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Episode Transcript

DUBNER: I’m Angie Duckworth, dammit.

*   *   *

DUCKWORTH: I’m Angela Duckworth.

DUBNER: I’m Stephen Dubner.

DUCKWORTH + DUBNER: And you’re listening to No Stupid Questions.

Today on the show: How do hope and optimism affect long shots?

DUBNER: We’ll call it “hoptimism.”

DUCKWORTH: Or what would the other thing be? “Ope?”

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DUBNER: Angela!


DUBNER: I have a question for you today that’s not quite a riddle, but it is a question without an obvious answer. And, furthermore, a question of which the correct answering thereof is not the point. Is that clear so far?

DUCKWORTH: Clear as mud, Stephen.

DUBNER: Here’s the question, though. What do the following activities have in common, Angela? A) throwing a deep pass in football, B) casting your fishing line into a lake, and C) sending, let’s say, a particularly ambitious email to someone you don’t know.

DUCKWORTH: Uh, low probability of success.

DUBNER: Okay. That’s right. It’s not exactly what I was thinking. I was thinking that these are a few things that we do that we just put out there in the hope and anticipation — no matter how unlikely they may seem — that something good will happen on the other end. And during that suspended moment, in between — when the ball is in the air, when the line is in the water, when the email is in the ether — there is that intoxicating sense that this might work. It probably won’t, but the attempt can maybe be very valuable in itself, even if you fail. So, I guess, finally, my question for you is this: Should we all be putting more things out there, even if the odds of success are long?

DUCKWORTH: I love a question about hope. You know, my literary agent, Richard Pine.

DUBNER: Do you like to needle him?

DUCKWORTH: No. I think he likes to needle me, actually. Anyway, we were talking about books. And he said that all books that actually catch on, to any extent, are really about the same thing and — wait for it—

DUBNER: Chewing gum?

DUCKWORTH: You were close. That one thing is hope. But it’s interesting, because you can remember the moment, metaphorically, right, when the ball leaves your hand — you’re just in this anticipation. In that moment where you don’t know yet what’s going to happen, I think what you’re doing is you’re mentally visualizing that it’s going to work just the way you want.

DUBNER: It’s buying a lottery ticket — it’s the period between which you’ve bought it and which the numbers have not yet been picked.

DUCKWORTH: Yeah, that kind of heady anticipation. It turns out that human beings are really good about imagining possible futures. One theory is that that’s our key evolutionary advantage — not standing on two legs, not the prehensile thumb, just the ability to imagine possible futures. But wow, we are good at it. Yeah, that’s a favorite theory of more than one social scientist, but the one who leaps to mind — because he was my advisor, and who’s actually one of the pioneers in the science of hope — is Marty Seligman.

DUBNER: Drink up, people who drink, when Angie says “Marty Seligman” and/or “Danny Kahneman.” I’ve learned that there are drinking games built around No Stupid Questions.

DUCKWORTH: People would be really drunk, too, if you picked either of those people.

DUBNER: What was the name of that man again, Angela?

DUCKWORTH: Marty Seligman, I know—

DUBNER: Sorry, a truck was going by. I didn’t hear. Say it again?

DUCKWORTH: Marty Seligman.

DUBNER: You people have had enough to drink now. Listen to what Angela has to say.  Marty Seligman was known for saying what, about hope?

DUCKWORTH: So, the very first thing that he started working on when he was, oh, I don’t know— I think he had graduated from college early, so probably when he was, like, 21 and in graduate school, or something like that. And that work ended up being the science of helplessness and pessimism, and then the opposite: the science of optimism and hope. But one of the things that he most recently has been working on is what he calls “prospection,” the imagining of possible futures. And I do think when the ball is in the air, when the lottery ticket numbers haven’t been yet called, when the email doesn’t look like it’s going to be ignored — you don’t know — we imagine a possible future where it turns out just the way we want.

DUBNER: So, Angela, if we use the word “hope,” is it equivalent to “optimism”? Is hope more of an emotional version of optimism, and optimism is the intellectual-academic version? Or are they really different?

