90 Top Quotes From The Art of Thinking Clearly

In "The Art of Thinking Clearly," Rolf Dobelli skillfully unravels the cognitive biases and fallacies that plague human decision-making processes. With a clear and engaging writing style, Dobelli presents a comprehensive catalog of these mental pitfalls, offering readers an invaluable toolkit to enhance their critical thinking abilities. Through a wide array of real-life examples, he explores how concepts like confirmation bias, sunk cost fallacy, and availability heuristic distort our perceptions of reality and lead us astray in making rational choices.

Dobelli's work urges us to confront our ingrained thought patterns and embrace a more disciplined and systematic approach to decision-making. By raising awareness of our cognitive blind spots, "The Art of Thinking Clearly" empowers us to navigate the complexities of life with greater insight and make more informed choices, ultimately paving the way for better outcomes and a deeper understanding of the human mind. (The Art of Thinking Clearly Summary).

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The Art of Thinking Clearly Quotes

"If 50 million people say something foolish, it is still foolish.”

"How do you curb envy? First, stop comparing yourself to others. Second, find your “circle of competence” and fill it on your own. Create a niche where you are the best. It doesn’t matter how small your area of mastery is. The main thing is that you are king of the castle.”

"Whether we like it or not, we are puppets of our emotions. We make complex decisions by consulting our feelings, not our thoughts. Against our best intentions, we substitute the question, “What do I think about this?” with “How do I feel about this?” So, smile! Your future depends on it.” (Meaning)

"If your only tool is a hammer, all your problems will be nails,”

"As paradoxical as it sounds: The best way to shield yourself from nasty surprises is to anticipate them.”

"We must learn to close doors. A business strategy is primarily a statement on what not to engage in. Adopt a life strategy similar to a corporate strategy: Write down what not to pursue in your life. In other words, make calculated decisions to disregard certain possibilities and when an option shows up, test it against your not-to-pursue list. It will not only keep you from trouble but also save you lots of thinking time. Think hard once and then just consult your list instead of having to make up your mind whenever a new door cracks open. Most doors are not worth entering, even when the handle seems to turn so effortlessly.”

"Assume that your worldview is not borne by the public. More than that: Do not assume that those who think differently are idiots. Before you distrust them, question your own assumptions.”

"It’s OK to be envious – but only of the person you aspire to become.”

"There are two kinds of forecasters: those who don’t know, and those who don’t know they don’t know,”

"We are drunk on our own ideas. To sober up, take a step back every now and then and examine their quality in hindsight. Which of your ideas from the past ten years were truly outstanding? Exactly.”

"Certain people make a living from their abilities, such as pilots, plumbers, and lawyers. In other areas, skill is necessary but not critical, as with entrepreneurs and leaders. Finally, chance is the deciding factor in a number of fields, such as in financial markets. Here, the illusion of skill pervades. So, give plumbers due respect and chuckle at successful financial jesters.”

"Facts do not cease to exist because they are ignored,’ said writer Aldous Huxley.”

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"It is much more common that we overestimate our knowledge than that we underestimate it.”

"Do you have at least one enemy? Good. Invite him or her over for coffee and ask for an honest opinion about your strengths and weaknesses. You will be forever grateful you did.”

"Stories attract us; abstract details repel us. Consequently, entertaining side issues and backstories are prioritised over relevant facts.”

"While his school was closed due to an outbreak of plague in 1666–67, twenty-five-year-old Isaac Newton showed his professor, Isaac Barrow, what research he was conducting in his spare time. Barrow immediately gave up his job as a professor and became a student of Newton. What a noble gesture. What ethical behavior. When was the last time you heard of a professor vacating his post in favor of a better candidate? And when was the last time you read about a CEO clearing out his desk when he realized that one of his twenty thousand employees could do a better job?”

"Excel spreadsheets might as well be one of the most dangerous recent inventions.”

