Nassim Taleb's AUB Commencement Speech

Rating: 9/10

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High-Level Thoughts

Summary Notes

“For I have a single definition of success: you look in the mirror every evening, and wonder if you disappoint the person you were at 18, right before the age when people start getting corrupted by life. Let him or her be the only judge; not your reputation, not your wealth, not your standing in the community, not the decorations on your lapel. If you do not feel ashamed, you are successful. All other definitions of success are modern constructions; fragile modern constructions.”

Success does not necessarily come from intense studying, laurels, and education, it can just as easily come from stumbling from one thing you’re interested into the next.

Wealthy people tend to have their preferences dictated by a system designed to milk them, feeling like they need to appear “cultured.” You may enjoy a slice of pizza in NYC more than a top Michelin restaurant, and that’s perfectly fine.

“I am just describing my life. I hesitate to give advice because every major single piece of advice I was given turned out to be wrong and I am glad I didn’t follow them. I was told to focus and I never did. I was told to never procrastinate and I waited 20 years for The Black Swan and it sold 3 million copies. I was told to avoid putting fictional characters in my books and I did put in Nero Tulip and Fat Tony because I got bored otherwise. I was told to not insult the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal; the more I insulted them the nicer they were to me and the more they solicited Op-Eds. I was told to avoid lifting weights for a back pain and became a weightlifter: never had a back problem since. If I had to relive my life I would be even more stubborn and uncompromising than I have been.”

Don’t read the newspapers or follow the news (See News wastes time)

If something is nonsense, say so. In the long run, people will trust you for your honesty and for not being a shill.

“If something is boring, avoid it –save taxes and visits to the mother in law. Why? Because your biology is the best nonsense detector; use it to navigate your life.”

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