Russ Roberts on Lessons from F.A. Hayek and Nassim Taleb, Decision-Making Insights from Charles Darwin, The Dangers of Scientism, Wild Problems in Life and the Decisions That Define Us, Learnings from the Talmud, The Role of Prayer, and The Journey to Transcendence (#613)

Artist's rendering of Russ Roberts.
Illustration via 99designs

“What was once destiny is now a decision.”

— Russ Roberts

Russ Roberts (@EconTalker) is the president of Shalem College in Jerusalem and the John and Jean De Nault Research Fellow at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution. Russ is interested in making complicated ideas understandable. He founded and hosts the award-winning weekly podcast EconTalk: Conversations for the Curious, with more than 800 episodes available in the archives. Past guests include Christopher Hitchens, Martha Nussbaum, Michael Lewis, Angela Duckworth, and Nassim Nicholas Taleb. His two rap videos on the ideas of John Maynard Keynes and F.A. Hayek have more than 13 million views on YouTube.

His latest book, Wild Problems: A Guide to the Decisions That Define Us, explores the challenges of using rationality when facing big life decisions. He is also the author of Gambling With Other People’s Money, How Adam Smith Can Change Your LifeThe Price of EverythingThe Invisible Heart, and The Choice.

Please enjoy!

Listen to the episode on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Overcast, Podcast Addict, Pocket Casts, Castbox, Google Podcasts, Stitcher, Amazon Musicor on your favorite podcast platform. You can watch the interview on YouTube here.

Brought to you by Athletic Greens all-in-one nutritional supplement, Eight Sleep’s Pod Pro Cover sleeping solution for dynamic cooling and heating, and Pique premium pu’er tea crystals. More on all three below.

The transcript of this episode can be found here. Transcripts of all episodes can be found here.

#613: Russ Roberts on Lessons from F.A. Hayek and Nassim Taleb, Decision-Making Insights from Charles Darwin, The Dangers of Scientism, Wild Problems in Life and the Decisions That Define Us, Learnings from the Talmud, The Role of Prayer, and The Journey to Transcendence

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Want to hear a podcast episode with someone who frequently collaborates with Russ Roberts? Listen to my interview with devoted economics educator Tyler Cowen, in which we discuss his goal to teach economics to more people than anyone else in the history of the world, the mental benefits of listening to complex music, remaining meta-rational during times of duress or panic, fiction recommendations for nonfiction purists, learning from those who offend us, the writing process, committing to kindness, and much more.

#413: Tyler Cowen on Rationality, COVID-19, Talismans, and Life on the Margins

What was your favorite quote or lesson from this episode? Please let me know in the comments.



  • Connect with Russ Roberts:

Website | Twitter | YouTube


  • [06:36] How Russ’ father chose to cultivate fatherhood.
  • [10:45] Does quality time demand quantity time?
  • [12:31] What does Shalem mean?
  • [14:10] What’s wrong with scientism?
  • [20:56] The curious task of economics, according to F.A. Hayek.
  • [23:18] What is a Hayekian?
  • [25:09] What prompted Russ to write Wild Problems?
  • [29:05] How Russ’ ideas about data have changed over the years.
  • [33:04] Making decisions: Charles Darwin vs. Homer vs. Russ.
  • [43:30] What makes people ideal life partners?
  • [52:19] Marriage as a form of growing up.
  • [56:53] Life lessons from Bill Belichick.
  • [1:02:04] Why Russ and his wife decided to move to Israel.
  • [1:07:45] Impressions of Jerusalem since making the move.
  • [1:13:34] The role of religion in Russ’ life.
  • [1:22:00] Life lessons from Nassim Nicholas Taleb.
  • [1:29:16] Thoughts on The Talmud, reading, and spending time in a finite life.
  • [1:35:14] You don’t have to be religious to have transcendent experiences.
  • [1:41:31] Tips for staying humble.
  • [1:48:48] Parting thoughts.


“There are two kinds of ignorance. There are the things we don’t know, and then there are the things we think we know that aren’t true. The things we know that we don’t know that we wish we understood, we wish we had access to the truth. There are things we think we’ve discovered as true that in fact are not.”
— Russ Roberts

“Yes, sometimes the future is somewhat like the past, except for when it isn’t and then it smacks you in the face.”
— Russ Roberts

“The sources that make our life deeply meaningful and purposeful are not just the day-to-day things. There are overarching senses of who we are and how we see ourselves and the meaning and purpose we have in life that are ultimately more important in these kinds of decisions. And these kinds of decisions—which are whether to get married, whether to have kids, how many kids to have, whether to move to Israel, whether to take a new job, whether to study something crazy at college—those decisions are not amenable to data.”
— Russ Roberts

“I don’t like it when people say, ‘You have to work at your marriage. You have to work at it.’ That’s not the way I think of my marriage. I work at crossword puzzles. I work at ditch digging. I work at brightening up my notes for my next podcast. But what you do have to do is you have to treat your partner as a partner, as opposed to somebody who lives with you, who’s a plus to have as a roommate. They’re two different things.”
— Russ Roberts

“Religion, meditation, psychotherapy, marriage—they’re all about self-awareness, if they’re done well. They’re all about recognizing that you’re a part of a much bigger picture than you feel like most of the time. I think that’s really helpful and incredibly satisfying when you sense it.”
— Russ Roberts

“One of the things you learn from economics is trade-offs. Trade-offs are really obvious when you think about them, but like many things we’re talking about in this conversation, they’re hard to remember to think about.”
— Russ Roberts

“What was once destiny is now a decision.”
— Russ Roberts

“If you read a book a week, which is a lot, you’re going to read about 50 books a year. If you’re around for about 50 years of reading, maybe a little more, but it’s 2,500 books. That’s it. That’s it. There’s 100,000 books, I think, maybe more, I don’t even remember now how many books are published a year — maybe it’s a million. It’s a big number.”
— Russ Roberts

“The world often emerges from the bottom up and not just from the top down. And many things that are orderly, that we see around us, are not designed by anyone, but rather emerge from the individual choices we make.”
— Russ Roberts


The Tim Ferriss Show is one of the most popular podcasts in the world with more than 900 million downloads. It has been selected for "Best of Apple Podcasts" three times, it is often the #1 interview podcast across all of Apple Podcasts, and it's been ranked #1 out of 400,000+ podcasts on many occasions. To listen to any of the past episodes for free, check out this page.

