Notes on

The Bed of Procrustes

by Nassim Nicholas Taleb


The person you are the most afraid to contradict is yourself.

An idea starts to be interesting when you get scared of taking it to its logical conclusion.

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

Counter Narratives

The best revenge on a liar is to convince him that you believe what he said.

Never say no twice if you mean it.

Your reputation is harmed the most by what you say to defend it.

The test of whether you really liked a book is if you reread it (and how many times); the test of whether you really liked someone’s company is if you are ready to meet him again and again—the rest is spin, or that variety of sentiment now called self-esteem.

The Sacred and the Profane

One categorical: it is easier to fast than diet. You cannot be “slightly” kosher or halal by only eating a small portion of ham.

Chance, Success, Happiness, and Stoicism

Someone who says “I am busy” is either declaring incompetence (and lack of control of his life) or trying to get rid of you.

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

Charming and Less Charming Sucker Problems

Failure of second-order thinking: he tells you a secret and somehow expects you to keep it, when he just gave you evidence that he can’t keep it himself.

Theseus, or Living the Paleo Life

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

The Republic of Letters

Writing is the art of repeating oneself without anyone noticing.

Some books cannot be summarized (real literature, poetry); some can be compressed to about ten pages; the majority to zero pages.

The Universal and the Particular

What I learned on my own I still remember.


You may outlive your strength, never your wisdom.

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

The Ludic Fallacy and Domain Dependence

They agree that chess training only improves chess skills but disagree that classroom training (almost) only improves classroom skills.

Upon arriving at the hotel in Dubai, the businessman had a porter carry his luggage; I later saw him lifting free weights in the gym.

Economic Life and Other Very Vulgar Subjects

You can be certain that the head of a corporation has a lot to worry about when he announces publicly that “there is nothing to worry about.”

The Sage, the Weak, and the Magnificent

Mediocre men tend to be outraged by small insults but passive, subdued, and silent in front of very large ones.

Those who have nothing to prove never say that they have nothing to prove.

How superb to become wise without being boring; how sad to be boring without being wise.


Because our minds need to reduce information, we are more likely to try to squeeze a phenomenon into the Procrustean bed of a crisp and known category (amputating the unknown), rather than suspend categorization, and make it tangible. Thanks to our detections of false patterns, along with real ones, what is random will appear less random and more certain—our overactive brains are more likely to impose the wrong, simplistic narrative than no narrative at all.

Liked this post? Join the newsletter.