In this episode of The Agent of Wealth Podcast, the Bautis Financial team discusses the sixth book assignment in their monthly Book Club, Think Again: The Power of Knowing What You Don’t Know by Adam Grant. In 320 pages, Grant weaves together research, analysis and storytelling to help readers build the intellectual and emotional muscle required to stay curious enough about the world to actually change it.
In this episode, we discuss:
- What it means to think like a scientist, and why we should all employ this strategy.
- What confirmation bias is and how it can affect your decision-making skills.
- How to embrace the joy of being wrong.
- And more!
This is the sixth episode in the Bautis Financial Book Club series. Listen to the other episodes:
- Episode 75 – Bautis Financial Book Club: Atomic Habits by James Clear
- Episode 76 – Bautis Financial Book Club: The Infinite Game by Simon Sinek
- Episode 88 – Bautis Financial Book Club: Elon Musk – Tesla, SpaceX, and the Quest for a Fantastic Future by Ashlee Vance
- Episode 100 – Bautis Financial Book Club: Animal Spirits by George Akerlof and Robert Shiller
- Episode 109 – Bautis Financial Book Club: Stacked: Your Super-Serious Guide to Modern Money Management
Think Again: The Power of Knowing What You Don’t Know | Schedule an Introductory Call | Bautis Financial: 7 N Mountain Ave Montclair, New Jersey 07042 (862) 205-5000
Welcome back to The Agent of Wealth Podcast, this is your host Marc Bautis. Today I am joined by the Bautis Financial team – John Williams, Kayla Waller and Kyra Mackesy – for the sixth episode of our Bautis Financial Book Club.
Today we will talk about Think Again: The Power of Knowing What You Don’t Know by Adam Grant. This selection was made by Kyra, so I’ll hand it over to you to lead this episode.
Thanks, Marc. That’s right, this was my selection. When it came my turn to pick a book for us to read, I didn’t necessarily have one in mind. Since we read this in the summer, I didn’t want to take any chances and pick a book that might bore the team – because there’s nothing worse than reading a bad book on the beach.
Typically I look for book recommendations on GoodReads, and I saw this book there, in a round up for the best books of 2021. That’s when Think Again was published. It’s a #1 New York Times bestseller, and the more I looked into it, the more positive press I saw.
Here’s a snippet of the book’s description for listeners who may not be familiar with the book title:
“Intelligence is usually seen as the ability to think and learn, but in a rapidly changing world, there’s another set of cognitive skills that might matter more: the ability to rethink and unlearn. In our daily lives, too many of us favor the comfort of conviction over the discomfort of doubt. We listen to opinions that make us feel good, instead of ideas that make us think hard… the result is that our beliefs get brittle long before our bones. Think Again reveals that we don’t have to believe everything we think or internalize everything we feel. It’s an invitation to let go of views that are no longer serving us well and prize mental flexibility, humility, and curiosity over foolish consistency. If knowledge is power, knowing what we don’t know is wisdom.”
I don’t know about you guys, but in reading that, I was immediately intrigued. I’ve noticed that as I’ve gotten older, I realize – with every passing year – just how much I don’t know. I’ll give you an example: After graduating college, I went into my first corporate job with existing working experience in marketing. (For those of you who don’t know, I work on Bautis Financial’s content, so my background is in marketing) In addition to finishing up my degree, I had held the highest position on a club at campus and I spent my Senior year freelancing for a magazine while attending classes. That said, I was pretty confident.
But, as with anything, there were still a ton of things I did not know. And it’s funny because, when I rethink situations from that time in my life, I don’t think I had come to accept what I didn’t know. Instead of admitting that I couldn’t do something and educating myself on the topic, I think I was more likely to brush it off.
As I get older, I realize just how young, naive and uneducated I was. And I think this is an experience that many of us go through.
For those of you who are new listeners to this Book Club, the show is structured by asking each team member a question about the book. Marc, I’m going to start with you.
I know you enjoy books that make their message through storytelling. In Think Again, we read how an international debate champion wins arguments, how Adam Grant has coaxed Yankees fans to root for the Red Sox, and so on. What’s one story from the book that really stood out for you?
I’ll start off by saying I was looking forward to reading this book. I’ve previously read Adam Grant’s book Give and Take: Why Helping Others Drives Our Success, which I really enjoyed. It talks about how success comes from how you interact with others, not the other ways we think about success: talent, hard work, etc.
