logo 12min

Start growing!

Boost your life and career with the best book summaries.

Start growing!

Boost your life and career with the best book summaries.

logo 12min

Think Like a Freak Summary

11 min read ⌚ 

MicroSummaryAfter their two bestsellers, Freakonomics and SuperFreakonomics, authors Steven Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner received numerous correspondences to comment on and solve important human issues such as obesity or hunger. As a result, we decided to write ‘Think Like a Freak Summary‘ to teach people how to efficiently solve problems, from the simplest to the most complicated. This microbook will help you think in an unconventional way and ask the right questions to make decisions and analyze issues. Thinking like a freak will lead you to analyze and solve any problem by looking at it from a completely different perspective.

Whether you want to solve a small personal problem or a large-scale global one, Levitt and Dubner’s Think Like a Freak will show you how to look at it from a different perspective.

Turning to magic, they explain why adults are easier to fool than children. Surprised by this?


Don’t listen to what people say; watch what they do.

“Think Like a Freak Summary”

Adults have developed a sense of expectations and assumptions about the way the world works, which can be easily exploited. Kids, on the other hand, don’t know enough about the world for that to happen. They’re curious, their attention wanders and they notice tricks more easily.

Recognizing That You Do Not Have All The Answers Is The First Step

The most frightening phrase in any language is “I do not know”. We get scared when we do not know enough and when we need to admit it. What is wrong with not knowing the answer to something? Why are we always pretending to know?

We hate to admit it, but we do not know much about the world or about the things that are in it. Most of the time, what we know – or what we think we know – is based on information received by politicians, leaders, and the media. Unfortunately, this information is not reliable.

Besides not knowing about the world, sometimes we do not even know ourselves. We should know ourselves very well since we spend a lot of time in our own company, but it is not what often happens.

Another point is that just because you’re good at something does not mean you’re good at everything. It sounds simple, doesn’t it? Unfortunately, human nature ensures that most people give opinions or suggestions outside their area of expertise.

That can be disastrous and sometimes lead to wars or economic problems.

Despite the potentially disastrous consequences, most are afraid to say “I do not know” because of the personal outcomes. Imagine if a politician admitted that he did not know anything? He could be accused of incompetence and probably would not be in his position for long.

The reality is that saying “I do not know” can bring many benefits. Being honest allows you to look at things from a different perspective. It allows you to try – a thing that many, beyond scientists, are afraid to do. Experimenting gives us valuable feedback and can also be fun.

Experimenting, allows you to question the status quo and learn useful lessons.

To admit that we do not know something, although difficult, can be liberating and enlightening. When we admit it, we will take action to find the answer, we will experiment, and we will find results that will be very helpful in resolving our problem.

Failure Can Help You Be Successful

Most of us have heard from childhood that giving up is unacceptable. The words “failure” and “loser” are fixed in our brain as things we do not want for ourselves. We can see the effects these words can have on someone, such as depression. Also, these feelings can prevent a person from moving forward.

Giving up is counter-intuitive, and failure is not an option. Therefore, both are avoided like the plague. But what if failing could make us successful?

Researchers have been conducting studies on projects that have already failed. These researchers try to find out what caused the failure in these projects to prevent them from making the same mistakes in the future. But now they are doing a new type of research.

In these analyzes, researchers try to anticipate everything that could go wrong in a project and think of solutions to repair the weaker areas before failure occurs. In both cases, failure – whether anticipated or not – can help people and projects be smarter, stronger, and safer.

Other researchers are trying to find out if there is any real benefit in giving up. A psychology professor at Concordia University conducted a study to determine the effect of giving up unmet goals.

He found that those who gave up developed less depression and fewer physical manifestations of stress than those who did not give up on those goals. Of course, the first step is to determine whether the goal is achievable or not.

Think Like a Freak Summary

Begin Curious As a Child Helps Solve Problems

Children are known for their curiosity. They question everything and demand immediate answers. Moreover, they have no prejudices. Otherwise, adults have a habit of developing opinions based on preconceived ideas rather than facts.

To truly think like a freak, it’s important to think like a child. The first step is to think small. This is another concept that may seem counterintuitive.

