The Bed of Procrustes: Philosophical and Practical Aphorisms - by Nassim Nicholas Taleb

An idea starts to be interesting when you get scared of taking it to its logical conclusion.

Work destroys your soul by stealthily invading your brain during the hours not officially spent working; be selective about professions.

Using, as an excuse, others' failure of common sense is in itself a failure of common sense.

If you know, in the morning, what your day looks like with any precision, you are a little bit dead--the more precision, the more dead you are.

Never say no twice if you mean it.

Most of what they call humility is successfully disguised arrogance.

The characteristic feature of the loser is to bemoan, in general terms, mankind's flaws, biases, contradictions, and irrationality--without exploiting them for fun and profit.

Wisdom in the young is as unattractive as frivolity in the elderly.

You exist if and only if you are free to do things without a visible objective, with no justification and, above all, outside the dictatorship of someone else's narrative.

Older people are most beautiful when they have what is lacking in the young: poise, erudition, wisdom, phronesis, and this post-heroic absence of agitation.

Preoccupation with efficacy is the main obstacle to a poetic, noble, elegant, robust, and heroic life.

Charm is the ability to insult people without offending them; nerdiness the reverse.

There are two types of people: those who try to win and those who try to win arguments. They are never the same.

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.

Only in recent history has "working hard" signaled pride rather than shame for lack of talent, finesse, and, mostly, sprezzatura.

We are hunters; we are only truly alive in those moments when we improvise; no schedule, just small surprises and stimuli from the environment.

Skills that transfer: street fights, off-path hiking, seduction, broad erudition. Skills that don't: school, games, sports, laboratory--what's reduced and organized.

You need to keep reminding yourself of the obvious: charm lies in the unsaid, the unwritten, and the undisplayed. It takes mastery to control silence.

It is much less dangerous to think like a man of action than to act like a man of thought.

What I learned on my own I still remember.

We unwittingly amplify commonalities with friends, dissimilarities with strangers, and contrasts with enemies.

The sucker's trap is when you focus on what you know and what others don't know, rather than the reverse.

Wit seduces by signaling intelligence without nerdiness.

Avoid calling heroes those who had no other choice.

English does not distinguish between arrogant-up (irreverence toward the temporarily powerful) and arrogant-down (directed at the small guy).

When conflicted between two choices, take neither.

It takes extraordinary wisdom and self-control to accept that many things have a logic we do not understand that is smarter than our own.

They think that intelligence is about noticing things that are relevant (detecting patterns); in a complex world, intelligence consists in ignoring things that are irrelevant (avoiding false patterns).

The ancients knew very well that the only way to understand events was to cause them.

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

The best test of whether someone is extremely stupid (or extremely wise) is whether financial and political news makes sense to him.

What makes us fragile is that institutions cannot have the same virtues (honor, truthfulness, courage, loyalty, tenacity) as individuals.

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

Those who have nothing to prove never say that they have nothing to prove.

How superb to become wise without being boring; how sad to be boring without being wise.

A verbal threat is the most authentic certificate of impotence.

By all means, avoid words--threats, complaints, justification, narratives, reframing, attempts to win arguments, supplications; avoid words!

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

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

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

As the reader can see from my aphorisms, I have respect for mother nature's methods of robustness (billions of years allow most of what is fragile to break); classical thought is more robust (in its respect for the unknown, the epistemic humility) than the modern post-Enlightenment naïve pseudoscientific autism. Thus my classical values make me advocate the triplet of erudition, elegance, and courage; against modernity's phoniness, nerdiness, and philistinism.