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The Bed of Procrustes: Philosophical and Practical Aphorisms (Incerto Book 4)


Personal Thoughts

Bed of Procrustes is a standalone book in Nassim Nicholas Taleb’s landmark Incerto series, an investigation of opacity, luck, uncertainty, probability, human error, risk, and decision-making in a world we don’t understand.

Summary Notes

  • They will envy you for your success, for your wealth, for your intelligence, for your looks, for your status—but rarely for your wisdom.
  • Much of the difference between what is work and what is leisure is branding.
  • Hatred is much harder to fake than love. You hear of fake love; never of fake hate.
  • Sometimes people ask you a question with their eyes begging you to not tell them the truth.
  • People feel deep anxiety finding out that someone they thought was stupid is actually more intelligent than they are.
  • Friendship that ends was never one; there was at least one sucker in it.
  • When someone writes “I dislike you but I agree with you,” I read “I dislike you because I agree with you.”
  • Life is about execution rather than purpose.
  • If you get easily bored, it means that your BS detector is functioning properly; if you forget (some) things, it means that your mind knows how to filter; and if you feel sadness, it means that you are human.
  • It is easier to fast than diet. You cannot be “slightly” kosher or halal by only eating a small portion of ham.
  • Quite revealing of human preferences that more suicides come from shame or loss of financial and social status than medical diagnoses.
  • Business wars are typically lost by both parties; academic wars are won by both sides.
  • You will never know for sure if someone is an asshole until he becomes rich.
  • There is no clearer sign of failure than a middle-aged man boasting of his performance in college.
  • You want to avoid being disliked without being envied or admired.
  • Karl Marx, a visionary, figured out that you can control a slave much better by convincing him he is an employee.
  • 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.
  • For most, success is the harmful passage from the camp of the hating to the camp of the hated.
  • 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 a good practice to always apologize, except when you have done something wrong.
  • You remember emails you sent that were not answered better than emails that you did not answer.
  • The opposite of success is name-dropping.
  • There are two types of people: those who try to win and those who try to win arguments.
  • The fool views himself as more unique and others more generic; the wise views himself as more generic and others more unique.
  • 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.
  • You often prefer those who find you interesting over those you find interesting.

The Bed of Procrustes: Philosophical and Practical Aphorisms (Incerto Book 4)

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