Mentom - Singapore 2012

© Mentom – May 2012

Fooled by randomness, Nassim Taleb

Monday 11 October 2010, by Mentom

All the versions of this article:

  • English

Earlier this year I developed a bad habit of not finishing books : i kind of read them half through and then let them aside; because I came across something more interesting. With exception of travel accounts about sea farers like Magellan; which may show what I am really interested in.

So in the past months i made a conscious effort to close off some of those books in my bed chamber, with the objective of putting them back to the shelf. I also came across "Fooled by randomness", by Nassim Taleb; and remembered i even started a blog entry on this book, while still reading it.

Now; it is 5am in the morning and I am back to this blog entry. Interesting thing, what gives me insomnia at this time is my work, and - perfect fit for my stress release - the book is also kinda work related...

The idea of the book is quite simple: some people attribute their success in stock markets due to some "thorough analysis" and "deep understanding of trends and evolutions". Nassim points out that statistically, pretty much as in lottery, someone has to have a lucky hand and be the jackpot winner. Therefore; the incredible success some traders experience might just be related to pure luck.

Extending this to many items in life, in particular work related, it could signify that circonstances account heavily for the success or non-success of every individual. And since only successful people get known (remember the "success story of ..."); and the mass of losers disappears in anonymity; it may appear to everyone looking back into the PAST, that things were due to "wise planning" and many other human qualities.

So, that’s the idea of the author.

Now, he doesn’t say stop all efforts in life because anyway all is due to luck. Anyway, i wouldn’t really agree to that. But it is an interesting point of view to say that "success" can actually be related to many exterior factors that have nothing to do with the individual’s zone of influence. It gives a new perspective to things, and finally; it points back to the thesis that everything in life needs to be built with a slow, steady pace : to avoid "randomness" as much as possible. The interest rate for this cautious investment (in stocks, your family life, your character building, ... ) will be eventually lower but you have a control over it.

Back to the book! I actually did not finish it and I am planning to give it back to my friend who gave it to me for reading. In fact, I went through at 50% and the idea is now crystallized already. Although the book is written with a good sense of humour and is easy-reading, I feel the thesis is quite clear after reading half of it and many following chapters are just trying to prove a little better the very same thesis.

But.. up to everyone to decide for himself. In any case, a book recommended for reading.

And for me it’s now time for a jogging. To avoid to be "fooled by randomness" at my last big half-marathon in December. At least i can then blame the bad results only to weather (too hot!) or the breakfast (too heavy!); instead of blaming myself for too little training.


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