Now, as a Yankees fan, Adam would definitely have a hard time getting me to root for the Red Sox… But like you mentioned, I’m a fan of storytelling in the books I read. I think it really helps drive home the points that an author is trying to make. And Grant does a great job of this in Think Again.
What It Means to Think Like a Scientist
A big theme in the book is that we all should think like scientists. Adam Grant says that if you are a scientist, by trade, rethinking is fundamental: you’re expected to doubt what you know, be curious about what you don’t know and update your view based on new data. He drives home that point.
But, Grant says we often don’t think like scientists… Instead, we slip into the mindset of three professions – “the three P’s”: preacher, prosecutor and politician.
- We act like preachers when we think that our sacred beliefs are in jeopardy. In those instances, we deliver sermons to protect our ideals.
- We act like prosecutors when we recognize flaws in other people’s reasonings. In those instances, we put together arguments to prove them wrong, the goal of which is to win the debate.
- We act like politicians when we’re seeking to win over an audience. In those instances, we campaign and lobby for the approval of our constituents – whoever we’re trying to win over.
Grant argues that, by adhering to those three Ps, we don’t have a chance to rethink our views. And he says we should…. We should always question things, have doubts and look for data or facts.
How Confirmation Bias Can Affect Your Decision-Making Skills
He also talks about how we’re subject to different biases, and the one that really hit home for me was confirmation bias.
Confirmation bias is the tendency to search for, interpret, favor and recall information in a way that confirms or supports one’s prior beliefs or values. As Grant says, it’s “when your beliefs stay hijacked in neutrality through selecting or interpreting data.”
Many times, confirmation bias is found in the political landscape. Some people watch specific news channels that are politically aligned with their views, so that the commentary and coverage is sided with what they believe in.
Confirmation bias is really prevalent in the investing world, too. For example, someone may over-invest in a particular stock or sector and ignore unfavorable news about the company/sector. Confirmation bias can also keep investors from realistically viewing market conditions. Maybe they focus on some expert opinions, but ignore others.
All of this, Grant says, harms our decision-making process because we have incomplete information.
Taking it back to what I said earlier, we really should act like scientists – which Grant says is a frame of mind. They run experiments to test hypotheses. And really, what we want to do is take that mechanism of operating and transition that to other fields. That way, as people, we can make better choices.
Yeah, I appreciate that correlation to what we do in our work. A lot of the stories in Think Again that resonated with me had to do with the weather predictors. There are these people who make all kinds of predictions, and they get accolades or recognition for those that come true. One of the points that I took away was about this very successful predictor who, after writing their prediction, would then state the facts that could change the prediction over time.
I think that practice could be something people apply to investing. For example, if you really believe in a specific company and chose to invest in it, write down what things would have to happen for you to shift your belief about that company’s success.
We see that all the time where someone, like a particular company or particular stock, they’ll invest in it. And all of a sudden, things go downhill. They’re attached to it, they don’t want to be wrong in that decision. And what they do is they’ll just hang on, hold on with the hopes of this will eventually turn around, while ignoring maybe information that’s out there or new data that comes out there regarding that company.
Alright. Kayla, I’ll move on to you. You’re the youngest on our team, and although thinking again has nothing to do with age – it’s important across the board – I was wondering if you could relate to what I was saying earlier. First, what is your take on Adam Grant’s call to “embrace the joy of being wrong”? And second, has reading this book changed your outlook on thinking, intelligence, etc.?
How to Embrace the Joy of Being Wrong
I really liked the chapter about the joy of being wrong. I don’t think I’ve ever viewed being wrong as a good thing before. I’ve based most of my experience being wrong on my college experience, where it typically wasn’t a good thing. So reading this chapter, I learned a lot.
The chapter starts off by talking about a study from 1959 that was conducted at Harvard. The subjects, who were Harvard students, were interrogated. The person interrogating the students would aggressively insult all of the student’s beliefs and world views. Essentially, the goal was to get the subjects to crack.
They found that the students whose identities and beliefs were really intertwined in their identity were the first ones to crack. And the ones who were able to separate their identity from their beliefs, didn’t.
Now, I think that’s a really extreme example. But it highlights Grant’s point that you have a choice: when you receive new information you can disregard it because your opinions are so intertwined with your identity that you’re unable to consider that new information. Like Marc was saying, you could be a scientist and question everything.
