“Fooled by Randomness” by Nassim Taleb

What sounds intelligent in a conversation or a meeting, or, particularly, in the media, is suspicious.

Heroes are heroes because they are heroic in behavior, not because they won or lost.

A mistake is not something to be determined after the fact, but in the light of the information until that point.

At a given time in the market, the most successful traders are likely to be those that are best fit to the latest cycle. This does not happen too often with dentists or pianists – because these professions are more immune to randomness.

Loyalty to ideas is not a good thing for traders, scientists – or anyone.

For instance, you study every day and learn something in proportion to your studies. If you do not feel that you are going anywhere, your emotions will cause you to become demoralized. But reality rarely gives us the privilege of a satisfying linear positive progression: You may study for a year and learn nothing, then, unless you are disheartened by the empty results and give up, something will come to you in a flash.

Too much success is the enemy; too much failure is demoralizing. I would like the option of having neither.

We never fail to be surprised when noticing that people a couple of dozen centuries removed from u scan exhibit similar sensibility and feelings. What used to strike me as a child upon visiting museums is that ancient Greek statues exhibit men with traits indistinguishable from ours. I was so wrong to believe the 2,200 years was a long time. Proust wrote frequently about the surprise people ah when coming across emotions in Homeric heroes that are similar to those we experience today. By genetic standards, these Homeric heroes of thirty centuries ago in all likelihood have the exact identical makeup as the pudgy middle-aged man you see schlepping groceries in the parking lot. More than that. In fact, we are truly identical to the man who perhaps 80 centuries ago started being called “civilized,” in that strip of land stretching from southeastern Syria to southwestern Mesopotamia.

The implication is that we feel emotions then find an explanation.

What is random and what you do not know are functionally the same.

No matter how sophisticated our choices, how good we are at dominating the odds, randomness will have the last word. We are left only with divinity as a solution – dignity defined as the execution of a protocol of behavior that does not depend on the immediate circumstance. It may not be the optimal one, but it certainly is the one that makes us feel best. Grace under pressure, for example. Or in deciding not to toady up to someone, whatever the reward. Or in fighting a duel to save face. Or in signaling to a prospective mate during courtship: “Listen, I have a crush on you; I am obsessed with you, but I will not do a thing to compromise my dignity. Accordingly, the slightest snub and you will never see me again.”

We know that people of a happy disposition tend to be of the satisficing kind, with a set idea of what they want in life and an ability to stop upon gaining satisfaction. Their goals and desires do not move along with the experiences. They do not tend to experience the internal treadmill effects of constantly trying to improve on their consumption of goods by seeking higher and higher levels of sophistication. In other words, they are neither avaricious nor insatiable. An optimizer is the kind of person who will uproot himself and change his official residence just to reduce his tax bill by a few percentage points. Getting rich results in his seeing flaws in the goods and services he buys. The coffee is not warm enough. The cook no longer deserves the three stars given him by the Michelin guide (he will write the editor). The table is too far from the window. People who get promoted to important positions usually suffer from tightness of schedules: Everything has an allotted time.