Nassim Taleb: the higher you get the worse the fall

American economist Nassim Nicolas Taleb said parting speech during the awarding of diplomas to graduates of the American University in Beirut in 2016. He gave the definition of success and told about the errors and difficulties which he had to overcome during his career.

Dear graduates, this is the first graduation I ever attended (I was not on my own presentation). And I need to figure out how to tell you about success when I don't feel successful, and it's not fake modesty.

Success as a fragile theory

In order to have their own definition of success, look at yourself in the mirror every day and imagine that you disappoint the person you were at 18. Before this age people are not yet spoiled by wealth and position in society. Let him or her be the only judge, not your reputation, wealth, position in society, and the decorations on the lapel. If you don't feel shame, you are successful. All other definitions of success — fragile modern theory.

In Ancient Greece the primary definition of success was a heroic death. But we live in more peaceful times — even in Lebanon. So our concept of success is defined by taking risks for the benefit of the organization or organization established proximity to what we desire. All what you are doing, not only for you alone: the secret companies to adhere to the rules of uomo d'onore (man of honor). You are doing something for ourselves and something for other members. And virtue is inseparable from courage, the courage to do something unpopular.

Success requires no brittleness. I've seen millionaires who were frightened by journalists, wealthy people who feel depressed because their brother-in-law is very rich academics with the Nobel prize, who feared reviews online.

The higher you get the worse the fall. Most of the people I met, external success came with high instability and insecurity. The worst are the ones "holding something", with four pages of summary, which, after leaving office feel empty: like if you came home one evening and noticed that your home suddenly disappeared all furniture.

But self-esteem is stable is the approach of the stoic school, which, incidentally, was a Phoenician movement (if someone is interested in who the Stoics, I would say that it is the Buddhists focused on the problem. Imagine someone who is both a Lebanese and a Buddhist). I have seen resistant people in his village Amin, they were proud to be local residents, part of his family. They went to bed with pride and woke up happy.

Or Russian mathematicians who during the post-Soviet transition period have been proud to make $200 (13 thousand rubles — approx.ed.) in a month and doing the job which is appreciated by only twenty people. They believed that to accept and show off your awards — it's a sign of weakness and lack of confidence in their contribution. Believe it or not, there are wealthy and confident people that you've never heard of because they do not lead the high life, live in the neighborhood and drink "Arak Baladi" and not "Widow Clicquot".

Own history

Now a little about my story. Don't tell anyone, but to think that everything comes from some deep things — so to embellish reality. In fact, identity is formed thanks to the passion: still a tireless player pretending to be a priest. I was lucky, my upbringing and education was formed more in the spirit of medieval Europeans and the inhabitants of the Mediterranean than modern Europeans. People do not want to believe, but the education I got through trade and the willingness to take risks — with some help from the school.

I was born in the library. My parents visited the library of Antoine in Bab-ed Driss themselves had a large library. They bought more books than I could read, so I was happy when someone has read the books instead.

Also my father knew every erudite man in Lebanon, in particular, historians. So we often went to dinner at the Jesuit priests, because of their interdisciplinary knowledge they were my only role models. My idea of education — a dinner with faculty and ask them questions. So I appreciated still more erudition than the intellect.

I originally wanted to be a writer and a philosopher. For this you need to read tons of books — you are limited if your knowledge ends program, the Lebanese baccalaureate. So I skipped school almost every day, from 14 years of age, began to read wsapoll. Later, I found the inability to focus on objects imposed on me. I separated school classes for graduation and for the study of science.

The first fall

I was a bit inactive, couldn't concentrate and got stuck on the eighth page of his "Great Lebanese novel" to 23 years (he moved with a speed of one page per year). Then I took a break when Wharton suddenly discovered the theory of probability was involved. But it was not from the scientific hunger, but only due to internal fluctuations and hormonal tide that pushed me to take the risk and try yourself in the financial market.

A friend told me about financial derivatives, and I decided to make a career in this field. It is a combination of trade and complex mathematics. I felt it was new and uncharted, but at the same time very difficult mathematically.

