Tom Peters

[Author] Nick Taleb explained that if you are lucky enough to have been born of intelligent parents and if you work your ass off, you are statistically likely to have a pretty good career. If your career is any better than pretty good, it’s luck. There is no statement in life that I believe more than that. And the set of people on earth who … [ Read more ]

Antifragile: Things That Gain from Disorder

Nassim Nicholas Taleb, the bestselling author of The Black Swan and one of the foremost thinkers of our time, reveals how to thrive in an uncertain world.

Just as human bones get stronger when subjected to stress and tension, and rumors or riots intensify when someone tries to repress them, many things in life benefit from stress, disorder, volatility, and turmoil. What Taleb has identified … [ Read more ]

Nassim Nicholas Taleb

Rank beliefs not according to their plausibility but by the harm they may cause.

David K. Hurst, Nassim Nicholas Taleb

In modern times we have become increasingly preoccupied with prediction, and blind to the value of antifragility. As a result, iatrogenic damage (harm caused by well-meaning interventions) has become ubiquitous. Antibiotics spawn superbugs; the propping up of dictators leads to violent revolution; and the construction of permanent structures on impermanent shorelines becomes a sure prescription for mass destruction.

David K. Hurst, Nassim Nicholas Taleb

Our knowledge of what does not work is often greater than our knowledge of what does work. In addition, as a forecast reaches farther into the future, it is easier to predict what won’t survive than to predict what will survive. And when it comes to perishable things (like people), the young can be expected to outlive the old. But with nonperishables (like ideas), the … [ Read more ]

Nassim Nicholas Taleb on Accepting Uncertainty, Embracing Volatility

The defining characteristic of future change, according to Nassim Nicholas Taleb, is that it is impossible — and foolhardy — to try to predict it. Nonetheless, the dominant impulse among policymakers and so-called experts is to attempt to reduce volatility rather than deal with it more productively. In his new book, Antifragile: Things That Gain from Disorder, Taleb argues that in order for individuals, institutions, … [ Read more ]

Nassim Nicholas Taleb

Being right, knowing how to define things, understanding the difference between what is true and false: None of this is the point. What is important is to understand the results of events, not the events themselves. Real intelligence lies not in the individual, but in the evolutionary process — the ongoing process of trial-and-error. In this process, options (essentially, the freedom to experiment with uncertainty) … [ Read more ]

The Statistician Who Ate Humble Pie

Why are business and economic forecasts so often wrong, and why can’t they be improved? In a new feature from s+b — Author’s Choice — leading writers select and introduce passages from notable books. In this piece, Nassim Nicholas Taleb, author of The Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable, introduces an engaging lesson in business forecasting from Dance with Chance: Making Luck Work … [ Read more ]

Nassim Nicholas Taleb

The field of statistics is based on something called the law of large numbers: as you increase your sample size, no single observation is going to hurt you. Sometimes that works. But the rules are based on classes of distribution that don’t always hold in our world.

All statistics come from games. But our world doesn’t resemble games. We don’t have dice that can deliver. Instead … [ Read more ]

Nassim Nicholas Taleb

I don’t like scenario planning, because people don’t think out of the box. So scenario planning may focus on four, five, or six scenarios that you can envision, at the expense of others you can’t. Instead of looking at scenarios and forecasts, you should be looking to see how fragile your portfolio is. How vulnerable are you to model error? How vulnerable is your cash … [ Read more ]

Nassim Nicholas Taleb

We are endowed with a native scorn of the abstract; we ignore what we do not see, even if our logic recommends otherwise. We tend to overestimate causal relationships. When we meet someone who by playing Russian roulette became extremely influential, wealthy, and powerful, we still act toward that person as if he gained that status just by skills, even when you know there’s been … [ Read more ]

Nassim Nicholas Taleb

If you can explain one thing and its opposite using the same data you don’t have an explanation. It takes a lot of courage to keep silent.

Learning to Expect the Unexpected

A black swan is an outlier, an event that lies beyond the realm of normal expectations. Most people expect all swans to be white because that’s what their experience tells them; a black swan is by definition a surprise. Nevertheless, people tend to concoct explanations for them after the fact, which makes them appear more predictable, and less random, than they are. Our minds are … [ Read more ]

Fooled by Randomness: The Hidden Role of Chance in Life and in the Markets

If the prescriptions for getting rich that are outlined in books such as The Millionaire Next Door and Rich Dad Poor Dad are successful enough to make the books bestsellers, then one must ask, Why aren’t there more millionaires? In Fooled by Randomness, Nassim Nicholas Taleb, a professional trader and mathematics professor, examines what randomness means in business and in life and why human beings … [ Read more ]