"Do you want to influence the behaviour of people or organisations? You could always preach about values and visions, or you could appeal to reason. But in nearly every case, incentives work better. These need not be monetary; anything is useable, from good grades to Nobel Prizes to special treatment in the afterlife.”

"Should you ever be sent to war, and you don’t agree with its goals, desert.”

"If you ever find yourself in a tight, unanimous group, you must speak your mind, even if your team does not like it.”

"No matter how much you have already invested, only your assessment of the future costs and benefits counts.”

"The human brain seeks patterns and rules. In fact, it takes it one step further: If it finds no familiar patterns, it simply invents some.”

"We are obsessed with having as many irons as possible in the fire, ruling nothing out and being open to everything. However, this can easily destroy success. We must learn to close doors.”

"Verbal expression is the mirror of the mind. Clear thoughts become clear statements, whereas ambiguous ideas transform into vacant ramblings.”

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"This is how top investor Warren Buffett does things: “Each deal we measure against the second-best deal that is available at any given time—even if it means doing more of what we are already doing.”

"Trust your internal observations too much and too long, and you might be in for a very rude awakening. Second, we believe that our introspections are more reliable than those of others, which creates an illusion of superiority. Remedy: Be all the more critical with yourself. Regard your internal observations with the same skepticism as claims from some random person. Become your own toughest critic.”

"We attach too much likelihood to spectacular, flashy or loud outcomes. Anything silent or invisible we downgrade in our minds. Our brains imagine show-stopping outcomes more readily than mundane ones. We think dramatically, not quantitatively.”

"In psychology, this phenomenon is called reactance: when we are deprived of an option, we suddenly deem it more attractive. It is a kind of act of defiance. It is also known as the Romeo and Juliet effect: because the love between the tragic Shakespearean teenagers is forbidden, it knows no bounds.”

"If you have nothing to say, say nothing.’ Simplicity is the zenith of a long, arduous journey, not the starting point.”

"Aesop fable. “You can play the clever fox all you want—but you’ll never get the grapes that way.”

"Become your own toughest critic.”

"Be all the more critical with yourself.”

"Emotions form in the brain, just as crystal-clear, rational thoughts do. They are merely a different form of information processing – more primordial, but not necessarily an inferior variant. In fact, sometimes they provide the wiser counsel.”

"English novelist W. Somerset Maugham’s wise words: “If fifty million people say something foolish, it is still foolish.”

"Negative knowledge (what not to do) is much more potent than positive knowledge (what to do).”

"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’).”

"In daily life, because triumph is made more visible than failure, you systematically overestimate your chances of succeeding.”

"Only the best will do? In this age of unlimited variety, rather the opposite is true: ‘good enough’ is the new optimum”

"Trying to be happier is as futile as trying to be taller.”

"If you ever find yourself in a tight, unanimous group, you must speak your mind, even if your team does not like it. Question tacit assumptions, even if you risk expulsion from the warm nest. And, if you lead a group, appoint someone as devil’s advocate. She will not be the most popular member of the team, but she might be the most important.”

"Use these scientifically rubber-stamped pointers to make better, brighter decisions: (a) Avoid negative things that you cannot grow accustomed to, such as commuting, noise, or chronic stress. (b) Expect only short-term happiness from material things, such as cars, houses, lottery winnings, bonuses, and prizes. (c) Aim for as much free time and autonomy as possible since long-lasting positive effects generally come from what you actively do. Follow your passions even if you must forfeit a portion of your income for them. Invest in friendships.”

"Do your best to get by with the bare facts. It will help you make better decisions. Superfluous knowledge is worthless, whether you know it or not.”

"Therefore, any knowledge that stems from an untrustworthy source gains credibility over time. The discrediting force melts away faster than the message does.”

"Whoever hopes to think clearly must understand the difference between risk and uncertainty.”

"General Electric, Jack Welch. He once said in an interview: ‘You would not believe how difficult it is to be simple and clear. People are afraid that they may be seen as a simpleton. In reality, just the opposite is true.”

"All of humanity’s problems stem from man’s inability to sit quietly in a room alone,” wrote Blaise Pascal.”