DUCKWORTH: You know, Stephen, I wish I could give you a simple answer. Different researchers use different terms, but they use them in their own way. So, I can’t give you a: “Hope is this; however, optimism is that.” I think most people use “hope” and “optimism” pretty interchangeably.

DUBNER: We’ll call it “hoptimism.”

DUCKWORTH: Or what would the other thing be? “Ope?”

DUBNER: I got a lot of “ope” today.

DUCKWORTH: But I do want to say, broadly speaking, there are two kinds of hope. One kind of hope is called “dispositional optimism.” And it’s really this kind of, like, general sense that the next day, the next week, the next year is going to be good.  Two psychologists, Carver and Scheier, made a scale for it.  So, let me give this test to both you and me, and we’ll see how we do. Can you handle this for your working memory? “Very much like me.” “Mostly like me.” “Somewhat like me.” “A little like me.” “Not at all like me.” That’s a standard scale.


DUCKWORTH: So, Stephen, “In uncertain times, I usually expect the best.”

DUBNER: I would say “mostly like me.” Uncertainty makes me anxious — as it does for, I think, most humans. And so, I believe that uncertainty overrides my natural optimism quite a bit. So, I’d put myself right in the middle.

DUCKWORTH: Yeah. I would say “mostly like me.” So, you know, high. But not at the very top. How about this one: “I’m always optimistic about my future.”

DUBNER: I would say “mostly agree.” Except, of course, when things are uncertain, as determined by question one. Which makes no sense at all, because things are always uncertain. But anyway—

DUCKWORTH: True. Again, I’m with you. And, by the way, I’m actually thinking about this independently. I’m not being a conformist.  “Overall, I expect more good things to happen to me than bad.”

DUBNER: I would say “mostly” with a slight asterisk, which is that — as I’m sure I’ve mentioned in the show before — my dad died when I was quite young. I was nine or 10. And that was a bit of a jolt because it was not happy, plainly. Not expected. And it left me in a strange place. It made me an outlier, among other things, at school. So, I did have a lurking feeling that there were bad things in the offing for a while. And then, I essentially outgrew it. So, if we’d been talking a few decades ago, I might’ve given you a quite different answer.

DUCKWORTH: You are complex. You contain multitudes. Okay. “I rarely count on good things happening to me.”

DUBNER: “I rarely count on good things happening to me.” Yeah. I would say, that’s mostly like me.

DUCKWORTH: What? Really? You rarely count on good things happening to you?

DUBNER: Well, I’m responding to the statement the way it’s phrased. I count on myself being an active participant in trying to make good things happen for me. So, yeah. I don’t walk around expecting dollar bills to fall out of the sky and puppies to land in my basket.

DUCKWORTH: Stephen, this is the first item where we really diverge. My visceral response was, “Yeah, completely.”

DUBNER: You expect things to go your way.

DUCKWORTH: I really do.

DUBNER: “I’m Angie Duckworth, dammit.”

DUCKWORTH: I count on good things happening to me. And here you can see what this kind of hope is.  In some sense, these are agree-to-disagree statements about what you think about the world. Sort of like: “What is the nature of the universe?” And this dispositional optimism — believing that the world is going to be a good place to be tomorrow, next week, next year; good outcomes are going to happen to you separate from your agency, separate from your causal role — it turns out that people who are higher in this kind of dispositional optimism — this species of hope — they do pretty great, Stephen. They have abundant physical health. They have friends. They have more happiness. There are positive consequences to this kind of hope.

DUBNER: So, you’ve mentioned dispositional optimism. What’s the other form?

DUCKWORTH: The other form is— Well, it takes different names but, really, it’s “agentic hope.” It’s a kind of “What can I do?” sort of hope. And actually — okay, everybody get your shot glasses — Marty Seligman, this is the kind of hope he’s more interested in. Because, I think — what you started to already introspect on — it’s like, “Well, I don’t know if tomorrow’s going to be necessarily good weather or not, but I know that I can wear rain boots.” This is about what you do.

