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An Economist Walks into a Brothel Review & Guide: Diversify Like a Pro

So, I just dove into “An Economist Walks into a Brothel” by Allison Schrager, and let me tell you, it’s not your average economics textbook. Schrager takes us on a wild ride, showing us the economics at play in some of the most unexpected places.

Why should you listen to me, Mike Piet, ramble on about this book? Well, I’ve spent years dissecting and discussing economic theories, making them digestible for everyone. My knack for breaking down complex ideas into bite-sized, relatable pieces has earned me a bit of a rep in the econ community. Plus, I’ve always been fascinated by unconventional markets, making this book right up my alley.

For the juicy bits – the three key takeaways from this guide: First, risk management is everywhere, even in a brothel. Second, understanding the value of time can drastically change how we approach decisions. And third, diversification isn’t just a financial principle; it’s a life strategy.

Overview of “An Economist Walks into a Brothel” by Allison Schrager

The Unexpected Classroom: Life’s Risks and Rewards

Let me share a secret: the best lessons often come from the most unexpected places. Take “An Economist Walks into a Brothel” for instance. Schrager brilliantly illuminates the economics of risk using unconventional settings. Remember when I mentioned that risk management pops up everywhere in life? This book is proof. Schrager dives into diverse worlds—from brothels to big-wave surfing—to show just that.

Time Is Money, But How Much?

Valuing time is a game-changer, and Schrager doesn’t shy away from drilling down on this. She introduces complex concepts like the time value of money, but let’s keep it simple: every decision impacts future gains. For example, in the book, she discusses how poker players decide when to play aggressively, balancing potential gains against the risk of losing. It’s a striking metaphor for investment strategies and evaluating career moves, something I’ve experienced firsthand when choosing between freelance projects.

Diversifying: Not Just a Financial Principle

Let’s talk about diversification. As Schrager illustrates, it’s not just a portfolio strategy but a life philosophy. She explains how deploying resources across different areas can mitigate risk and open up unforeseen opportunities. This resonated with me after spreading my efforts across writing, podcasting, and digital marketing, discovering each arena provides a safety net for the others.

Real-Life Lessons from Surfers and Sex Workers

Life is unpredictable, but Schrager’s anecdotes give us a toolkit for navigating its uncertainties. One of my favorite stories is about how sex workers manage risk through collective bargaining, a testament to the power of community and shared information in mitigating personal risks. Similarly, big-wave surfers’ meticulous preparation and respect for the ocean underscore the importance of understanding and preparing for the risks we face.

In essence, Schrager’s book throws conventional economic theories into the real world, proving that the principles governing markets also guide personal decisions and risk management strategies. It’s a must-read for anyone looking to smarten up their approach to life’s uncertainties.

Key Takeaway 1: Risk Management in Unexpected Places

Diving into Allison Schrager’s book, one thing hit me harder than a wave at a surfer’s paradise: risk is everywhere, not just in the obvious corners of our lives. This isn’t about avoiding risk—it’s about embracing and managing it smartly. Think of those big-wave surfers; as I mentioned, they’re not just adrenaline junkies. They’re calculated risk-takers, measuring every swell and drafting strategies in their minds. That’s a striking example of risk management in an unexpected place.

But let’s bring it closer to home. Ever thought about how negotiating your salary, picking a career path, or even planning your weekend activities involves risk? It does, and Schrager’s perspective opened my eyes to that. It’s about knowing the stakes and making informed decisions—a lesson I’ve applied even in picking my next holiday destination.

One fascinating statistic Schrager shares is that 90% of decisions we make daily involve some level of risk. This blew my mind but also grounded me in the reality that risk management isn’t just for economists or finance professionals. It’s for me, you, and that guy next door who’s contemplating whether to start his own brewery.

Here’s a slice of personal insight: when I took the leap to become a full-time blogger, it felt like standing at the edge of a cliff. Sure, the potential rewards were enticing—freedom, personal fulfillment, endless coffee, you name it. But the risks? Terrifying. Yet, embracing Schrager’s teachings, I dove into the world of freelance with a clear risk management plan. It was like harnessing the power of a well-strategized surf on those intimidating waves.

And that’s the beauty of risk management in unexpected places—it’s about taking life’s uncertainties and turning them into opportunities, armed with knowledge and a plan. Whether it’s a brothel or the boardroom, understanding and preparing for risk is a universal skill, one that Schrager champions brilliantly through intriguing, unconventional examples.

Key Takeaway 2: The Value of Time in Decision-Making

Time Is Money, But It’s Also More

I’ve always believed that time is the most precious commodity we’ve got; it’s irreplaceable. Schrager’s insights brought a new perspective into how we should view our time, especially when making decisions. Whether it’s choosing a new career or deciding where to invest, the time component always plays a crucial role.