Observe the example of Isaac Newton. He is considered one of the greatest minds in history. However, even he acknowledged that man has its limitations and that studying something as complex as nature is very difficult for a person.

Think Like a Freak(function(d,id){if(d.getElementById(id))return;var scr=d.createElement(‘script’);scr.src=’https://widget.12min.com/v0.2.0/widget.js’;scr.id=id;d.body.appendChild(scr);})(document,’12min-widget-sdk’);window.twelveminInit=function twelveminInit(){};
Instead, he recommended that each person should focus on studying and asking questions on simpler subjects so that they could answer each other’s questions more accurately.

An interesting point about problems is that most of the time, the simplest questions are not asked. People often ask more complicated questions, because the problem is not simple, at least in their eyes. If it were an easy problem, it would not be a hindrance.

Another interesting idea is that most problems are actually a combination of minor issues. So when you ask simple questions, you can find the solutions to the minor problems that will help you find the solutions to the big problems.

How to behave like a child? Having fun, of course! The more you have fun in the problem-solving process, the more you’ll appreciate your solution. If you like something – sports, movies, or books – do not be afraid to admit you like it.

Enjoy, be curious as a child and free yourself from your dogmas, premises, and expectations.

Leaving Yout Moral Aside Helps You Solve Problems

Our morals, the feeling of what is right or wrong, that serves as a guide in our lives can hinder us to solve problems. Usually, morale is a positive and useful tool, but sometimes it can get in our way.

When you are consumed by the concepts of right and wrong, your judgment is compromised, and it can be difficult to focus on your tasks. Being obsessed with what is right or wrong means sometimes that people can not even explain what the problem is.

This obsession can cause mental blindness. Some end up believing that things are always conventional, when in fact they are not.

This also means that they think they know everything about a subject, even when that is not true. In other words, being consumed by your morals can make you inflexible.

Think about the problem of suicide: a subject that few want to discuss and that is considered a taboo. Still, in the United States, the number of suicides per year is twice as high as the number of homicides.

Obviously, morality prevents people from discussing it, and that does not help anyone. Researcher David Lester decided to leave his morale aside and look at suicide from other angles.

He then created the theory that “no one is guilty,” based on the fact that suicide is more common among people who have a higher quality of life.

He argues that if you can not blame your unhappiness on an external cause, then the only option is to blame yourself. But even this theory cannot answer all the questions about suicide.

No one went as far as Lester, putting his morale aside and realizing that things have different points of view and looking for solutions from different angles.

When we learn to put aside our morals, however important it may be, we learn to look at problems differently. We can listen to the other side of the story, to ask more questions and research.

In the end, when we let go of our personal feelings about something, we can learn much more about a subject, situation or person.

Asking The Right Questions Helps Find The Right Answers

Some people think they have all the answers. That is a strange scenario. Why? First of all, no one has all the answers. And secondly, many people do not even have the right questions.

When we face a problem, the question may seem obvious. However, this is not always the case, and this assumption can be dangerous. If we ask the wrong questions, we will certainly have the wrong answers.

So when we present the wrong answers as a solution to the problem, several disruptions may occur.

The United States faces a major problem related to education. For many, based on their biased opinions on the educational system, the reason for the problem seems simple – there are many bad teachers. But is it that simple?

People in favor of education reform are looking at the classes and schools’ sizes, school administration, investments, and teachers skills.

hat about the role of the family in the child’s life? Knowing that a child only stays in school only 22% of the time they are awake, could their home life be a factor as well?

Many problems that society and individuals face are not one-dimensional. There are many sides to every situation. However, some of these sides are more visible than others, and it is easy to worry about them.

Whenever we have a problem, it is important not to look only at what is most visible and to remember that many other factors need to be considered. When we do that, we can get to the heart of the matter and define the problem correctly. So we can then start working on a solution.

Thinking Strategically Prevents You From Being Fooled

People are very fond of talking, and sometimes they will not be honest with you. Sometimes they will say what they believe you want to hear, simply because they want your approval. Other times, they can tell you what you want to hear because they do not want to be questioned.

