The Nuthin’ But a ‘G’ Thang Principle of Science Writing

One of the reasons I took so long to finish my book was that, in reverse-engineering books I considered to be “good,” I kept coming across a very annoying, common feature that is best encapsulated in the lyrics of Dr. Dre’s seminal 1992 classic, “Nuthin’ But a ‘G’ Thang,” featuring Snoop Dogg:

It’s like this and like that and like this. In books, it usually emerges as: “Often, the brain/intuition/motivation/that guy/hiring appears to work like [this]. Except, of course, when it functions like [that].”

The most prominent example of the “Nuthin’ But a ‘G’ Thang Principle” in pop science writing is arguably in Malcolm Gladwell’s Blink: “Sometimes, intuition is smart! Except, of course, when it’s not!” Sometimes, science has it figured out! Except when it doesn’t! Sometimes, being messy is good! Except when it’s not!

I’m not arguing against acknowledging the inherent complexities of the world, but these books are frustrating because they’re often accompanied by a lack of cohesion between the sides. Understanding why intuition works well sometimes and why it doesn’t—not just the fact that it works better than others—is precisely what’s needed to present a coherent idea and help readers figure out how to implement these ideas in their own lives.

It took me so long to finish my book because I kept researching until I felt like I understood why some things and people seemed to get lucky or unlucky all the time. We all know that some people do get lucky more often than others, but I wanted to know why.

Knowing the why is important because it serves as the foundation and connective tissue for all the material. We all know that life is complex, but knowing why is what allows us to take action.

As Adam Alter wrote in Drunk Tank Pink:

“At its heart, this book is designed to show that your mind is the collective end point of a billion tiny butterfly effects. Your thoughts, feelings, and actions are the products of chaotic chain reactions, fueled in no small part by the nine forces described in this book. Human behavior is hard to predict, then, in part because it’s so sensitive to each wing beat of Lorenz’s proverbial butterfly.”

All outcomes are really the end point of a billion tiny butterfly effects, and even though the whole is always greater than the sum of its parts, one of the aims of science is to offer insight through the very the act of identifying those parts.