The times they are a-changin’.

This post seems to be older than 12 years—a long time on the internet. It might be outdated.

I’m posting this because I agree with them and because I want to remember them. I especially like number 6 (about failing), and it’s been part of my unofficial New Years Resolution to fail gracefully more. This is author Nassim Nicholas Taleb list of top life tips:

  1. Scepticism is effortful and costly. It is better to be sceptical about matters of large consequences, and be imperfect, foolish and human in the small and the aesthetic.
  2. Go to parties. You can’t even start to know what you may find on the envelope of serendipity. If you suffer from agoraphobia, send colleagues.
  3. It’s not a good idea to take a forecast from someone wearing a tie. If possible, tease people who take themselves and their knowledge too seriously.
  4. Wear your best for your execution and stand dignified. Your last recourse against randomness is how you act – if you can’t control outcomes, you can control the elegance of your behaviour. You will always have the last word.
  5. Don’t disturb complicated systems that have been around for a very long time. We don’t understand their logic. Don’t pollute the planet. Leave it the way we found it, regardless of scientific ‘evidence’.
  6. Learn to fail with pride – and do so fast and cleanly. Maximise trial and error – by mastering the error part.
  7. Avoid losers. If you hear someone use the words ‘impossible’, ‘never’, ‘too difficult’ too often, drop him or her from your social network. Never take ‘no’ for an answer (conversely, take most ‘yeses’ as ‘most probably’).
  8. Don’t read newspapers for the news (just for the gossip and, of course, profiles of authors). The best filter to know if the news matters is if you hear it in cafes, restaurants… or (again) parties.
  9. Hard work will get you a professorship or a BMW. You need both work and luck for a Booker, a Nobel or a private jet.
  10. Answer e-mails from junior people before more senior ones. Junior people have further to go and tend to remember who slighted them.

The TimeOnline also did a great article that’s worth a read: Nassim Nicholas Taleb: the prophet of boom and doom.

via BoingBoing


6 thoughts on “Life Tips”

  1. I think that’s a good list, except for number 4. Number 4 seems to be about death, but if it’s just about things we can’t control, then disregard. I’m much more of the Dylan Thomas school of thought:

    Do not go gentle into that good night.
    Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

    1. I think #4 is about how we react to situations we can’t control. Death is an area we have absolutely no control, which I think is why he used it as an example. I, for one, know I could do a better job in this area (controlling the elegance of my behavior…not death) for sure.

  2. I don’t think 8 could be further from the truth. The stuff you hear in restaurants and at parties is (usually) not important and often just gossip. But I guess this guy likes gossip…

    3 is a nice way to become the kind of person who treats everything like a joke.

    7 is just a careless generalization that is obviously false.

    If we all followed 5, I guess we’d still have slavery..

    I agree with 9.

    I agree with 4.

    I think what he means in 6 is quite correct, though the way he phrases it is the opposite of how it should be. The way to get over your failures fast and cleanly, and learn from them, is to fail without pride (because then you don’t have to waste your time defending yourself).

    1. #8: He has a point though. If something is important, you should hear about it more often than if it’s not important (the opposite of this is probably not true though).

      #3: I actually agree with Taleb on this. Engineering is, by its nature, a pretty serious discipline. And there are definitely people who take themselves and their knowledge too seriously. I think (I hope) he means to tease them in a kind way.

      #7: I think most people who say ‘impossible’, ‘never’, and ‘too difficult’ are either slothful or unintelligent. I’d be happy to debate this point though.

      #5: I don’t think that’s the point he’s trying to make. I think the point is: if you don’t understand it, don’t try and change it.

      #6: I posted this entire list because of #6…mostly. However, I think it could have been worded better as: “Learn to embrace your failures.”

      1. #6 Quinn you have the right idea but are far too conservative in your statement. “the way to get over your failures fast and cleanly, and learn from them, is to fail without pride (because then you don?t have to waste your time defending yourself).”

        It should read: the way to get over your failures fast and cleanly, and learn from them, is to live without pride. The effects of pride on success and failure are equally harmful and in more ways than just wasting time defending yourself. Pride enables all of the defence mechanisms which each of us have developed solely to shelter us from the truth.
        Only a person living without pride is able to view the world without bias; therefore a person living without pride will learn more from every experience, and will waste less time on his successes and failures.

  3. When I started reading this entry, I quickly thought to myself: this is going to be interesting. After only a few “tips,” I thought to myself, “I can’t wait to read how people respond to these in the comments. It will be so interesting.”

    I finished reading, read the comments, and am without disappointment. I don’t agree with all the tips, but they are all thought provoking nonetheless. Keep up the good blogging and commenting. : ) Miss you guys–

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