Guest Spotlight: Presh Talwalkar
As I’ve said in the past, there are few things I enjoy more than a good game. Games requiring participant interaction and strategic planning appeal to my analytical orientation and competitive nature.
My latest guest interview offers more of the same.
Presh Talwalker studied Math and Economics at Stanford University.
He is the brain behind mindyourdecisions.com, a website that offers advice for improving personal finance, money management, and everyday decision-making. He’s covered everything from how to save money on gas purchases to negotiating the world of inter-office politics.
I’ve invited Presh here to tell us more about himself.
Tell us a little about yourself, Presh. (Where are you from, your background, anything we might find interesting about you etc.).
I studied at Stanford and I double majored in economics and math. I still love doing purely theoretical math proofs, particularly real analysis and combinatorics. But I ultimately went more for the econ-side because it provided more practical applications. I especially like to write about money articles because it’s easy to pick apart the logical flaws of so much money advice.
What’s the story behind mindyourdesicions.com? How did it all get started?
I got the idea after I started reading a few blogs back in 2007. I eventually became irritated at the self-promotion and in-your-face tone of many blogs. I decided the best way to fight back was to write my own opinions and share my philosophy.
Your website explores common examples and applications of Game Theory in daily life and popular media, including blockbuster films like “The Dark Knight”. When did you first learn of Game Theory and why does it continue to pique your interest?
As cliche as it sounds, I first heard of game theory from the movie “A Beautiful Mind.” It inspired me to take a game theory course in college. I just loved how game theory provided a systematic way to look at decision-making. The applications to business, politics, relationships, and science are endless and I’m still learning a lot of the theory myself, which I get to share with readers as I learn.
Games that reward negotiation, diplomacy, and empathy are particularly enjoyable for me. Taboo and Monopoly are at the top of the list. The Spring 2006 iteration of “Zombies vs. Humans” at Cornell University was legendary.
What are your favorite games? Board games, card games, video games—they all count.
I used to love playing Settlers of Cataan and Risk which are both great games of strategy. A long time ago we used to play a card game called Mafia which lead to many a fun discussion of deductive reasoning. Nowadays I enjoy playing poker and occasionally playing chess.
Game Theory spans multiple fields of study, including Statistics and Psychology. What are your favorite elements or principles of Game Theory? How do you apply them to your work, writing, and daily living?
The basic insight of game theory is to have perspective. It is never good enough to make a decision in isolation. You must always consider how other people will play the game and how you can respond in turn. For instance, when I started blogging I would write articles and spend a lot of time on things I found interesting. Then I realized a lot of those articles had little impact. I started to reflect that at least some articles have to be about things people want to share: they must be easy to understand and about relevant topics. As I am not a calculating personality, game theory has helped me be more thoughtful in my decisions.
Are you a full-time writer? What other projects are you working on?
I have been writing full-time for the past two years. I am working on increasing the content to the site by adding more videos and creating e-books. Hopefully down the line I can work in a podcast, but I’ll be realistic of my expectations.
Do you have any unique or unusual talents or interests?
I can keep up in karaoke with the songs “It’s the End of the World” by REM and “One Week” by Barenaked Ladies. In high school debate we had to learn how to read and speak quickly, so being able to sing these songs was a fun side effect.
Any life lessons or advice to impart to readers?
I’ll just quote my website motto: I believe all will be well if you use your mind for your decisions, and only mind your decisions.
Where can we find more of your work (website etc.)?
I encourage everyone to subscribe to the Mind Your Decisions RSS feed or email delivery as I provide full-length articles and not just snippets. You can also find me on Twitter as @preshtalwalkar.