Nassim Nicholas Taleb Quotes

Do you have any favorite Nassim Taleb quotes?

Nassim Nicholas Taleb is an author, essayist and mathematical statistician who has worked as an option trader and risk analyst with a key focus on the problems of randomness, probability as well as uncertainty. As an author, Nassim wrote multiple best-selling books like The Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable, Antifragile, Skin in the Game, Fooled by Randomness, The Bed of Procrustes, Dynamic Hedging and others.

Here are some of the best Nassim Nicholas Taleb quotes about risk, randomness and so much more:

Best Nassim Nicholas Taleb Quotes

best Nassim Taleb quotes

1. Scars signal skin in the game. -Nassim Taleb

2. When things go our way we reject the lack of certainty. -Nassim Taleb

3. You do not want to win an argument. You want to win. -Nassim Taleb

4. If you do not take risks for your opinion, you are nothing. -Nassim Taleb

5. Those who talk should do and only those who do should talk. -Nassim Taleb

6. Too much success is the enemy, too much failure is demoralizing. -Nassim Taleb

7. You will never fully convince someone that he is wrong; only reality can. -Nassim Taleb

8. People overvalue their knowledge and underestimate the probability of their being wrong. -Nassim Taleb

9. The problem with information is not that it is diverting and generally useless, but that it is toxic. -Nassim Taleb

10. Courage is the only virtue you cannot fake.

Nassim Taleb

11. Ideas come and go, stories stay. -Nassim Taleb

12. You need a story to displace a story. -Nassim Taleb

13. Difficulty is what wakes up the genius. -Nassim Taleb

14. We tend to use knowledge as therapy. -Nassim Taleb

15. Suckers try to win arguments, non-suckers try to win. -Nassim Taleb

16. Entrepreneurs are heroes in our society. They fail for the rest of us. -Nassim Taleb

17. Don’t tell me what you think, tell me what you have in your portfolio. -Nassim Taleb

18. It is much more immoral to claim virtue without fully living with its direct consequences. -Nassim Taleb

19. Mild success can be explainable by skills and labor. Wild success is attributable to variance. -Nassim Taleb

20. What matters isn’t what a person has or doesn’t have; it is what he or she is afraid of losing. -Nassim Taleb

Nassim Nicholas Taleb Quotes About Risk

Nassim Taleb quotes about risk

21. We should ban banks from risk-taking because society is going to pay the price. -Nassim Taleb

22. A system, artificially stabilized, and of course you have hidden risks under the surface, and you don’t know where the risks are. -Nassim Taleb

23. Anything that provides you with very, very stable income, very stable conditions, maybe generally stable, that often, it masks real risks, risks of blow-ups. -Nassim Taleb

24. Muscles without strength, friendship without trust, opinion without risk, change without aesthetics, age without values, food without nourishment, power without fairness, facts without rigor, degrees without erudition, militarism without fortitude, progress without civilization, complication without depth, fluency without content; these are the sins to remember. -Nassim Taleb

25. A country’s assets reside in the tinkerers, the hobbyists, and the risk-takers.

Nassim Taleb

26. This is the central illusion in life: that randomness is a risk, that it is a bad thing. -Nassim Taleb

27. At no point in history have so many non-risk-takers, that is, those with no personal exposure, exerted so much control. -Nassim Taleb

28. If you roll dice, you know that the odds are one in six that the dice will come up on a particular side. So you can calculate the risk. But, in the stock market, such computations are bull – you don’t even know how many sides the dice have! -Nassim Taleb

29. Philosophers talk about truth and falsehood. People in life talk about payoff, exposure, and consequences (risks and rewards), hence fragility and antifragility. And sometimes philosophers and thinkers and those who study conflate Truth with risks and rewards. -Nassim Taleb

30. Much of the research into humans’ risk-avoidance machinery shows that it is antiquated and unfit for the modern world; it is made to counter repeatable attacks and learn from specifics. If someone narrowly escapes being eaten by a tiger in a certain cave, then he learns to avoid that cave. -Nassim Taleb

