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Think Like a Freak Book Summary

Introduction

Hi Success Titan reader, I’m Sal Damiata, and that’s the book summary of “Think Like a Freak” by Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner. 

Why this Book?

What if I told you that everybody can become a creative genius by adopting the right mindset and attitude towards life? If you want to learn more about that, keep reading as that’s probably the right book summary for you.

Synopsis

“Think Like a Freak” is a book that is aimed at challenging the way you think about everyday things and inspire you to adopt new perspectives. The authors claim that creativity can be hacked, but is it really true? Let’s discover it together.

Who’s it for? 

  • Everybody confused about what belief system to adopt to become successful;
  • People who are easily influenced by other’s opinions;
  • People that believe to know it all or that take things too seriously.

What You’ll Learn from it

  • How to upgrade your thinking and belief system;
  • A simple tip to persuade people more easily;
  • How to keep your mind receptive to new ideas.

In a Nutshell

We are creative beings at our core, and if we manage to keep our mind free of dogma and open to learning new things, then we will start to think more creatively. Moreover, if we can keep a child-like attitude to life, we will start to think like freaks and upgrade our thinking patterns.

3 Sentence Summary

  • Instead of trying to solve problems by looking at one aspect only, get to the root cause of the problem and look at it from different perspectives to harness new creative ways to solve it.
  • Stop pretending to know everything because this will make your mind believe you have nothing more to learn, causing it to shut down when exposed to new information.
  • Violate conventions and try to do things in ways that haven’t been tried before. Don’t be afraid to experiment and to put your own style in everything you do.

Big Ideas

Those are the most relevant ideas expressed in the book that we’ll explore together.

  1. Find the Root Cause & Solve Small Problems
  2. Think Like a Child
  3. It’s Fine not to Know everything
  4. Understand how to Persuade 
  5. Violate Conventions

Let’s explore them together now:

Big Idea #1: Find the Root Cause & Solve Small Problems

The authors here talk about the importance of finding out the root cause of any problems you want to solve. Sometimes we get caught in finding the solution to a problem without looking at what’s the cause of the problem itself. 

He also talks about the idea of focussing on the solution of smaller problems at first and once they are solved, to focus on the biggest ones.

The advantages of such thinking are that small questions get generally less attention, and it’s easier to change something small first. Solving small problems will give you faster solutions and, thus, quicker rewards. 

This will eventually help you solve bigger problems as well as they’re just a sum of many small problems, according to the author.

A Relatable Example

The authors make an example of the longtime hot dog eater champion Takeru Kobayashi that in order to eat more hot dogs, he didn’t ask himself, “How can I eat more hot dogs” but asked himself, “how can I make hot dogs easier to eat?” 

That gave him a new perspective on what to focus his energies, and even though he wasn’t famous yet when he got this idea, he later managed to surpass all his competitors and to establish himself as the champion. 

Big Idea #2: Think Like a Child

Another great tip that the authors give is to harness the natural childish creativity that every one of us possesses. You can do this by having fun while you work, being always curious to learn and discover new things and by challenging things that are often given for granted by people. 

Children generally have an advantage over adults because they know how to have a broader focus and to see things from various perspectives rather than getting caught in the focus trap. 

That’s why they’re better at finding out magicians’ tricks that usually work because they direct your focus to a specific place. 

A Relatable Example

When you open your mind to new possibilities, you will make it receptive to the absorption of new information. 

When you instead believe to know everything in a specific subject, you will have no reason to keep information in as your mind believes that it knows it all and thus will shut down towards new perspectives. 

As Albert Einstein said, the mind is like a parachute; it works only if you open it. 

Big Idea #3: It’s Fine not to Know everything

Some people are so afraid to admit they don’t know the answer to a particular problem or question that they often end up lying to protect their image not to look incompetent. 

The reality is that overconfidence is bad and doesn’t help others around you, yet 80% of people fake knowledge of subjects to avoid looking stupid.

If you admit you don’t know something when a specific circumstance will arise, people will trust you more. Moreover, you will keep your mind open to learn new things, and this will make you an even more knowledgeable individual!

