The Bed of Procrustes

Philosophical and Practical Aphorisms

About the Book

The author of the modern classics The Black Swan, Fooled by Randomness, and Antifragile, Nassim Nicholas Taleb expresses major ideas in ways you least expect in this collection of aphorisms and meditations—now expanded with fifty percent more material than the hardcover.

The Bed of Procrustes takes its title from the Greek myth of a man who made his visitors fit his bed to perfection, either by stretching them or by cutting their limbs. It represents Taleb’s view of modern civilization’s hubristic side effects—modifying humans to satisfy technology, blaming reality for not fitting economic models, inventing diseases to sell drugs, defining intelligence as what can be tested in a classroom, and convincing people that employment is not slavery. Playful and irreverent, these aphorisms will surprise you by exposing self-delusions you have been living with but never recognized.
With a rare combination of pointed wit and potent wisdom, Taleb plows through human illusions, contrasting the classical values of courage, elegance, and erudition with the modern diseases of nerdiness, philistinism, and phonies.
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Praise for The Bed of Procrustes

Praise for Nassim Nicholas Taleb
“The most prophetic voice of all.” —GQ
“The hottest thinker in the world.” —Bryan Appleyard, The Sunday Times (London)
“[Taleb writes] in a style that owes as much to Stephen Colbert as it does to Michel de Montaigne.” —The Wall Street Journal
“Idiosyncratically brilliant.” —Niall Ferguson, Los Angeles Times
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The Bed of Procrustes

Counter Narratives The best revenge on a liar is to convince him that you believe what he said. - When we want to do something while unconsciously certain to fail, we seek advice so we can blame someone else for the failure. - It is harder to say no when you really mean it than when you don’t. Never say no twice if you mean it. - Your reputation is harmed the most by what you say to defend it. - The only objective definition of aging is when a person starts to talk about aging. - They will envy you for your success, for your wealth, for your intelligence, for your looks, for your status—but rarely for your wisdom. - Most of what they call humility is successfully disguised arrogance.

If you want people to read a book, tell them it is overrated. - You never win an argument until they attack your person. - Nothing is more permanent than “temporary” arrangements, deficits, truces, and relationships; and nothing is more temporary than “permanent” ones. - The most painful moments are not those we spend with uninteresting people; rather, they are those spent with uninteresting people trying hard to be interesting. - Hatred is love with a typo somewhere in the computer code, correctable but very hard to find. I wonder whether a bitter enemy would be jealous if he discovered that I hated someone else. - 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. - The test of whether you really liked a book is if you reread it (and how many times); the test of whether you really liked someone’s company is if you are ready to meet him again and again—the rest is spin, or that variety of sentiment now called self-esteem. - We ask “why is he rich (or poor)?” not “why isn’t he richer (or poorer)?” “why is the crisis so deep?” not “why isn’t it deeper?” Hatred is much harder to fake than love. You hear of fake love; never of fake hate. - The opposite of manliness isn’t cowardice; it’s technology. - Usually, what we call a “good listener” is someone with skillfully polished indifference. - It is the appearance of inconsistency, and not its absence, that makes people attractive. - You remember emails you sent that were not answered better than emails that you did not answer. People reserve standard compliments for those who do not threaten their pride; the others they often praise by calling “arrogant.” - Since Cato the Elder, a certain type of maturity has shown up when one starts blaming the new generation for “shallowness” and praising the previous one for its “values.” - It is as difficult to avoid bugging others with advice on how to exercise and other health matters as it is to stick to an exercise schedule. - By praising someone for his lack of defects you are also implying his lack of virtues. - When she shouts that what you did was unforgivable, she has already started to forgive you. Being unimaginative is only a problem when you are easily bored. - We call narcissistic those individuals who behave as if they were the central residents of the world; those who do exactly the same in a set of two we call lovers or, better, “blessed by love.” -

Incerto Series

Incerto 5-Book Bundle
Skin in the Game
The Bed of Procrustes
The Black Swan: Second Edition
Fooled by Randomness

About the Author

Nassim Nicholas Taleb
Nassim Nicholas Taleb spent twenty-one years as a risk taker before becoming a researcher in philosophical, mathematical, and (mostly) practical problems with probability. Although he spends most of his time as a flâneur, meditating in cafés across the planet, he is currently Distinguished Professor at New York University’s Tandon School of Engineering. His books, part of a multivolume collection called Incerto, have been published in forty-one languages. Taleb has authored more than fifty scholarly papers as backup to Incerto, ranging from international affairs and risk management to statistical physics. Having been described as “a rare mix of courage and erudition,” he is widely recognized as the foremost thinker on probability and uncertainty. Taleb lives mostly in New York. More by Nassim Nicholas Taleb
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