Nassim Nicholas Taleb: Skin In The Game Quotes

Nassim Taleb Skin In The Game Quotes

31. No person in a transaction should have certainty about the outcome while the other one has uncertainty. -Nassim Taleb

32. Start by being nice to every person you meet. But if someone tries to exercise power over you, exercise power over him. -Nassim Taleb

33. You can define a free person precisely as someone whose fate is not centrally or directly dependent on peer assessment. -Nassim Taleb

34. People who are bred, selected, and compensated to find complicated solutions do not have an incentive to implement simplified ones. -Nassim Taleb

35. Formation of moral values in society doesn’t come from the evolution of the consensus. No, it is the most intolerant person who imposes virtue on others precisely because of that intolerance. -Nassim Taleb

36. The curse of modernity is that we are increasingly populated by a class of people who are better at explaining than understanding, or better at explaining than doing. -Nassim Taleb

37. Beware of the person who gives advice, telling you that a certain action on your part is “good for you” while it is also good for him, while the harm to you doesn’t directly affect him. -Nassim Taleb

38. The principle of intervention, like that of healers, is first do no harm (primum non nocere); even more, we will argue, those who don’t take risks should never be involved in making decisions. -Nassim Taleb

39. Things designed by people without skin in the game tend to grow in complication (before their final collapse). There is absolutely no benefit for someone in such a position to propose something simple: when you are rewarded for perception, not results, you need to show sophistication. Anyone who has submitted a “scholarly” paper to a journal knows that you usually raise the odds of acceptance by making it more complicated than necessary. Further, there are side effects for problems that grow nonlinearly with such branching-out complications. Worse: Non-skin-in-the-game people don’t get simplicity. -Nassim Taleb

40. The difference between successful people and really successful people is that really successful people say no to almost everything

Nassim Taleb

41. Avoid taking advice from someone who gives advice for a living, unless there is a penalty for their advice. -Nassim Taleb

42. How much you truly “believe” in something can be manifested only through what you are willing to risk for it. -Nassim Taleb

43. Alexander said that it was preferable to have an army of sheep led by a lion than an army of lions led by a sheep. -Nassim Taleb

44. But never engage in detailed over-explanations of why something is important: one debases a principle by endlessly justifying it. -Nassim Taleb

45. It is no secret that large corporations prefer people with families; those with downside risk are easier to own, particularly when they are choking under a large mortgage. -Nassim Taleb

46. Bureaucracy is a construction by which a person is conveniently separated from the consequences of his or her actions. -Nassim Taleb

47. I am, at the Fed level, libertarian; at the state level, Republican; at the local level, Democrat; and at the family and friends level, a socialist. If that saying doesn’t convince you of the fatuousness of left vs. right labels, nothing will. -Nassim Taleb

48. The only definition of rationality that I’ve found that is practically, empirically, and mathematically rigorous is the following: what is rational is that which allows for survival. Unlike modern theories by psychosophasters, it maps to the classical way of thinking. Anything that hinders one’s survival at an individual, collective, tribal, or general level is, to me, irrational. -Nassim Taleb

49. If you want to study classical values such as courage or learn about stoicism, don’t necessarily look for classicists. One is never a career academic without a reason. Read the texts themselves: Seneca, Caesar, or Marcus Aurelius, when possible. Or read commentators on the classics who were doers themselves, such as Montaigne—people who at some point had some skin in the game, then retired to write books. Avoid the intermediary, when possible. Or fuhgetaboud the texts, just engage in acts of courage. -Nassim Taleb

50. For studying courage in textbooks doesn’t make you any more courageous than eating cow meat makes you bovine. By some mysterious mental mechanism, people fail to realize that the principal thing you can learn from a professor is how to be a professor—and the chief thing you can learn from, say, a life coach or inspirational speaker is how to become a life coach or inspirational speaker. So remember that the heroes of history were not classicists and library rats, those people who live vicariously in their texts. They were people of deeds and had to be endowed with the spirit of risk taking. -Nassim Taleb

Nassim Nicholas Taleb: Fooled By Randomness Quotes

Nassim Taleb Fooled by Randomness quotes

51. Realism is punishing. Probabilistic skepticism is worse. -Nassim Taleb

52. Heroes are heroes because they are heroic in behavior, not because they won or lost. -Nassim Taleb

53. A mistake is not something to be determined after the fact, but in light of the information available until that point. -Nassim Taleb