DUBNER: Is there a scale for that one, also?

DUCKWORTH: So, I want to bring up another hope researcher who sadly passed away before his time. His name was Shane Lopez. Shane Lopez and his collaborators came up with this scale that has a few items. I’m just going to give them to you, Stephen, so we can see how agentically hopeful you are. Okay. So, from “strongly agree” to “strongly disagree,” tell me how would you react to: “I have the power to make my future better.”

DUBNER: I would say “strongly agree.”

DUCKWORTH: Okay. Good. “I see many paths to my goals.”

DUBNER: Oh, that’s interesting, because I’m trying to learn to get better at backgammon. Because I’m decent, but I want to be great. But the thing about backgammon, I’ve realized, is that one way to be better is by understanding that there are many paths to victory in a given game. There are many ways to win. So, I would say that I am starting to strongly agree with that notion, but it’s been a learning process. So, I’d put myself in the middle. I’m becoming more agentic with each passing day.

DUCKWORTH: And then the last item I want to read you is: “The paths to my important goals are free of obstacles.”

DUBNER: Ooh, no. I strongly disagree.

DUCKWORTH: So, you’re very hopeful — especially, you know, feeling an agentic sense of, like, “I have the power to change my future.” Anyway, I do think you can get a sense from the difference between, “Yeah. Tomorrow is going to be great!” and, “Oh, tomorrow I’m going to do something!” And yet, it turns out they’re both pretty good to have. Marty would argue that there have been sweeping changes in human history that you can actually chalk up to the rise of agentic hope. If you look at any renaissance, if you look at technological leaps forward, if you look at these trends towards less violence and, in some ways, a more equitable planet, he would say, at the root of it all, the prime mover is agentic hope. More and more, over the course of history, there’s been a seismic shift away from “there’s nothing you can do.” And he talks about the Greek myths. Most of the Greek myths are like, “And then Apollo rides his chariot across the sky, and that is why the sun rises.” And, like, there’s nothing you can do about Apollo, Apollo’s chariot, the sunrise. Then there’s this move over the millennia toward: “What can I do, here?” And he would argue that was just simply not true for, maybe, most of human history.

DUBNER: So, let me ask you this: When you talk about the relationship between dispositional optimism and good outcomes, persuade me that that’s actually causal. Because, again, I could imagine you could say, “Yeah, sure — it’s easy to be optimistic when you’ve already had a stretch of good outcomes, like being born into a family with good resources, and having good health, and having good opportunities, and things like that.” So, persuade me that the arrow is traveling in the direction you’re implying it’s traveling.

DUCKWORTH: So, I’m going to try to persuade you in two ways, but I also just want to concede at the outset that it’s not fully known that it is causal. Of course, what you’d want to do is experimentally make people more optimistic, and then see what happens.

DUBNER: And then take it away from them.

DUCKWORTH: Yes. Or you could make them into pessimists. And it’s not that there haven’t been some successful attempts to do some version of that. But, look, I think it’s extremely hard to tease apart causality when: When you’re optimistic, your life comes out better; when your life comes up better, you’re more optimistic. In other words, to the extent there is a self-reinforcing cycle, that there is causality and there is reverse causality — both causal paths are at play — it just makes it very difficult work trying to disentangle the effects of one on the other. But let’s at least start with what you would expect. As I mentioned, there are correlations for both of these kinds of hope. I think you and I may be more interested in this agentic species of hope. For that, in particular, I will say: lots of correlational data, lots of longitudinal data. You measure somebody’s optimism at time one, you find they’re more optimistic in this agentic way than their peers — they live longer, they live healthier, they’re happier, they’re more successful. In terms of the evidence that would then add to that, there have been some pretty convincing—  and just logical — pathways. So, for example, when you have a sense of agency, you will try harder than other people who feel like, “What’s the point?”  And the causal path is: you try a little harder, and there’s some return on your effort. You throw the pass and either you get a touchdown, or you learn something from throwing the pass that you wouldn’t have if you had just said, “What’s the point?” I’ll just, you know — I don’t know what quarterbacks do when they lose hope, honestly — like, throw it out of bounds or whatever.

