Personal Wealth Management / The Well-Read Investor

Episode 10: Annie Duke

World champion Poker player, Annie Duke and Well-Read Investor Host, Michael Hanson examine how you can learn investment skills from the game of Poker.

We’re so excited to have Annie Duke on the program to discuss two of her books, Thinking in Bets, a big national bestseller 2018, and her just released How to Decide: Simple Tools for making better choices.

Annie is a poker world champion with more than $4 million in tournament winnings since retiring in 2012. Prior to that, she studied Cognitive Psychology at the University of Pennsylvania, and these days she is an author, corporate speaker, and consultant in the decision-making space.

Annie is on the program because we’re fascinated by those who can take theoretical ideas and actually apply them in the field of human behavior. Lots of amateur investors fancy themselves poker stars, I know a few—and they lose money at the table the same way they do in markets: with a lack of introspection and overconfidence. Annie is different: she took the psychology of her studies and truly applied it to become a champion. The discipline that requires, let alone the skill, are things every serious investor should strive toward.

More broadly though, we should listen to Annie because decisions are pretty much all you have control of in your life. You should study your decisions, why you make them, and how you can continually improve them. Decision quality over a lifetime plays a huge role in your quality of life, it’s that simple. You can follow Annie on Twitter @AnnieDuke or read more about her on her website

WRI is on twitter @Wellreadpod and Instagram @wellreadinvestorpod.

For more of The Well-Read Investor, follow us on Twitter @Wellreadpod or Instagram @wellreadinvestorpod. If you have any questions, want to be on the show, or want to tell us what you think – send us an email!

Full Episode 10 Transcript

Michael Hanson:

Hello and welcome to the latest edition of the Well-Read Investor, the podcast that profits your mind and your money. I’m your host Mike Hanson.

Oh, we’re so excited to have Annie Duke on the program to discuss two of her books, Thinking in Bets, a big national bestseller 2018, and her just released How to Decide: Simple Tools for making better choices.

Annie is a poker world champion with more than $4 million in tournament winnings since retiring in 2012. Prior to that, she studied Cognitive Psychology at the University of Pennsylvania, and these days she is an author, corporate speaker, and consultant in the decision-making space.

Annie is on the program because we’re fascinated by those who can take theoretical ideas and actually apply them in the field of human behavior. Lots of amateur investors fancy themselves poker stars, I know a few—and they lose money at the table the same way they do in markets: with a lack of introspection and overconfidence. Annie is different: she took the psychology of her studies and truly applied it to become a champion. The discipline that requires, let alone the skill, are things every serious investor should strive toward.

More broadly though, we should listen to Annie because decisions are pretty much all you have control of in your life. You should study your decisions, why you make them, and how you can continually improve them. Decision quality over a lifetime plays a huge role in your quality of life, it’s that simple.

So, with that in mind, here is the amazing Annie Duke.

Mike Hanson (01:52):

Annie, thank you so much again, for being with us and doing this. I want to jump right in and just say that, one of the reasons I think this book has been such a best seller and I recommend it to our analysts as well as our clients is because you are the rare person who is both a teacher and a doer, and you really use these concepts to accomplish something. Tell us though, because I know you have a very interesting story about how you got to poker and then where you are now. Would you just tell us a little bit of that story?

Annie Duke (2:17):

I actually think about it as a story of the different ways that luck can send you on your way. I also I think about it as, when there's a moment where luck influences your life, you want to view it neutrally and not identify it as bad or good. Cause very often it's not until much later and looking back on it that you would be able to parse apart, whether it was good or bad. That seems very philosophical, but I will ground it in my actual story.

Mike Hanson (02:43):

We love philosophical here.

Annie Duke (02:44):

So, I started off my thinking I was an adult life, as I went to college, and I was in a work study program. So, I just was looking at job postings. I kind of thought maybe I'll do something where I'm doing research. And there were a couple of things that I got interviews for. One was I think, in the medical school and the other was this woman named Barbara Landau. She was a cognitive psychologist. So, I went and interviewed with her and we really clicked. And I ended up being her research assistant for four years. So, this kind of first moment of luck, cause maybe if I had gone and gotten this other job, I would have ended up being a medical doctor. I don't know, this had a very big influence on my life, but it just had to do with what job postings were available.

