Never Mind the Bollocks: 34 Insights From Nassim Taleb

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Nassim Taleb, the author of The Black Swan and Antifragile: Things That Gain from Disorder with 34 insights from his facebook account:

(Note: Thanks to Farnam Street Blog for this list. FSB is an outstanding site)

1. The artificial gives us hangovers, the natural inverse-hangovers.

2. The only problem with the last laugh is that the winner has to laugh alone.

3. Intelligence without imagination: a deadly combination.

4. There is no more unmistakable sign of failure than that of a middle-aged man boasting of his successes in college.

5. Never trust a journalist unless she’s your mother.

6. One of life’s machinations is to make some people both rich and unhappy, that is, jointly fragile and deprived of hope.

7. [If] someone is making an effort to ignore you he is not ignoring you.

8. The danger of reading financial and other news (or econobullshit) is that things that don’t make sense at all start making sense to you after progressive immersion.

9. It’s a sign of weakness to worry about showing signs of weakness.

10. Friends, I wonder if someone has computed how much would be saved if we shut down economics and political science departments in universities. Those who need to research these subjects can do so on their private time.

11. I trust those who trust me and distrust those who are suspicious of others.

12. A good man is warm and respectful towards the waiter or people of lower rank.

13. Journalists feel contempt for those who fear them and a deep resentment for those who don’t.

14. When someone starts a sentence with the first half containing “I”, “not”, and “but”, the “not” should be removed and the “but” replaced with “therefore.”

15. The only valid political system is one that can handle an imbecile in power without suffering from it.

16. Journalists cannot grasp that what is interesting is not necessarily important; most cannot even grasp that what is sensational is not necessarily interesting.

17. Never buy a product that the owner of the company that makes it doesn’t use, or, in the case of, say, medication, wouldn’t contingently use.

18. Just realized that to politely get rid of someone people in Brooklyn say “call me if you need anything.”

19. Injuries done to us by others tend to be acute; the self-inflicted ones tend to be chronic.

20. We often benefit from harm done to us by others; almost never from self-inflicted injuries.

21. You will never know if someone is an asshole until he becomes rich.

22. When someone writes “I dislike you but I agree with you”, I read “I dislike you because I agree with you.”

23. A great book eludes summaries. A great aphorism resists expansion. The rest is just communication.

24. For a free person, the optimal – most opportunistic – route between two points should never be the shortest one.

25. What counts is not *what* people say, it is *how much* energy they spend saying it.

26. Used skillfully, a compliment will be much more offensive than any disparagement.

27. I trust those who are greedy for money a thousand time more than those who are greedy for credentials.

28. Just as eating cow-meat doesn’t turn you into a cow, studying philosophy doesn’t make you wiser.

29. It is a great compliment for an honest person to be mistaken for a crook by a crook.

30. Many want to learn how to memorize things; few seek that rare ability to forget.

31. High Modernity: routine in place of physical effort, physical effort in place of mental expenditure, and mental expenditure in place of mental clarity.

32. The ultimate freedom lies in not having to explain “why” you did something.

33. A book that can be summarized should not be written as a book.

34. If you have something very important to say, whisper it.

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Nassim Taleb • Philosophy

Ignore the blogs

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I propose that if you want a simple step to a higher form of life, as distant from the animal as you can get, then you may have to de-narrate, that is, shut down the television set, minimize time spent reading newspapers, ignore the blogs. Train your reasoning abilities to control your decisions. Nudge “System 1”, the heuristic or experiential system, out of the important ones. Train yourself to spot the difference between the sensational and the empirical. This insulation from the toxicity of the world will have an additional benefit: It will improve your well being. Also, bear in mind how shallow we are with probability, the mother of all abstract notions. You don’t have to do much more in order to gain a deeper understanding of things around you.

– Nassim Taleb, The Black Swan

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