"In conclusion: In new or shaky circumstances, we feel compelled to do something, anything. Afterward we feel better, even if we have made things worse by acting too quickly or too often. So, though it might not merit a parade in your honor, if a situation is unclear, hold back until you can assess your options”

"The fear of losing something motivates people more than the prospect of gaining something of equal value.”

"The action bias causes us to offset a lack of clarity with futile hyperactivity and comes into play when a situation is fuzzy, muddy, or contradictory.”

"Rational decision making requires you to forget about the costs incurred to date. No matter how much you have already invested, only your assessment of the future costs and benefits counts.”

"Management gurus push employees in large companies to be bolder and more entrepreneurial. The reality is: employees tend to be risk-averse. From their perspective, this aversion makes perfect sense: why risk something that brings them, at best, a nice bonus, and at worst, a pink slip? The downside is larger than the upside. In almost all companies and situations, safeguarding your career trumps any potential reward. So, if you’ve been scratching your head about the lack of risk-taking among your employees, you now know why."

"If you spend fifteen minutes in a shopping mall, you will pass more people than our ancestors saw during their entire lifetimes.”

"Live each day as if it were your last’ is a good idea – once a week.”

"A mathematician is afraid of flying due to the small risk of a terrorist attack. So, on every flight he takes a bomb with him in his hand luggage. ‘The probability of having a bomb on the plane is very low,’ he reasons, ‘and the probability of having two bombs on the same plane is virtually zero!”

"Mirroring is a standard technique in sales to get exactly this effect. Here, the salesperson tries to copy the gestures, language, and facial expressions of his prospective client. If the buyer speaks very slowly and quietly, often scratching his head, it makes sense for the seller to speak slowly and quietly, and to scratch his head now and then, too.”

"Similarly, we fail to notice how our money disappears. It constantly loses its value, but we do not notice because inflation happens over time. If it were imposed on us in the form of a brutal tax (and basically that’s what it is), we would be outraged.”

"When you hear hoofbeats behind you, don’t expect to see a zebra.”

"The typical response to scarcity is a lapse in clear thinking. Assess products and services solely on the basis of their price and benefits. It should be of no importance if an item is disappearing fast, nor if any doctors from London take an interest.”

"Survivorship bias can become especially pernicious when you become a member of the ‘winning’ team. Even if your success stems from pure coincidence, you’ll discover similarities with other winners and be tempted to mark these as ‘success factors’. However, if you ever visit the graveyard of failed individuals and companies, you will realise that its tenants possessed many of the same traits that characterize your success.”

"In a complex world, distribution is becoming more and more irregular. In other words, we will observe the Bill Gates phenomenon in ever more domains. How many visits does an average website get?”

"Social comparison bias had kicked in—that is, the tendency to withhold assistance to people who might outdo you, even if you look like a fool in the long run.”

"Named the effect the “man with the hammer tendency”

"Eliminate the downside, the thinking errors, and the upside will take care of itself. This is all we need to know.”

"His back pain was sometimes better, sometimes worse. There were days when he felt like he could move mountains, and those when he could barely move. When that was the case – fortunately it happened only rarely – his wife would drive him to the chiropractor. The next day he would feel much more mobile and would recommend the therapist to everyone. Another man, younger and with a respectable”

"You will be amazed to find that, over time, the original goals have faded. These have been replaced, quietly and secretly, with self-set goals that are always attainable. If you hear of such targets, alarm bells should sound. It is the equivalent of shooting an arrow and drawing a bull's-eye around where it lands.”

"Money is not naked; it is wrapped in an emotional shroud.”

"The greatest obstacle to discovery is not ignorance—it is the illusion of knowledge.”

"In situations where the possible consequences are large, I try to be as reasonable and rational as possible when choosing. I take out my list of errors, and check them off one by one, just like a pilot does. In situations where the consequences are small, I forget about rational optimization and let my intuition take over.”

