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Win Bigly by Scott Adams.
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People are Irrational and Emotional

You think of yourself as rational, making decisions with facts and logic. Instead, people are governed by emotion and heuristic thinking much more than they think.

Consider instead that humans are 90% irrational and emotion. They make a decision first by gut, then rationalize it afterward.

The only exceptions are when decisions have no emotional content, like buying an identical product for less money.

Think of humans as “moist robots,” a programmable entity that produces the right output when given the right inputs.

Master Persuaders

Master persuaders are people who have incredible persuasion skills and form “reality distortion fields.” Examples include Steve Jobs and Donald Trump.

Master persuaders often have a persuasion “talent stack,” or a collection of persuasion-related skills that work well together. The more you can combine, the more persuasive you will be.

According to Scott Adams, Trump’s talent stack made him very persuasive even when he wasn’t notably brilliant in any one field. Trump had the combination of (Publicity | Reputation | Strategy | Negotiating | Persuasion | Public speaking | Sense of humor | Quick on his feet | Thick skinned | High-energy | Size and appearance | Intelligence).

Persuasion Principles

This is Scott Adams’s ordering of methods of persuasion, from least to most effective:

  • Word-thinking/semantics
  • Pointing out hypocrisy
  • Reason/facts
  • Analogy
  • Habit
  • Appealing to aspirations
  • Identity
  • Appealing to fears

Set the Expectation of Being Persuaded

People are more easily persuaded if they expect to be persuaded.

  • Doctors post their degrees on their walls. Salespeople drive fancy cars to show they’re good at their jobs.
  • Trump wrote Art of the Deal and convinced the world he was a great negotiator. Now every person going in had subconscious permission to do worse against Trump as a persuader. Brilliantly, the book is not just about persuasion - it is persuasion.

Brand yourself as a winner. If people expect you to win, they will be biased toward making it happen.

Display Confidence and Energy

Display confidence to improve your persuasiveness. You have to believe yourself to get anyone else to believe. Energy is contagious.

People perceive high energy as competence and leadership.

Confidence works in signaling status and quality. People with status have the freedom to act however they like, including like assholes. People without status need to grovel and be excessively nice to get what they want.

Communicate Simply

Simple is catchier. It’s easier to understand and remember.

Get rid of extra words. Don’t write “he was...

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Win Bigly Summary Win Bigly Guide Introduction

Most people think there is one objective reality, and we can understand that reality through facts and reason.

The problem is that we all think we’re the enlightened ones, and people who disagree with us just need better facts or better brains. If there is a single truth, isn’t it odd that everyone sees their personal beliefs as the truth, and that so many people disagree on what the truth is?

People actually make decisions more irrationally than they realize. We are subject to biases and pulled by our emotions. We make decisions first, and rationalize them after the fact. Analogously, asking someone what they want to do and why...

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Win Bigly Summary Win Bigly Guide Cognitive Biases

Cognitive biases may exist because they save the brain energy - the thoughts are not perfect but are good enough for survival. It would be exhausting to reinterpret your reality with every new piece of information.

The important principle here is that biases are not flaws in our operating system - they are the operating system.

Funnily enough, even when you know exactly what’s going on, it’s still effective.

  • Everyone knows that $9.99 is chosen because it looks much cheaper than $10.00. It still works.
  • The McGurk effect (video of someone saying “bah” with audio of “fah”). Even when you know the effect, you are still subject to it.

As we’ll explore in later chapters, many persuasion strategies take advantage of cognitive biases.

Confirmation Bias

What it is: you pay attention to information that confirms your prior beliefs, and discard data that contradicts your beliefs.

In politics, all sides suffer from this.

  • There was alleged collusion between Russia and the Trump campaign. No smoking gun was reported, but there were stories of Russian influence on the election (eg Facebook)....

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Win Bigly Summary Win Bigly Guide The Most Effective Persuasion Methods

There are broad categories of persuasion methods, ranging from logical reasoning to appeals to emotion.

Scott Adams considers some persuasion methods to be terribly weak and others to be formidably strong. We’ll cover his ranking of methods, starting from strong to weak.

Rank 1: Appeal to Fears

Fears trigger stronger reactions than positive emotions like hope, and is the strongest persuasion method of all.

Nuances of fears:

  • Personal fears are more persuasive than generic large-scale problems (losing your house vs general climate change)
  • A fear you think about more often is stronger than one rarely thought about.
  • A visual fear is scarier than one without.
  • A fear you’ve experienced firsthand (eg a crime) is scarier than a statistic.

Examples:

  • In the 2016 US Presidential election, Trump engaged people on fears of losing jobs and crime.
  • Clinton couldn’t use the same fears because of her brand, so she used Trump as the object of fear, portraying him as the next Hitler.
    • The painting of Trump as Hitler contributed to the militancy of Clinton supporters. If you had a chance to stop a literal Hitler and save millions of lives, you have...

