04 Sep / Think Like a Freak: The Authors of Freakonomics Offer to Retrain Your Brain by Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner
Let me begin with the reasons to go aural on this one: co-author Stephen J. Dubner narrates (his near-breathless energy is downright contagious), plus you get additional bonus selections (including commitment devices, banning tipping, and not-men women) at book’s end from the authors’ Freakonomics Radio archives during which you finally get to hear the more elusive Steven D. Levitt chime in (wow, he talks fast!). As eruditely entertaining as these partners are, getting more is most definitely a good thing.
Check out that subtitle: “The authors of Freakonomics offer to retrain your brain.” This latest book, the third in their Freakonomics streak, is actually a reaction to readers’ queries and requests: “Readers seemed to think no riddle was too tricky, no problem too hard, that it couldn’t be sorted out. It was as if we owned some proprietary tool – a Freakonomics forceps, one might imagine – that could be plunged into the body politic to extract some buried wisdom.” As powerful as this dynamic duo is, they didn’t have answers to everything (shocker, I know!). “So rather than trying and probably failing to answer most of the questions sent our way, we wondered if it might be better to write a book that can teach anyone to think like a Freak.” And here they are … sitting right on top of the bestseller lists to boot.
The first step? Practice “The Three Hardest Words in the English Language”: “I don’t know.” Imagine that! Add “‘… but maybe I can find out,'” and you’ll be well on your way to Freak-ish thinking indeed.
Ready to move on? Let a slender 23-year-old Japanese record buster of the Coney Island hot-dog contest show you how to solve a problem. Need guidance in analyzing the cause of a challenging quest? Consider a centuries-old illustration strangely named “An Englishman Tastes the Sweat of an African” which might explain why mortality rates are higher for African American communities, or how swallowing a batch of virulent bacteria can lead to a Nobel Prize.
More? Don’t ignore your childlike instincts. Incentivize wisely and creatively: M&Ms can work wonders. Just hold the brown ones – and no, David Lee Roth is not just another diva. To convince someone of something, tell stories rather than set rules (among U.S. adults, only 14% could name all Ten Commandments – in comparison, 25% could recite the primary ingredients of a Big Mac and 35% could name all the Brady Kids!). Quitting (albeit the hubby read that as ‘grabbing the next opportunity”) can be okay. And use a coin toss to determine major life decisions (eek!).
Will you agree with everything between these pages (on these tracks)? Of course not. But that’s the point, too … Steven and Stephen offer you the tools to think differently. To Freak or not to Freak: what you ultimately decide do with those insights is always your choice.