Annie Duke (03:23):

At that point, I didn't have a sense of what I wanted to do with my adult life. And so, I literally was just looking for a job. Then, I got really into it and she really encouraged me to go to U Penn to study with her PhD advisors. So, off I went to U Penn and I was studying cognitive psychology there. After year two, you ended up teaching, so I was teaching my own classes. In cognitive science, what you're trying to think about is, if you were omniscient, you could see the world for what it is, but we're not. And so, our brains build these models of the world. And the question that you ask in cognitive science is how is your brain mapping the physical world.

Annie Duke (04:01):

So, I was doing that and I thought, okay, I'm going to go and become a professor. And here's a big moment of luck, at the time, I thought it was very bad luck, which is that I got sick. So, after five years there doing all my PhD work. I ended up in the hospital for two weeks. It was an illness that was a little bit chronic, so it was going take a little while to resolve. And so, I decided I needed to wait a year to go out on the job market and become a professor. And so, during that year I just kind of needed something to do. And here's another point of luck. Poker was not on television then, and it wasn't on the internet. And so, at that time, this was in the nineties, it would be weird for me to have known that this was something that you could do for a living, except that my brother was already doing it. I was looking for something that wasn't like a career reboot. Cause I had a career waiting in the wings for me, that I could also make my own hours. Cause, I was recovering from an illness. I didn't necessarily feel that great. And my brother actually suggested I play poker so, off I went to do that. And that was what I was going to do in the meantime. And then that turned into 18 years.

Annie Duke (05:00):

That's kind of how those two things collided, but then there was another point of luck, which was in 2002, which is now about eight years into when I'm playing poker. There’s a friend of mine named Eric Sydell, amazing poker player. He had at one time traded options. He had a friend who had started a hedge fund named Roger Lowe, and Roger wanted Eric to come and speak to his traders about how poker might inform your thinking about trading. And Eric really, really hates talking in front of audiences. So, he told Roger, well, why don't you have Annie come and do it because Annie actually used to teach college and so, I imagine she would be a reasonable teacher. And so, it was only because Eric doesn't like public speaking that this opportunity even came my way. Wasn't something that I was thinking, Oh, I should start to talk about how these two things go together.   

Annie Duke (05:48):

So anyway, I gave that talk, I started to more intentionally develop that part of my life. In 2012, I decided I want to write that book, Thinking in Bets.  So, I rolled off of poker into this and that's what I do now is I think in this space, what's the intersection between the way we think about these problems and how you solve them. So, a lot of luck in there that seemed very bad, but in retrospective I think it was probably pretty good luck.

Mike Hanson (06:13):

In addition to that, you could really take thinking in bets and just say it's an investing book and that would fly pretty well. And one of the things…

Annie Duke (06:20):

Well, to be fair poker is an investing game.

Mike Hanson (06:23):

Yeah. Well, that's what I want to get to. But, broadly speaking because our listeners are investors, but they're also looking for advice just about life. And one of the things we say around the office a lot is: Do you want to be right, or do you want to make money?  And you make the case that thinking in bets is a really great strategy for life in general, it promotes humility and so forth. Tell us your perspective on that, why you think that's true.

Annie Duke (06:46):

We want to get away from some narrow definition betting that has to do with placing a bet on a sports game or walking into a casino and putting your money on red, you know, at the roulette table and think broadly about in a more academic sense, what is a bet? Essentially a bet is when you have options that you can choose from and the future that might result from that option is uncertain in some way. Coin flipping. You know for sure what the possible outcomes are, heads, tails, I guess, landing on its edge would be rare, but it could happen.

Annie Duke (07:15):

What that means is that we don't know for sure how it's going to turn out. We're just deciding whether it's worth it for us to invest our resources under those conditions. That is a bet. Then we could say, well maybe we don't know exactly what the probabilities of the different outcomes are. We could also have a situation where we aren’t exactly sure what the possibilities are either. So, we can create more and more uncertainty, but in any case, no matter how much uncertainty there is, as long as they're some, that is a bet. Now, the reason why I think that this is a really good framework for understanding how to know how the future will turn out, not in the short run. So, if I have a particular option that I'm considering, the best I can do is narrow down the possibilities, say better than you do. Or better than my past-self did and figure out what's what the proposition is, in terms of the resources that I have available, where should I be putting my resources.

