Wild Problems | Russell “Russ” Roberts

Summary of: Wild Problems: A Guide to the Decisions That Define Us
By: Russell “Russ” Roberts


Are you struggling with big, life-changing decisions? Welcome to the world of Wild Problems. In ‘Wild Problems: A Guide to the Decisions That Define Us’, Russ Roberts delves into the challenges of tackling complex choices, and how understanding the distinction between ‘tame problems’ and ‘wild problems’ can help you navigate life’s most critical decisions. From employing ancient Greek philosophical concepts to examining modern day techniques from thought leaders, you’ll discover helpful strategies that can aid in simplifying even the most daunting challenges. Join us on a journey that explores the intricate nature of decision making and examines an unconventional approach that may lead you towards a more fulfilling, satisfying life.

Conquering Wild Problems

Author Russ Roberts differentiates between two types of problems: tame and wild problems. Tame problems have a rational pathway to decision-making, while wild problems are more complicated and have no clear path to the end goal. They are impossible to truly understand until you are in the middle of them.

The Greek Way of Flourishing

Exploring the concept of eudaemonia, this summary reveals how taking the long view and embracing challenges can lead to a richer, more fulfilling life, and argues that important decisions should be made based on personal values rather than a pro-con list.

The ancient Greeks have left a lasting legacy with their contributions to democracy, the Western alphabet, and the Olympics. However, they also offer us an interesting way of thinking about life through the concept of eudaemonia. This term loosely translates to “flourishing” and refers to a way of living that goes beyond just seeking pleasure and avoiding pain. It is about living a life of beauty, integrity, and passion that can sometimes involve challenges and pain.

The summary points out that important life decisions, such as having children or choosing a partner, cannot be accurately evaluated based on a pro-con list. Instead, the author suggests thinking about these decisions as a trip to Rome. You have a general sense of what you want to do, but you don’t know exactly how it will unfold. Similarly, you should seek a companion who has similar interests and values, but ultimately embrace the unknown and trust that the journey will be fulfilling.

Overall, the summary argues that important decisions should be made based on personal values and desires rather than solely on rational analysis. The flourishing aspect of life lies in the parts of the decision that cannot be fully understood or anticipated. Individuals should strive to live a life of beauty, integrity, and passion, even if it involves challenges and pain. The concept of eudaemonia offers us a way to think about life as a journey rather than a destination, and to embrace the unknown and trust in the fulfillment of our personal values.

Make Decisions That Save Your Self

Making important life decisions can be challenging, as there are always uncertainties, biases, and many factors to consider. While the common decision-making method that involves asking what is desirable and what is feasible works well, it may not lead to a flourishing outcome. The key lies in making decisions based on one’s sense of self. This approach is effective in ensuring that the decision aligns with one’s principles and values, bringing meaning and purpose to life. Sticking to inviolable principles and sticking to them when making decisions about wild problems is the shortest way to a flourishing life.

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