The Scout Mindset
Coming out April 2021 with Portfolio / Penguin Random House.
“The Scout Mindset is a lens, and once you’re looking through it, the world makes a lot more sense.”
Tim Urban, author of Wait But Why
My first book is about a vitally important yet underappreciated skill: being able to see things as they are, not as you wish they were.
I call it scout mindset. It’s what allows you to recognize when you were wrong, to seek out your blind spots, to test your assumptions and change course. It’s what prompts you to honestly ask yourself questions like “Was I at fault in that argument?” or “Is this risk really worth it?” As the physicist Richard Feynman said: “The first rule is that you must not fool yourself – and you are the easiest person to fool.”
Easier said than done, of course. The Scout Mindset is about how, concretely, to keep from fooling yourself. Throughout the book, I lead the reader through key techniques for becoming aware of your own rationalizations, making more accurate predictions, learning from disagreements, and noticing what you’re wrong about.
Along the way, I bust some popular myths. For example, maybe you’ve heard that self-deception is good for your mental health? Or that entrepreneurs need to be delusionally overconfident? False and false. I’ll explain what the research really shows, and how a scout mindset helped CEOs like Jeff Bezos, investors like Warren Buffett, activists in the early days of the AIDS crisis, and more.
The Scout Mindset isn’t a rant about how irrational people are. Nor is it an attempt to scold you into thinking “correctly.” It’s a tour of a different way of being — one that’s rooted in an appetite for truth.
“Julia Galef is an intellectual leader of the rationalist community, and in The Scout Mindset you will find an engaging, clearly written distillation of her very important accumulated wisdom on these topics.”
~ Tyler Cowen, economist and author of MarginalRevolution.com
“Most books tell you what to think. This is something rarer, and more valuable: A book about how to think, and how to learn, without the fear or favor that so often holds us back from inching closer to the truth. The beauty of The Scout Mindset demonstration is it is, itself, an example of the ethos it teaches. The delight it takes in questioning its own premises, and understanding the alternative arguments, will make you want to be a scout, too.”
~ Ezra Klein, founder and editor-at-large, Vox.com
“Drawing on her extensive knowledge of the scientific literature and of popular culture, Julia Galef explores the remarkable human capacity for self-deception—and shows us how we can catch ourselves in the act of fooling ourselves.”
~ Philip Tetlock, political scientist and author of Superforecasting