Annie Duke (08:16):

So, that's the first thing, is it gets you focusing on getting a clear eye at what the influence of luck on your outcomes might be. But the other thing I think that that's so crucial and perhaps more important, is that it gets you focusing on what the quality of your beliefs are. Because if I think about that process that I just talked about, you have different options. What are the possibilities? What are the probabilities and how might I compare those things? That whole house is built on top of this foundation, which is your beliefs. And if your input into that decision processes is, I believe the earth is flat and you're trying to navigate in a boat. This might be a problem for you, right? So, it's only ever going to be as good as that input. It gets you focused on improving the quality of your beliefs, and because you recognize that what happens in the short run may not be indicative of what the possibilities really are. It makes you think about, what is my goal in the long run in regards to my beliefs and how can I improve my beliefs in the long run, which is kind of to your point: do you want to be right, or do you want to make money?

Mike Hanson (09:24):

Now, one of the points you make about something like that is it's the quality of your strategy or perhaps philosophy that's consistently applied over the course of time. That seems to matter. And with investors, of course, that's just the way of things. And if you think about today, whether it's from COVID or what the market is, going along those lines. You've consulted with investors of many kinds. What types of cognitive errors do you see most commonly, as people try to navigate the system of markets?

Annie Duke (09:51):

So first of all, how much time do you have. Let me just get to what you just said just a second ago, which This is actually one of the big problems. There's just so many different ways that things go wrong, but this is one of them. The idea that because we're dealing with a world in which we are deciding somewhat behind the veil of ignorance in the sense that we do not have perfect information. So, we often do not know all the possibilities that might occur. And we certainly do not know for sure what the different probabilities are. A lot of times the answer is, well, then I shall not try, because what is the point I can't be right.

Annie Duke (10:31):

But here here's the issue with that. Think about it from a poker standpoint. If I'm playing poker, I do not know what your hand is. Because your cards are hidden from me, but what makes be me better than the person sitting next to me, is that I am better at narrowing down what the possibilities for your hand might be and given that narrowing down, I'm also better at figuring out what you might do in relation to those things. That's another kind of forecast. So, different people will have the same hand and do different things. And I'm going to be a better predictor for you. How is Michael going to react when he has a pair or something like that?

Annie Duke (11:04):

And I should be better than the other people at the table, and this is going to provide me the edge. So, in order to be a really good decision maker, it requires a willingness to guess, and this goes back to the belief. Which is, there is almost nothing about what you would ever be randomly guessing. Because when we think about the spectrum between information and perfect information, we're rarely at one extreme or the other. We're mostly sitting in the middle. And so, we want to be trying to make these educated guesses and figure out how much educated there is in the guess. Because by requiring ourselves to do that, we do two things. One is we actually think about our knowledge and we're going to actually come up with a narrower range than somebody else.

Annie Duke (11:40):

That is going to capture the world a little bit better than somebody else. And that's really meaningful. The other thing is that it's going to start to get to ask yourself, what can I find out that I don't know, that would help me guess. So, to ground it for people in terms of this really big error that I’d love people to stop doing is, my computer is sitting on a table. you cannot see it. So, if I asked you how much does this table weigh, I suppose your answer could be, I don't know, I can't see that table. How could I possibly know? But if I really pushed you on it and I said, no, that's not acceptable. Give me your best guess of how much this table weighs.

Mike Hanson (12:15):

Well, let me take a crack. I would say looking at the context, cause we're on video here. As we can see each other, I'd say that, you know, I can see they're in a moderately sized room. It looks as if it's most regularly furnished. So, I'm not expecting some sort of, you know, queen’s chest or something like that, that it's sitting on. And by the same token I have a feeling it's probably sturdy enough. It looks like you work on it or you probably do some work in here and do other things. So, I'd say it's probably pretty average sized table. So, I don’t know, what are those things? Maybe a couple of hundred pounds or something like that.

