This book (Loserthink: How Untrained Brains Are Ruining America by Scott Adams) looks to different professions and their thinking models to come away with practical ways to avoid ineffective ways of thinking. These different professions include: economists, psychologists, artists, scientists and others.
Here are some things he wrote that I want to remember.
Things to remember
- Don't engage in mind reading - it isn't a human skill
- Think of your ego as a tool, not your identity
- Track your predictions to build up some useful humility about your worldview
- Put yourself in embarrassing situations regularly to teach yourself there is no lasting pain
- The past no longer exists. Don't let your attachment to the past influence your decisions today.
- If you haven't mentioned the next best alternative to your proposed plan, you said anything at all and smart people would be wise to ignore you
- If you are arguing over the definition of a word instead of the best way forward, you are not part of the productive world
- If you are sure one variable is all you need to grasp a complicated topic, the problem is probably on your end
- Occam's Razor (simplest idea is often correct) is utter nonsense in the way it is commonly employed. We all think our own opinions are the simplest explanations
- Fairness cannot be obtained in most cases because of its subjective nature. The closest you can get is equal application of the law.
- If your argument depends on that "one time something happened," you do not have an argument, you have a story
- If your argument depends entirely on a slippery slope, you don't have much of an argument. Everything changes until there is a reason for it to stop.
- Coincidences usually mean nothing, and they are the fuel of confirmation bias. If your argument depends entirely on not knowing how else to explain coincidences, you have a poor imagination, not an argument. Coincidences might show you where to look first for the confirmation of a theory, but that is as far as they can go.
- Avoid half-opinions that ignore either the costs or the benefits of a plan.
- Don't use analogies to predict. Look to causes and effects.
- Don't judge a group by its worst 5%. If you do, you are probably in the worst 5% of your own group
- Understand the limits of expert advise, and be skeptical of experts who have financial incentives to mislead
Figuring our priorities in life
Make yourself your top priority. Can't help others until you can take care of yourself. Only after caring for your health and finances can you expand your generosity outward in this priority:
- Your family
- Your employer
- Your town/city
- Your country
- The World
Example: Should you work late or go to the gym. The right answer is usually go to the gym (priority #1).
Be selfish when it comes to your health, diet, fitness, and education.
Keep these two rules in mind:
- If your opinion depends on reliably knowing another person’s inner thoughts, you might be experiencing loserthink.
- If an ordinary explanation fits the facts, but you have chosen an extraordinary interpretation instead, you might have too much confidence in your opinion.
Bad behavior will happen almost 100% of the time if you have this combination of variables:
- There is money to be made from the bad behavior.
- The odds of detection are low
- Lots of people are involved
How to Respond to Mistakes
- Fully acknowledge the mistake and its impact.
- Display genuine-looking remorse.
- Explain what you plan to do to make amends.
- Explain how you plan to avoid similar mistakes.
The 48-Hour Rule: “Everyone deserves forty-eight hours to clarify, apologize for, or otherwise update an offending statement.”
When you see an ‘unbelievable’ story in the press that is based on interpreting someone else’s meaning, it is generally fake news. Wait for the clarification to see if there is a perfectly ordinary explanation.
The 20-Year Rule: “It is Loserthink to judge people by their much younger selves. People change. And they usually improve.”
Other People's Mental Prisons
The Magic Question: “State ONE thing you believe on this topic that you think I do NOT believe.”
- Agree with people as much as you can without lying
- Don’t argue the weeds of a debate. Dismiss the trivial stuff and concentrate on the variables that matter.
- Ask people with opposing opinions to describe what the future would look like if their view of the world were to play out. Does it sound reasonable?
- To get to better answers you need to ask better questions. Framing a question correctly is critical.
Do the ends justify the means?
When people ask you if the ends justify the means, they are trying to frame themselves as the moral player in the conversation while framing you as the unethical weasel. Don’t answer the trick question. Instead, restate the question in this form before answering: I think you mean: Are the benefits greater than the costs?
- When dealing with personal inertia, identify the smallest possible step you can take and then do it. Break the project into smaller “micro steps.” Each action makes the next action easier (momentum).
- The smartest plan for life is to leave your lane as often as you can to pick up skills that will complement your talent stack. The more skills you have, the more valuable you will be, although you won’t necessarily know in advance where it will take you.
- Find ways to test your assumptions in small, measured ways while avoiding harm to others. The alternative is overconfidence (via large, unrealistic projects) or inaction (doing nothing).
- Luck is attracted to action and energy; it doesn’t come looking for you on the couch.
- Leaders understand that a good system involves doing something on a regular basis to improve your odds of good outcomes, even if you don’t know exactly what the outcome will be.
- Favor systems over goals whenever that is practical. A goal gives you one way to win, whereas a system can surface lots of winning paths, some of which you never could have imagined.
- Example: There are many ideas for improving healthcare in the USA. People want to pick the “best” one and implement. You cannot pick a best one because you don’t know what the best solution is. Instead, test small, learn and then make an informed decision.