about money (called diminishing sensitivity principle), the more we have. The loss of $500 when you have $2,000 seems smaller than the gain of $500 when you only have $1,000, so you’re more likely to take a chance.

Be aware of these things. Just knowing your emotions try to confuse you when it’s time to talk money will help you make better decisions. Try to consider statistics, probability and when the odds are in your favor, act accordingly.

Don’t let emotions get in the way where they have no business. After all, rule number 1 for any good poker player is “Leave your emotions at home.”

My personal take-aways

This is getting long, so I’ll keep it brief. Kahneman’s thinking reminds a bit of Nassim Nicholas Taleb and Antifragile. Very scientific, all backed up with math and facts, but yet simple to understand.



What’s it about?

What’s it about?

  • Two contrasting systems of thinkingdrive our mental activities
  • Using both systems in conjunction makes for effective decision making
  • Is your decision making and judgmentalways objective and practical?
  • Outside influences impact yourdecisions without your knowledge
  • The role of emotions in decisionmaking
  • We must overcome our instinct tofollow the path of least resistance
  • Only trust your intuition when youhave a basis for your belief
  • Prospect theory demonstrates thatfear of loss motivates many of our decisions
  • The presentation makes all thedifference
  • The bird’s-eye view keeps us focusedon one aspect instead of building a complete picture
  • Our experience plus our memories ofthe experience shape our perception of happiness
  • Final summary
  • Now read the book

In this book, author and Nobel Prize winner Daniel Kahneman explores the way in which our mind makes decisions and judgments. He describes the two contrasting processes that our mind follows when we think. The first process is the intuitive “fast” thinking process that happens almost unconsciously. The “slow” second process involves deductive reasoning, where the thinking happens deliberately and consciously. Throughout the book, the author reveals how our rational side is often not driving our thought processes, even though we may consider ourselves to be very rational and logical individuals. This is one of the reasons why our judgment is often way off track, or our decision making can be badly skewed in certain situations, despite the fact that at other times we may make perfectly good decisions or have great judgment in others.

It is our intuitive self that is actually in control most of the time, and this is why we are far more susceptible to influences than we like to believe. The author presents several heuristics that influence our intuitive process of thinking, and therefore our decisions and judgment, in significant ways. Armed with this awareness, we get an insight into how we can use both our rational and irrational thinking processes in conjunction to make better decisions and choices in life.

Two contrasting systems of thinking drive our mental activities

Our mental activities are driven by two very contrasting systems—the intuitive and the deliberate. The intuitive system is fast, producing almost instantaneous responses. In contrast, the second system—the rational one—is programmed to think, analyze, evaluate, reason, and then respond. Usually, we believe that our decision making is driven by the latter system of thought. The truth is that System 1, which is almost involuntary, lays the foundation for most of our decision making, even many of those decisions that we take using the System 2 processes of rational thought.

System 1 can be described as involuntary thought that automatically draws upon relevant knowledge and uses it to reach a conclusion. For example, when you see the following sum: 2 + 2 = ? written on a board, you cannot help thinking of the right answer. You have these involuntary responses innumerable times a day, and most of the time you are not even aware these are the result of your System 1 thought processes at work. There are some activities that run on autopilot thanks to System 1 (e.g., chewing and breathing), but these can be stopped or controlled if you choose.

System 2 thinking requires that you give uninterrupted attention to the task at hand. Typically, when you are doing something that is not an automatic reaction or not reflexive, System 2 comes into play. For example, you are searching for a friend in a huge crowd of people, or you are waiting to catch a particular phrase in a song.

Using both systems in conjunction makes for effective decision making

There are countless instances where both systems also work in conjunction—when you pay extra attention driving at night, for example, or when you consciously make an effort to remain polite even though your temper is frayed. In these examples, you are not aware that your mind is running System 1 and System 2. In fact, it is quite difficult for you to gauge whether System 1 or System 2 is at work when you are carrying out any mental activity.