Annie Duke (12:45):

Yeah. Look at what you just did for yourself. You know it doesn't weigh 10,000 pounds, that'd be silly and you know, it doesn't weigh a pound. And you started talking through that and figuring out what do I know about tables in general? What do I know about the situation she's in? How can I use the specifics of what I can see, even if I can't see the table, to start to narrow that down? And I think that this is actually a big mistake that people make. Too, often, we just throw our hands up. And what results is either just letting the world happen to you, which isn't great, or being one of those people who says, I go by my gut. It's like, okay, well, you might sometimes get to a good answer, but it's not a repeatable process. You can't explain it to somebody else. And you're actually not thinking through super clearly why it is that you know what you know. So, you're going to miss information that you do know that would better informed that decision and you certainly aren't going to go seeking out other information that you could find out. I mean, I know I didn't answer the cognitive bias question, but I do think that broadly, that's a really huge problem in decision making.

Mike Hanson (13:42):

No, I mean, we deal with that every single day because the average investor makes the mistake of dealing with possibilities, not probabilities and all our businesses is just exactly as you very well stated it, which is let's just get it down to the things that seem likely and possible. And that's a decision set for us. And then just as you say, perhaps we have some small edge and just doing that slightly better on net than someone else, especially if it's iterative.

Annie Duke (14:07):

And that edge accrues, right? So that's the thing it's like, if I'm a tiny bit better than you are at it, over thousands of decisions, I end up with everything that you own.

Mike Hanson (14:16):

Very tough for a lot of people don't understand that as well. Because especially in this business, it's like, well, where are you right about the bear market or the bull market or whatever. And it's like, that's not even really the relevant question often. It's about how well do you apply things? On that note, I've heard you speak a lot about motivated reasoning, and the idea that before you even get to a decision, anyhow, you have to understand what you believe and why you believe it. And most people just corroborate the thing that they already thought. Of course, we see that a lot in our world, but what are some of your sort of updated thoughts on that? Do you see just a tremendous amount of motivated reasoning in the world today?

Annie Duke (14:53)

I mean, where do you start with the examples that are existing right now? I mean, for people who aren't familiar with what motivated reasoning is, what we can think about is that we have this set of beliefs. And, and some of them are more charged than others in the sense that some of them are more integral to our identity than others, but all of them, nonetheless, are the threads that form our identity. Cause who really are we, besides the things we believe to be true of the world. Well, we do not like people to attack our identity, we don't like that. And so, if we know that our beliefs are really what our identity is woven out of, what we're trying to do is protect it in a way that doesn't allow holes to be torn in that fabric. So that's really where motivated reasoning comes in.

Annie Duke (15:34):

So, I think our intuition as decision makers or as humans, is that I'm a rational person. So, when information comes in, I think about it objectively, separate, and apart from myself. And then, whatever conclusion I come to about this information, I then incorporate it into my beliefs. So, I'm going to update my beliefs in light of this new information.

Annie Duke (15:59):

But what actually happens, when we process information, we actually process it with the motivation to reinforce the things that we already believe. So, I could show two people facts and studies about hydroxychloroquine and one set of people would interpret that to mean that it works and it's like a cure. And the other would say, this is silly. It doesn't do anything. And a lot of that is going to depend on what are the kinds of things that you're trying to support about your own identity, as you're trying to interpret this information. And so, we can think about this also in terms of things that we feel like we're expert at. So, for people who are familiar with the book, Super Forecasting, which was from Phil Tetlock. I recommend everybody reads it. It's excellent book, much better than anything I've ever written. He wrote a book before that called Expert Political Judgement. Now I'm going to let people know it's a little bit more academic, but I'll give you the gist of the book.

Annie Duke (16:57):

If you are a subject matter expert, you have built a very, very strong model of the world and the way that the world works, this is part of what comes with being a subject matter expert. Let's think about that as that you have dug a trench and you are now in the trench, and when you look at the world, you're looking at it from within this trench. So, what happens for subject matter experts, when new information comes in, they'll pull that information down into the trench with them, to make it conform to what their expertise has told them about how you model the world as opposed to climbing out of the trench and looking around and saying, what's here. And, Oh, that's kind of interesting. Actually, I should reconstruct this trench a little bit. So, in investing, for example, are you a growth investor or a value investor or whatever, and we can see this all the time. As data's coming in, someone who really believes in value investing, even if the world is not performing for them. There's all sorts of ways that you can discount that. Well, no, this is my model is still right. by the way, I'm not slamming value investing. I'm just giving an example.

