Metacognition is awesome. Thinking about the way you think can expose so many flaws and biases and other interesting stuff, but more importantly, it can help you become a better thinker over time. When Peter Bevelin first emailed me about reviewing his book Seeking Wisdom: From Darwin to Munger, I was very excited to read it because the book is about how we think and the cognitive errors we commonly make. And overall, I think the book lived up to my expectations.
The book is divided into four parts: What Influences Our Thinking, The Psychology of Misjudgements, The Physics and Mathematics of Misjudgements, and Guidelines to Better Thinking. Each part has several chapters devoted to relevant topics. Honestly, the first part was very boring for me. If you have read much on evolution, the human brain, and the history of rational thought, you may find it boring as well. Otherwise, it’s important stuff that you should definitely learn. The rest of the book, however, was fantastic.
The book is a tour of the human mind and the bad decision making that often occurs in many areas of life. It is filled with quality explanations, tons of research, short quick examples, longer thorough examples, and quotes from Warren Buffett and Charles Munger when relevant to the topic at hand. Author Peter Bevelin did a great job of articulating some of the concepts about thinking that I myself have trouble explaining. Here are some pertinent quotes from the book:
“The first principle is that you must not fool yourself – and you are the easiest person to fool.” – Richard Feynman.”Perhaps the most valuable result of all education is the ability to make yourself od the thing you have to do when it ought to be done whether you like it or not. It is the first lesson that ought to be learned and however early a person’s training begins, it is probably the last lesson a person learns thoroughly.” – Thomas Henry Huxley.
“How much time he gains who does not look to see what his neighbor says or does or thinks.” – Marcus Aurelius Antoninus.
“Around here I would say that if our predictions have been a little better than other people’s, it’s because we’ve tried to make fewer of them.” – Charles Munger
“The art of being wise is the art of knowing what to overlook.” – William James
These quotes provide good examples of the kinds of lessons you can learn from this book. It also has some great stories to demonstrate interesting issues of thinking, like the airplane bullet holes post I wrote a few weeks ago. That story came from this book.
I would recommend this book to just about anybody. If you like metacognition, you will find this book fascinating. If you don’t ever think about the way that you think, this book will open your eyes to an amazing new world.