Remember it this way: System 1 is on auto-respond mode all the time, while System 2 needs to be called into action with some effort. System 1 gives the signals (impressions, feelings, gut instinct) based on which System 2 formulates set ideas and beliefs. When System 1 finds itself unable to handle a problem, it drafts in System 2 to help.

Why is it important for you to know the difference? The answer is because System 1 is prone to jumping to conclusions and this can lead to mistakes in many situations.

Temper your thought processes with System 2 and you not only increase the likelihood of thinking more accurately and appropriately, your thinking is actually far more efficient. Take a look at this example: With only System 1 at play when you are looking for a relative at a crowded airport, you could be scanning all the people passing you by, looking for the familiar face. But if you call System 2 into service, you can consciously filter those who have black hair or spectacles, since your relative has neither. The search is faster and more efficient, too.

Is your decision making and judgment always objective and practical?

The answer is a resounding “No!” In fact, our mind is conditioned to be optimistic even when it is not warranted. When undertaking a very risky endeavor, we may remain confident because of this misguided optimism. It clouds our rational ability to gauge risks, learn from past mistakes, or seek advice from people who have expertise in the area. This delusional “feel good” optimism keeps us from investing enough time in planning the endeavor. It gives us the false impression of having a great deal of control over a situation whilst, in fact, this may not at all be true.

While this lack of objective thought is dangerous in many situations, subjectivity helps us make good decisions or judge correctly in others. Think of subjectivity as the element that keeps things in balance and puts them in “perspective.” Consider how looking at the following situation in a purely objective manner might recolor our perspective: Imagine an individual who earns $50 a week, losing a $10 bill through a hole in his pocket. The $10 represents a significant loss to him. The same $10 loss to a person who earns $15,000 a week may be relatively insignificant. It is essential that we take a subjective view in this situation since the reference points of both individuals are so vastly different.

What you need to learn is that pure fact or pure logic should not always be used to draw conclusions or to judge. The person’s circumstances, frame of mind, and other factors have to be considered, too.

Outside influences impact your decisions without your knowledge

Outside influences significantly impact our judgment, decision making, and choices, even though we may be completely unaware it.

Our mind responds to situations based on our previous experiences. For example, you would probably feel that you got a good deal if you bought a product that had been discounted from $30 to $25. However, you wouldn’t feel the same $25 was such a good deal if you had spotted it elsewhere priced at $22. In a similar vein, you tend to dislike a person with whom your first interaction was unsavory because your mind is primed against liking them.

Another influence that impacts our thought processes is our emotional response. When we are exposed to negative news about a specific topic, we tend to let our emotions cloud our judgment. For instance, say we have been reading news reports about a school shooting; we will begin to feel that school is unsafe despite the fact that school shootings are incredibly rare. Our mind unconsciously and inadvertently skews toward the less-rational belief or thought in many such situations. Understanding how and when this happens gives us the power to curb this reflexive tendency of ours and make better, more logical, more accurate decisions.

For instance, imagine you are taking a multiple-choice test and there is a question with four answer options. If you are not fully certain about the answer, chances are you veer towards the one that seems most familiar. That’s because your mind automatically assumes that what is familiar should also be true. Call upon System 2, however, and you would have a much better chance of logically reasoning it out and arriving at the answer through a process that is more practical and rational. Likewise, if you applied your rational mind to the topic of school shootings, you would realize that the chances of such an event happening at your child’s school are actually relatively low.

The role of emotions in decision making

Emotions have a key role to play in the decision-making process, and they impact the accuracy of decisions substantially. In fact, rule-of-thumb concepts, stereotyping, taking “educated guesses,” or following the gut are all very common emotion-based decision-making methods, and they show how much of an impact heuristics have on our decisions. Your System 1 thinking process is keeping accounts in your head—calculating your loss, gain, risk and reward, and attaching emotions to the various outcomes. Whether it is out of fear of regret or to give an impression of expertise or simply down to delusional optimism, our emotions tend to color our decisions significantly.

