I Wanna Be Literated #259

I Wanna Be Literated #259

Tuesday, 26 July 2022

Don’t Trust Your Gut: Using Data to Get What You Really Want in Life
by Seth Stephens-Davidowitz

I read mostly non-fiction because I consume so much fiction already (whether it’s TV or movies) that it’s my only avenue for learning. And self-help books don’t count, because let’s face it, they’re all a complete waste of time. Most of the time, they just tell us what we already know or what we want to hear. However, Seth Stephens-Davidowitz has taken it upon himself to write a self-help book actually worth reading, because he mostly just sticks to cold hard statistical facts.

The premise of Don’t Trust Your Gut is simple: if you want increase your likelihood for success in a certain scenario, these are the properties that have been statistically linked to success. In what fields, do you ask? Stephens-Davidowitz tackles the big decisions in our lives. Like, what traits lead to successful coupling? What towns produce the most successful kids? What businesses produce the highest percentage of rich owners? What sports have the highest chances of earning scholarships? And, what are the habits of happy people? The results are compelling and fascinating, and most of the time, end up surprising Stephens-Davidowitz himself. What’s important to remember is that this is all statistically based, and the author walks us through all the criteria for ranking success and a dissection as to why these surprising decisions lead to success. Most of time, these decisions make no sense to us, because they simply aren’t romantic enough. Case in point: it turns out hard work, experience, education, perseverance, and learning from mistakes is what makes for a successful people. Not dropping out of college and becoming a venture capitalist smooth-talker at age 20, like that Theranos lady. But, it’s success stories like these, which are one in a billion, that make the news and inspire us, because we are inherently lazy people who want easy answers. The idea of going to college, learning to work WITH people, and failing until you succeed in your forties just sounds too hard. Sobering, isn’t it?

Don’t Trust Your Gut is masterfully written, funny, engaging, entertaining, and very educational. It’s one of those books you wish were twice as long. It’s one of those rare self-help books that is actually worth your time. Highly recommended.

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