DUBNER: Interestingly, quarterbacks are selected for not losing hope. They are among the optimistic people. There is a mentality to the quarterback — what they call a “winning attitude.” And that means that, “You know what? If it’s 35-nothing at the start of the second half, I have no qualms about thinking that I’m going to bring this team back.” But what a lot of executives are really looking for is: Are you a try-er to the nth degree?

DUCKWORTH: Yeah, they’re looking for grit, among other things, right?

DUBNER: They are.

DUCKWORTH: So, anyway, you were like, “Prove to me that optimism is doing something causal here.” One of the pathways would be: you actually do stuff. Like, the pathway is effort. But there are these other plausible pathways — which, again, I think gives some credence to this idea that optimism is causal. A second pathway that we haven’t talked about is that, when you’re an optimist, you kind of recruit social support — people who are really positive, optimistic, agentic — they are the ones people want to work for. People who are like, “There’s nothing we can do. Tomorrow is going to be a terrible day. Everything sucks.” People run away from you. So, I think there’s a second causal pathway for optimism, which is: it’s kind of like a social stone soup. You know the story of stone soup?

DUBNER: You want to make soup, all you have is a stone, but you put the stone in the water, and pretty soon other people start coming with a potato and a carrot. There’s that weird guy with the tree branch, and so on, but other people bring actual food.

DUCKWORTH: But you can stir the soup. If you’re a real optimist, you’re like, “I know, we can stir the soup with this branch. Thank you for bringing the branch.”

DUBNER: That is so like you to turn the tree branch into a stirrer. That was beautiful.

Still to come on No Stupid Questions: Stephen and Angela discuss what happens when your long shot becomes an air ball.

DUCKWORTH: I did not receive the Yidan Prize. I tried for it again the next year and again, did not receive the Yidan Prize.

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Before we return to Stephen and Angela’s conversation about hope, let’s hear some of your thoughts on the topic. We asked listeners to send us voice memos about the longest long shots they’ve ever taken and what they learned from them. Here’s how you responded:

LOUISE BOWDITCH: I don’t like golf. I find it boring. But one really windless day in the Columbia River Gorge in Oregon, my very bored family convinced me to go play a round of golf. On the second hole, I hit a hole-in-one with my driver, to the massive cheers of my family and all sorts of bystanders. What did I learn from this? Once you hit a hole-in-one, that’s it. And I never have to play again.

ANONYMOUS: I applied for the 2017 and 2020 astronaut classes, was not accepted — like 99.99 percent of all people — and I learned absolutely nothing. I’m going to continue to apply until I get to go to space.

ANINDYA KUNDU: The longest long shot I took was actually related to meeting your host, Angela Duckworth. I’m a sociologist and I study the conditions that allow students with disadvantages to thrive. I used to write relatively critically about grit as a concept. And around this time, I was also looking for a third dissertation committee member, and someone suggested: Why not go to the woman herself? And so I reached out to Angela, knowing that I was very likely going to get rejected. But she actually, you know, emailed me back quickly saying she had time to chat on the phone. We talked, had a great conversation, and she said that even though she doesn’t take students, because I was so nice, she would take me on. So, I think with a little bit of humility, it’s okay to shoot for the stars.

That was Louise Bowditch, an aspiring astronaut who would like to remain anonymous, and sociologist Anindya Kundu. Thanks to them and to everyone who shared their responses with us! Now, back to Stephen and Angela’s conversation about optimism and long shots.

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DUBNER: So, we’re talking about hope and optimism and the benefits thereof, but let’s bring it back for a minute to the idea of the long shot. In other words, this is the effort to do something where the outcome is not only uncertain, it actually is pretty certain that the chances of success are quite low. What are the benefits, would you say, of taking long shots, even if they fail?