Emotions impact our decision making and judgment in another way, too. We often respond differently to situations depending on how they are framed, although this is rarely evident to us. This means that the situation, event, or even sentence that has the more powerful emotional connection with us is usually the one that draws our attention. This happens because the sentence or situation evokes an associative memory through System 1. The mind processes what the associative memory conveys and makes a decision on this basis. In doing so, however, not all the pertinent facts may be given the importance they deserve.

For example, doctors may be more likely to opt for a procedure if it has a 90 percent survival rate than if it is described as having a 10 percent mortality rate. The association made in the former case is with survival; a positive outcome for the physician. This prompts System 1 to give weight to a positive decision. We must force our System 2 into action to assess the actual facts and figures of our decisions, rather than letting our emotional responses take control. Only then will we overcome the influence of framing on our decisions.

We must overcome our instinct to follow the path of least resistance

The typical human response is to choose the easiest way when confronted with a situation that requires thought, that is, evokes our System 1 thought process. Our brain tends to placidly move along the path of least resistance whenever it is left to its own devices. So even when you are confronted with a situation that seems dramatically different to what might be deemed “regular,” your brain will accept the least confusing explanation for it.

Our brain is wired so that it wants to believe. Disbelieving is an intensively effortful task. So, left to its own devices, System 1 tends to cover up the gaps and present the situation in the best possible way: in a believable way.

In extremely anxious individuals, the System 2 process is likely to be called in more often. Such people may overanalyze, overthink, and second-guess every decision they make. Yet, even these individuals depend heavily on System 1 in many situations without being aware of it. They do this when they reflexively choose the easier path. For example, when they are given two possible routes that they can take to get to a hotel, they instinctively choose the one that has more familiar landmarks, or the one that is at least partially a known route to them.

This impulse to choose the easiest path can mean our first instinct is to be credulous and gullible. When you are in a very confusing situation, or when you realize a belief is evidently incorrect, only then does System 2 jump into the fray. It slows down your mental process and prompts analytical thought and logical reasoning. We need to encourage our mind to look beyond influences and default instead to rational decisions by looking only at the facts available and ignoring feelings, impressions, and hunches.

Only trust your intuition when you have a basis for your belief

Not everything that happens makes sense, nor is it possible to provide a rational explanation for everything. But our mind tries to create a back-story for every situation to make it more believable. The fact is that to make things easier to understand, our mind creates illusions. Therefore, the information that we believe we base our understanding on may actually be fiction created by the mind.

This invented back-story may then solidify into what we call a “gut feeling.” As a result of this strong gut feeling, you could end up taking a stance on a situation that is completely contrary to the actual facts of the case. Clearly, this is a problem because if your decisions or judgments are not based on real facts they might be very inappropriate or just plain wrong.

So, is gut feeling or intuition just a fallacy? Not always. Intuition does exist, especially the kind that we term “expert intuition.” However, this gut feeling or intuition only arises from the immense experience that you have in your area of expertise. For instance, a highly experienced physician may intuitively “feel” that his patient has a particular problem. This may not be apparent to another physician who is relatively new to the field.

This kind of accurate intuition stems from the mind’s reflexive, instinctive recognition of familiar patterns. As such, intuition may be trusted when it comes from a reliable expert in a field that offers enough predictability to create such patterns. In the case of the physician, he has seen innumerable patients with similar symptoms through his extensive career, and these experiences lay the foundation for his seemingly intuitive diagnosis.

We must therefore be careful to only rely on our intuition when we have a solid basis for trusting our gut feelings. For instance, a mother’s intuition can be trusted, as she knows her child incredibly well. In contrast, an intuitive feeling that someone you know might have a car crash is probably just an irrational fear.

