• Think Like a Freak, Part 3

    Chapter 7: David Lee Roth and King Solomon

    I love the David Lee Roth story about how the brown M&Ms were the ‘canary in the coal mine’ for their giant stage shows, it’s probably my favorite modern fable. I hadn’t heard the phrase “pooling equilibrium” before (p143), but “teach your garden to weed itself” is a lot catchier anyway when it’s introduced later that page.

    A lot of chapter 7 is devoted more to telling stories to explain how others ‘teach their gardens’ as it were like Zappos, 419ers and 11th-century priests. We’ve talked about most of these before, so a lot of this chapter was a brush-up. The long con of catching terrorists using ‘bank-bought life insurance’ was really, really cool.

    Chapter 8: Persuading those who don’t want to be Persuaded

    It’s so neat and weird to read a chapter about, essentially, my job description, only to find out “it’s better to trick people with subtle cues rather than logically make them change their opinion,” like with the fly in the urinal (p172). On p178 they talk about how to deal with the problem of the 25 parents of the auto-driving car that mowed down a schoolyard in terms of the 180 parents per day of un-mowed-down-kids in our current drivered-car setup. One of the big problems a lot of logical arguments have is that the outliers are real bad, even when (on balance) they are completely reasonable. They also touch on the (unfounded) fear of flying vs. driving, since the outliers are reported on far more.

    The argument tips they provide (don’t pretend you’re perfect, acknowledge your opposition) are somewhat counterintuitive, but the big ones to me were the last two:

    Keep your insults to yourself- ad hominem never solved anything, and people turtle up when they feel attacked, no argument there

    Tell Stories – this is the big one. People know fables and stories way more than facts or figures. The best thing to do, then, is replace people’s bad anecdotes with good ones right?

    Side note: Got 9/10 on the commandments

    Chapter 9: Quitting!
    I’m reminded of the Edison quip, “I haven’t failed, just succeeded at finding 1,000 new ways to make a light bulb that don’t work. Finding out what doesn’t work and ‘cutting bait’ as it were is a super-powerful tool, and it was super-depressing to hear that the O-ring guys literally told NASA no and they launched the Challenger anyway, killing 7 people to make sure they hit a (literal) launch window.

    I also was interested in the execs saying in public the McDonalds would open on time when in private the betting was on the opposite. It’s always a good idea to solicit anonymous feedback because as Oscar Wilde states, “Man is least himself when he talks in his own person. Give him a mask, and he will tell you the truth.”

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