Derek Sivers

The Bed of Procrustes - by Nassim Nicholas Taleb

The Bed of Procrustes - by Nassim Nicholas Taleb

ISBN: 1400069971
Date read: 2014-01-15
How strongly I recommend it: 6/10
(See my list of 320+ books, for more.)

Go to the Amazon page for details and reviews.

I'm thrilled if I get a few counter-intuitive thought-provoking ideas from any source. This book is filled with his usual cocktail party sprezzatura bravado, but refreshingly succinct, minus his usual blowhard explanations of his superior scholarly approach to life.

my notes

An idea is interesting when you get scared of taking it to its logical conclusion.

Pharmaceutical companies are inventing diseases that match existing drugs.

Losing all your fortune is much less painful than losing only half.

When we want to do something while unconsciously certain to fail, we seek advice so we can blame someone else for the failure.

Never say no twice if you mean it.

Your reputation is harmed the most by what you say to defend it.

The definition of aging is when a person starts to talk about aging.

Humility is successfully disguised arrogance.

“Temporary” arrangements are permanent. “Permanent” ones are temporary.

The loser bemoans mankind’s flaws and irrationality instead of exploiting them for fun and profit.

The opposite of manliness is technology.

The appearance of inconsistency makes people attractive.

You remember emails you sent that were not answered better than emails that you did not answer.

Friendship that ends was never one.

Most people fear being without audiovisual stimulation because they are too repetitive when they think and imagine things on their own.

You exist only if you are free to do things without objective, with no justification, outside the dictatorship of someone else’s narrative.

The book is the only medium left that hasn’t been corrupted by the profane: everything else on your eyelids manipulates you with an ad.

The opposite of success is name-dropping.

You don’t become completely free by just avoiding to be a slave; you also need to avoid becoming a master.

“Wasting time” is most often the best investment.

Decline starts with the replacement of dreams with memories.

The fastest way to become rich is to socialize with the poor. The fastest way to become poor is to socialize with the rich.

You will be civilized on the day you can spend a long period doing nothing, learning nothing, and improving nothing, without feeling the slightest amount of guilt.

Someone who says “I am busy” is either declaring incompetence (and lack of control of his life) or trying to get rid of you.

You are rich if money you refuse tastes better than money you accept.

You like where you are if you are as happy returning as you were leaving.

People focus on role models; it is more effective to find antimodels - people you don’t want to resemble when you grow up.

It is as difficult to change someone’s opinions as it is to change his tastes.

In most debates, people seem to be trying to convince one another; but all they can hope for is new arguments to convince themselves.

The most unsuccessful people give the most advice.

There are two types of people: those who try to win and those who try to win arguments.

People usually apologize so they can do it again.

If someone gives you more than one reason why he wants the job, don’t hire him.

Social networks would be more informative if people described what they don’t like.

People are so prone to overcausation that you can make the reticent turn loquacious by dropping an occasional “why?” in the conversation.

A truly independent thinker may look like an accountant.

Do not compete with anyone in any of your pursuits.

Only in recent history has “working hard” signaled pride rather than shame for lack of talent, finesse, and, mostly, sprezzatura.

We are satisfied with natural (or old) objects like vistas or classical paintings but insatiable with technologies.

Most modern efficiencies are deferred punishment.

Use boredom in place of a clock, as a biological wristwatch.

For pleasure, read one chapter. For punishment, two.

It is much less dangerous to think like a man of action than to act like a man of thought.

We unwittingly amplify commonalities with friends, dissimilarities with strangers, and contrasts with enemies.

Unless we manipulate our surroundings, we have as little control over what and whom we think about as we do over the muscles of our hearts.

The fool views himself as more unique and others more generic; the wise views himself as more generic and others more unique.

Medieval man was a cog in a wheel he did not understand; modern man is a cog in a complicated system he thinks he understands.

Knowledge is reached (mostly) by removing junk from people’s heads.

Most people need to wait for another person to say “this is beautiful art”. Some need to wait for two or more.

We are most motivated to help those who need us the least.

Meditation is a way to be narcissistic without hurting anyone.

You can only convince people who think they can benefit from being convinced.

You may outlive your strength, never your wisdom.

There are those who will thank you for what you gave them, and others who will blame you for what you did not give them.

The nation-state: apartheid without political incorrectness.

When conflicted between two choices, take neither.

Nation-states like war; city-states like commerce; families like stability; and individuals like entertainment.

Robust is when you care more about the few who like your work than the multitude who dislike it.

The best test of robustness to reputational damage is your emotional state (fear, joy, boredom) when you get an email from a journalist.

IQ, SAT, and school grades are tests designed by nerds so they can get high scores in order to call each other intelligent.

A prophet is not someone with special visions, just someone blind to most of what others see.

To be a philosopher is to know through long walks, by reasoning, and reasoning only, a priori, what others can only potentially learn from their mistakes, crises, accidents,

Conscious ignorance expands your world.

Those who have nothing to prove never say that they have nothing to prove.

A verbal threat is the most authentic certificate of impotence.

You often prefer those who find you interesting over those you find interesting.

The Internet broke the private-public wall; impulsive and inelegant utterances that used to be kept private are now available for literal interpretation.

We expect places and products to be less attractive than in marketing brochures, but we never forgive humans for being worse than their first impressions.

If my detractors knew me better they would hate me even more.

The poet Georges Schéhadé, his poetry reads like proverbs.

The aphorism has been somewhat debased (outside the German language) by its association with witticism, such as the ones by Oscar Wilde, Mark Twain, Ambrose Bierce, or Sacha Guitry. Deep thought can be poetic and witty, as with Schopenhauer, Nietzsche, or (sometimes) Wittgenstein; but, abiding by the distinction between Sacred and Profane, philosophy and poetry are not stand-up comedy.