Prospect theory demonstrates that fear of loss motivates many of our decisions

Daniel Kahneman won a Nobel Prize in economics for this theory, which challenged the age-old “value of money” concept that economists have supported for years. Prospect theory states that: 1) the value of money can be assessed only on the basis of every individual’s reference point; 2) every individual is not sensitive to an identical degree about monetary loss; and 3) no one likes to lose money.

Thanks to our System 1 response, the fear of losing money supersedes the satisfaction of gaining money almost every single time. This prompts our mind to pass up great opportunities just because we are averse to the prospect of loss. This is the reason why an investor may hesitate to sell stock even though it is evident that its price is spiraling downwards. His loss aversion stops him from selling when the stock’s price dips below the price he originally paid for the stock, leaving the price to plummet further until the investment is well and truly in the red.

Another demonstration of this loss aversion is the endowment effect, which says that humans ascribe more value to things merely because we own them. We add a notional value to things that we already have, so when we have to sell them, we tend to look for a value that is far greater that their true worth. For example, if you were trying to sell an old watch that belonged to your father, the price you would expect for it may be far higher than what a fair buyer will be willing to pay for it. You unconsciously add a notional value to the watch’s actual worth because of your attachment to it and its association with your father. This association has no value to the buyer, so they can see no justification for your price. Our inherent fear that we are losing something motivates us to offset that loss by securing a higher-than-fair value.

The presentation makes all the difference

Prospect theory highlights the interesting fact that we may make different decisions based on the same facts depending on how the choice is formulated. For example, an investor who is given a choice between an absolutely certain yield of $1,000 and a 50 percent chance of a $2,500 yield may choose the former. The probable yield with the latter may be higher but the way the choice is presented makes it appear as though the guaranteed $1,000 is the most viable option. However, present the same probabilities but in another way and the decision is dramatically different, too. When the same investor is given the choice of a definite loss of $1,000 against a 50 percent chance that zero loss may occur or a $2,500 loss may occur, choosing the latter shows greater risk-seeking behavior when compared to the earlier example.

The prospect theory holds that decision making happens in two stages: editing and evaluation. The editing stage is when the prospects are analyzed, and it is here that presentation can have a massive impact. The evaluation stage is when we choose the prospect that offers the maximum value. But keep in mind that this value is determined by the loss or gain that will need to be undertaken much more than on the final outcome of the decision itself. That is because, as we saw earlier, our System 1 response has a strong aversion to losing money. In fact, this aversion to loss is typically stronger than the attraction we have for a profit-making opportunity. We may avoid taking a decision that will clearly result in a loss, even if it is equally evident that procrastination will cause the final outcome to be even more unfavorable to us.

The bird’s-eye view keeps us focused on one aspect instead of building a complete picture

When you are asked a question that encompasses a number of other questions, your brain tends to take the bird’s-eye view. To make things easier, it focuses on one specific question or tweaks the question to focus on one aspect, one time frame, or one incident. Clearly, this can significantly skew the response you give or the way you understand the question itself.

The brain’s tendency to switch to bird’s-eye view can also be seen in the way we approach our day-to-day lives. The brain tends to focus on what we want and where we expect to end up in the future, and this influences our decision making. Essentially, we are likely to make decisions that bring us closer to what we want in the future. To take a simplistic example, if your dream is to sail round the world in a yacht, you may be inclined to invest in a large boat when you suddenly have a surplus of cash. You may even choose to postpone renovations that could increase the value of your home in favor of your boat just to achieve your dream.

But even if you achieve everything that you ever desired, you may still not feel that you are completely happy. This is because your mind cannot stitch together all of your life’s past experiences, your present situation, and your mental perceptions into one cohesive picture that allows you to weigh up whether you are happier or sadder at the given moment.