To answer the second part of your question, I really like the quote from the book that says, “If you don’t look back at yourself and think, wow, how stupid I was a year ago, then you must not have learned much in that last year.” This is something I could relate to, because frequently when I reflect on the past I end up thinking, ‘Wow, I was really stupid this time. I’ve learned a lot since then.’
But the biggest takeaway from the book for me was to try to view being wrong as a good thing. And in order to do that, you have to be able to detach your present from your past and your opinions from your identity.
Yeah, thank you. One thing Adam Grant said is instead of attaching your identity to your beliefs, you can reframe your identity as your goal in life is to find/uncover the truth. That way, your beliefs are flexible.
Last but not least, John. Can you recall a time that you used the power of rethinking to change your belief on something? And after that, I’d love to get your view of the book as a whole, since you’re typically really good at breaking down some of the hits and misses in our Book Club.
First, I’d like to say how much I really enjoyed this book. I had heard of Adam Grant before, but I never had an opportunity to read a book or understand what he’s about. At the highest level, I was really impressed with his ability to break down every point in a fair way. He didn’t seem to have a bias himself. When there was an argument involved, he seemed to really cover both sides. I appreciated that because I find that to be really hard to do.
It ties back to the idea that we have a tendency to be biased. The thing that really stuck with me was the political environment and the dichotomy that exists in American politics between Republican and Democrat. There really is this left and right. It’s almost how people get about their sports team – like Red Sox vs Yankees. At one point, you pick a team and you’re with that team no matter what.
But when you take a step back and look at everyone making political arguments – when you really think about it – it’s silly. It doesn’t make a whole lot of sense that we, as humans, would only have two lines of thoughts. Everyone on one side can’t agree with everyone else on that side, and vice versa.
At some point, an individual should be able to say, “I agree with the left on these matters and the right on these.” But you don’t see that happening a lot… even if people do feel that way.
In a way, I started to lose faith in the ability for people to find common ground. But I really see the importance in that. As I started to think more about this, I realized that two people with opposing ideas should take a high-level view and ask themselves, “What are we trying to accomplish here?” Eventually, you’ll get to something that you both agree on, even if it’s just as simple as you both want the best for people.
For example, climate change. If two people are having a disagreement about climate change, can they at least come to the common ground that they both care about the environment and earth? They might disagree on how to tackle the issue, but at least they can approach the conversation with the understanding that they have the same goal – and hopefully be more open to re-think.
I started to approach things like that, and I think it goes hand-in-hand with the concept of finding joy in being wrong. I think that part of the book was super interesting.
To answer the second part of your question, like I said, I really enjoyed the book. There was almost nothing in this book that I didn’t appreciate… until the very end. In the last chapter, when Adam Grant approaches the subject of grit. In the chapter, he talks about his brother becoming a doctor – and his brother was the golden child in that aspect – but he’s not super happy as a doctor. He talks about how sometimes grit can work against us in a way. Meaning if you’re so gritty, you could be going after something that you may or may not like, or a path that isn’t going to fulfill you. But because you’re so gritty, you don’t give up.
In this instance, I would’ve loved to have heard a little bit more about where he thinks the fine line is between grit and doing something that is hard.
Thanks for that, John. I do recommend this book to read. It was very informational with a lot of storytelling and great points. Before I hand it back to you, Marc, I wanted to share some of the main things we discussed today:
- Marc said one of the biggest takeaways to him was to think like a scientist and be able to pivot.
- Kayla talked about how it’s possible to take joy in being wrong – that’s the point of learning after all.
- John touched on how arguments can turn into conversations if we’re willing to be open and to find common ground.
So Marc, I’ll hand it back over to you to wrap up the show.
Thanks, Kyra. So that sums up this episode of The Agent of Wealth Podcast. We’ll be back with another episode of the book club next month where we will discuss Die with Zero: Getting All You Can from Your Money and Your Life. This book was recommended by a listener. When you hear “Die with Zero” you probably think it’s referring to running out of money, but it isn’t. It’s more about making the most of your life before you die.
On that note, if any other listeners have a good book recommendation, let us know. We’re always open to reading your suggestions.
So, thank you to everyone who tuned in to today’s episode. Don’t forget to follow The Agent of Wealth on the platform you listen from and leave us a review of the show. We are currently accepting new clients, if you’d like to schedule a 1-on-1 consultation with our advisors, please do so below.