So much information is useless, and we need to filter it. The best way is to think strategically.

Two great examples of this are King Solomon of Israel and David Lee Roth of Van Halen.

They presented King Solomon with a big problem: there were two women, and each had a child. One of the women’s son died and, while the other slept, the first one exchanged her dead baby for the second live.

Women know their children and the woman who had her child stolen was no different.

They went to the king to solve the problem. Both said that the living child was theirs and that the other woman was lying. After thinking carefully, King Solomon told the women he would take a sword and divide the child in half, giving each half to a woman.

The first woman, who was the true mother, begged the king not to do it, and to give the child to the other woman so he could live.

The second woman told the king to proceed and kill the child so that none of them complained again. Solomon delivered the child to the first woman, knowing that the true mother would not harm her own child.

David Lee Roth had a 53-page contract written for the Van Halen concerts. The contract specified the rules for food, drink, safety and technical issues in the arena. One of the demands was that the band wanted M & Ms, except for the Browns.

As soon as the band arrived in the arena, Roth checked the M & Ms. If there were brown M & Ms, he knew they had not read the contract.

If the arena staff did not deliver the correct M & Ms, could they be trusted as to the safety, lights and other equipment that made Van Halen’s epic concerts?

Thinking strategically allowed these two men to succeed.

People constantly told them what they wanted to hear, but because they thought strategically, they were able to find out who was lying and who was telling the truth. What is the moral of these stories?

Many people in the world are smart and will tell you anything you want to hear. But you can be smarter than them and prevent yourself from being misled or cheated.     

Think Like a Freak PDF

Looking At The Root Cause Will Take You To The Solution

We tend to be lazy or to believe that the solution to the problem is right in front of us. We want the solution to be obvious so that the problem is resolved quickly.

Often, especially with global problems such as violence and disease, the root of the problem is not so easily discovered.

These are huge problems that need solutions and to find them we need to think like a freak. What would a freak do in this kind of complicated situation?

A freak knows that if the root of the problem is simple, the solution would already have been found. So a freak would work hard to identify the real root of the problem.

Many say the problems of poverty or food shortages are caused by a lack of food or money. If that were really the root, then sending food and money to countries suffering from this problem would solve everything.

Over the years, we have seen the efforts of many people and organizations who have used this approach, and yet we still live in a world where poverty and food scarcity prevail.

A deeper study found that corruption is the real root of these problems and is much harder to solve than lack of money or food. While the solution to this particular problem can be tricky, it was very important to find out its cause to start making progress in the area.

The same can be true for personal problems. Finding the cause puts you on the right path to finding a solution.

Levitt and Dubner want to teach us to think like kids again, to see past our assumptions and expectations to find new, surprising solutions. It’s a new way of dealing with whatever problems we’ll encounter.

Learn why an Australian doctor willingly swallowed harmful bacteria, the secrets of a Japanese hot-dog-eating champion, and why Nigerian princes asking you for money over email make a point of telling you their nationality – the sort of random, absurd ideas a child might have.

Learn to retrain your brain with Think Like a Freak. Check out our top nuggets from the book below, and find out why “I don’t know” are the 3 hardest words to say.

Final Notes:

We all have problems that we want to solve. It can be a personal matter or some serious matter that affects many people around the world. No matter the case, to find functional solutions to our problems, we should think outside the box. It’s the only way to really find an answer.

People have solved problems from the beginning of mankind. Only those who thought differently from most were able to find solutions and progress. If you look at the history of humanity, you will see how great men and women were able to bring about change because they considered the problems from a different perspective.

Normal people were also able to adopt strategies similar to the great minds of humanity and achieve incredible things in their lives. From avoiding being fooled by someone to eating 20 pizza slices instead of 10 – people who think outside the box get real solutions.

Whatever your goal or problem, with the help of these authors, you will be able to think of functional solutions if you think like a ‘freak.’

logo 12min

Improve Your Reading Habits in 28 days

Explore key insights and ideas from 2500+ titles in audio and text

logo 12min

Improve Your Reading Habits in 28 days

Explore key insights and ideas from 2500+ titles in audio and text

Scroll to Top