DUCKWORTH: So, Shane Lopez studied more the agentic kind of hope, but interestingly, on his hope scale, there are both items that are like, “the future is going to be great” and items that are about, you know, “I have the power to make it great.” So, he had this idea of hope that really, actually, incorporated both kinds. And one of the things that Shane Lopez wrote about — I think, really beautifully — was that when you’re a hopeful person, you believe that there are pathways to your goals. And you also believe that none of the paths are free of obstacles. They’re all hard paths. There are boulders in the way. You’re going to stumble and fall, or you’re going to skin your knees. And I think this idea of throwing the pass and it not working out is: absolutely, you learn something. And since there are no clear paths, in a way, they’re all low probability. The alternative to all this is just paralysis or stasis. So, anyway, I thought this insight — that, even when you’re an agentic hopeful person, you don’t live under the myth or the delusion that it’s going to be easy — I think that’s very important.

DUBNER: What’s the longest long shot you’ve ever taken?

DUCKWORTH: I’m thinking, in particular, of long shots that didn’t work out. And one of them was that I was assigning, to my own undergraduate class, a failure assignment. And I said, “The only way to succeed in this assignment is to fail. So, if you come back and you say, ‘Oh my gosh, Uma Thurman wrote me back,’ you know, you actually did get the internship, then you have to do something else. You have to keep going until you fail.” So, I do all the homework that my students do. And I said to them, “I’m going to do, for my failure assignment, applying for the Yidan Prize,” which is this four-million-dollar prize from a Chinese philanthropist named Charles Yidan. And I threw my hat in the ring. I filled out the application. And, by the way, at the end of an application, you’ve so convinced yourself that you really do walk on water. I had an actual kind of anticipatory, like, “Won’t it be great when I get this four million dollars to do research?” And I was able to tell my students at the end of the course that I had succeeded in failing, because I did not receive the Yidan Prize. And I tried for it again the next year. And again, did not receive the Yidan Prize. And this year I will apply for the Yidan Prize, and I am sure I will, again, not receive the Yidan Prize.

DUBNER: So, other than having a good story to tell, what were the “knock on” effects for you for having applied and failed? Were there upsides to that that you can identify?

DUCKWORTH: So, first, I should say: What have I learned? What I’ve learned is actually what I want to do in my research. So, I’m filling out this application, and part of it is: “What have you done?” But a lot of it is: “What do you want to do?” And I did some thinking that I wouldn’t have done. It actually made me think a little bigger than I was before. I realized I want to work on culture. I realized I want to work internationally. So, I did learn a little bit about myself, but I also dreamt a little bit in ways that I wouldn’t have. The other thing it made me do is go and ask people for letters of recommendation, which I hate doing. But that actually ended up having the silver lining of reminding me of people that I am grateful for. And then also, just, “Oh my gosh, we have to catch up! Let’s schedule a call.” So, on more than one of these recommender paths, I ended up reinvigorating a collaboration. And then there’s what the assignment was in the first place, which is: To fail something — you know, throw out the fishing line, make the pass, send out the email — and realize that the world doesn’t end when you don’t win.

DUBNER: So, I guess my takeaway from that story specifically, but this conversation generally, is that it’s only a long shot if you think it is — in a way — and that there’s a real value in going for it, even if it doesn’t work. And I guess the potential downside is that failing repeatedly could, for some people, end up really dimming their hope and optimism. So, do you have any advice for how to work around that?

DUCKWORTH: The people that I know, and the people that Marty studies who are very high in optimism interestingly not only think about the future in a certain way — they look back on the past in a certain way. And the way that an optimist looks back on the past is: “What have I learned?” And then: “What can that learning make me do differently next?” I really don’t have an example of anything that I have regretted or done wrong that didn’t have some silver lining of like, “Ooh, I’ll never do that again.” Right? “Don’t press that button.” “Don’t forget to press that button.” Whatever it was, however painful, there’s always something that you can learn. Sometimes people think about optimism, and they think, “Well, if they’re people who go and do low-probability things, the math doesn’t add up. It has to be bad.” But here’s the thing about what happens in a human life. You change the odds. It’s not just that the odds are the odds are the odds. It’s that you make the odds. By striving, et cetera, you recruit social support, you change the world in ways that the odds themselves change. So, maybe what optimists are doing are not misreading the odds, but they’re creating the odds that they want.

