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Think Again - Book Highlights (Part 1)

A great book by Adam Grant which make us rethink the way we think and behave. Sometimes we have reevaluate our knownledge.


Prologue

  • Some psychologists point out that we’re mental misers: we often prefer the ease of hanging on to old views over the difficulty of grappling with new ones. Yet there are also deeper forces behind our resistance to rethinking. Questioning ourselves makes the world more unpredictable. It requires us to admit that the facts may have changed, that what was once right may now be wrong. Reconsidering something we believe deeply can threaten our identities, making it feel as if we’re losing a part of ourselves. [4]

  • When it comes to our knowledge and opinions, though, we tend to stick to our guns. Psychologists call this seizing and freezing. We favour the comfort of conviction over the discomfort of doubt, and we let our beliefs get brittle long before our bones. We listen to views that make us feel good, instead of ideas that make us think hard. [4]

  • Once we hear the story and accept it as true, we rarely bother to question it. [4]

Chapter 1 - A Preacher, a Prosecutor, a Politician and a Scientist Walk into Your Mind

  • We question the judgement of experts whenever we seek out second opinions on a medical diagnosis. Unfortunately, when it comes to our own knowledge and opinions, we often favour feeling right over being right. [18]

  • As we think and talk, we often slip into the mindsets of three different professions: preachers, prosecutors and politicians. [18]

    • We go into preacher mode when our sacred beliefs are in jeopardy: we deliver sermons to protect and promote our ideals.

    • We enter prosecutor mode when we recognize flaws in other people’s reasoning: we marshal arguments to prove them wrong and win our case.

    • We shift into politicians mode when we’re seeking to win over an audience: we campaign and lobby for the approval of our constituents.

  • The risk is that we become so wrapped up in preaching that we’re right, prosecuting others who are wrong, and politicking for support that we don’t bother to rethink our own views. [19]

  • We typically celebrate great entrepreneurs and leaders for being strong-minded and clear-sighted. They’re supposed to be paragons of conviction: decisive and certain. Yet evidence reveals that when business executive competes in tournaments to price products, the best strategists are actually slow and unsure. [21]

  • No matter how much brain power you have, if you lack the motivation to change your mind, you’ll miss many occasions to think again. [24]

  • There are two types of biases that drive a particular pattern, one is confirmation bias: seeing what we expect to see and the other is desirability bias: seeing what we want to see. These biases don’t just prevent us from applying our intelligence. They can actually control our intelligence into weapons against the truth. We find a reason to preach our faith more deeply, prosecute our case more passionately, and ride the tidal wave of our political party. The tragedy is that we’re unusually unaware of the resulting flaws in our thinking. [25]

  • Thinking like a scientist involves more than just reacting with an open mind. It means being actively open-minded. It requires searching for reasons why we might be wrong — not for reasons why we must be right — and revising our views based on what we learn. [25]

  • The purpose of learning isn’t to affirm our beliefs, it’s to evolve our beliefs. [26]

  • The curse of knowledge is that it closes our minds to what we don’t know. Good judgment depends on having the skill — and the will — to open our minds. [31]

Chapter 2 - The Armchair Quarterback and the Imposter

  • Anton’s syndrome — a deficit of self-awareness in which a person is oblivious to a physical disability but otherwise doing fairly well cognitively. It’s known to be caused by damage to the occipital lobe of the brain. Yet I’ve come to believe that even when our brains are functioning normally, we’re all vulnerable to a version of Anton’s syndrome. [35]

  • You probably met some football fans who are convinced they know more than the coaches on the sidelines. That’s the armchair quarterback syndrome, where confidence exceeds competence. [37]

  • The opposite of armchair quarterback syndrome is impostor syndrome, where competence exceeds confidence. [37]

  • The Dunning-Kruger effect, it’s when we lack competence that we’re most likely to be brimming with overconfidence. [38]

  • It’s when we progress from novice to amateur that we become overconfident. [44]

  • Arrogance is ignorance plus conviction. While humility is a permeable filter that absorbs life experience and converts it into knowledge and wisdom, arrogance is a rubber shield that life experience simply bounces off of. [45]

