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in: Art of Being a Good Man, Podcast

• Last updated: August 15, 2016

Podcast #224: Why Smart People Do Dumb Things

Why do smart people do dumb things?

This is one of the many questions my guest has explored during his writing career. Malcolm Gladwell is a writer at the New Yorker, the author of several New York Times bestselling books, and now host of the podcast Revisionist History. Today on the podcast, Malcolm and I explore the question of why smart people do dumb things by looking at, among other things, the basketball career of Wilt Chamberlain. We discuss how Wilt discovered a way to increase his free-throw shooting percentage dramatically, but why he consciously decided not to continue using that technique.

We also discuss why going to elite colleges can actually backfire on you, and the criteria you should use when picking a college that doesn’t involve school rankings. I also ask Malcolm about his writing process, how to ask better questions, and how to find insights in the mundane. This is a great discussion with a fascinating mind. You don’t want to miss this!

Show Highlights

  • How to develop the curiosity of Malcolm Gladwell
  • How to ask good questions
  • The art of simplifying complex ideas
  • How the granny shot turned Wilt Chamberlain into a nearly unstoppable basketball player, but why he purposely stopped using it
  • How the sociology of thresholds keeps people from doing the things that will help them succeed
  • How to overcome social pressure so you do the thing you know you need to do
  • What a basketball team of 12-year-old girls can teach you about overcoming social pressure
  • Why deciding to go to a prestigious school can kill your academic career
  • The criteria young people should use when selecting a school
  • Why going to a prestigious school won’t give you much of long-term edge in your career
  • The boom in education philanthropy during the past ten years and why Malcolm thinks it’s being done poorly
  • Why we tend to be rational when it comes to stock investing, but not philanthropy
  • Malcolm’s competitive running career and how it helps him with writing
  • And much more!

Resources/Studies/People Mentioned in Podcast


If you haven’t already, pick up one of Gladwell’s books and give it a read. He does a masterful job of pulling out amazing insights from topics as mundane as ketchup varieties. Also, check out his new podcast Revisionist History. I’ve listened to every single episode so far and none have disappointed.

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