A Relatable Example

The authors warn taking tips from experts in their field unless they’re humble because often they don’t publicly disclose they don’t know something. Another reason why many people keep their minds shut to new information is caused by confirmation bias. 

This happens because people are too busy to rethink the way they think so they don’t often engage in metacognition (the act of thinking about thinking). 

Metacognition anyway is an essential practice to adopt in life because it can help you stop being at the mercy of people, the environment, and urges of the body. Try thinking about your own thought for 15 minutes a day and see how your beliefs get a new shape.

Big Idea #4: Understand how to Persuade 

A skill that comes really handy in life is the art of persuasion. In the book, the authors explain how important listening to other people’s arguments is before trying to persuade them about something. 

Generally, avoid making your argument perfect and allow some imperfections to be in it; otherwise, people will trust you less.

If you find somebody hard to persuade, probably this person is taking from an ideological point of view. 

In this case, use rationality but always remember to show both the good sides and the bad ones of your argument as benefits without costs don’t exist in life, and people intuitively know that.

Finally, to effectively persuade somebody to use stories. We as humans are wired to stories because that was a way our ancestors used to pass on knowledge to us. 

With stories, we can easily put ourselves in other’s shoes and thus learn their principles easier due to the emotional involvement in them.

A Relatable Example

Robert Cialdini, an American psychologist and researchers on persuasion, found out that a great way to persuade people is by using the herd effect. 

Since the majority of people do things just because others do, if you want to persuade somebody about something, just say that the majority of people are interested in your idea, activity or whatever else you want to promote.

Big Idea #5: Violate Conventions

Adopting conventional beliefs isn’t always good because you might end up a victim of the herd effect. Most people do certain things just because they’ve been told to or because it’s popular to do them. 

They don’t spend some time questioning the “why” behind certain thought patterns or actions. 

If you want to upgrade your thinking and become a super-human, base your thoughts on statistical evidence and not on simple conventions. Generally, those conventions are just limits that don’t exist, or as the authors put them, artificial limits. 

Can you base your entire life on artificial limits only? I guess not.

A Relatable Example

An example of that is the popular phrase, “A quitter never wins, and a winner never quits.” This quote, even if it sounds like the quote that Rocky Balboa would go for, is really bad advice. Why? Because it’s obvious that, sometimes, quitting is good! 

Think for a second of all the sunk costs that there are once you invest too much on one idea. 

Not to talk to the opportunity cost of trying out one different thing. Of course, this doesn’t mean that you should quit everything you start (and I don’t think you’re that dumb even to do that) but at least be flexible! 

Conclusion & Takeaway

The way you think will greatly influence your life from every aspect of it. If you manage to think outside the box and to think for yourself instead of following the herd, you can make your life great, like the ones of many successful people out there. 

Stop pretending to know everything and keep your mind open, having a child-like attitude towards learning and problem-solving.

My Advice For You

My advice for you is to make a weekend retreat into a calm place where nobody disturbs you, avoiding as much as possible contact with other people. 

This includes a smartphone, computer, and anything else that might get in the way of staying in contact with yourself. What should you do during those days? Think.

About what? About whatever you want, as long as it’s you engaging your pre-frontal cortex and it’s not somebody else thinking at your place. 

You won’t become crazy spending 2 days alone trust me; at most, you will come back home smarter than before. Remember to take a notepad with you to jolt down all the things that you came to understand.

About the Authors

Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner are an economist and New York Times journalist, respectively. Apart from writing this book together, they collaborated on “Freakonomics,” a major success on how to apply economic theories on various subjects. 

The two are both respected figures in the United States due to the many public recognitions they received.

Reading Suggestions

  • “Freakonomics” – Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner
  • “When to rob a bank” – Steven Levitt
  • “The Art of Thinking Clearly” – Rolf Dobelli
  • “The Tipping Point” – Malcolm Gladwell
  • “Everybody Lies” – Seth Stephens-Davidowitz

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