  • Humility is not a matter of having low self-confidence. It is about being grounded — recognizing that we’re flawed and fallible. [46]

  • Confidence is a measure of how much you believe in yourself. Evidence shows that’s distinct from how much you believe in your methods. You can be confident in your ability to achieve a goal in the future while maintaining the humility to question whether you have the right tools in the present. That’s the sweet spot of confidence. [46]

  • Confident Humility is having faith in our capability while appreciating that we may not have the right solution or even be addressing the right problem. That gives us enough doubt to reexamine our old knowledge and enough confidence to pursue new insights. [47]

  • Imposter syndrome is a chronic sense of being unworthy that can breed misery, crush motivation, and hold us back from pursuing our ambitions. [49]

  • The three benefits of doubt imposter syndrome gives are:

    • The first upside of feeling like an imposter is that it can motivate us to work harder. It’s probably not helpful when we’re deciding whether to start a race, but once we’ve stepped up to the starting line, it gives us the drive to keep running to the end so that we can earn our place among the finalists.

    • Second, imposter thoughts can motivate us to work smarter. When we don’t believe we’re going to win, we have nothing to lose by rethinking our strategy. Feeling like an imposter puts us in a beginner’s mindset, leading us to question assumptions that others have taken for granted.

    • Third, feeling like an imposter can make us better learners. Having some doubts about our knowledge and skills takes us off a pedestal, encouraging us to seek out insights from others. Learning requires the humility to realize one has something to learn. [52]

  • Confidence is just as often the result of progress as the cause of it. We don’t have to wait for our confidence to rise to achieve challenging goals. We can build it by achieving challenging goals. [53]

  • Great thinkers don’t harbour doubts because they’re imposters. They maintain doubts because they know we’re all partially blind and they’re committed to improving their sight. They don’t boast about how much they know; they marvel at how little they understand. They’re aware that each answer raises new questions, and the quest for knowledge is never finished. A mark of lifelong learners is recognizing that they can learn something from everyone they meet. [54]

  • Arrogance leaves us blind to our weaknesses. Humility is a reflective lens: it helps us see them clearly. Confident humility is a corrective lens: it enables us to overcome those weaknesses. [54]

Chapter 3 - The Joy of Being Wrong

  • You must not fool yourself—and you are the easiest person to fool - Richard Feynman.

  • Attachment is what keeps us from recognizing when our opinions are off the mark and rethinking them. To unlock the joy of being wrong, we need to detach. I’ve learned that two kinds of detachment are especially useful: detaching your present from your past and detaching your opinions from your identity. [62]

  • When you feel as if your life is changing direction, and you’re in the process of shifting who you are, it’s easier to walk away from the foolish beliefs you once held. [63]

  • Who you are should be a question of what you value, not what you believe. Values are your core principles in life—they might be excellence and generosity, freedom and fairness, or security and integrity. Basing your identity on these kinds of principles enables you to remain open-minded about the best ways to advance them. [64]

  • When they define themselves by values rather than opinions, they buy themselves the flexibility to update their practices in light of new evidence. [64]

  • It doesn’t become the truth just because you believe in it. It’s a sign of wisdom to avoid believing every thought that enters your mind. It’s a mark of emotional intelligence to avoid internalizing every feeling that enters your heart. [68]

  • If we are insecure, we make fun of others. If we are comfortable being wrong, we are not afraid to poke fun at ourselves. Laughing at ourselves reminds us that although we might take our decisions seriously, we don’t have to take ourselves too seriously. Research suggests that the more frequently we make fun of ourselves, the happier we tend to be. Instead of beating ourselves up about our mistakes, we can turn some of our past misconceptions into sources of present amusement. [72]

  • When you form an opinion, ask yourself what would have to happen to prove it false. Then keep track of your views so you can see when you were right when you were wrong, and how your thinking has evolved. [73]

  • Admitting we were wrong doesn’t make us look less competent. It’s a display of honesty and a willingness to learn. [73]

  • Every time we encounter new information, we have a choice. We can attach our opinions to our identities and stand our ground in the stubbornness of preaching and prosecuting. Or we can operate more like scientists, defining ourselves as people committed to the pursuit of truth even if it means proving our own views wrong. [76]

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