While exploring my insurance options in the past week I became caught up in exploring the idea of Randomness and preparing for the unexpected.As luck would have it, Elaine sent me an article about Nassim Taleb who is 'a philosopher of randomness', and according to the article "now the hottest thinker in the world" (he has a $4m advance on his next book, and gives about 30 presentations a year to bankers, economists and traders for $60 000 a pop).

As a trader, Taleb has said he took a skeptical and anti-mathematical approach to risk and uncertainty and had a severe distrust of models and statisticians and a contempt for finance academics, especially economists. He accurately predicted the current market crisis - and made a fortune (estimated at half a billion dollars) from it.

Fooled by Randomness,  the title of one of Taleb's books, has also become an idiom in English used to describe when someone sees a pattern where there is just random noise.

In his other book "The Black Swan", he rejects the distinction between non-fiction and fiction.

Here's  Taleb's Top 10 life tips, drawn from Appleyard's article:

1.  Scepticism is effortful and costly. It is better to be sceptical about matters of large consequences, and be imperfect, foolish and human in the small and the aesthetic.

2.  Go to parties. You can’t even start to know what you may find on the envelope of serendipity. If you suffer from agoraphobia, send colleagues.

3.  It’s not a good idea to take a forecast from someone wearing a tie. If possible, tease people who take themselves and their knowledge too seriously.

4.  Wear your best for your execution and stand dignified. Your last recourse against randomness is how you act — if you can’t control outcomes, you can control the elegance of your behaviour. You will always have the last word.

5.  Don’t disturb complicated systems that have been around for a very long time. We don’t understand their logic. Don’t pollute the planet. Leave it the way we found it, regardless of scientific ‘evidence’.

6.  Learn to fail with pride — and do so fast and cleanly. Maximise trial and error — by mastering the error part.

7.  Avoid losers. If you hear someone use the words ‘impossible’, ‘never’, ‘too difficult’ too often, drop him or her from your social network. Never take ‘no’ for an answer (conversely, take most ‘yeses’ as ‘most probably’).

8.  Don’t read newspapers for the news (just for the gossip and, of course, profiles of authors). The best filter to know if the news matters is if you hear it in cafes, restaurants... or (again) parties.

9.  Hard work will get you a professorship or a BMW, but you need both work and luck for a Booker, a Nobel or a private jet.

10.  Answer e-mails from junior people before more senior ones. Junior people have further to go and tend to remember who slighted them.

AuthorDave Duarte