How poker is the ultimate metaphor for life

The Biggest Bluff — Maria Konnikova
The Biggest Bluff — Maria Konnikova

My favorite book of 2020 was The Biggest Bluff by Maria Konnikova.

To better understand how luck and decision-making affect our outcomes in the uncertainty of life, psychologist Maria Konnikova took up high-stakes poker and hit the casino circuit. The Biggest Bluff: How I Learned to Pay Attention, Master Myself, and Win recounts her fascinating journey.

Konnikova’s goal in the book — learning to distinguish between what can be controlled in life and what can’t — is very fitting for the uncertain times we’re living in right now. …

5 non-trivial ways marketers fool you with their prices

Price tag
Price tag
Photo by Artem Beliaikin on Unsplash

Everyone realizes salespeople try to lure us into buying with prices like $4.99 or $12.95. By lowering the price by a few cents, the item ‘feels’ much cheaper.

Although this technique is still pretty effective, there are plenty of other tricks in the pricing playbook. Here are five psychological tactics you can use to make your products seem cheaper than they actually are (or help protect yourself from sellers who are using them!).

1. Be Extremely Precise in Showing Big Numbers

Thomas, Simon, and Kadiyali (2007) analyzed 27,000 real estate transactions. The data showed that potential buyers pay more if the price is highly specific. …

Some are easier than others, but each one matters

Successful person staring at the sun
Successful person staring at the sun
Photo by Zac Durant on Unsplash

Habits are amazing things. They become the unseen foundations of our future selves. If you can replace a bad habit with a good one, you’ll live with the benefits for decades.

The best way to illustrate their power is by showing the impact of a string of 1% improvements over the course of one year. Here’s the math:

1.0¹³⁶⁵ = 37.8
0.9⁹³⁶⁵ = 0.03

This illustrates an important point: Success doesn’t happen in an instant. Instead, it happens through lots of little successes, strung together over time.

Too often, we think about big changes in terms of big actions. Yet…

Your online presence matters.

Businessman wearing a suit
Businessman wearing a suit
Photo by Hunters Race on Unsplash

When someone searches for your name on Google, what will they find? Probably your Instagram, maybe Twitter, and perhaps some old photos on an outdated Facebook profile.

What if it happens to be a prospective employer or business partner who’s Googling you? You’d probably want them to find more than some random Instagram pictures, right?

Instead, you want to present a professional image — a picture of the work you’ve done and the work you hope to do. At the very least, you want your information to come up, and not someone else’s.

While the best way to achieve this…

David Foster Wallace’s famous speech about education and meaning

The sea
The sea
Photo by YUCAR FotoGrafik on Unsplash

This post wasn’t written by me. It was written by David Foster Wallace, and delivered as his commencement address in 2005 to Kenyon College. It’s the only speech David ever gave outlining his outlook on life, and Time ranks it among the best commencement speeches ever delivered (to which I agree).

However, the speech almost didn’t happen. Wallace hesitated to accept the invite because of his anxiety when talking in front of crowds. …

What REALLY motivates us?

Book cover of The Elephant in the Brain
Book cover of The Elephant in the Brain

What makes people tick?

This is the main question in The Elephant in the Brain, an eye-opening book on understanding our “hidden motives in everyday life.”

In other words, why do we do what we do?

Programmer Kevin Simler and economist Robin Hanson explore why we’re prone to self-deception about our motives, and how this deception can shed light on otherwise inexplicable behaviors. For example, why do we laugh? And how come we laugh 30% more when we’re around others?

Well, as the authors explain in the first part of their book, we’re often blind to our own true motives…

The most important psychological insight you’ll ever learn

Photo by Alexander Popov on Unsplash

When some guy cuts you off in traffic, you probably think, instinctively: What a jerk. (Or perhaps your self-talk is a little more impolite.) What you almost certainly don’t think to yourself is, Gosh, I wonder what’s wrong that he’s in such a hurry.

It’s not hard to see why we don’t think that. It seems naive. Almost as if we’re making an excuse for a bad person.

But think about your own behavior for a second. Think of a time when you were driving so recklessly that others would have been justified to curse you.

Was your crazy driving…

If You Only Read A Few Books This Year, Read These

My best books of 2020
My best books of 2020
Photo by Thought Catalog on Unsplash

I’ve read 48 books this year. Here’s a curated list of the ones I’d gladly re-read in 2021 (and probably will). These five books cover world history, entrepreneurship, statistics, cognitive science, and everything in between.

I hope you’ll get just as much out of them as I did…

Happy reading!

The Biggest Bluff: How I Learned to Pay Attention, Master Myself, and Win

Maria Konnikova

Six SEO tips to skyrocket your search rankings

SEO — Search Engine Optimizaiton
SEO — Search Engine Optimizaiton
Photo by Merakist on Unsplash

“The best place to hide a dead body is the second page of Google.”

One year ago, I wrote my third Medium story. It received only a dozen views in the first two weeks. (Which, by the way, shouldn’t have come as a big surprise considering my whopping tribe of 15 followers at the time.)

Disappointed with not gaining any traction despite my hard work, I stopped looking at its numbers. Two months later, I was checking my older stats and something miraculous had happened.

Google picked up on it. My third article now features on Google as the top…

Accept that you’re biased, and you’ll be less biased

Daniel Kahneman
Daniel Kahneman
Nobel Prize-winning psychologist Daniel Kahneman. Source

I recently wrote a story titled How to Make Better Decisions by Avoiding These Thinking Traps. As a follow-up to that post, here are three more common biases and blind spots that can mess up our decision making.


Survivorship Bias: The Forgotten Failures

“Steve Jobs, Mark Zuckerberg, and Bill Gates all dropped out of school and became billionaires! You don’t need school to succeed. Startup founders just need to stop wasting time in class, drop out, and get started.”

It’s entirely possible that Steve Jobs succeeded despite his path and not because of it. For every Jobs, Gates, and Zuckerberg, there are thousands of…

Yannick Bikker

I write about marketing, books, psychology & anything else that sparks my interest. Also a proud advocate of peanut butter (the crunchy kind).

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