I read somewhere recently that the average person only reads 100 books in their lifetime. I can't imagine only reading 100 books ever. I probably read more than 100 books in the last 2 years. I read a lot.
I recently read The Black Swan by Nassim Nicholas Taleb.
As a young man I used to think philosophy was this silly kind of abstract way of thinking that had no bearing on real life. I consequently avoided it as a subject in school almost entirely — save for one elective here or there.
I’ve since matured a little bit. I now view philosophy as directly relating to my sense of spiritual well-being. I’m not religious, I’m fairly agonistic actually but I believe in human spirituality and I think philosophy now might be the best way to embrace your own sense of spirituality.
Generally speaking every single time I read a book, I try as hard as I can to take away one positive concept or a key life lesson. Any one thing that I feel I can apply almost instantaneously to my life.
If I can’t, you’ll never see me recommend or bother to rate that book.
This book is a 7 out of 10, mostly because he’s overly abstract and incredibly verbose (we probably have that in common). But most of all because he never really talks about the impact of the highly improbable or gives you anything truly actionable with respect to his concept of Black Swans, other than they exist — duh…
It’s a high reading level. In fact anyone I talked to who had read it found it incredibly difficult to get through because of the language — that of a university professor, not the way people actually talk — so if you have difficulty already getting through non-fiction books, especially technical ones, you might want to avoid this book altogether.
I’ll sum up the one concept in this book — which is really a philosophy book, don’t let the title fool you like it did me — that it was successful in instilling upon me, and probably the biggest reason I didn’t give it a lower rating.
In research, human beings have this innate natural belief that things happen in a linear fashion. Maybe it’s our math education, but this belief that can blind us to the reality and randomness of most situations or experiences.
In reality things NEVER happen in a linear fashion.
Nobody becomes successful in a linear fashion.
Nobody builds a successful business in a linear fashion.
Nobody’s career advances in a linear fashion.
Nobody’s relationship with their spouse gets better and better over time.
Life actually happens in relatively random cycles, peaks and valleys. Most situations evolve in this manner, which is why predictions are often just that: predictions.
The moment you learn to accept the fact that nothing, and I mean nothing (except certain types of math) in your life will occur linearly, you can embrace the randomness.
If you’re trying to build a business, don’t fret if you don’t build sales in a linear curve.
If you’re losing weight, don’t fret when your weight jumps back up a week here or there.
Don’t panic, if life doesn’t pan out on your linear expectations of education –> job –> career –> relationship –> marriage –> kids –> house –> career advancement –> retirement.
All you can try to do is observe the overall trends of the situation. In most cases, finding success with anything looks more like an exponential long-term curve. Lots of hard work with negative and positive inexplicable or random spikes.
Look for overall trends over the long-term to govern your path. Overall trends going in the direction you want is a good thing, you may need a little bit of data for this, but don’t panic over short-term cycles or changes.