Book summary of Think Like a Freak

If you like reading business books, you may reading the sensation that was Freakonomics. Written by University of Chicago economist Steven Levitt and New York Times journalist Stephen Dubner, Freakonomics was a melding of pop culture and economics that shed light on economics for millions of people who weren’t really that into economics. It was informative, but not that applicable to your daily life unless you happened to be a sumo wrestler. (Sumo wrestling was one of the examples explored in the first chapter of the book.)

Now, though, Levitt and Dubner have teamed up again for a book with some solid, direct application to daily life. Their new book, Think Like a Freak, teaches readers how to think more productively, creatively, and rationally. The authors dub that sort of thinking “thinking like a Freak.”

The book revisits some of the topics in the Freakonomics, most notably one of the particularly controversial discussions in which the authors explored a connection between legalized abortion and a fall in violent crime. In this case, though, that discussion is brought up largely to point out the controversy it caused – it’s a topic that makes many people squeamish. To think like a Freak, though, you need to learn to think without any restrictions and thus you need to learn not to avoid topics just because they make you or the people around you uncomfortable.

Here are some of the steps that the authors present for thinking like a Freak:

Be humble.

Many problems are harder than you think, and if you go in thinking that it’s too easy, you probably won’t put in the necessary effort in order to come up with a really good solution. You’ll run into problems if you assume everything is easier than it is; if you assume everything is harder than it is, the worst that can happen if you’ll do it too well.

Consider incentives.

Incentives basically rule the world. They are the foundation for economics and understanding incentives can go a long way toward helping you succeed in business and in life.

Admit what you don’t know.

It is difficult to learn what you don’t know if you cannot admit that you don’t know it.

Know that being right is usually not enough.

Presenting somebody with data to prove your point is not necessarily enough – you need to learn how to be persuasive. Being persuasive is more important than being right oftentimes.


Sometimes you need to know when to quit. If something just isn’t working out, you need to know when to throw in the towel in order to start on the next thing, the thing that will work out.