Mike Hanson (17:58):

That's okay. We do every once in a while,

Annie Duke (18:00):

I just want to be clear about that. But you know, it's like value investing, growth, are you a trend follower? Whatever. And so, it's usually will take a very long time for someone to sort of shift positions longer than it actually should, given the information that's available. So, this should sound familiar to people in the investing world, but also as you're looking at politics, you can really see this in action.

Mike Hanson (18:20):

With Tetlock, correct me if I'm wrong, but I mean, many of his super forecasters are non-experts, is that correct?

Annie Duke (18:24):

Pretty much. So, it depends on what they're forecasting about. So, in the original forecasting tournament that he did, yeah. They're really, really smart generalists, which is the other book that you should read, which is Range from David Epstein. He talked about the advantages of being a generalist and a specialist world. Cause you can see the world from different perspectives. What Tetlock is talking about with the super forecasters does these two different mindsets, a hedgehog and a fox. A hedgehog is like one big idea. So that's like, I'm a growth person or whatever. Whereas a fox likes to look at things from lots and lots and lots of different perspectives. And that's one of the features of super forecasters.

Annie Duke (19:00)

That being said, depending on what you're forecasting about, sometimes you want to have the subject matter expert who is on the team, working with you. So that you kind of get the best of both worlds, because it's not like subject matter experts or for nothing, they actually do know a lot. But you're trying to get the open-mindedness along with it.

Mike Hanson (19:15)

I personally do like to say that I think investing is one of the last liberal arts. It does require a fox in that sense.  We talk about all these academics and the cognitive sciences and so forth, but you must've gone undergone quite a lot of work on self-mastery and emotional regulation and, being in these super tense moments, the high stakes, the whole thing. Tell us about that and how you really are able to overcome yourself, let's say, and become that person that could actually execute on these sorts of things?

Annie Duke (19:42):

So, there's two different things that you sort of have to overcome. One is a little bit more short term, which is what is your emotional reaction to things that are occurring? Both when really good things happen or when really bad things happen. People think about, that your decision making will get perverted when a really bad outcome happens. Because we'd get really emotional, in poker, you call it tilt, and those emotional centers of your brain light up and they shut down that rational part of your brain. Just so you know, when something good happens when you win big, that also is true too. So, you actually have to think about both poles.

Annie Duke (20:16):

So that's kind of a short-term problem, like how to you master your own emotions, so that you recognize, well this bad thing happened and I just have to let that go because otherwise the decisions that I make going forward are going to be worse off from my not letting it go. And then maybe all of a sudden, I'm going to go from positive, expected value to negative expected value. And then that's going to create a self-fulfilling prophecy, where then I'm going to increase the probability I have more bad results, and that's going to go along its way.

Annie Duke (20:45):

On the emotional side, you have to be thinking about yourself in the long-term. What is good for the Annie that's going to exist down the road, as opposed to worrying so much about the Annie that exists today. So, when I'm thinking about a hand that I lost, I want to quickly go through it in that moment. Was it luck or was it a decision that I made? If it was luck, I should just let it go and maybe visit it later just to make sure that I've processed that properly. If it's my own decision making, I want to again think about that quickly. Cause maybe I could take that into the next few hands, but then I want to put a pin in it so that I can think about it when I'm actually out of the game. But, regardless I should do a very quick analysis and then I need to let it go, because I know it's not good for me in the long run to carry that with me into the next hand.

Annie Duke (21:30):

And then that speaks to the second thing that you really have to master. Part of the way that we all think about ourselves is like, I'm confident. And certainly, if I'm sitting at a poker table, that means that I'm saying that I'm better than the other players at the table. We could say I'm better than the market. But you know, in poker, obviously you can't ride the beta, right? I can't do any kind of passive investing.  So, I've got a lot sort of at stake in terms of the way that I view myself. So, in poker as with almost every decision that you make in life, you can have four different relationships between the quality of your decision and the quality of an outcome. You could make a great decision and have a good outcome. You can have a great decision and have a bad outcome. Then you could make a bad decision and have a good outcome that would be like dumb luck. Or you can have a bad decision and have a bad outcome. So now let's think about the problem, because you can have those four things and that's generally going to be mostly the influence of luck on your outcome.