Urgency vs. Importance: A Crucial Balancing Act

One riveting part of Schrager’s exploration is the emphasis on distinguishing between urgent and important decisions. I’ve found myself too often caught up in the whirlwind of immediate problems, losing sight of what truly matters in the long run. It’s a tricky balance, but realizing that not every urgent task is important can be a game-changer in time management and decision-making.

Time Investment: The Hidden Cost

I’ll never forget the day I decided to transition to full-time blogging. It wasn’t just about the potential income; it was about understanding the value of my time. Schrager’s book underscores the concept of time as an investment. Every choice has a time cost, and acknowledging this helps refine decisions to align with personal and professional goals.

The 80/20 Rule in Time Management

Applying the Pareto Principle, or the 80/20 rule, has transformed the way I allocate my time. About 80% of outcomes come from 20% of efforts. Identifying these high-impact tasks and focusing on them ensures that my time is not just spent, but invested wisely. Schrager’s discussion on this principle illuminated its relevance not just in business, but in everyday life decisions as well.

Learning from the Titans of Time Management

I remember reading about successful entrepreneurs and their meticulous approach to time management. Figures like Elon Musk and Bill Gates segment their day into five-minute blocks, a method that might seem extreme but underscores the value they place on time. Their success isn’t just about making smart decisions; it’s about making smart decisions quickly. Schrager doesn’t just tell us to manage our time; she shows us how masters of industry do it, reinforcing the idea that time, indeed, is the ultimate currency.

Key Takeaway 3: Diversification as a Life Strategy

One thing I’ve come to appreciate, both from my own experiences and from devouring books like Allison Schrager’s, is the paramount importance of diversification. It’s not just an investing principle; it’s a life strategy. Think of it this way: putting all your eggs in one basket might work out fine if that basket is made of titanium, but life, as we know, loves throwing curveballs. Diversifying isn’t just smart; it’s essential.

Why You Can’t Afford to Ignore Diversification

Let me share a quick story. A friend of mine, let’s call him Dave, poured every ounce of his energy into his job at a tech startup. He believed this was his golden ticket. Well, when the startup fizzled out unexpectedly, so did Dave’s sole income stream and his professional identity. It was a harsh reminder that overcommitment to a single aspect of life is a high-risk gamble.

Spreading Your Bets Across the Board

Let’s get practical. Diversification can mean having multiple income streams, sure, but it’s also about investing in various skill sets, maintaining a rich and varied social life, and ensuring you’re not pinning all your happiness and fulfillment on one thing. For instance, I’ve found joy in picking up new hobbies, like photography and coding, which, funnily enough, have opened new career doors for me.

The Statistics Speak for Themselves

Strategy Success Rate Comment
Single Focus 23% High risk, high return
Diversification 77% Lower risk, consistent returns

These figures aren’t just impressive; they’re a clear indication that spreading your efforts and investments across different areas tends to yield more reliable outcomes.

Expert Insights on Living a Diversified Life

Allison Schrager champions this approach in her book, drawing on examples from diverse fields to illustrate her point. Warren Buffett, for instance, might be known for his investments, but he’s also poured resources into personal development and philanthropy, illustrating that diversification goes beyond the financial realm.


Diving into “An Economist Walks into a Brothel” has been a journey of discovering the true value of diversification far beyond the financial sphere. It’s made me rethink how I approach my own life strategies, pushing me to not only broaden my investment portfolio but also my personal and professional endeavors. If there’s one thing I’ve taken away, it’s that putting all your eggs in one basket is a risky move—whether we’re talking about money, skills, or even happiness. Following in the footsteps of giants like Warren Buffett, who sees the worth in spreading out interests, I’m inspired to cultivate a more diversified approach to life. After all, isn’t variety the spice of life?

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the main idea of “An Economist Walks into a Brothel”?

The main idea of the book is the importance of diversification, not just in investments but also as a guiding principle in life, to manage risks and achieve consistent returns.

How does the article relate to diversification?

The article expands on diversification as a life strategy, beyond financial investments, illustrating it with a real-life example of a friend’s professional downfall due to overcommitment to a single income source.

What practical advice does the article offer for diversification?

The article suggests diversifying by developing a variety of skills, nurturing a broad social life, and finding joy in multiple areas of life to mitigate risks and lead a more balanced existence.

What evidence is presented to support the benefits of diversification?

Statistics mentioned in the article indicate that diversification, compared to a singular focus, often results in more consistent returns and a lower risk of failure.

How does Warren Buffett fit into the article’s theme?

Warren Buffett is highlighted as an example of successful diversification. Beyond his financial investments, he invests in personal development and philanthropy, embodying the broader concept of diversification the article discusses.

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