Black Box Thinking Summary Explanation & Review

Author: Matthew Syed

Black Box Thinking (2015) sheds light on accepting the most embarrassing and worse moments of our lives that are covered with failure. You cannot escape failure but you can learn to embrace it in a better way.
black box thinking

Detail Explanation of Black Box Thinking Summary

What is actually Black Box Thinking? This, then, is what we might call “black box thinking.” It is not about just creating a black box it is more about being willing to investigate the lessons that we can learn from the failure that had already happened.

It is like an opportunity for looking into the past, clearly seeing what was wrong and learning from it. As egoistic humans, we rarely exploit this opportunity. But, if we can learn to take lessons from these failures and errors rather than being threatened by them can change our lives.

Sure, nobody wants to fail but success only occurs after we face our mistakes and learn from our own black box. Complexity and our ego make it hard for us to see where our failure lies but reaching your full potential requires embracing failure.

In Black Box Thinking, you will learn to create your own black box. Whenever you fail, you can go back, rewind, see how it happened, learn from it, and then move forward. This time you will be trying with experience and lessons.

Black Box Thinking Key Points

What comes to your mind when you first heard the word Black Box? Most people assume that it is some kind of black magic book or contains some dirty content. But the truth is the opposite. Black box means to learn from past bad experiences. I know it is difficult to recall bad and pathetic memories. But it is better to learn than do it again and this time at the worst high level.

The black box contains all the bad experiences of the past that led to failure or other mishaps. Once you learn from your past it develops your personality into more conscious and focused than before.

This book is a self-help that determines that we should learn from our past experiences and those who do not learn will make the same mistake again and this time they will regret it to a greater extent.

On the other hand, those who know that accepting the mistakes and errors of life will help to change your personality, broaden your vision and sharpen your wisdom. The quickly you accept the failure the more easily you develop positive changes in yourself. The following key takeaways are the crux of the book that I have taken to learn more about accepting failures.

You might also be interested in reading Talent Is Overrated Summary.

Failure is Common and even Justice Fails

I failed the quiz, my sister failed to make a tasty meal for her friends, my brother failed her test for driving license or George Bush failed the presidential elections, and Thomas Edison failed twelve times before inventing the light bulb.

Failure is everywhere. It touches everyone at least once in their lives. From the most capable and richest to the naïve and poor. But you must be thinking that law and justice never fail. They stay honest and make decisions on merit and according to the law.

In Black Box Thinking, the author answers your query through the example of DNA sampling. Before it, many people were falsely convicted. You might be thinking that the same DNA sampling that can help the justice system in catching culprits might have helped them in giving freedom to the falsely accused.

But it didn’t. Just like our ego gets bruised and strained, the justice system could not accept that they had made mistakes. This ego only delayed the cases and many people waited many more years for their freedom.

This shows that everyone around the world is capable of making mistakes and failing. So that is common. What separates people from each other is the willingness to accept our failures and learn from them.

Do not Associate Failure with Personal Shame or Ego

You do not learn to be scared of failing. As humans, we are perhaps born with this characteristic. We do not want to fail right from the beginning. A child who has a hard time putting his shoe on only gets frustrated after a few tries and starts crying.

This is because humans associate their personal shame with failure. As we grow up, this feeling is usually intensified. What will happen if I fail that physics test? Often has a background context to it which is: ‘What will my class fellows think of me if I fail this physics test’. 

Try playing a sport you have never played in front of a bunch of athletes. Let us say you chose table tennis. The ball keeps falling off the table. Now you can either become self-conscious, think that you are failing and everyone’s watching or you can disassociate your failure with personal shame. Tell yourself you are there to learn. Watch what’s different.

Perhaps you are putting more force on the racket or maybe you are not estimating the moves of the person in front of you correctly. Adjusting the way you behave to failure, will allow you to learn and this learning will take you to the heights of success.

Put your Theories to Test

How can you prove if something will go right or sure? Often we get these great ideas that can turn into the greatest experiences of our lives but we rarely act upon these ideas. Why? Because they also can fail, to a big extent. So we put these incredible ideas away and continue living with everything that is mediocre and average.

We do not realize that failure isn’t dangerous, but failure to change is. Great ideas can only turn into reality if you have the faith and courage to fail. In the words of the great Ken Robinson, “If you’re not prepared to be wrong, you’ll never come up with anything original.”

And if the justice system, the biggest leaders, prophets, and scientists can fail, learn and move on; why can’t we?

Black Box Thinking Quotes

“Learn from the mistakes of others. You can’t live long enough to make them all yourself.” –Matthew Syed

“Failure is rich in learning opportunities for a simple reason: in many of its guises, it represents a violation of expectation.6 It is showing us that the world is in some sense different from the way we imagined it to be.” -Matthew Syed

Black Box Thinking Review

As someone who reads and writes myself, I have come across dozens of books based on success and attaining wealth but rarely there is a book related to failure. This book will change the connotation of this word. Pick up the Black Box Thinking and learn to look at your worse moments positively.

To Whom Would I Recommend Black Box Thinking Summary

  • To the self-critical teenager who is tired of making mistakes.
  • To the thirty-two-year-old narcissist who cannot admit his mistakes.
  • And to anyone who needs a pat on the back and encouragement for the struggles they have been through.