Annie Duke (22:29):

So, now all I can see is the outcome, right? And I have to decide, was this because I played poorly or was this because of bad luck? And this is where the motivated reasoning problem comes in. Well, what does it mean for the way that I view myself and the way that I think about my own competencies? If I say it was because I played poorly? That does not feel very good. So, I'm going to have a tendency, a very strong one, in fact, to say that that was due to bad luck, because that protects me in the moment. And on the flip side, if I win a hand, what happens if I say that I won because I got lucky, well, I don't get a chance to beef up that narrative that I have of myself. So, now you can see this sort of pattern that emerges. When I win tend to think it was because I was great, which also means that I tend to think it was because you played poorly. So, I'm not sitting in your shoes and figuring out what I could learn from you because now I've said, well, I won.

Annie Duke (23:28):

So, I don't want to consider that Michael might've played better than me because that's going to be very bad for my short term self-narrative. And I've lost this opportunity to explore that hand, because I'm just patting myself on the back and on the flip side, when I lose, I do not want to say that Michael played better than me, because that would make me sad. Cause I don't want to be relatively not as smart as you. And so, what I want to do is say that it was due to luck. And again, in either case I don't get to learn. So, what I have to do is think about, well, what are my long-term goals? And for me, what does it mean to have a win? And I have to shift the way that I think to say, well, I need to be living in the long-term, in the future. And what that means is I need to feel like it would be a huge blow to my identity if there was something for me to learn from Michael and I did not learn it, because I didn't want to turn what felt like a win. I played well and I won, into a loss. Ooh, but there was a better way I could've played. But of course, if I can identify those things, then that helps me in the long run.

Mike Hanson (24:27):

You know, in our world, what we would say to a client is consider what your actual goals are, the longer goals, that actually frames your decision set right now. And it's going to be a different decision than what you would, if you're panicking right now, about whatever and so forth. I’m not a poker player. In fact, I'm a chess player, which I know you don't like as much, but I wonder though, on the poker tournaments how does, but I wonder though, on the, on the poker tournament, how does stamina and just keeping your mental acuity high work, how do you prepare for something like that?

Annie Duke (24:56):

I think that people think with poker, you're like, you know what, you're sitting in a chair. You think about like the old games with people with visors and smoking cigars and whatnot. But when you actually look at the top for performance in poker, they tend to be in pretty good shape. I think there's just a really strong connection between the physical body and the mind. Man, who thinks very well when they're tired. You're recognize this in investing. So, you're playing and you're winning at the game and someone comes up to you and says, hey, you know, I want to go to a movie? Do you want to go? And you're just like, let me cash this out. Right? Like right now. I want to turn this paper gain into a realized, gain as fast as I possibly can. And those chips like, you can't even imagine the speed. You're like the flash putting those chips into the rack and going and cashing them out.  Okay. But now you're losing and someone comes up to you and says, hey, I was thinking about going to the movies. Do you want to go? And you're like, this is the best game I've ever been in. I can't leave this game in a million years. It's an amazing game, it's so good. And you literally won't leave the game. It’s part of this, do I really want to take the paper loss and turn it into a realized loss?

Annie Duke (26:05):

And as long as I'm still in the game, I have a chance that I don't actually realize that loss and I could get those chips back. So, we can kind of see this difference in the way that we're processing wins and losses and how quickly we're getting up from the table in that way, in terms of realized gains that we want to watch out for. And this applies to investing as well. Like how do you get somebody to want to actually behave in a way that is going to be good for their long-term self? And I think it's to say, everybody wants to feel like they're in a cohort or that the way that they think is actually relative to other people somehow superior.