54. No matter how sophisticated our choices, how good we are at dominating the odds, randomness will have the last word. -Nassim Taleb

55. In other words, history teaches us to avoid the brand of naive empiricism that consists of learning from casual historical facts. -Nassim Taleb

56. The epiphany I had in my career in randomness came when I understood that I was not intelligent enough, nor strong enough, to even try to fight my emotions. -Nassim Taleb

57. Common sense is nothing but a collection of misconceptions acquired by age eighteen. Furthermore, What sounds intelligent in a conversation or a meeting, or, particularly, in the media, is suspicious. -Nassim Taleb

58. There is asymmetry. Those who die do so very early in the game, while those who live go on living very long. Whenever there is asymmetry in outcomes, the average survival has nothing to do with the median survival. -Nassim Taleb

59. Heroes are heroes because they are heroic in behavior, not because they won or lost. Patroclus does not strike us as a hero because of his accomplishments (he was rapidly killed) but because he preferred to die than see Achilles sulking into inaction. Clearly, the epic poets understood invisible histories. Also later thinkers and poets had more elaborate methods for dealing with randomness, as we will see with stoicism. -Nassim Taleb

60. Reality is far more vicious than Russian roulette. First, it delivers the fatal bullet rather infrequently, like a revolver that would have hundreds, even thousands of chambers instead of six. After a few dozen tries, one forgets about the existence of a bullet, under a numbing false sense of security. Second, unlike a well-defined precise game like Russian roulette, where the risks are visible to anyone capable of multiplying and dividing by six, one does not observe the barrel of reality. One is capable of unwittingly playing Russian roulette – and calling it by some alternative “low risk” game.

Nassim Taleb

61. We favor the visible, the embedded, the personal, the narrated, and the tangible; we scorn the abstract. -Nassim Taleb

62. People do not realize that the media is paid to get your attention. For a journalist, silence rarely surpasses any word. -Nassim Taleb

63. Never ask a man if he is from Sparta: If he were, he would have let you know such an important fact – and if he were not, you could hurt his feelings.

64. Probability is not a mere computation of odds on the dice or more complicated variants; it is the acceptance of the lack of certainty in our knowledge and the development of methods for dealing with our ignorance. -Nassim Taleb

65. My lesson from Soros is to start every meeting at my boutique by convincing everyone that we are a bunch of idiots who know nothing and are mistake-prone, but happen to be endowed with the rare privilege of knowing it. -Nassim Taleb

66. It certainly takes bravery to remain skeptical; it takes inordinate courage to introspect, to confront oneself, to accept one’s limitations–Scientists are seeing more and more evidence that we are specifically designed by mother nature to fool ourselves. -Nassim Taleb

67. Those who were unlucky in life in spite of their skills would eventually rise. The lucky fool might have benefited from some luck in life; over the longer run he would slowly converge to the state of a less-lucky idiot. Each one would revert to his long-term properties. -Nassim Taleb

68. The observation of the numerous misfortunes that attend all conditions forbids us to grow insolent upon our present enjoyments, or to admire a man’s happiness that may yet, in course of time, suffer change. For the uncertain future has yet to come, with all variety of future; and to him only to whom the divinity has [guaranteed] continued happiness until the end we may call happy. -Nassim Taleb

69. Clearly, an open mind is a necessity when dealing with randomness. Popper believed that any idea of Utopia is necessarily closed owing to the fact that it chokes its own refutations. The simple notion of a good model for society that cannot be left open for falsification is totalitarian. I learned from Popper, in addition to the difference between an open and a closed society, that between an open and a closed mind. -Nassim Taleb

70. We do not need to be rational and scientific when it comes to the details of our daily life—only in those that can harm us and threaten our survival. Modern life seems to invite us to do the exact opposite; become extremely realistic and intellectual when it comes to such matters as religion and personal behavior, yet as irrational as possible when it comes to matters ruled by randomness (say, portfolio or real estate investments). I have encountered colleagues, “rational,” no-nonsense people, who do not understand why I cherish the poetry of Baudelaire and Saint-John Perse or obscure (and often impenetrable) writers like Elias Canetti, J. L. Borges, or Walter Benjamin. Yet they get sucked into listening to the “analyses” of a television “guru,” or into buying the stock of a company they know absolutely nothing about, based on tips by neighbors who drive expensive cars.

