Zach Ware

Book Notes – Fooled By Randomness by Nassim Nicholas Taleb

Amazon Link

Read Jan 2016. Review June 2016.

This review is late. I incorrectly assumed I wrote down my thoughts on this book some time ago. I can’t believe I didn’t.

It’s not as thoughtful a review as I would like to write. The information has had time to distill.

I listened to this as an audiobook. I’ve suggested the same to many. It’s approachable, funny and will wreck your world view (in a good way). I will be re-reading on paper this year.

To know me, to do business with me, to have a deep conversation with me, one must read this book.

This is the most influential book I’ve read in my adult life. It’s the first in a trilogy that, frankly, I haven’t enjoyed as much. It’s an entry point into a very different way of thinking.

You will find yourself thinking about Nero. It introduced me to idea of the random event. The thing that happens that makes or breaks people. In today’s culture we Idolize those for whom the random event leads to positives. These are the venture capitalists who invest in a company that sells for $1B three years later. Or the CEOs who do the same. Or the traders who make the trade of a lifetime.

We very rarely read about those who played in the fire and got burned.

But the concept that had the most impact hit me at a time when I was primed to receive it. It introduces the idea of distilled vs undistilled information. The fact that the flywheel that makes media businesses work is earning more eyes. The smartest way to earn more eyes is to create a dependency on information. The smartest way to do that is to prompt you with facts that, when considered objectively, don’t actually mean anything. Or with like notifications or whatever.

It led me on a journey that led to, among many things, this blog post.

We ascribe skill to the successful. And there is skill. But the role of the rare event is never considered.

I wrote this in an email to friends:

If you haven’t read Taleb’s Fooled by Randomness, you should. It is the book you need to have read to experience this cycle with open eyes. The book changed my life. It’s a great audiobook.

Most people have a bias to follow the crowd. And because some have won big at roulette before, and of course they are smarter than most people, they assume they will win and never lose the all-in bet.

This book completely changed my life. It is very approachable. Taleb’s The Black Swan and Antifragile build on it. I like Antifragile. It’s in my book pile. I read half of The Black Swan and put it down. It serves as a point maker for FBR and is duplicative.

This book kicked off an exploration into the topic of internal vs external orientation which has led me in a lot of unplanned directions. I will be writing about these directions..

First published on June 16, 2016