The Bed Of Procrustes By Nassim Taleb

Updated: November 1, 2022 Reading Time: 5 minutes rating: 10


I love everything that Taleb writes. I find his arguments compelling, filled with ancient wisdom and very actionable.

This book, The Bed of Procrustes is exactly like that. The style is totally different from his other books in Incerto. The book is a collection of aphorisms, or maxims, that distill a lot of the ideas and knowledge shared in the other three volumes.

Below is the list of my favorite ones.

Notes and Highlights

An erudite is someone who displays less than he knows; a journalist or consultant, the opposite,

Your brain is most intelligent when you don’t instruct it on what do do —something people who take showers discover on occasion.

Work destroys your soul by stealthily invading your brain during the hours not officially spent working; be selective about professions,

They will envy you for your success, for your wealth, for your intelligence, for your looks, for your status —but rarely for your wisdom.

The main reason to go to school is to learn how to not think like a professor.

Since Cato the Elder, a certain type of maturity has shown up when one starts blaming the new generation for “shallowness” and praising the previous one for its “values”.

If powerful assholes don’t find you “arrogant”, it means you are doing something wrong.

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.

For life to be really fun, what you fear should line up with what you desire.

Karl Marx, a visionary, figured out that you can control a slave much better by convincing him he is an employee.

The difference between slaves in Roman and Ottoman days and today’s employees is that slaves did not need to flatter their boss.

You are rich if and only if money you refuse tastes better than money you accept.

People focus on role models; it is more effective to find antimodels —people you don’t want to resemble when you grow up.

Never hire an A student unless it is to take exams.

For so many, instead of looking for “cause of death” when they expire, we should be looking for “cause of life” when they are still around.

The three most harmful addictions are heorin, carbohydrates, and a monthly salary.

The most important aspect of fasting is that you feel deep, undirected gratitude when you break the fast.

Fasting: every human should learn to read, write, respect the weak, take risks in voicing disrespect for the powerful when warranted, and fast.

You have a real life if and only if you do not compete with anyone in any of your pursuits.

With terminal disease, nature lets you die with abbreviated suffering; medicine lets you suffer with prolonged dying.

We are hunters; we are only truly alive in those moments when we improvise; no schedule, just small surprises and stimuli from the environment.

For everything, use boredom in place of a clock, as a biological wristwatch, though under constraints of politeness.

A heuristic on whether you have control of you life: can you take naps?

Skills that transfer: street fights, off-path hiking, seduction, broad erudition. Skills that don’t: school, games, sports, laboratory —what’s reduced and organized.

Technology is at its best when it is invisible.

If the professor is not capable of giving a class without preparation, don’t attend. People should only teach what they have learned organically, through experience and curiosity…or get another job.

Most so-called writers keep writing and writing with the hope to, some day, find something to say

The fool views himself as more unique and other more generic; the wise views himself as more generic and others more unique.

The calamity of the information age is that the toxicity of data increases much faster than its benefits.

Supposedly, if you are uncompromising or intolerant with BS you lose friends. But you will also make friends, better friends.

Every angel is an asshole somewhere.

Every asshole is an angel somewhere.

Your duty is to scream those truths that one should shout but that are merely whispered.

Weak men act to satisfy their needs, stronger men their duties.

When conflicted between two choices, take neither.

For the robust, an error is information; for the fragile, an error is an error.

Knowledge is subtractive, not additive —what we subtract (reduction by what does not work, what not to do), not what we add (what to do).

The fours most influential moderns: Darwin, Marx, Freud, and (the productive) Einstein were scholars but not academics. It has always been hard to do genuine —and nonperishable— work within institutions.

The best test of whether someone is extremely stupid (or extremely wise) is whether financial and political news make sense to him.

Being an entrepreneur is an existential not just a financial thing.

Never take investment advice from someones who has to work for a living

Risk takers never complain. They do.

The mediocre regret their words more than their silence; finer men regret their silence more than their words; the magnificent has nothing to regret.

The first, and hardest, step to wisdom: avert the standard assumption that people know what they want.

The only people who think that real world experience doesn’t matter are those who never had real world experience.