Join Blinkist to get the key ideas from
Get the key ideas from
Get the key ideas from

Think Like a Freak

Find the unconvential yet brilliant ideas hidden in data

By Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner
  • Read in 16 minutes
  • Audio & text available
  • Contains 10 key ideas
Upgrade to Premium Read or listen now
Think Like a Freak by Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner

Think Like A Freak is a blueprint for thinking unconventionally and creatively. It demonstrates the benefits of letting go of conventional wisdoms, and teaches you to dig deeper to find out how things really work. By learning to think like a "freak", you’ll gain access to an entirely new way of solving problems and making sense of the world.

Key idea 1 of 10

Thinking like a freak means violating conventions; it might win you the World Cup but won’t necessarily make you popular.

When we try to solve problems, most of us are guided by conventional beliefs. However, there’s a problem with conventional beliefs: they’re often wrong.

Take, for example, the “local food” movement. Most people believe that consuming local food reduces environmental impact.

However, a recent study found that this movement was actually counterproductive because the small farms it supports consume more energy for production, outweighing any positive effects of reduced transportation.

This is exactly what thinking like a freak is about: basing one's beliefs and decisions on statistical evidence, rather than conventional wisdom.

But how can this be of use in everyday life? Well, for one thing, thinking like a freak can help you to solve problems.

For example, imagine you’re a soccer player about to make a penalty kick which could win your team the World Cup.

How can you increase your chances of scoring? If you’re right-footed, as most players are, aiming towards the left will result in a stronger, more accurate kick. Goalkeepers are aware of this strategy, so 57 percent of the time they’ll jump to the kicker’s left side, and 41 percent to the right.

Interestingly, however, keepers remain in the goal’s center only two percent of the time, so a kick “straight up the middle” is seven percent more likely to be successful than a kick to either corner.

But while thinking like a freak has many advantages, it might also put your popularity at risk.

For example, only 17 percent of all penalties in professional soccer are aimed towards the center.


Because it’s such an obvious violation of the conventions. Also, if the goalkeeper remains in the center and catches the ball with zero effort, the penalty-taker might well lose the faith of his fans.

Or, for example, imagine how popular you’ll be when you tell a “locavore” friend that the local-food movement actually hurts the environment!

Upgrade to continue Read or listen now

Key ideas in this title

Upgrade to continue Read or listen now

Learn more, live more

Sign up now to learn and grow every day with the key ideas from top nonfiction and podcasts in 15 minutes.