Monthly Archives: March 2007

Do you trust your gut?

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Most people trust their gut. I think it is because one’s gut is usually right. On a technical level, a gut is a collection of prejudices, biases, and pattern matching — and that turns out generally to be correct. So your gut is usually right (certainly more than 50% of the time). But 100%?

So … should you trust your gut?

I think some people have an unusually good gut and they should trust their gut. But my guess is that most people think they have a better gut then they do.

I personally don’t trust my gut … especially not with people. I often find that when I meet someone I judge them wrong. I’m an optimist and I often over-estimate people. Sometimes I under-estimate people and am pleasantly surprised.

Hiring is an area that I never trust my gut. In fact, most of my bad hires in past have been because I went with my gut instead of taking the time to use real analytics.

And while I love the book Blink (by Malcolm Gladwell), I don’t think the split-second decisions are always the best ones. Especially on non-obvious things. For instance, I love math and probability problems (especially the Monty Hall problem) — and “gut” answer is almost always wrong. In the case of the Monty Hall problem, almost everyone I have ever asked gives the wrong answer (there are only two choices — so it is weird that 98% of people pick the wrong choice) … and when I ask them why they are picking their choice, they usually answer “gut.”

That is not to say there is no place for a gut … there is likely a good place if you truly have a good one. But for an analytical person like me, rock beats scissors and brain beats gut.

Book: Culture War

Culture War? The Myth of a Polarized America
by Morris P. Fiorina, Samuel J. Abrams, Jeremy C. Pope

This book was given to me by Ken Sawyer of Saints Capital. I encourage anyone interested in American politics to read it. It is a book that takes on the myth of a divided America between Red and Blue and instead shows convincingly that America is very Purple.

The academic book is full of stats and charts and is a political junkie’s dream. I only hope everyone in Congress has a chance to read this book.

two-for-one press day today

Today the Washington Post had a very interesting story about phishing and fraud online and they mentioned Rapleaf and quoted me about the arms race between the fraudsters and the good guys. (Ben Fallon at the White House was kind enough to email me the article — thanks Ben!)

Then I opened the Wall Street Journal a read a great story on Socializr by super-reporter Vauhini Vara. Vara quoted me on why I think Jonathan Abrams (the founder of Socializr and Friendster) is a genius.

two for one today 🙂

Book: The Master and Margarita

200pxmasta_n_margaritaThe Master and Margarita
By Mikhail Bulgakov

This was a very special book. This is a fiction book, a satirical book in life in Moscow … I generally only read one fiction book a year but decided to invest time in this book because it comes recommended by so many people. I highly recommend it.

Bulgakov wrote this book twice (he burned it in his oven the first time because he was afraid the Soviet authorities would find it). His wife finished it after his death in 1940 but it wasn’t published until 1966 and then not in full until 1973. it is probably the best known Russian work for fiction from the 20th Century.

The wikipedia entry for the book is very good.