Nassim Nicholas Taleb: The Black Swan Quotes

Nassim Taleb The Black Swan quotes

71. Prediction, not narration, is the real test of our understanding of the world. -Nassim Taleb

72. The problem with experts is that they do not know what they do not know. -Nassim Taleb

73. The inability to predict outliers implies the inability to predict the course of history. -Nassim Taleb

74. If you survive until tomorrow, it could mean that either a) you are more likely to be immortal or b) that you are closer to death. -Nassim Taleb

75. We are quick to forget that just being alive is an extraordinary piece of good luck, a remote event, a chance occurrence of monstrous proportions. -Nassim Taleb

76. Missing a train is only painful if you run after it! Likewise, not matching the idea of success others expect from you is only painful if that’s what you are seeking. -Nassim Taleb

77. It is my great hope someday, to see science and decision makers rediscover what the ancients have always known. Namely that our highest currency is respect. -Nassim Taleb

78. When you develop your opinions on the basis of weak evidence, you will have difficulty interpreting subsequent information that contradicts these opinions, even if this new information is obviously more accurate. -Nassim Taleb

79. I propose that if you want a simple step to a higher form of life, as distant from the animal as you can get, then you may have to denarrate, that is, shut down the television set, minimize time spent reading newspapers, ignore the blogs. Train your reasoning abilities to control your decisions; nudge System 1 (the heuristic or experiential system) out of the important ones. Train yourself to spot the difference between the sensational and the empirical. This insulation from the toxicity of the world will have an additional benefit: it will improve your well-being. -Nassim Taleb

80. The writer Umberto Eco belongs to that small class of scholars who are encyclopedic, insightful, and nondull. He is the owner of a large personal library (containing thirty thousand books), and separates visitors into two categories: those who react with “Wow! Signore, professore dottore Eco, what a library you have ! How many of these books have you read?” and the others – a very small minority – who get the point that a private library is not an ego-boosting appendage but a research tool. Read books are far less valuable than unread ones. The library should contain as much of what you don’t know as your financial means, mortgage rates and the currently tight real-estate market allows you to put there. You will accumulate more knowledge and more books as you grow older, and the growing number of unread books on the shelves will look at you menacingly. Indeed, the more you know, the larger the rows of unread books. Let us call this collection of unread books an anti-library.

Nassim Taleb

81. I will repeat the following until I am hoarse: it is contagion that determines the fate of a theory in social science, not its validity. -Nassim Taleb

82. Believe me, it is tough to deal with the social consequences of the appearance of continuous failure. We are social animals; hell is other people. -Nassim Taleb

83. If you hear a “prominent” economist using the word ‘equilibrium,’ or ‘normal distribution,’ do not argue with him; just ignore him, or try to put a rat down his shirt. -Nassim Taleb

84. Categorizing is necessary for humans, but it becomes pathological when the category is seen as definitive, preventing people from considering the fuzziness of boundaries. -Nassim Taleb

85. If you want to get an idea of a friend’s temperament, ethics, and personal elegance, you need to look at him under the tests of severe circumstances, not under the regular rosy glow of daily life. -Nassim Taleb

86. You can afford to be compassionate, lax, and courteous if, once in a while, when it is least expected of you, but completely justified, you sue someone, or savage an enemy, just to show that you can walk the walk. -Nassim Taleb

87. It has been more profitable for us to bind together in the wrong direction than to be alone in the right one. Those who have followed the assertive idiot rather than the introspective wise person have passed us some of their genes. This is apparent from a social pathology: psychopaths rally followers. -Nassim Taleb

