Two life changing advices

I have just finished reading “The Black Swan” from Nassim Nicholas Taleb (NNT).

It’s a great book if you have the slightest inclination towards philosophy and understanding meaning of life. Let me warn you, language of the book is quite philosophical and technical at times. You may not understand the book in its entirety but you will get the gist of it. That was the case with me at least!

I would like to write about the two advices NNT considers worth remembering out of thousands he has received in his lifetime.

1) Choose a profession which is “scalable”

The author received this advice from a second year Wharton student.

Scalable profession means where you are not paid by the number of hours you put in. Doctors, Consultants are few of the “non-scalable” professions. Their income is subjected to gravity. It means there will always be a limit to the amount of money they can make during their lifetime. Gain of one day or loss of one day will not make a major difference in their income if you compare it to the income of their life time.

Whereas being an Author or a Trader are few of the scalable professions. Author does not have to write every copy of book by his hands. Once the book is written, millions of copies can be printed without lot of additional efforts from the author herself.

But NNT advises us to choose a profession which is “non-scalable” i.e. be a doctor or consultant etc. Why? Because there is a huge disparity of wealth and success in scalable professions. You will find very few successful authors and a lot of unsuccessful ones. Same with any other scalable professions.

“Winner takes it all” is the law of scalable professions. So if you are not a winner, you might not have anything when you die.

According to me, Software Product Development is a scalable profession and an IT service company is a non-scalable profession.

Once you have the software product ready, you don’t have to do lot of efforts to sell multiple copies of it. But if you are giving an IT service, you always have to be there, present every hour for earning your $.

Each one has their own perils and especially being in a scalable profession can be very “risky” as you can end up with nothing. I prefer scalable profession in any case

The whole “Black Swan Theory” and the book is derived from the above premise so I will not go in very detail here. But I would once again recommend reading the book.

2) Never catch a running train

Author received this advice from one of his friends in Paris. This is a more practical and meaningful advice according to NNT.

Snub your destiny. Missing a train will only be painful if you run after it!. i.e. Don’t be slave of time.

Once you know you are in control of your own time, you will get more satisfaction from your life. This will provide true elegance to your life and behaviour.

Being alive in this world itself is the luckiest event. How many odds were against us and still we are here “living” and “breathing” on the earth.

Instead of admiring our own luck and this beautiful phenomena we choose to fret over small and useless stuff in our life.

The other way to look at this advice is from the perspective of success. You will feel “failed” or “unsuccessful” only if you also see success same as what others think of your success.

For e.g. somebody wanted you to be a doctor and you are not. Was becoming a doctor your way of measuring a success or somebody else’s? If you don’t have the same measure, you will not regret not being a Doctor.

Have your own definition of success and enjoy working hard for it. You won’t even feel you are working hard, I promise.

I am finding both the advices life changing for me. I hope you find them useful too.

Have you received any life changing advice so far? Please share in comments.

PS: This was originally published on my personal blog.


I am Abhishek Desai, co-founder of Digicorp and product manager of ReadBoard and BA Apps.

Since 2004, Digicorp is helping startups build meaningful and usable software products.