Annie Duke (26:39):

Because here's the thing, back to the point about being tired. What that ends up meaning is that when you're actually winning where you're more likely to be in a positive expectancy situation, you're actually shortening the hours that you're playing. Whereas when you're losing, you're tending to play longer hours. And when I would be teaching people and explaining this to them, I would say to them, okay, you're still sitting at this table playing poker for 18 hours, which is intellectually really tough work. After 18 hours, would you want to get in a car? And they'd be like, well, no, I don't really want to do that, but they'd be willing to sit at a poker table thinking that they were actually playing well. So, staying in this kind of physical shape and understanding what that connection is, is really important. With investors to say to people, other people panic, but you're too smart for that. I mean, I think that kind of language is to get them to stop like making decisions when they're emotional or when they're tired or when they're panicked, you know, it's this connection between like mind and body and like what's happening in your life.

Mike Hanson (27:38):

Completely fascinating. One last question as we wrap things up. How do you come to choose the new topic for your book, How to Decide, and what's that process like, and how do you go about writing a book?

Annie Duke (27:48):

It’s through a conversation. So, the first book came out of all the speaking and consulting I was doing, where I was just having these conversations about the intersection between, poker and cognitive science and, how we could think about the way that those created this nice framework for thinking about decisions. So that was from a conversation with all my clients and audiences and things like that, where I really felt like that was a conversation that I wanted to put on the written page. And part of what that helped me to do, and part of the reason, honestly, selfishly, that I write books is to work out my own thoughts because a lot of times you'll think, Ooh, I really think I know something. And when you try to actually write it, you're like, Ooh, no, what that was that I was thinking.

Annie Duke (28:27):

It helps you actually clarify your own thoughts about the world. And that's what happened with How to Decide, that also came out of a conversation now more specifically with readers of Thinking in Bets. The way that I think about Thinking in Bets, just if I were to gist it, the big idea is there's uncertainty and there's a very uncertain relationship between outcomes and decision quality. And this is the way that we need to be thinking about how we make decisions in this environment. But what happened was when I was talking to people about that book, they would say, okay, you convinced me, I'm all in. I get it. Like, I'm an uncertainty freak now. I love it. So, how do I do that?

Annie Duke (29:02):

And that's actually why I wrote How to Decide, because I said, Oh, okay, I've got this big idea over here with Thinking in Bets. So now let me try to think about how can I ground that to show people what a really good decision process looks like, how you can create systems that create guardrails to some of the errors that you might end up making, how you interact with the world in a way to extract the maximum amount of information that's going to improve your belief system. So, this is a book that I think, I hope, is going to be helpful for people who've read Thinking in Bets and incredibly helpful for people who haven't, because there's no requirement that you have read the previous book in order to understand this book. They certainly have a conversation with each other, but you should be able to do it either way. And so, I just realized, okay, I had a big idea book with some hand-waving. Now let me actually show someone how you would actually put this into your own life.

Mike Hanson (29:51):

Are you reading the audio book this time? I actually really enjoyed…

Annie Duke (29:54):

I am. I have two more to go.  Yeah, it's a horrifying experience to read your own audio book because it's set, you don't get to change the things that you'd like to change. And also, I hate the sound of my own voice. So, there you go.

Mike Hanson (30:06):

We were all hate our own voices. The amazing Annie Duke, tremendous conversation. Thank you so much and we look forward to the book!

Annie Duke (30:12):

Well, thank you so much. Thank you.

Mike Hanson (30:23):

That was our conversation with Annie Duke. One of Annie’s best qualities is that truly scientific approach toward life: to use the world as a testing ground for ideas that drive toward her goals, whatever they may be. I’ve found great investors, let alone great people, are very much like that: the world is a territory for learning, not of demonstrating something already believed.

In two weeks, join us on November 4th when we host Greg Zuckerman to discuss his book The Man Who Solved the Market: How Jim Simons Launched the Quant Revolution. Those who like to get wonky with data will be very interested in this one, but we cover much of Greg’s career with the Wall Street Journal—and other wise in journalism. We talk about everything from oil and natural gas fracking to how famous sports stars rose above adversity and served as inspiration for both Greg and his son.

Lastly, you know what to do by now: wherever you may be hearing the Well-Read Investor, please comment, like and subscribe—it really does help us. And join us on twitter @wellreadpod, or Instagram @wellreadinvestorpod.

Until then, here’s hoping all your reading profits your mind and your money. Take care.

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