Nassim Taleb's only commencement address on how success can make you fragile. Having skin in the game makes you smarter and more interesting.
I have to ﬁgure out how lecture you on success when I do not feel successful yet –and it is not false modesty.
I have a single deﬁnition of success: you look in the mirror every evening, and wonder if you disappoint the person you were at 18, right before the age when people start getting corrupted by life. Let him or her be the only judge; not your reputation, not your wealth, not your standing in the community, not the decorations on your lapel. If you do not feel ashamed, you are successful. All other deﬁnitions of success are modern constructions; fragile modern constructions.
Virtue is inseparable from courage
Success requires absence of fragility. I’ve seen billionaires terriﬁed of journalists, wealthy people who felt crushed because their brother in law got very rich, academics with Nobel who were scared of comments on the web. The higher you go, the worse the fall. For almost all people I’ve met, external success came with increased fragility and a heightened state of insecurity.
My own preferences became obvious to me when after a dinner in a Michelin 3 stars with stuffy and boring rich people, I stopped by Nick’s pizza for a $6.95 dish and I haven’t had a Michelin meal since, or anything with complex names.
When there was risk on the line, suddenly a second brain in me manifested itself and these theorems became interesting. When there is ﬁre, you will run faster than in any competition.
I hesitate to give advice because every major single piece of advice I was given turned out to be wrong and I am glad I didn’t follow them. I was told to focus and I never did. I was told to never procrastinate and I waited 20 years for The Black Swan and it sold 3 million copies. I was told to avoid putting ﬁctional characters in my books and I did put in Nero Tulip and Fat Tony because I got bored otherwise. I was told to not insult the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal; the more I insulted them the nicer they were to me and the more they solicited Op-Eds. I was told to avoid lifting weights for a back pain and became a weightlifter: never had a back problem since
If I had to relive my life I would be even more stubborn and uncompromising than I have been
But fame came with the crisis and I discovered that I hated fame, famous people, caviar, champagne, complicated food, expensive wine and, mostly wine commentators