Unveiling the Human Mind: Courage, Luck, and Fuzzy Thinking

Zane Homsi

Hatched by Zane Homsi

Jul 17, 2023

3 min read


Unveiling the Human Mind: Courage, Luck, and Fuzzy Thinking


The complexities of the human mind have fascinated us for centuries. From our cognitive biases to our ability to develop courage, our minds are constantly adapting to the world around us. In this article, we will explore the insights provided by Malcolm Gladwell's "David and Goliath" and Nassim Nicholas Taleb's "The Black Swan" to understand how our minds function and how we can navigate through life with more clarity and resilience.

Building Courage through Adversity:

Gladwell, in "David and Goliath," introduces the idea that courage is not something we are born with, but rather something we develop through overcoming difficult situations. He references psychiatrist J.T. MacCurdy's study on the Blitz, where individuals faced the fear of being afraid. Surviving challenging times and realizing that difficulties do not destroy us, but rather make us stronger, builds our courage. This notion is exemplified by the story of Freireich, whose fearless attitude stemmed from his tumultuous life experiences.

The Human Mind's Evolutionary Roots:

Taleb, in "The Black Swan," sheds light on the evolutionary origins of our minds. He argues that our brains are designed to function optimally in hunter-gatherer groups on the African savannah. This adaptation allowed our ancestors to survive until they reached reproductive age. As a result, our minds have developed simplifications, mental schemas, biases, and self-deception to help us concentrate on immediate tasks without being overwhelmed by an abundance of data.

The Ludic Fallacy and Underestimating Luck:

Taleb introduces the concept of the "ludic fallacy," which refers to the tendency to underestimate luck in life while overestimating it in certain games of chance. He highlights how the public often attributes success to brilliance or expertise, when, in reality, it may be a result of being in the right place at the right time. This fallacy masks the role that luck plays in our lives and blinds us to the random nature of success and failure.

Confirmation Bias and Epistemic Arrogance:

The human mind is prone to confirmation bias, a tendency to seek evidence that confirms our existing beliefs while disregarding contradictory information. Taleb warns against the trap of "epistemic arrogance," where individuals become overconfident in their ideas and fail to account for randomness. This overconfidence can lead to errors in decision-making and hinder our ability to adapt to unexpected events.

The Limitations of Gaussian Thinking:

Taleb argues that social phenomena cannot be accurately modeled using the Gaussian normal distribution. Social contagion, characterized by abundant feedback loops, plays a significant role in shaping our behavior and choices. When we rely solely on Gaussian curves and standard deviations, we fail to capture the complexity of social dynamics. Fitting every situation into this framework blinds us to the influence of social contagion and oversimplifies the complexities of human behavior.

Actionable Advice:

  • 1. Embrace adversity and view it as an opportunity for growth. Remember that difficult times cultivate courage and resilience.
  • 2. Challenge your biases and actively seek out contradictory information. Embrace uncertainty and acknowledge the role of luck in success and failure.
  • 3. Adopt a "fuzzy" thinking approach when dealing with complex situations. Focus on the consequences rather than obsessing over precise probabilities, as this can help navigate uncertainty with more flexibility and adaptability.


Understanding the inner workings of our minds is a lifelong journey. By recognizing the development of courage through adversity, the evolutionary roots of our cognitive biases, and the limitations of Gaussian thinking, we can gain valuable insights into how our minds function. Embracing the unpredictability of life, challenging our biases, and adopting a more flexible thinking approach can empower us to navigate through uncertainties with clarity and resilience.

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