The truth is that no single event, situation, or achievement can make you “happy.” A state of happiness depends heavily on several different factors all coming together in your favor. You may think, for example, that you would be happy at work if only you had a bigger paycheck. But even if your boss gives you an unexpected pay rise, you will not immediately love your job. There are undoubtedly many more factors at play that might be preventing you from being happy: your enjoyment of the role, your feeling that you’re working harder than your colleagues, your relationship with your peers. Recognizing this fallacy helps you understand that even when your mind is telling you that things are or are not favorable, the reality may be completely different! We need to abandon the bird’s-eye view in favor of a more holistic view of our situations and experiences.

Our experience plus our memories of the experience shape our perception of happiness

We are comprised of two distinct selves—the actual experience that we undergo (the experiencing self) and the memories that we subsequently make and keep of the experience (the remembering self). This duality causes cognitive illusions where the actual experience we had may be clouded by the memory that is left behind. Typically, you would remember a dinner date that ended badly as a horrible experience, even if the one hour that preceded the horrible ending was blissfully romantic. A mediocre meal that was topped off with a spectacular dessert may remain in your memory as a fantastic meal.

One peculiarity of this heuristic is that the duration of the experience does not seem to make any difference. The memory of the experience that is left behind manages to color the experience itself in every case. In particular, the final portion of the experience is what stays in our mind, and this is what determines how we view that experience as a whole. Importantly, this final conclusion that we draw about the experience influences how we make future decisions. In effect, these future decisions are being made on the basis of our memories of the experiences and not the actual experiences themselves.

Look at it in another way and we can see how this puts a powerful tool in our hands: memories. By ensuring that we constantly create valuable memories of our experiences, we can nudge our mind out of this memory-over-experience illusion. When you start becoming aware of your experiences as you go through them, you begin to consciously reflect on what you are doing. In doing so, you create a set of memories that are more in sync with the real experience, and are therefore a more accurate representation of what happened.

These memories now form a good basis for further decision making, too. This is a critical fact to remember—balancing our memories (i.e., our version of what happened) and our experiences (i.e., what actually happened) is very important. Striking the right balance between the two is exactly what we need to do to improve our ability to make the right decisions and to subdue the influences that can skew our decision-making faculties.

Final summary

Thinking, Fast and Slow explores the two systems of thinking that we unconsciously utilize: System 1, which is driven by intuition; and System 2, which is driven by logical, rational consideration. Our thoughts typically arise from the System 1 process, meaning that they are almost instinctive reactions. These System 1 thoughts color our judgment and decision making very significantly indeed, although we are unaware of this happening most of the time.

System 2 is usually called into action only when we encounter a situation or event that requires some complex thinking or analysis. Even when we actively use our System 2 process of rational and logical reasoning, the System 1 process may still be skewing our decision making to some extent.

In the book, the author presents several heuristics to show how we react irrationally in innumerable situations because we are unconsciously influenced by a variety of external factors and life experiences. When we understand when each of these comes into play and how, we also gain the ability to determine how faulty decision making occurs and what we can do to prevent it.

In order to start making reasonable, rational decisions, we need to look past the influences that might impact our System 1 process and engage our System 2 brain as much as possible. We also need to remain conscious in our experiences to make sure that our remembering self is in accordance with our experiencing self. Only then will we be basing our judgments and decisions on true facts and experiences.

Incognito by David Eagleman

Categories BehaviourPosted on

The Book in Three Sentences: Conscious thought has a surprisingly small impact on your life and most of your behaviors are driven by the unconscious mind. There are competing beliefs within your unconscious mind that are all battling for the single output of your conscious behavior. The complex interactions between your genetics and your environment determine the trajectory of your life.

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Impro: Improvisation and the Theatre by Keith Johnstone

Categories BehaviourPosted on

The Book in Three Sentences: Many of our behaviors are driven by our desire to achieve a particular level of status relative to those around us. People are continually raising and lowering their status in conversation through body language and words. Say yes to more and stop blocking the opportunities that come your way.

Read the full book summary »

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