The book

The author

  • David Shenk is the national bestselling author of five previous books, including The Forgetting ("remarkable" - Los Angeles Times), Data Smog ("indispensable" - New York Times), and The Immortal Game ("superb" - Wall Street Journal). He is a correspondent for, and has contributed to National Geographic, Slate, The New York Times, Gourmet, Harper's, The New Yorker, NPR, and PBS.

    More info here.

    Contact David.

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    Speaking inquiries here.


« Book is finished | Main | Book outtakes, pt 1 »

April 25, 2009



Paulo, you're a joke. You are not on the upper echelon that the president is on. How do you know what material there is to work with. Do you know anything other than what you read in the news, or what rumors and hearsay you here. If Obama only spoke well and new did nothing concrete, then how is it that he has done so much in the very short time he has been in office? Also, Paulo you're _________.



Oh, from the beginning I saw you are an Obama fan, which ideally should not blind your judgment. Unfortunately it does.

He is an extraordinary speaker.... other than that there is not much material to [objectively] work with...


David Shenk

Ok, we get it. You're not an Obama fan. I think he's an extraordinary individual with extraordinary abilities. We'll just have to live with our disagreement over this.


"if we keep on working at it [at what?], if we acknowledge that we make mistakes sometimes [what kind of mistakes?] and that we don’t always have the right answer [relative to what?]..."

It's not about open-mindedness, it's about vagueness...

Obama's remarks sound utterly vague and meaningless to me. I don't think it's about "getting good at stuff". It's about trying to talk your way out of the issues. And yea, Obama is very good at it.

David Shenk

I disagree. Persistence is very different from stubbornness -- in fact, it's sort of the opposite, in the context that Obama uses the word above. Obama says "if we keep on working at it, if we acknowledge that we make mistakes sometimes and that we don’t always have the right answer..." That's an open-mindedness, a humility, a constant vigilance about what's working and what needs to be changed. Persistence is when you are refuse to give up on a problem, and you keep working at trying to find the best way to approach that problem.

As to your comment about bad people, yes, there are evil and cruel people in the world. You could give the same response to any remark on intelligence and talent -- you could always say, "Hitler was smart. Hitler was talented." Respectfully, we're not really having a discussion on morality here. This blog is about how people get good at stuff. And persistence is a terribly important component in how people get good at stuff.


Persistence is not necessarily a good thing, as it depends on what one pursues. Being "persistent" on a stupid idea just means you're stubborn.

By the way, "persistence" was also a characteristic of the people who did the worst damage to human race in history.

So being persistent per se doesn't actually mean much.

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