Today, I am reviewing two books. I think their subject matter is complementary. They are Thinking in Bets: Making Smarter Decisions When You Don’t Have All the Facts by Annie Dukes and Success and Luck: Good Fortune and the Myth of Meritocracy by Robert Frank. These two books look at the phenomenon of luck and randomness in our lives and how to put it into perspective, overcome cognitive bias, and make good decisions despite bad outcomes. Few people realize how much luck and randomness influence the course of our lives and the role cognitive bias plays. In some cases, without the bias to minimizing the role of luck in our lives, people who spend a lifetime working hard to succeed might reduce their effort and become less successful. Hard work and superior intelligence are required to be among the front runners. It is at this point luck or randomness can have a significant role in choosing among the essentially equal competitors. Cognitive bias can also play a negative role in our decision process. Both books are relatively short, and I think are well worth the time to read. As an added “bonus”, Mr. Frank includes a plan for tax reform, based on a slightly unique concept, in the last part of his book. I think the plan has merit, but I question putting it in a book about luck, but then who would buy a book about tax theory? He’s just trying to get as much exposure for the plan as possible. The book by Annie Dukes has some interesting anecdotes in it from her career as a professional gambler.
I selected Thinking in Bets based on another glowing review I read and ended up popping for $19 because my library and its online resource partner didn’t have it. As “luck” would have it, I picked the other book by its cover while looking for another book at my local library. The fact I read either of the books was based on random events, this time with good outcomes.