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8 Replies to “Russ Roberts on Lessons from F.A. Hayek and Nassim Taleb, Decision-Making Insights from Charles Darwin, The Dangers of Scientism, Wild Problems in Life and the Decisions That Define Us, Learnings from the Talmud, The Role of Prayer, and The Journey to Transcendence (#613)”

  1. Thank you for putting this out there. I agree with your opinion and I hope more people would come to agree with this as well.

  2. I am leaving a comment here because I could not find another place to leave a message that Tim might end up seeing. I am unsubscribing because of the dearth of female representation in your work. I have been checking for a few months, hoping things would get better. You do great work, otherwise. This weighs so heavily on my soul. I hope and pray that you will use your power to change this and have an impact in amplifying the voice of brilliant women and female identifying people who are creating new ways to thrive.

    1. We do appreciate your writing in, and we are sorry to see you go. But we can’t let you go without at least an attempt to try to keep you. Please find below a list of the remarkable women (as well as a guest who identifies as a trans woman) whom Tim has interviewed. It is not comprehensive, as Tim has interviewed many other women for his NYT bestsellers. You can find specific guest episodes by entering a name in the search field at the top-right corner of the blog.

      Thank you and best,

      Team Tim Ferriss

      Dr. Rhonda Patrick

      Tracy DiNunzio

      Maria Popova

      Margaret Cho

      Amanda Palmer

      Danielle Teller

      Whitney Cummings

      Jane McGonigal

      Tara Brach

      Brené Brown

      Sophia Amoruso

      Lisa Randall

      Amelia Boone

      Susan Garrett

      Debbie Millman

      Kara Swisher

      Krista Tippett

      Caroline Paul

      Cheryl Strayed

      Marie Kondo

      Esther Perel

      Maria Sharapova

      Arianna Huffinton

      Sharon Salzberg

      Alice Little (NSFW)

      Bozema Saint John

      Gretchen Rubin

      Catherine Hoke

      Karlie Kloss

      Katie Couric

      Cindy Eckert (formerly Whitehead)

      Whitney Wolfe Heard

      Liz Lambert

      Aisha Tyler

      Ann Miura-Ko

      Doris Kearns

      Samin Nosrat

      Suzy Amis Cameron

      Susan Cain

      Caterina Fake

      Julie Rice

      Dita Von Teese

      Lisa Ling

      Marcela Ot’alora

      Lori Gottlieb

      Dr. Jane Goodall

      Rana el Kaliouby

      Elizabeth Gilbert

      Madeleine Albright

      Janna Levin


      Mary Karr

      Dr. Martine Rothblatt

      Dr. Stefi Cohen

      Joyce Carol Oates

      Katie Haun

      Elizabeth Lesser

      Jacqueline Novogratz

      Suleika Jaouad

      Anne Lamott

      Giuliana Furci

      Dr. Sue Johnson

      Sheila Heen

      Diana Chapman

      Alisa Cohn

      Jessica Lahey

      Sarah Silverman

      Sue Flood

      Dr. Ayana Elizabeth Johnson

      Margaret Atwood

      Isabel Behncke

      Liv Boeree

  3. Regarding your Friday email, I found Great inspiration in your quoting J.R. Tolkien “…small hands do them because they must, while the eyes of the great are elsewhere.”
    As much as I’d love to be a Giant icon of excellence for the world at large, I simply find myself eeking through life humbly and it certainly wears on me daily.
    I have felt the “eyes of Sauron” beaming into my life many times, and yet I persevere in my own disruptions to his plans making lasting change in ways that I perceive I am able. Small battles that I am indeed convinced are too small for Sauron to be bothered with. However, when consistently compounded they’ve transformed my humble stature in the mirror into something of a hero.
    Maybe as the Great ones of our time battle at helms deep in D.C. and elsewhere, and attract that potent gaze, small humble folks like me might carry a burden in our own local areas and rid it of any presence of his evil fraudulent corporate monopolies.
    That the shire might yet have a chance at peace under the sun is a gift I’d give all our children.

    Thanks again, for being a Titan of Greatness, and a true example of excellence, Aragorn– I mean Tim. 🙂


  4. Tim, as a female listener, I have been more than happy with the number of females that you have interviewed, who have all been fabulous. It is not about sex, or equal distribution, it is about merit and achievement, and the listener. If there are fewer women to interview, well, we need to step up to the bar.

  5. 26th min of the podcast, about cost/benefit list of having children.

    I don’t think me and my husband are having less fun, quite on the contrary of what our friends with children have. So I have to disagree.

    On my list the costs, were not dipers, but having kids hurts, and ultimatily costs you your freedom. Taking a job you hate, socializing with people your normally woldnt with and finally divorcing, the statistics speak for themselves.

    1. Hi Alex,

      Thank you for reaching out. We currently do not have this option available. We will discuss internally, and we will reach out if this feature gets enabled.

      Thank you for the feedback.

      All the best,

      Team Tim Ferriss