Thursday, February 26, 2015

Book Comment: The Art of Thinking Clearly

Title: The Art of Thinking Clearly
Author: Rolf Dobelli
No. of pages:384
Published: 14th May, 2013
Read: February 25, 2015
In engaging prose and with practical examples and anecdotes, an eye-opening look at human reasoning and essential reading for anyone with important decisions to make.
Have you ever: 
• Invested time in something that, with hindsight, just wasn't worth it?
• Overpayed in an Ebay auction?
• Continued doing something you knew was bad for you?
• Sold stocks too late, or too early?
• Taken credit for success, but blamed failure on external circumstances?
• Backed the wrong horse? 
These are examples of cognitive biases, simple errors we all make in our day-to-day thinking. But by knowing what they are and how to spot them, we can avoid them and make better choices-whether dealing with a personal problem or a business negotiation; trying to save money or make money; working out what we do or don't want in life: and how best to get it. 
Simple, clear and always surprising, this indispensable book will change the way you think and transform your decision-making-work, at home, every day. It reveals, in 99 short chapters, the most common errors of judgment, and how to avoid them.

It's another of those non-fiction reads that I enjoyed reading. I am no expert in any cognitive related books most especially topics but seems like I am inclined to reading such, hence, my comment is based on my limited view and knowledge. The book presents 99 short chapters of about two to three pages each for the different cognitive biases or thinking fallacies we commit on a day-to-day basis. Mostly presenting examples on money and investments and business-related decision-making, was also a factor that added to my liking of this book. The chapters were pretty simple with most allowing the readers to be involved by presenting cases or scenarios and questions and make the reader decide on some. Short explanations with different citations, and examples come after; with suggestions to avoid the "unclear" thinking, usually forming the conclusion. For someone who enjoys reading about cognitive topics but have limited time to indulge on the more extensive ones, this book serves as a nutshell.

I personally like these chapters (but I guess most!!):
  • 2- Does Harvard Make Your Smarter?: Swimmer's Body Illusion
  • 4 - If Fifty Million People Say Something Foolish, It is Still Foolish: Social Proof
  • 14 - Why You Should Keep a Diary: Hindsight Bias
  • 57 - If You Have Nothing To Say Say Nothing: Twaddle Tendency
  • 66 - Why You Are a Slave to Your Emotions: Affect Heuristic
  • 85 - Why New Year's Resolutions Don't Work: Procrastination
  • 86 - Build Your Own Castle: Envy
  • 90 - Where's the Off Switch?: Overthinking
  • 91 - Why You Take On Too Much: Planning Fallacy
  • 93 - Drawing the Bull's-Eye around the Arrow: Cherry Picking

The book was an eye-opener but applying this kind of "clear" thinking would not be easy. Still, this again contributed to my amazement on how our mind works. 

Some quotes below:

“If your only tool is a hammer, all your problems will be nails,” 
“How do you curb envy? First, stop comparing yourself to others. Second, find your “circle of competence” and fill it on your own. Create a niche where you are the best. It doesn’t matter how small your area of mastery is. The main thing is that you are king of the castle.” 
“Whether we like it or not, we are puppets of our emotions. We make complex decisions by consulting our feelings, not our thoughts. Against our best intentions, we substitute the question, “What do I think about this?” with “How do I feel about this?” So, smile! Your future depends on it.” 
“historian Daniel J. Boorstin put it right: “The greatest obstacle to discovery is not ignorance—it is the illusion of knowledge.” 
“Assume that your worldview is not borne by the public. More than that: Do not assume that those who think differently are idiots. Before you distrust them, question your own assumptions.” 
“It’s OK to be envious – but only of the person you aspire to become.” 
“As paradoxical as it sounds: The best way to shield yourself from nasty surprises is to anticipate them.” 
“We must learn to close doors. A business strategy is primarily a statement on what not to engage in. Adopt a life strategy similar to a corporate strategy: Write down what not to pursue in your life. In other words, make calculated decisions to disregard certain possibilities and when an option shows up, test it against your not-to-pursue list. It will not only keep you from trouble but also save you lots of thinking time. Think hard once and then just consult your list instead of having to make up your mind whenever a new door cracks open. Most doors are not worth entering, even when the handle seems to turn so effortlessly.” 
“This is how top investor Warren Buffett does things: “Each deal we measure against the second-best deal that is available at any given time—even if it means doing more of what we are already doing.” 
“Twain: “We should be careful to get out of an experience only the wisdom that is in it—and stop there; lest we be like the cat that sits down on a hot stove-lid. She will never sit down on a hot stove-lid again—and that is well; but also she will never sit down on a cold one anymore.” 
"We are drunk on our own ideas. To sober up, take a step back every now and then and examine their quality in hindsight. Which of your ideas from the past ten years were truly outstanding? Exactly."

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