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Summary of The Art of Thinking Clearly 

Short summary

We are all victims of cognitive errors. It's one of the imperfections of humanity, but these cognitive (or thinking) errors all affect the outcomes of our life. Some have very mild effects but others can lead us to trouble. How do these thinking errors come about? We learn most of them from childhood and others in adulthood as we interact with people and our environment. You already know that your life can't be greater than the level of your thoughts; would you like to catch a few errors in the way you process things so you can better position yourself for the life you've been desiring? If you answered yes, then this summary is for you! The art of thinking clearly was written by Rolf Dobelli, a Swiss businessman and renowned thinker.

Key points

1

Cognitive errors have their roots in evolution and our individual life experiences

A cognitive error is the failure to think situations through clearly before concluding. Cognitive errors are systematic, meaning they don't happen out of the blues or once in a while, they are rather routine mistakes that we continue to make. What's interesting is that we don't intentionally learn these errors, we pick them up from childhood and our brain is on the automatic function when similar situations arise. For example, a common cognitive error is overestimating our knowledge more than we underestimate it. Most of us are victims of this particular error. We hardly ever underestimate our knowledge on topics that we know averagely. The common error is to think that you already know all (or most) of the things that you need to know about something simply because you were once educated in it.

The only time you get to see how wrong your estimation is is when you start putting the knowledge to work. Here's an example that's very widespread: most educated couples go into marriage believing they know how to raise kids only to realize they know little to nothing about parenting. There are so many cognitive errors that we fall victim to as a result of evolution, the kind of environment we were raised in, or our unique life experiences.
Most of our thinking errors were developed in the hunter-gatherer stage of human development and they were useful then, but many of them have lost their value in the modern world.
For the remaining chapters of this summary, we shall be considering some of the most popular cognitive errors as well as how you can keep them from shortchanging you in life.
There are things we know (‘known facts'), there are things we do not know (‘known unknowns') and there are things that we do not know that we do not know (‘unknown unknowns'). ~ Rolf Dobelli
2

Survivorship bias explains why it's easier to underestimate success

The media can — to a large extent — be blamed for the prevalence of the survivor bias because it only covers stories of successful individuals. The only time you get to read or watch anything about someone who failed is when that person is influential or comes from an affluent root. You never see stories of the masses who tried and failed miserably. But year in year out, the media keeps celebrating stories of people who moved from rags to riches. And this sort of thing makes the average individual imagine that success is as easy as the media portrays it. What many people don't see is that, behind every successful person, there are millions of others who tried and failed at the same thing. And thousands saw small success but couldn't make it to the headlines before they died or ruined their reputation. It doesn't mean success is unattainable, it only means that our survivorship bias makes us underestimate the amount of work that goes into building success. It doesn't matter what anyone tells you, the truth is that not everyone would become a star. Some would indeed die trying.
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3

Social proof is not necessarily true. Do your own digging

4

Learn to let go when you've done your best but things are just not working

5

When you're about to make a decision, write down what you want and stick to it

6

Refuse to play the blame game: take responsibility for what happens to you

7

Overcoming the action bias: learn to wait

8

Conclusion

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