This week in Rich Men Reads, we are showcasing a completely different caliber of rich guy, compared to last time, where we talked about the reading habits of Bill Gates.
His name is Nassim Taleb, and even though he might not be insanely rich like our former subject, I want to talk about him, because he is one of my favorite authors of all time – plus, he claims to have, what he calls, f*ck-you-money in the bank.
I like to refer to Nassim as a tough guy academic. He is remarkably smart, but still a testosterone bomb on legs, making mafia references and always writing about how he hates nerds and “empty suits” – business men with no flavor or soul.
The badass attitude he’s got, might stem from growing up in a country that, at the time, was plagued by civil war (Lebanon), and later on migrating to the states to become an options trader on Wall Street. A sound recipe for toughguysness!
At a young age, Nassim decided that he wanted to become a philosopher. So he began buying books “wholesale”, and read like a mad person in his parent’s basement, while bombs were dropping on the streets of Beirut.
As I said, before becoming a bonafide philosopher, he made a pit stop on Wall Street, where I think he formed the foundation for most of his bigger ideas i.e. The Black Swan and Antifragility, since they are rooted in risk management, statistics/mathematics and business.
On Wall Street, he also made his first fortune, by betting on the market crash of 1987. Afterwards he sold several millions of copies of his books (especially The Black Swan), and now he works as scholar in NY, researching risk.
Nassim and books
There is a great section in The Black Swan, where Nassim describes his physical connection to literature. To him, there is a lot more to a book, than what the letters in it says. The physical feel, the weight and especially the smell of a book is part of his reading experience.
Here is a great tweet he made, that underscores this point:
He prefers to read the classics, about older ideas. He says that you might be wasting your time on newer books and ideas, as they haven’t yet stood the test of time. Even science is constantly changing, but it is pretty certain that Plato will still be relevant in 50 years.
This idea goes hand in hand with a phenomenon he talks about called The Lindy Effect. The Lindy Effect says: the older something non-perishable is, the longer its life expectancy, averagely speaking.
It sounds crazy, but we might not be using the internet in a 100 years from now. However, it is very likely that we will still be using chairs.
So read the classics!
You can’t deny that a part of Nassim’s success can be attributed to his habit of reading as much as he does. Forecasting a financial crisis as he did (twice), requires a grand perspective and a good understanding of history – something we also talked about with Bill Gates.
Furthermore, the big ideas he has come up with, has made him a well-respected thought leader in the field of risk management. But all he really has done, is connecting lots of old ideas of thought leaders of the past, and framed them in a new way. He couldn’t have done that without reading about them first.
Once again, a dedicated reader has become an inspiring rich guys, which should be great motivation for reading on for the rest of us. Thank you for visiting my blog!