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Shortform Exercise: Persuasion from Personal Experience

Think about effective persuasion methods you've seen recently.


When have you recently seen an example of persuasion by appealing to fear? Was it effective?

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Win Bigly Summary Win Bigly Guide Persuasion Principles

These are principles of persuasion that hold true with all methods of persuasion.

Communicate Simply

Simple is catchier. It’s easier to understand and remember.

Get rid of extra words. Don’t write “he was very happy” when you can write “he was happy.” Prune your sentences.

Write short sentences. Avoid putting multiple thoughts in one sentence. Readers are lazier and less thoughtful than you think.

Your first sentence needs to grab the reader and inspire curiosity. Keep rewriting it until it’s good.

  • Scott Adams began his post with “I went from being a bad writer to being a good writer after taking a one-day course in business writing.”

For humorous writing, choose your words with specificity. Don’t say “drink” when you can sway “swill.”

Learn how brains organize ideas.

  • “The boy hit the ball” is easier to understand than “the ball was hit by the boy.” Actors do things to objects.
  • (Shortform note: start with the trunk of an idea, then attach details as branches and leaves to the trunk of the tree. Connect new ideas to other ideas the reader already knows. Summarize your main points after you’re done.)

Persuasion Talent Stack

A persuasion talent...

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Win Bigly Summary Win Bigly Guide Persuasion Strategies

These are high-level ideas to persuade. They establish a foundation for persuasion and underlie the specific words and tactics you use.

Set the Expectation of Being Persuaded

People are more easily persuaded if they expect to be persuaded.

  • In his book, Scott Adams repeats that he’s a trained hypnotist. This sounds amazing, almost intimidating, until you realize there is no formal certification for this and makes him sound more credible than perhaps it deserves.
  • Doctors post their degrees on their walls. Salespeople drive fancy cars to show they’re good at their jobs.
  • Trump wrote Art of the Deal and convinced the world he was a great negotiator. Now every person going in had subconscious permission to do worse against Trump as a persuader. Brilliantly, the book is not just about persuasion - it is persuasion.
  • It’s easier to persuade someone who is paying you for a service, since they perceive a higher value to your skills. They want and expect to be influenced.

Tactics

  • Brand yourself as a winner. If people expect you to win, they will be biased toward making it happen.
  • Improve your physical appearance. Dress for the part. Attractive...

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Win Bigly Summary Win Bigly Guide Persuasion Tactics

These are specific tactics to take in different situations. Beyond the persuasion principles and strategies above, these tactics teach how to persuade on a word-by-word basis.

Linguistic Kill Shot

A Linguistic Kill Shot is a nickname or catchphrase targeting your opponent. It can be so persuasive that it quickly ends an argument. They are more effective when novel (uncommon, unexpected) and visual.

The 2016 US Presidential election showed a variety of nicknames, some masterful and others ineffective.

  • Trump’s: “Low-energy Jeb.” “Lyin’ Ted.” “Lil’ Marco.” “Crooked Hillary.” “Goofy Elizabeth Warren.”
    • Note how the most memorable names weren’t common - no use of “liberal.”
    • Note too the deliberate contraction of words that invites a double take - lyin’, lil’.
    • These all fed confirmation bias and visual imagery - Jeb did indeed look listless, Ted did have beady little eyes that made him look untrustworthy.
  • Clinton’s nicknames for Trump weren’t as...

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Shortform Exercise: Persuade Better

Try to be more persuasive in an upcoming situation.


What is an upcoming situation where you need to be persuasive? This can be at work or in personal life.

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Win Bigly Summary Win Bigly Guide Notes on the 2016 Election

These are remaining notes on the 2016 US Presidential election that didn’t fit clearly into the persuasive ideas above.

On Trump’s Campaign Tactics

For some critics, Trump’s lack of specificity on his policies was maddening. But for his supporters, this was fine - he matched their overall priorities, and supporters trusted him to get the details right once elected.

Scott Adams always knew Trump would drift back to the middle once elected, so Adams wasn’t concerned about Trump’s actual policies.

During the election, a wide range of issues were discussed, and Trump endured endless criticism. While this in total might have seemed to sink Trump, in reality the average person can hold only a handful of issues in her mind. Any less important topic fades from memory. All that she would remember is a general impression, that Trump didn’t apologize and his opponents called him a liar, like always.

Reflections on Trump’s Scandals

Trump had a number of scandals during the campaign, and while liberals hoped each one would sink Trump, they rarely had the impact hoped.

Scott Adams reflects on the impact of each scandal.

Trump’s Taxes

  • Releasing taxes was a losing...

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Table of Contents

  • 1-Page Summary
  • Introduction
  • Cognitive Biases
  • The Most Effective Persuasion Methods
  • Exercise: Persuasion from Personal Experience
  • Persuasion Principles
  • Persuasion Strategies
  • Persuasion Tactics
  • Exercise: Persuade Better
  • Notes on the 2016 Election