Rolf Dobelli explains 52 Mental Tools for “the good life” he discovered through the intersection of Modern Psychology, Stoicism and the philosophies of value investing.

🚀 The Book in 3 Sentences

  1. Learn the Shortcuts for better Business and Life
  2. Avoid making emotional decisions. Apply history-proven mental tools to make decisions for a better life.
  3. The only thing you can change, is your perspective.

🎨 Impressions

How I Discovered It

My sister gave me this book after I came back from Sweden from my My Erasmus 2021. She bought it on her Thailand Trip.

Who Should Read It?

Reflective people or those who have trouble dealing with their emotions.

☘️ How the Book Changed Me

I really resonated with the first half of the book. I discovered a lot of new ideas through it and reflected on how I can incoorperate it into my life.

The second half seemed more mundane. Most tools didn’t feel like new and worthy concepts to try out or explore.

✍️ My Top 3 Quotes

We tend to overestimate the perfect set up and underestimate correction. Plans are nothing, planning is everything.

Dwight Eisenhower

There are old pilots, and there are bold pilots, but there are no old bold pilots

– Saying of Pilots

Few people are as unhappy as those with a talent no one cares about.

— English philosopher John Gray

📒 Summary + Notes …

Mental Accounting

Pay fines and parking Tickets from the budget you assigned for a good cause. Now it’s not a loss anymore.

Reinterpretation of common fallacies, like loosing money because of theft or loosing time waiting in line.

Which amount of money that you pay more for a drink makes no difference to you?

Your already dead, and everything after that is a gift.

The Fine Art of Correction

Planes are constantly correcting their course.

Do the same with your goals & ambitions.

The Good Life is only achieved through constant adjustment.

We tend to overestimate the perfect set up and underestimate correction. Plans are nothing, planning is everything.

Dwight Eisenhower#planning

Inflexibility as a Stratagem

Flexibility is a trap.

Set unconditional pledges you follow, to signal will power and avoid decision fatigue because you don’t have to spend energy in each situation.

Sticking to your commitment 100% of the time is easier than sticking to them 99% of the time.

Black Box Thinking

Apply radical acceptance

Have your own personal flight recorder.

Create a decision note before you make major decisions in order to analyze mistakes made later


Technology has a hidden cost. (Cars, Smart Home, multiple computers, …)

The time & money you spend maintaining it often outreaches the monetary value you spend.

Do nothing wrong and the right thing will happen

This chapter is about not consistently making mistakes.

There are old pilots, and there are bold pilots, but there are no old bold pilots.

– Saying of Pilots

Amateur tennis matches aren’t won, they’re lost.

Try to be consistently not stupid, instead of intelligent.

The Five Second No

Spontaneously agreeing to something is a deeply rooted biological reflex.

Employ Charlie Mungers’ five second no rule.

American political scientist Robert Axelrod held tournaments with different computer programs each having a specific strategy. The most successful strategy being tit for that, or reciprocal altruism as known from the animal kingdom. Chimpanzees shares it’s meal with another non-blood related peer in hopes of him returning the favour. This only works because of their long term memory.

All those who summon you to themselves, turn you away from your own self.


The things you buy leave no real trace

Buy experience instead of goods.

A car makes you happy thinking about it, but not when you’re driving it.

The two happiest days of yacht owners are the day you buy a yacht and the day you sell it.

If the benefits will fade into the background, it will not have an impact of your life.

Fuck you Money

The Easterlin Paradox tells us that once basic needs have been met, incremental financial gain contributes nothing to happiness.

Circle of Competence

Find the things your good at and stick to them. Here, interestingly trying to broaden the number of skills isn’t entirely positive.

Secret of Persistence

Great men have boring lifes. Referencing Warren Buffet, Kant, Darwin. Stick with good hobbies and relationships.

You don’t have to be brilliant. Only a bit wiser than the other guys, on average, for a long, long time.

Charlie Munger

The Tyranny of a Calling

This chapter gave some examples of people who lived for their callings, yet often end up unhappy, in some instances even committing suicide, as their talent was only recognised too late.

The essence is to not try to follow an unrealistic calling. Try to keep a level headed distance to it, so that if it doesn’t work out, your world doesn’t end.

Build on skills you actually have and make good use of it.

Few people are as unhappy as those with a talent no one cares about.

— English philosopher John Gray

Prison of a good reputation

Shift from external to internal validation. Stop caring about recognition. Don’t google yourself.

Would you rather be the worlds greatest lover, but have everyone think that your’e the worlds worst lover? Or would you rather be the worlds worst lover but have everyone think your’e the worlds best lover?

Warren Buffet

The End of History Illusion

You can change yourself but not other people. Your tendencies and values will change over time. Be careful who you choose to admire.

The author and his wife write a list of peoples names down that are not good for them, then they burn the list.

The Smaller Meaning in Life

Setting goals is very important. But set them realistically.