88. The strategy for the discoverers and entrepreneurs is to rely less on top-down planning and focus on maximum tinkering and recognizing opportunities when they present themselves. So I disagree with the followers of Marx and those of Adam Smith: the reason free markets work is because they allow people to be lucky, thanks to aggressive trial and error, not by giving rewards or “incentives” for skill. The strategy is, then, to tinker as much as possible and try to collect as many Black Swan opportunities as you can. -Nassim Taleb

89. I don’t run for trains.” Snub your destiny. I have taught myself to resist running to keep on schedule. This may seem a very small piece of advice, but it registered. In refusing to run to catch trains, I have felt the true value of elegance and aesthetics in behavior, a sense of being in control of my time, my schedule, and my life. Missing a train is only painful if you run after it! Likewise, not matching the idea of success others expect from you is only painful if that’s what you are seeking. You stand above the rat race and the pecking order, not outside of it, if you do so by choice. -Nassim Taleb

90. I am most often irritated by those who attack the bishop but somehow fall for the securities analyst–those who exercise their skepticism against religion but not against economists, social scientists, and phony statisticians. Using the confirmation bias, these people will tell you that religion was horrible for mankind by counting deaths from the Inquisition and various religious wars. But they will not show you how many people were killed by nationalism, social science, and political theory under Stalin or during the Vietnam War. Even priests don’t go to bishops when they feel ill: their first stop is the doctor’s. But we stop by the offices of many pseudoscientists and “experts” without alternative. -Nassim Taleb

Nassim Nicholas Taleb: Antifragile Quotes

Nassim Taleb Antifragile quotes

91. Only the autodidacts are free. -Nassim Taleb

92. I want to live happily in a world I don’t understand. -Nassim Taleb

93. Abundance is harder for us to handle than scarcity. -Nassim Taleb

94. He who has never sinned is less reliable than he who has only sinned once. -Nassim Taleb

95. Antifragility is beyond resilience or robustness. The resilient resists shocks and stays the same; the antifragile gets better. -Nassim Taleb

96. You may never know what type of person someone is unless they are given opportunities to violate moral or ethical codes. -Nassim Taleb

97. The irony of the process of thought control: the more energy you put into trying to control your ideas and what you think about, the more your ideas end up controlling you. -Nassim Taleb

98. The psychologist Gerd Gigerenzer has a simple heuristic. Never ask the doctor what you should do. Ask him what he would do if he were in your place. You would be surprised at the difference. -Nassim Taleb

99. Further, my characterization of a loser is someone who, after making a mistake, doesn’t introspect, doesn’t exploit it, feels embarrassed and defensive rather than enriched with a new piece of information, and tries to explain why he made the mistake rather than moving on. These types often consider themselves the “victims” of some large plot, a bad boss, or bad weather. Finally, a thought. He who has never sinned is less reliable than he who has only sinned once. And someone who has made plenty of errors—though never the same error more than once—is more reliable than someone who has never made any. -Nassim Taleb

100. The minute I was bored with a book or a subject I moved to another one, instead of giving up on reading altogether – when you are limited to the school material and you get bored, you have a tendency to give up and do nothing or play hooky out of discouragement. The trick is to be bored with a specific book, rather than with the act of reading. So the number of the pages absorbed could grow faster than otherwise. And you find gold, so to speak, effortlessly, just as in rational but undirected trial-and-error-based research. It is exactly like options, trial and error, not getting stuck, bifurcating when necessary but keeping a sense of broad freedom and opportunism. Trial and error is freedom.

Nassim Taleb

101. The simpler, the better. Complications lead to multiplicative chains of unanticipated effects. -Nassim Taleb

102. Modernity has replaced ethics with legalese, and the law can be gamed with a good lawyer. -Nassim Taleb

103. This is the tragedy of modernity: as with neurotically overprotective parents, those trying to help are often hurting us the most. -Nassim Taleb

104. Never ask anyone for their opinion, forecast, or recommendation. Just ask them what they have—or don’t have—in their portfolio. -Nassim Taleb

105. Most humans manage to squander their free time, as free time makes them dysfunctional, lazy, and unmotivated—the busier they get, the more active they are at other tasks. -Nassim Taleb