Greed and fear is the teacher. I was like the people with addiction who have below-average intelligence, but capable of the most ingenious ploy to get drugs. When on the way there's a chance I became interested in these theorems. It's like when there is a fire, you will run faster than any competitions. Then I was't dumb down again when there was no real action.

As stockbrokers, we have adapted the mathematics of our problems — in contrast to the scientists-theorists, which, on the contrary, looking for math some use. In our case it came in very handy. Mathematics to solve practical problems is another matter. It involves a deep understanding of the problem before applying any formula to solve it. So I found a way to getting a doctorate after 12 years of financial mathematics.

I have found that economists and sociologists almost always wrong apply mathematics to solve problems. It later became the theme of my book "Black Swan". Their statistical tools are not just wrong, they were outrageously wrong. So it remained until now. But they are too arrogant to accept it. This discovery allowed me to achieve financial independence in his 27 years, after the 1987 crash.

I had something to say about how we use likelihood, how do you think about them and how to manage uncertainty. Probability — the logic of science, they affect many areas: theology, philosophy, psychology, and others. So the last 30 years for me was a saunter on the subjects that bother people and I always made fun of people who are too serious about themselves.

International Association of boasters communications

My second fall occurred during the crisis in 2008, and I believed in his innocence, thus a second time laid his head on the chopping block. But with the crisis came the glory, and I discovered that I hate her, and famous people, caviar, champagne, sophisticated food, good wine and especially wine commentators. Wealthy people usually have their preferences, dictated by the system, in order to milk them.

My preference emerged after the dinner, the Michelin three-star restaurant with a boring rich people. After that I stopped in the pizzeria Nick's pizza, selling pizza for $6,95 (about 450 rubles — approx.ed.) and never dined in Michelin. Especially severe Allergy I have towards people who like to enjoy themselves surrounded by celebrities.

So, after a year of being in the spotlight, I returned to solitude in the library (in Amine or upstate new York), and began a new career. When I read his biography, I always feel that this other person: he describes what I am not, but what I'm doing or want to do.

Follow the tips and avoid risks

I just describe their lives and are hesitant to give advice because all the important advice that they gave me was incorrect. So I'm glad I didn't listen to them. I was told to focus, and I never did. I was told not to procrastinate, and I've waited 20 years for that to give "Black Swan" and has sold 3 million copies. I was told not to put fictional characters in my books, and I have added Nero Tulip and Fat Tony, because I was bored.

I was told not to offend the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal, but the more I insulted them, the nicer they were to me. Was told not to lift weights, and I became a weight lifter and never had a problem with his back.

If I had the chance to live life over again, I would like to be more stubborn and uncompromising than I was.

Do not give empty advice when you risk nothing. If you listen to the advice, you are at risk of losses. This addition to the silver rule. So I will tell you what techniques I use.

  • Do not read Newspapers and do not watch the news in any form. Try to read the Newspapers of past years. This does not mean that you ignore the news, it means that you go from event to news, not Vice versa.

  • If something is nonsense, talk it loud. This will hurt you, but it will be a good test for durability. In the long term, people who have to trust you, will trust you.


When I was still ignorant of the author, I came out of the radio Studio Bloomberg during an interview because the interviewer was talking some nonsense. Three years later, Bloomberg has made me a theme room. Every economist on the planet hated me.

I have suffered from two tarnished the reputation of companies, and was inspired by the brave Lebanese-ever — Hannibal and Ralph Nader. I risked due to the exposed large devil companies like Monsanto, have suffered tarnished reputation with them.

  • Treat the doorman with a little more respect than big boss.

  • If something is boring for you, avoid this — set aside the taxes and visit my mother in law. Why? Because your inner self is the best lie detector. Use it as Navigator in my life.


No, no

There are many such rules in the books, so now let me conclude with a few words. Here are a few more restrictions:

  • Muscles without strength,

  • friendship without trust

  • opinion without risk

  • change without aesthetics,

  • age without a value,

  • food without nutrients

  • power without justice,

  • facts without rigor,

  • militarism without the spirit,

  • progress without civilization,

  • fluency without content

  • and most importantly, religion without tolerance.


Thank you.published


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