Your two selves: Why you’re life isn’t a photo album

You’re remembering self and your experiencing self

The peak-end-rule from Daniel Kahneman says remember most clearly the peak of an episode, i.e, the moment of greatest intensity, and the end.

We tend to over evaluate the remembering self instead of focusing on the present. Whats more important, a fulfilled moment-to-moment life or a full photo album?

This is one chapter I don’t fully agree with for some reason.

The memory bank: Experience trumps memory

How much would you pay for the best imaginable experience? Dinner with God, conversation with future self, travelling the galaxy. And how much would you pay for it if you couldn’t remember it afterwards? Experiences don’t count if you cannot remember them. The longer we live with a memory, the greater the value it accrues. This is nonsensical, as when we die all of our memories are lost anyway.

People feel happier while remembering positive experiences. Therefore, psychologist propose deliberately recalling happy memories. The author however suggests after making long-term plans, to focus on the here and now.

The spiral of self-pity: Why it makes no sense to wallow in the past

Childhood traumas are not correlated to adult personality.

If you find yourself in a hole, stop digging

Charlie Munger

Hedonism and Eudemonia: How meaning can compensate for Enjoyment

Moments have a hedonistic (instant gratification) and a meaningful component too it. Find a balance in that.

Circle of dignity

The circle of dignity draws crystallizes over time after uncountable wounds over time and together your pledges and protects them from 1) better arguments 2) mortal danger 3) deals with the Devil.

But if not

Keep only a few, non-negotiable principles.

If an individual has not discovered something he will die for, he isn’t fit to live

Martin Luther King

If you break on the outside

You eventually break on the inside.

If somebody insults you heavily, ask them to repeat it word for word.

The Devils bargain

What wouldn’t you allow for a billion dollars? The clearer you define your circle of dignity, the easier it is to decline an offer not worth making. If you have to reevaluate every time then you become susceptible for future devil offers.

The book of worries

To increase survival for a species, it requires a large amount of anxiety.

Canadian researchers conducted an experiment which shielded a forest full of sparrows from natural enemies while one part was exposed with sounds of their enemies. They found that sparrows living in fear lay fewer and smaller eggs.

Strategies to combat anxiety: 1) Keep a book of worries. Spend ten minutes everyday to note down your worries of the day on a blank page. After a week, revise and notice which worries repeat and which ones you have to deal with. Spend more time thinking about specific worries to decrease their fascination. 2) Take out insurance 3) Focused work

The opinion volcano: why you’re better off without opinions

Only have a few well thought through opinions. Writing about it helps. For everything that is too complicated, or you don’t care about, have no opinion.

Your mental fortress

You can’t find happiness in material things or social success. These things are temporary. What remains is your thoughts, you’re mental tools, the way you interpret bad luck, loss and set backs. Invest in your mental fortress.

Read less but twice

Read everything you can until you’re about thirty to increase your understanding of the average of the literary landscape. After read very few books, but twice.

Mental Subtraction

Six months after winning the lottery or getting children our happiness will dissipate.

The point of maximum deliberation

… Is reached quite quickly. For new information, you have to act. Mulling things over only helps early on. Investment decisions: 3 days Personal life? A week Career change? About 5 days

Give yourself enough time for passing mood swings.

Cargo Cults

Don’t build planes out of straw.

The term Cargo Cult came from the second world war when the local people on some of the islands in the Pacific experienced how the soldiers received cargo shipments dropped by airplanes. The soldiers shared food eith the locals. And when they left, cargo cultures arose. Locals built full scalr airplanes out of straw and placed them on the runways. They built radio towers out of bamboo, carbed headphones out of wood and mimicked the soldiers movement in order to attract the birds dropping food from the sky.

The Arms Races

Pianists & Violonists are the unhappiest type of musicians on the planet, due to a crushing amount of competition. Find a nieche where there is no competition.

Making friends with weirdos

Einstein couldn’t get a job and revolutionized physics in his spare time.

Charles Darwin was an independent researcher.

Margareth Thatcher was a house wive, before exploding onto the political scene.

Most people moving the world were outsiders. People outside the establishment. They don’t have to adhere to established protocols.

Make friends with them. But don’t become one yourself.

The Secretary problem

Also known as the 37% Rule.

You want to hire a secretary. And you have 100 applicants in total. Given that you can only hire someone, directly after their interview, and if you let them leave, they’ll never come back, at which time would you decided to hire someone?

If you keep in mind the best applicant so far as a benchmark, then mathematically it’s proven that after 37%, you should hire the next best applicant, to get the most optimal result.

Usually People make their decision too early.

Managing Expectations

Research confirms that Expectations impact Happiness profoundly.

Be careful of your wording. Triage your thoughts from “I must” to “I want”.

Advertising is the engineering of expectations

How to manage your expectations?

  1. Separate necessities, desire and expectations
  2. Rate your Expectations from 0-10
  3. Deduct two points

Sturgeons Law

Dictates that 90% of everything is bullshit.

Tweets, books, videos, everything you read, write or consume.

This also includes your emotions. Don’t give too much attention to fleeting feelings.