DUBNER: So, when you talk about changing the odds, it makes me think of an example of a long shot — literally, a long shot — that if you calculate it properly, is in fact not a long shot at all. Let’s think about a three-point shot in basketball.

DUCKWORTH: Like, a Steph Curry shot?

DUBNER: Yeah, exactly.

DUCKWORTH: Because of Steph Curry, I now know what a three-point shot is.

DUBNER: He’s famous for being, I guess, the best three-point shooter in history. I know he’s got the most. I’m not sure about his accuracy, but he’s obviously really, really good at it. So, this was a shot that, interestingly, came to the mainstream from outside the mainstream. I believe it was started in the American Basketball Association, not the N.B.A. — A.B.A. was a rival, and they did all this crazy stuff. They had red, white, and blue basketballs, and they had the three-point shot, which the N.B.A. considered this crazy gimmick. Anyway, long story short, it becomes mainstream. And of course, a three-point shot means that you get three points rather than two for a shot that’s beyond a certain distance. The idea is that, if you make a shot from way out there, it’s worth 50 percent more points than another shot. So, if you look at the data from the N.B.A. — this is from one fairly recent year — the percentage of shots made from 10 to 16 feet away from the basket — so, fairly close — was 40 percent. And the percentage of shots made from 16 feet out to the three-point arc — so, still only a two-point shot — are just under 40 percent. So, players are making roughly 40 percent of their shots when they’re taking these medium-length, two-point shots. But then you look from beyond the three-point arc — N.B.A. players made 36 percent of their shots. So, not 40, but it’s just a few percentage points lower. Let’s call it 10 percent less.

DUCKWORTH: But the expected value is still pretty high, because you get three points.

DUBNER: It’s 50 percent more. And, as a result of that — and this follows up with what you were saying about the way optimism works, or how you can change your odds — as a result of that, more and more people spend more and more time practicing three-point shots, and therefore get better and better over time.

DUCKWORTH: They’re doing it more, and they’re getting better. Holy smokes!

DUBNER: So, there may be times in life when it seems like the long shot is overly optimistic when, in reality, it is the more rational option.

DUCKWORTH: You know, there’s two times, maybe, that you shouldn’t take the long shot. One is: something catastrophically bad will happen when you do this long shot —walking on tightropes between skyscrapers, or things like that. So, one reason not to take a long shot is there’s a catastrophic outcome if, in fact, you don’t beat the odds. But, more commonly, I would also just say, if there was an easier, higher-probability thing that you can do than a Hail Mary pass, then do that. And it is obvious, but I do think sometimes in the romance of doing long-shot things, you can overlook those more safe paths that are just better.

DUBNER: Here’s my last question for you. I was speaking with my daughter Anya about this. She’s in college, and she’s studying psychology and neuroscience. When I mentioned to her this idea of the long shot, and what it represents, and having hope, and so on, she said, “Oh, well, that’s very reliant on having patience,” which I would not have thought of, and I’m not sure she’s right. Would you say patience is a primary component of hope? And if not, what are some traits that do co-travel with high optimism?

DUCKWORTH: So, Marty has this inventory that he developed with Chris Peterson, who was working on the strengths that defined humanity — an encyclopedia of all the positive qualities. They called them “strengths of character.” And they came up with 24 strengths. One of them was “optimism,” but there’s also “appreciation of beauty.” And there is “curiosity,” and there’s “gratitude.” They’re all positively correlated. So, I can tell you that optimism is correlated with grit. But it’s also correlated with all the other positive things in the encyclopedia of good things to be. So, good things, they correlate with other good things.

