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In Praise of Mediocrity: An Excerpt From James Altucher’s Choose Yourself!

James Altucher, who has shown up on this blog a number of times — and who was having lunch with me when we saw a lady get a mouse in her salad — has a new book out. It’s called Choose Yourself! Be Happy, Make Millions, Live the Dream. It is a classic Altucherian blend of insight, candor, and calamity. He has already made news with the book by letting Bitcoin users buy it ahead of the official release, and he is also giving people their money back if they read the whole book. Since he’s essentially giving the book away for free, we thought we might as well offer a free excerpt here. It is a chapter in praise of mediocrity. My favorite passage by far is this one:

The best ideas are when you take two older ideas that have nothing to do with each other, make them have sex with each other, and then build a business around the ugly bastard child that results. The child that was so ugly nobody else wanted to touch it. Look at Facebook: combine the internet with stalking. Amazing!

Enjoy! Read More »

James Altucher Strikes Again

A few years ago, I was working on a book about the psychology of money — a book I put aside when Freakonomics began to happen. The first chapter of the book was about a fellow named James Altucher, whom I’ve blogged about before. James’s relationship with money was fascinating and precarious. He grew up […] Read More »

Introducing “Question of the Day,” a New Dubner Podcast

One of the best things about being a journalist is getting to ask questions. Stephen Dubner has been doing this for years, accumulating fascinating bits of knowledge, hidden insights, and wild stories. By now he knows at least a little bit about a lot of things. Read More »

How to Save $1 Billion Without Even Trying: A Freakonomics Radio Rebroadcast

Our latest Freakonomics Radio episode is a rebroadcast called “How to Save $1 Billion Without Even Trying.” (You can subscribe to the podcast at iTunes or elsewhere, get the RSS feed, or listen via the media player above.)

The gist: Doctors, chefs, and other experts are much more likely than the rest of us to buy store-brand products. What do they know that we don’t? And if we all did like they do, how much fatter might our wallets be? Read More »

Are You Ready for a Glorious Sunset? Full Transcript

This is a transcript of the Freakonomics Radio podcast “Are You Ready for a Glorious Sunset?” [MUSIC: Brotherun, “Wishful Thinking” (from Brotherun EP)] Stephen J. DUBNER: In our previous episode, we talked about a set of TV commercials that use behavioral research to sell financial products like life insurance. Daniel GILBERT: It’s great to think optimistically […] Read More »

Think Like a Freak

The New York Times-bestselling Freakonomics changed the way we see the world, exposing the hidden side of just about everything. Then came SuperFreakonomics, a documentary film, an award-winning podcast, and more. Now, with Think Like a Freak, Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner have written their most revolutionary book yet. With their trademark blend […] Read More »

A Frog in the Salad

Two years ago, we did a podcast on a dining experience Stephen Dubner had at Le Pain Quotidien. The podcast was called “Mouse in the Salad,” so you can probably guess what happened. And it looks like animals in salads are all the rage lately — The Atlantic Wire reports that a Wall Street Journal editor recently found a frog in her Pret A Manger nicoise salad. The reason given by Pret was similar to the one given by Le Pain Quotidien CEO Vincent Herbert in our podcast: it’s organic. From WSJ.com:

Ellen Roggemann, vice president of brand marketing for the company in the U.S., said that Pret A Manger’s goal of selling “handmade natural food,” often made from organic ingredients, could be partially to blame for the frog in the salad.

“We don’t use any pesticides with our greens and they go through multiple washing cycles,” she said. “An unfortunate piece of organic matter has made its way through,” she added.

In our podcast, Dubner’s friend James Altucher had an interesting perspective on how things like this happen: Read More »

The Days of Wine and Mouses: Full Transcript

Stephen J. DUBNER: So Levitt, um, a college friend of yours once told me that your favorite meal during college was a dill pickle, beef jerky and grape soda. Is that true?  Stephen D. LEVITT: I did indeed have that for breakfast, but to tell you the truth, it sounded better before I ate it than after.  […] Read More »