Book Review — Same as Ever by Morgan Housel

'Tosin Adeoti
4 min readJan 17, 2024

This morning, I finished “Same as Ever: Timeless Lessons on Risk, Opportunity, and Living a Good Life” by Morgan Housel. Housel is the author of a favorite of mine, The Psychology of Money, which has sold over 3 million copies.

Published last year, the book’s premise is captured in a quote by Niall Ferguson: “The dead outnumber the living . . . fourteen to one, and we ignore the accumulated experience of such a huge majority of mankind at our peril.” In other words, looking at history, the common trends we observe do not change, so how can we use these trends to navigate the future while avoiding the pitfalls of forecasting, because, as we have seen over and over again, forecasting is hard.

In Same as Ever, the author shares 24 short stories about the ways that life, behavior, and business will always be the same. For instance, we find out that it is not the best ideas that win, but the best stories. Some of those we consider the greatest politicians, activists, businessmen, and writers recognize this. Mark Twain, perhaps the best storyteller of modern times, edited his writing by reading aloud to his family. When a passage caused them to look bored, he would cut it. When their eyes widened or they sat forward, he knew he was onto something, and he doubled down.

Martin Luther King Jr.’s famous ‘I have a dream’ speech in 1963 was not planned but came in a burst of inspiration, remembered today because of the emotions it evokes. Charles Darwin was not the first to discover evolution; he just wrote the first and most compelling book about it.

As it was in the days of Socrates, so it is in the age of social media. Same as ever. So, ask yourself: How many great ideas have already been discovered but could grow one hundred times or more if someone explained them better? How many products have found only a fraction of their potential market because the companies that made them are so bad at describing them to customers?

I have often wondered at the irrationality of Igbos building mansions in villages in their South East region. But this book puts it in perspective for me. When a group of people is always being told that they are unwelcome in other parts of their own country, when a war broke out because of complaints over being massacred in their thousands, when funds of an entire tribe were confiscated, and those ‘lucky’ were given just 20 pounds to start all over again after the civil war, then that generation will teach future ones to learn that nothing is safe except in their ancestral homes. They had learned from bitter experience to crave security. Experience exerts a greater influence than reason. It’s why people who went through the 2008–09 stock market crash in Nigeria shook their heads as the new generation of unsophisticated investors embraced crypto in 2021.

The question is not about right or wrong, but about understanding that experience tugs strongly at the heart and is the reason for a lot of decisions of others we may never understand. Experiencing something that makes you stare ruin in the face and question whether you’ll survive can permanently reset your expectations and change behaviors that were previously ingrained.

“The generation who lived through the Great Depression never viewed money the same afterward. They saved more money, took on less debt, and were wary of risk — for the rest of their lives.”

Same as ever.

What you have read above are takeaways from just two chapters. There are 24 chapters containing brilliance like them.

His explanations on the competitive advantage that we have today will soon fade if we stop running, is a serious takeaway. How skills come with a shelf-life and why we should keep running is written in a way that naturally sticks with you.

Anyone who reads Morgan Housel knows that he loves stories, and using interesting anecdotes makes the lessons not only easy to consume but, more importantly, remarkably memorable. Although there is a progression, you can always revisit a single chapter and effortlessly recall the key ideas.

One of the best things I like about the book is how he uses the concept of evolution to explain different ideas throughout the chapters. As someone awed by evolution, I could not keep myself from nodding many times.

This book reminds us that the world is constantly changing, but certain things never change. This is another book I will have to come back to, especially in audio, as I work around in my garden.

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