Book Review: Think Like a Freak


"The modern world demands that we all think a bit more productively, more creatively, more rationally; that we think from a different angle, with a different set of muscles, with a different set of expectations; that we think with neither fear nor favor, with neither blind optimism nor sour skepticism. That we think like—ahem—a Freak."

Think Like a Freak is the 2014 book from Freakonomics bloggers and podcasters Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner. This time around, they focus on capitalizing on their previous works and showing us all how to think a little differently.

I'm a big fan of the Freakonomics podcast, and I wanted to check out some of their writing so this recent work seemed like a great placed to jump in. I appreciated the idea of taking their perspective into action, since a lot of articles and books will simple present a viewpoint and then not give examples of how to put it into action, so I'm glad they took it the next step here.

Topics in the book include incentives, problem solving, metrics, and knowing when to step back when you don't know something. The authors showcase very different perspectives on conventional wisdom, which I think we can all use more of in our lives.

"Solving a problem is hard enough; it gets that much harder if you’ve decided beforehand it can’t be done."

The advice I gleamed after reading the book is be more curious, be less stubborn, and measure success. All of these can be easier said than done but it is crucial to simplifying our complicated world to do our best to do our best to live these values. We can't assume success, assume we know all the answers, and stop asking questions. We'll become stagnant in a world that will quickly leave us behind.

"...the stakes get higher when we routinely pretend to know more than we do."

I encourage you to check out all of the Freakonomics stuff out there. It is great stuff to get outside of the normal framework of how we look at our world. I know you'll get some valuable advice from their work.

Thanks for stopping by!

On Being a History Major in Student Affairs

History+Homepage+ImageReflecting back to my recent interviews, I found myself conceptualizing myself as being someone who, due in large part to my history major at the University of Delaware, needs to have some context to things to be able to fully understand and appreciate them. It could be current events and their historical precedence, or it could be an initiative from a supervisor and wanting some further explanation behind why we are doing something besides "because I said so" or "because that's how we've always done it". I need something more than that. What I need to hear contextually as a proud history major working in student affairs is a logical context preceding our actions. I need to hear that a new effort is backed up by theory, data, or exceptional practices from colleagues and fellow higher education institutions. We should never be making decisions, in student affairs or otherwise, on whims or emotions or simply personal anecdotes. We need to pull from more credible bases.

A history professor I had in college once told me that the study of our past is captured well by the metaphor of "a turtle on a fencepost". This means to say that the turtle could not have possibly gotten up on that fencepost on its own. Someone had to do something to put it there. Pretty much every major thing happening in the world today is like that turtle. It was caused by the actions of someone or something. It is crucial for us to understand these phenomena and causes, as to not repeat the mistakes of the past.

While this contextual philosophy of mine was garnered from a very macro perspective, I see it being highly applicable to the work I do on a micro level every day. We need to learn from the past to improve for the future. We need to build upon the successes we've had, avoid making the mistakes again we've made before, and work to continuously improve to better serve our students.

I don't think I wasted my undergraduate degree coming into student affairs. I think it has made me a better professional.