Book excerpts – The Bed Of Procrustes

Catchy name, isn’t it? At first, to the unaware, it may seem like the name of an adult film/book.  Well, the book is definitely not meant for kids or teens, but it is definitely not the kind of a book that needs to be put under “adult” section. It should be put under “Food for thought” section. The Bed of Procrustes is a book authored by Nassim Nicholas Taleb. The book gets its title from Greek mythology. Procrustes was a host who adjusted his guests to his bed. He had a bed, in which he invited every passerby to spend the night. He made his visitors fit his bed to perfection by either stretching them or cutting their limbs.

The book contains aphorisms that represent Taleb’s views on modern civilization’s side effects. Many aphorisms are quite surprising. They expose self-delusions we have been living with but never recognized. These aphorisms are a combination of wit and pointed wisdom. Taleb has a penchant for noticing such things. Black Swan and Fooled by randomness are on my list of books to read. Bed of Procrustes is a short read, but it is going to make the reader think (a lot!). There are many aphorisms you‘d want to read, re-read and think about them. I have mentioned those which I found quite appealing. 

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

My only measure of success is how much time you have to kill.

Writing is the art of repeating oneself without anyone noticing.

No author should be considered as having failed until he starts teaching others about writing.

A genius is someone with flaws harder to imitate than his qualities.

With regular books, read the text and skip the footnotes; with those written by academics, read the footnotes and skip the text; and with business books skip both the text and the footnotes.

We are better at (involuntarily) doing out of the box than (voluntarily) thinking out of the box.

Regular minds find similarities in stories (and situations); finer minds detect differences.

Finer men tolerate others’ small inconsistencies, though not the large ones; the weak tolerate others’ large inconsistencies though not small ones.

If you find any reason why you and someone are friends, you are not friends.

Life’s beauty: the kindest act toward you in your life may come from an outsider not interested in reciprocation.

True humility is when you can surprise yourself more than others; the rest is either shyness or good marketing.

Greatness starts with the replacement of hatred with polite disdain.

Trust people who make a living lying down or standing up more than those who do so sitting down.

The tragedy of virtue is that the more obvious, boring, unoriginal, and sermonizing the proverb, the harder it is to implement.

Even the cheapest misers can be generous with advice.

I trust everyone except those who tell me they are trustworthy.

Robust is when you care more about the few who like your work than the multitude who dislike it (artists); fragile when you care more about the few who dislike your work than the multitude who like it (politicians).

The best way to spot a charlatan: someone (like a consultant or a stockbroker) who tells you what to do instead of what not to do.

To become a philosopher, start by walking very slowly.

It takes a lot of intellect and confidence to accept that what makes sense doesn’t really make sense.

There are designations, like “economist,” “prostitute,” or “consultant,” for which additional characterization doesn’t add information.

A mathematician starts with a problem and creates a solution; a consultant starts by offering a “solution” and creates a problem.

Suckers think that you cure greed with money, addiction with substances, expert problems with experts, banking with bankers, economics with economists, and debt crises with debt spending.

The main difference between government bailouts and smoking is that in some rare cases the statement “this is my last cigarette” holds true.

Don’t cross a river, because it is on average four feet deep.

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

The mediocre regret their words more than their silence; finer men regret their silence more than their words; the magnificent has nothing to regret.

You know you have influence when people start noticing your absence more than the presence of others.

You are guaranteed a repetition when you hear the declaration “never again!”

When a woman says about a man that he is intelligent, she often means handsome; when a man says about a woman that she is dumb, he always means attractive.

For company, you often prefer those who find you interesting over those you find interesting.

You can be certain that a person has the means but not the will to help you when he says “there is nothing else I can do.”

We expect places and products to be less attractive than in marketing brochures, but we never forgive humans for being worse than their first impressions.

Half the people lie with their lips; the other half with their tears.

At any stage, humans can thirst for money, knowledge, or love; sometimes for two, never for three.

Outside of friendship and love, it is very hard to find situations with bilateral, twoway suckers.

You will get the most attention from those who hate you. No friend, no admirer, and no partner will flatter you with as much curiosity.

If my detractors knew me better they would hate me even more.

 

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