Book Review: You Are Not So Smart by David McRaney - TrepHub
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Book Review: You Are Not So Smart by David McRaney

While this book might not be a super popular business book, it’s been pretty useful in business overall. For leaders it is extremely important to be self aware and next to “Thinking Fast, Thinking Slow” this book is packed with non-obvious wisdom about how people work. The title as well as the tone of the book is a bit comic and colloquial but that keeps an otherwise “textbook” subject exciting. All in all, very well worth the read!


Hi, this is Ahmed. I am not at the mountaintop today but I am at a different mountain. I’m at Mount Charleston which is in Nevada and I am absolutely amazed by how beautiful this place is. It reminds me of Yosemite actually. The weather is gorgeous. In Las Vegas, it was 100 something degrees and my friend told me about mountain Charleston.

At first, I wasn’t really sure that it was going to be all that special I was like there’s a lot of mountains in California. There’s one right behind my house, I go hiking every day but then I came here and I was like wow and as you can see behind me Mount Charleston. And we’re hiking, we’re going around and it’s just incredible. I’m just having a blast out here. I’m just so happy to be able to hike again it’s been like a week. So just for context, I took my family, we left California because there are fires. I mean I never thought that an entire state could catch on fire but apparently it can, and driving through it was kind of crazy. The air quality in California is still kind of crazy so definitely appreciate being able to breathe over here. And even in Las Vegas it’s hot, it’s uncomfortable but at least if you’re an asthmatic like me, it’s not that bad. At least you can breathe, you don’t get constant headaches and if you’re in Mount Charleston, oh my God like I want to live here it’s so beautiful.

So, this is my second foray into Mount Charleston actually and as I was walking up here, you know, thinking about a lot of things – we’re getting close to the elections, there was the RNC and the Democratic convention and it brought a very specific book to my mind. It’s not a very famous book necessarily like other books that I’ve reviewed were relatively we known in the business community but the book that is on my mind right now it’s called “You Are Not So Smart”. It’s not the typical scholastic book but it talks about cognitive biases and biases that human beings suffer from. And it feels like we’re getting and in a time like now, you know knowing your own biases and understanding how people play on biases. It’s a good thing to have as you encounter information from different political parties and other interested parties getting targeted by ads left and right. So, the book again is called “You Are Not So Smart”.

And the one thing that I keep thinking of is this thing called that they call the sharpshooter fallacy, the Texas sharpshooter fallacy. Now, in the Texas sharpshooter fallacy you basically shoot at a barn and after you shoot at the barn you draw the target on the barn so that you draw the target over wherever you’re shot and it looks like you’re just an amazing marksman because you always hit the bullseye where whenever you’re shooting you’re always hitting the bullseye and that’s especially interesting when you hear political candidates talk about how you know, everything was just perfect, you know they knew everything, they knew the future, they never got anything wrong and if you remember the book “You Are Not So Smart” you’re going to think, oh that’s a sharpshooter fallacy.

There are a lot of other things that we fall like we have availability bias. So in California, the fires are very much in your face and all I can think about was the fires. All my friends were thinking about was the fires. But when I checked the news, the news initially barely covered the fires and I was like what the heck it should be all over the news. Eventually, it did make it on the news but not until, not until like a week after it was like a big big deal. But then I’m reminded of the fact that to me the fire is a big deal because it’s all around me. I have availability bias, right? But the rest of the world there’s other things going on and right now everybody got politics on their mind because they see it around.

Availability bias also let us think of the world in a certain way. So if you’re in Silicon Valley you might think the world is very diverse in you know in certain ways. If you’re in New York City you might think every city’s like your city has different opinions, different languages. If you’re in the South somewhere you might think everywhere else is like that so that’s availability bias.

And it’s important to think when you’re thinking about these grander scheme things, when you’re thinking about the future, about politics electing this person or that person it’s actually really nice to know about biases that you can fall prey to so that you can make a decision based on a slightly more rational view of the world than what you might if you didn’t know about your own shortcomings, about things that the human brain isn’t good for. It’s just a really great general-purpose book not just for the election but just in life in general.

For example, if you’re an interviewer and you’re interviewing people you’re more likely to like the last person you interviewed better than everybody else just because of the fact that you remember that person better. Again, it’s not reality, it’s not fact it’s just availability bias You know another one of our human biases, and human beings have a lot of biases – you know we forget things, we forget big things and we’ll remember like the most recent thing.

So we might have family and friends that have taken care of us all our lives but in our mind, we might be thinking what have you done for me lately, so whoever has been really nice to you lately you have probably have a very positive view. Whoever has been, you know, maybe a little mean to you lately because they’re going through a tough time you probably don’t have a positive overview and everything is painted by that.

So if you’re a leader, if you’re in an organization, if you deal with other people, it’s good to know your own shortcomings and it’s good to know that as a human being we have all these biases and “You Are Not So Smart”, it’s just an excellent book because it’ll remind you why even though you think everything is perfect, or crystal clear, or 20/20, your mind is lying to you and it’s important to stay cognizant of that. Again the book I recommend from here in Mount Charleston is “You Are Not So Smart”. That includes me. Thank you.