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Archive for the ‘Dubner – Stephen J’ Category

Think Like a Freak by Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner


I read Think Like a Freak by Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J Dubner with the intention of finishing the book with a higher IQ, but I don’t think that happened. Think Like a Freak was a comfortable read, very interesting and amusing, but I’m certain that ‘thinking smarter’ will need more effort from me than just reading a book about people who are already good at thinking.

Examples of how very successful people think were shown in easy to understand stories, demonstrating how problems can be solved by being approached in new ways. One example which I particularly enjoyed described how to win a hot dog eating competition. Instead of stuffing the hot dogs in, then chewing as hard as you can, the authors used the example of a successful hot dog eating competition winner, Takeru Kobayashi, to explain how to think a problem through, then to use a trial and error approach to practice a winning technique.*

The problem for me with thinking, and the authors told me this very clearly, is that most people only think once or twice a year. They cited the example of a very clever person, an absolute genius, who, on purpose, makes time to think for an hour, every week.

What the authors say is true. I readily admit that I am not a genius, and I’m not alone. Hardly anyone else is a genius either. But, since I don’t have time to think for an hour at a time, I’m unlikely to improve matters. If I did manage to find an hour for some hard thinking, I would probably just fall asleep anyway. Besides, making excuses for not being able to find time to think is much easier than actually thinking.

However, if you have the time and want to have a crack at thinking, especially if you  intend to make a name for yourself as a problem-solving thinker, then here are some of the tricks of the trade for you, as described in Think Like a Freak:

  1. Pick a small problem, because you’ve got too much competition in the bigger, show-pony type of problem areas. Everyone wants to solve the issue of world peace.
  2. Break the problem into smaller parts.
  3. Continue breaking the problem down until you get to the root cause.

Be warned though, the authors of Think Like a Freak advise that trying to convince people of the results of your thinking might make you wildly unpopular. Let me know how you get on.

*So, if you are interested in how to eat 52 hot dogs and buns in a really short amount of time, here’s how. Separate the dogs and buns. Break the dogs up with your fingers, to save time chewing. Dunk pieces of the bun into your drinking water to make the bun go down faster, (a legal manoeuvre in hot dog eating competitions), then prepare to accept your trophy.


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