DUBNER: Driving fast and drinking beer, for instance.

DUCKWORTH: For example! That’s exactly what I was thinking about, Stephen. Thank you for reading my mind.

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No Stupid Questions is produced by me, Rebecca Lee Douglas. And now here is a fact-check of today’s conversation.

In the first half of the show, Angela says that the key evolutionary advantage of human beings is, quote, “not standing on two legs, not the prehensile thumb, just the ability to imagine possible futures.” Angie likely meant an “opposable” thumb — not a “prehensile” thumb. “Prehensile” means capable of grasping or holding. So, a monkey’s tail is “prehensile,” because it can be used to hang onto things. “Opposable” refers to a digit on a hand or foot that can be placed against one or more of the remaining digits. So, an “opposable” thumb is part of a “prehensile” hand. But neither are unique to humans — or even to primates. Mice, chameleons, possums, and many other animals have opposable thumbs as well.

Later, Angela says that she thinks Marty Seligman — drink up — was just 21 when he began his graduate school research. Seligman has an August birthday. He was 21 when he graduated college in the spring of 1964, but 22 when he began his Ph.D. classes at the University of Pennsylvania in the fall. So, he didn’t graduate college early, as Angela suspected, but he did finish his Ph.D. in just three years — a program that normally takes six years to complete.

Finally, Stephen says that the three-point field goal began with the American Basketball Association (the A.B.A). It was actually introduced by the American Basketball League and popularized by the A.B.A. He says that Golden State Warriors point guard Steph Curry has more three-point field goals than any other basketball player in history, but he wasn’t sure if Curry had the most accurate three-pointers. While Curry certainly has the most — 3,065 at the time of this taping — he does not have the greatest accuracy. That honor belongs to his current coach, eight-time N.B.A. champion Steve Kerr. While playing professionally, Kerr shot 45.4 percent from three-point range, while Curry only shoots 42.9 percent. In fact, Steph Curry doesn’t even have the greatest three-point accuracy in his family! His brother, Seth Curry of the Philadelphia 76ers, is .8 percentage points more accurate than him at 43.7 percent. However, Steph Curry does have a better percentage than his father, former NBA player Dell Curry, who retired with 40.2 percent accuracy.

That’s it for the fact-check.

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Coming up next week on No Stupid Questions, Stephen and Angela advise a listener who is struggling to decide whether it’s time to retire.

DUBNER: I believe he’s approximately 195 years old. And yet he announced that he was running for re-election.

That’s next week on No Stupid Questions. If you’d like to share your thoughts on the topic, email a voice memo to with the subject line “Retirement.” Tell us about your ideal retirement plan. Maybe it’s to stop working at 35 and watch movies and eat bonbons all day. Or perhaps you love your job so much that you want to keep working until the day you die. Whatever it is, we want to hear from you! Make sure to record someplace quiet, and please keep your thoughts to under a minute. Maybe we’ll include them on the show!

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No Stupid Questions is produced by Stitcher and Renbud Radio and is part of the Freakonomics Radio Network, which also includes Freakonomics Radio, People I (Mostly) Admire, and Freakonomics, M.D. This show was mixed by Eleanor Osborne. Our staff also includes Alison Craiglow, Greg Rippin, Morgan Levey, Zack Lapinski, Mary Diduch, Ryan Kelley, Jasmin Klinger, Emma Tyrell, Lyric Bowdich, and Jacob Clemente. Our theme song is “And She Was” by Talking Heads — special thanks to David Byrne and Warner Chappell Music. If you’d like to listen to the show ad-free, subscribe to Stitcher Premium. You can follow us on Twitter @NSQ_Show and on Facebook @NSQShow. If you have a question for a future episode, please email it to To learn more, or to read episode transcripts, visit Thanks for listening!

DUCKWORTH: My mom, by the way, recently has been texting me to let me know that she’s figured out that she’s an optimist. She’s close to 87.

DUBNER: Your mom is high on the optimism scale, but also high on the slow learner scale.

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