"We treat money that we win, discover, or inherit much more frivolously than hard-earned cash. The economist Richard Thaler calls this the house-money effect.”

"Advertising creates a link between products and emotions.”

"Put yourself in situations where you can catch a ride on a positive Black Swan. Become an artist, inventor or entrepreneur with a scale-able product. If you sell your time (e.g. as an employee, dentist or journalist), you are waiting in vain for such a break.”

"We often condemn bearers of bad news, since we automatically associate them with the message’s content (otherwise known as shoot-the-messenger syndrome). Sometimes, CEOs and investors (unconsciously) steer clear of these harbingers, meaning the only news that reaches the upper echelons is positive, thus creating a distorted view of the real situation. If you lead a group of people, and don’t want to fall prey to false connections, direct your staff to tell you only the bad news – and fast. With this, you overcompensate for the shoot-the-messenger syndrome and, believe me, you will still hear enough positive news.”

"Association bias – the tendency to see connections where none exist.”

"Do you often overlook the alternatives? Forget about the rock and the hard place, and open your eyes to the other, superior alternatives.”

"We are obsessed with having as many irons as possible in the fire, ruling nothing out and being open to everything. However, this can easily destroy success. We must learn to close doors. A business strategy is primarily a statement on what not to engage in. Adopt a life strategy similar to a corporate strategy: write down what not to pursue in your life.”

"Risk means that the probabilities are known. Uncertainty means that the probabilities are unknown.”

"That’s a perfectly disastrous way to think and a perfectly disastrous way to operate in the world.”

"Driven by initial success, many investors pumped their life savings into Internet stocks in the late 1990s. Some even took out loans to capitalise on the opportunity. However, these investors overlooked one tiny detail: their amazing profits at the time had nothing to do with their stock-picking abilities. The market was simply on an upward spiral. Even the most clueless investors won big. When the market finally turned downward, many were left facing mountains of dot-com debt.”

"There may be good reasons to continue investing in something to finalize it. But beware of doing so for the wrong reasons, such as to justify non-recoverable investments. Rational decision-making requires you to forget about the costs incurred to date. No matter how much you have already invested, only your assessment of the future costs and benefits counts.”

"Social proof is the evil behind bubbles and stock market panic. It exists in fashion, management techniques, hobbies, religion, and diets. It can paralyze whole cultures, such as when sects commit collective suicide.”

"In the third century BC, General Xiang Yu sent his army across the Yangtze River to take on the Qin dynasty. While his troops slept, he ordered all the ships to be set alight. The next day he told them: “You now have a choice: Either you fight to win or you die.” By removing the option of retreat, he switched their focus to the only thing that mattered: the battle.”

"An unrealized loss isn't as painful as realized one.”

"Comedy and talk shows make use of social proof by inserting canned laughter at strategic spots, inciting the audience to laugh along.”

― Quotes from the book The Art of Thinking Clearly by Rolf Dobelli

The Art of Thinking Clearly Author

Rolf Dobelli is a thought-provoking author and thinker, recognized for his insightful exploration of cognitive biases and decision-making pitfalls that influence our everyday lives. In his book "The Art of Thinking Clearly," Dobelli presents a captivating collection of cognitive errors, logical fallacies, and psychological illusions that impact human judgment. His writing style is clear, concise, and intellectually stimulating, making behavioral economics and psychology accessible to a wide audience. Dobelli's work challenges readers to recognize their own cognitive blind spots and question their automatic thought processes. By understanding these biases, individuals can make more rational and informed choices in various aspects of life, from personal finance to relationships and beyond. Rolf Dobelli's enlightening contributions continue to empower readers to sharpen their critical thinking skills and navigate the complexities of decision-making with greater clarity and wisdom.

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Chief Editor

Tal Gur is an author, founder, and impact-driven entrepreneur at heart. After trading his daily grind for a life of his own daring design, he spent a decade pursuing 100 major life goals around the globe. His journey and most recent book, The Art of Fully Living, has led him to found Elevate Society.

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