106. Few understand that procrastination is our natural defense, letting things take care of themselves and exercise their antifragility; it results from some ecological or naturalistic wisdom, and is not always bad — at an existential level, it is my body rebelling against its entrapment. It is my soul fighting the Procrustean bed of modernity. -Nassim Taleb

107. The best way to verify that you are alive is by checking if you like variations. Remember that food would not have a taste if it weren’t for hunger; results are meaningless without effort, joy without sadness, convictions without uncertainty, and an ethical life isn’t so when stripped of personal risks. -Nassim Taleb

108. If you have more than one reason to do something (choose a doctor or veterinarian, hire a gardener or an employee, marry a person, go on a trip), just don’t do it. It does not mean that one reason is better than two, just that by invoking more than one reason you are trying to convince yourself to do something. Obvious decisions (robust to error) require no more than a single reason. -Nassim Taleb

109. If there is something in nature you don’t understand, odds are it makes sense in a deeper way that is beyond your understanding. So there is a logic to natural things that is much superior to our own. Just as there is a dichotomy in law: ‘innocent until proven guilty’ as opposed to ‘guilty until proven innocent’, let me express my rule as follows: what Mother Nature does is rigorous until proven otherwise; what humans and science do is flawed until proven otherwise. -Nassim Taleb

110. The biologist and intellectual E. O. Wilson was once asked what represented the most hindrance to the development of children; his answer was the soccer mom. He did not use the notion of the Procrustean bed, but he outlined it perfectly. His argument is that they repress children’s natural biophilia, their love of living things. But the problem is more general; soccer moms try to eliminate the trial and error, the antifragility, from children’s lives, move them away from the ecological and transform them into nerds working on preexisting (soccer-mom-compatible) maps of reality. Good students, but nerds–that is, they are like computers except slower. Further, they are now totally untrained to handle ambiguity. As a child of civil war, I disbelieve in structured learning . . . . Provided we have the right type of rigor, we need randomness, mess, adventures, uncertainty, self-discovery, near-traumatic episodes, all those things that make life worth living, compared to the structured, fake, and ineffective life of an empty-suit CEO with a preset schedule and an alarm clock. -Nassim Taleb

Nassim Nicholas Taleb: The Bed of Procrustes Quotes

Nassim Taleb The Bed of Procrustes quotes

111. Love without sacrifice is like theft. -Nassim Taleb

112. What I learned on my own I still remember. -Nassim Taleb

113. Wit seduces by signaling intelligence without nerdiness. -Nassim Taleb

114. Modernity: we created youth without heroism, age without wisdom, and life without grandeur. -Nassim Taleb

115. A prophet is not someone with special visions, just someone blind to most of what others see. -Nassim Taleb

116. My biggest problem with modernity may lie in the growing separation of the ethical and the legal. -Nassim Taleb

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

118. What organized dating sites fail to understand is that the people are far more interesting in what they don’t say about themselves. -Nassim Taleb

119. When you beat up someone physically, you get exercise and stress relief; when you assault him verbally on the Internet, you just harm yourself. -Nassim Taleb

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

Nassim Taleb

121. To bankrupt a fool, give him information. -Nassim Taleb

122. If you want to annoy a poet, explain his poetry. -Nassim Taleb

123. Meditation is a way to be narcissistic without hurting anyone. -Nassim Taleb

124. Half of the people lie with their lips; the other half with their tears. -Nassim Taleb

125. The classical man’s worst fear was inglorious death; the modern man’s worst fear is just death. -Nassim Taleb

126. The imagination of the genius vastly surpasses his intellect; the intellect of the academic vastly surpasses his imagination. -Nassim Taleb

127. The curious mind embraces science; the gifted and sensitive, the arts; the practical, business; the leftover becomes an economist. -Nassim Taleb

128. Academia is to knowledge what prostitution is to love; close enough on the surface but, to the nonsucker, not exactly the same thing. -Nassim Taleb

129. The problem of knowledge is that there are many more books on birds written by ornithologists than books on birds written by birds and books on ornithologists written by birds. -Nassim Taleb

130. The best way to measure the loss of intellectual sophistication – this “nerdification,” to put it bluntly – is in the growing disappearance of sarcasm, as mechanic minds take insults a bit too literally. -Nassim Taleb