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Book Reco: The Black Swan by Nassim Nicholas Taleb
19th March 2015

blackswanThe first thing I would like to say is that this is one of the most difficult books I have read in a while. But it is also one of the most interesting ones? that has changed my world view forever.

The author? Nassim Nicholas Taleb is unapologetically direct in his writing and no effort has been made to 'dumb it down' or 'simplify' anything in the book for the reading public. The author presents his theories in his own way - take it or leave it.

Once you get past the somewhat obtuse and pretentious language, the concepts are amazing and interesting. It does take some reading and re-reading to understand some of them while others are quite straightforward.

At the risk of over simplifying or mangling the concepts here are the key takeaways (for me anyway):

  • The world is more random than you can ever expect and our brains are not trained for this randomness which means we get fooled by a series of events into believing it will continue as before. A dangerous assumption.
  • We gloss over past events and create over simplified revisionist histories and narratives. These narratives can mislead us by presenting facts that might have had no bearing on the actual event e.g. successful people giving reasons for their success.
  • We should develop a very sceptical (but not necessarily negative) approach to life. Don't fall for small data sets. Instead look for evidence over long periods and large data sets. Eg. Warren Buffett's approach to investing.
  • Look for opportunities with high upside and low downside even if they are probabilistically less likely to pay off. You need only one to pay off while the others can break even or have a low negative result.
  • Take everything with grace as lady luck can make fools or losers of even the best person. Successful people are lucky people and continued success cannot be taken for granted by anyone.

Quite a brainful! It took me two attempts before I could complete reading this book and even than I skipped over a lot of mathematical stuff.

But if you are brave enough to wade through the book and do the mind work, the pay-off is a complete new way of looking at life.

Here is a video of the author talking about the concept

This should definitely be on your reading list.

Warm Regards,

Ron

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