Books For Smart People #1, Antifragile: Crush Life By Being Productively Weird

Matt Rud
Matt Rud
Sep 21, 2015 · 5 min read

I’m dumb. I started Books for Smart People to read good books smart people read, and get less dumb, daily. Get interesting, actionable book summaries HERE.

Antifragile, by Nassim Nicholas Taleb.

we’re not f***ing smart

test, adjust, follow nature

prepare for worst, thrive

The economy tanked in 2008, and Nassim Taleb got rich. People think he’s a cocky asshole. But he simply bet on other people being cocky. By admitting his own ignorance and betting on shit hitting the fan, he looked like a genius and got rich. The principles of “antifragility” apply to everything in life.

If you want to get rich, get antifragile.

If you want to be healthy, get antifragile.

If you want a good love life, get antifragile.

Antifragile is not the dense economics/philosophy book it looks like. It’s a practical guide to being happy and successful by living with unconventional wisdom. We simply must acknowledge that we know little about what is right, but we know a lot about what is wrong.

Dog pictures are always necessary. (via)

Smart Recommender:

James Altucher (and many others)


Reduce fragility and maximize antifragilitymake choices that benefit from randomness and shit hitting the fan, because shit always hits the fan, because we all know less than we think.

Paragraph Essence:

Antifragile things benefit from disorder. If a book is banned, it generates attention and sells more copies. Focus on fragility and antifragility when making decisions, because humans are horrible predictors. At one point, people thought cigarettes had slight health benefits and no long-term consequences, because the effects took a long time to become visible. Don’t be a sucker by thinking you can outthink nature with rationalizing and incomplete, smart-sounding science. We know more about what’s wrong than what’s right.


Michelangelo was asked by the pope about the secret of his genius, particularly how he carved the statue of David, largely considered the masterpiece of all masterpieces. His answer was: ‘It’s simple. I just remove everything that is not David.’ ” (302)

5 Ways to be Antifragile:

1) Keep 80+% of your wealth in ultra-safe places like cash. Bet the remaining money on low-probability outcomes with MASSIVE upside.

2) Skip meals randomly.

3) Have multiple streams of income.

4) Send 10 ideas a day to people and companies you admire.

5) Picture your funeral. What would people say if you died today? What do you want them to say, far in the future? Write both answers down.

Pithy Quotes:

1) “The option is a substitute for knowledge.” (186)

2) “Trial and error is freedom.” (255)

3) “We know a lot more what is wrong than what is right.” (303)

4) “Someone who procrastinates is not irrational; it is his environment that is irrational.” (123)

5) “If you want to accelerate someone’s death, give him a personal doctor.” (125)

6) “A very rarely discussed property of data: it is toxic in large quantities, even in moderate quantities.” (126)

7) “Focus on fragility rather than predicting and calculating future probabilities.” (20)

8) “Our track record in figuring out significant rare events in politics and economics is not close to zero; it is zero.” (134)

9) “The modern Stoic sage is someone who transforms fear into prudence, pain into information, mistakes into initiation, and desire into undertaking.” (156)

10) “Seneca also provides us a catalogue of social deeds: invest in good actions. Things can be taken away from us — not good deeds and acts of virtue.” (156)

11) “Notions such as speed and growth — anything related to movement — are empty and meaningless when presented without accounting for fragility.” (160)

Essential Passages:

1. “Growth in society may not come from raising the average the Asian way, but from increasing the number of people in the ‘tails,’ that small, very small number of risk takers crazy enough to have ideas of their own, those endowed with that very rare ability called imagination, that rarer quality called courage, and who make things happen.” (180)

2) “Technology is at its best when it is invisible… when it displaces the deleterious, unnatural, alienating, and, most of all, inherently fragile preceding technology.” (315)

3) “If there is something in nature you don’t understand, odds are it makes sense in a deeper way that is beyond your understanding…nothing on the planet can be as close to ‘statistically significant’ as nature.” (349)

4) “Never ask anyone for their opinion, forecast, or recommendation. Just ask them what they have — or don’t have — in their portfolio.” (389)

Conversely, judge people not on what they say; rather, what they do.

5) “Exposure is more important than knowledge; decision effects supersede logic. Textbook ‘knowledge’ misses a dimension, the hidden asymmetry of benefits — just like the notion of average.” (250)

6) “A loser is someone who, after making a mistake, doesn’t introspect, doesn’t exploit it, feels embarrassed and defensive rather than enriched with a new piece of information, and tries to explain why he made the mistake rather than moving on.” (123)

7) “We overreact emotionally to noise. The best solution is to only look at very large changes in data or conditions, never at small ones… significant signals have a way to reach you.” (127)

8) “Actually the method of mentally adjusting ‘to the worst’ had advantages way beyond the theraputic, as it made me take a certain class of risks for which the worst case is clear and unambiguous, with limited and known downside.” (155)

9) “An intelligent life is all about such emotional positioning to eliminate the sting of harm, which as we saw is done by mentally writing off belongings so one does not feel any pain from losses. The volatility of the world no longer affects you negatively.” (155)

Parting Words:

Certainty = idiocy.

Honest ignorance + skeptical curiosity = genius.

Buy Antifragile HERE (affiliate link).

Sign up for regular book summaries for smart people, HERE.

Please recommend this if you liked it. If not, tell me how annoying I am.

Matt Rudnitsky is a book author, editor, marketer and grandmother — for both himself and Book in A Box. Email him at with your (good) book or any recommendations, comments or rants.

Books For Smart People

Recommended by smart people, actionably summarized by me.

Matt Rud

Written by

Matt Rud

Author, publisher, traveler, fortune cookie.

Books For Smart People

Recommended by smart people, actionably summarized by me.

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