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Nassim Taleb: Fooled By Randomness – Summary & Learnings

We tend to forget the many who fail, remember the few who succeed, and then create reasons and patterns for their success without realizing it was largely random. Mild success can be explainable by skills and hard work, but the wild success that generates wealth and not just richness is usually attributable to variance and luck and is more random than we would like to admit otherwise.

The core of the book is about luck which we understand as skill or ‘randomness’ disguised as ‘non-randomness ‘ (that is determinism).

“defined as a person who benefited from a disproportionate share of luck but attributes his success to some other, generally very precise, reason.”

I loved this book by Nassim Taleb as this is one of the first books of the series, Incerto. Interestingly, This is the first popular book he wrote, the book that helped propel him into the intellectual celebrity he is today.

My summary of the book is very informal and often contains quotes from the book as well as my own opinions about it. This summary also includes key lessons and important passages from the book.


Fooled by Randomness is all about the probability of everything. Not in a mathematical context, but just about everything around us.

Probability is not a mere computation of odds on the dice or more complicated variants; it is the acceptance of the lack of certainty in our knowledge and the development of methods for dealing with our ignoranceOutside of textbooks and casinos, probability almost never presents itself as a mathematical problem or a brain teaser. Mother nature does not tell you how many holes there are on the roulette table , nor does she deliver problems in a textbook way (in the real world one has to guess the problem more than the solution).

I learned from the book that, most of our decisions are not risk-based but rather, they are uncertainty-based and you either know you are a narcissist or you have no idea you are a narcissist. There is a big distinction between the two. Trust me, you’d rather know you are a narcissist.

Randomness means there are some strategies that work well for any given cycle (short-term trends, like 6-second videos, fads around diet, etc.), but these cycles are often short to medium-term successes creating many billion-dollar short-lived companies in the process.

More importantly, the strategies that work for a given cycle in the short term are not necessarily the best in long run. They are sub-optimal strategies winning over a randomly beneficial short-term cycle. The same can be said for setting huge goals, following a fad diet, chasing an extreme training protocol, and so on. Unsustainable and suboptimal for the long term. This way, evolutionary traits that are undesirable can survive for a period of time in any given population. That is, suboptimal strategies and traits can seem desirable in the short run even though they will be resoundingly defeated in the long run and I strongly resemble this with the failure of WeWork and other brand-new companies chasing the valuation game.

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