Sometimes life offers you clarity in a flash.
Recently I’ve been trying to read Nassim Taleb’s books Antifragile and Skin in the Game based on a recommendation by a close friend. And to be honest, it’s been a grind. I just couldn’t manage more than a few pages at a time. The writer’s style is… difficult. He zigzags from thought to thought, he states conclusions as if they’re already proven or trivially obvious, and he frequently throws snark at people he dislikes. I felt lost. Still, I kept pushing on, because (a) the germ of the idea makes sense and the author keeps hinting at deeper insights, and (b) according to the reviews, people seem to think that Taleb’s a genius and that these are important ideas, In other words, I thought I just wasn’t getting it.
In everyday discussions, I tend not to dismiss other people’s ideas for that very reason. “They might be right; maybe I just don’t get it” and let it go. A good friend told me in March 2022, “Tesla is the best stock to buy right now that will 10x by 2030.” Another friend said in July 2022: “I think we’re going to see a lot of good changes at Twitter now that Musk has bought it.” Back in May 2021, a good buddy whose favorite hobby is investment analysis told me about the amazing potential of Carvana, Opendoor, and Peloton. I disagreed at the time, but gave them the benefit of doubt. Either time proves them wrong, or if I keep learning, I (hopefully) get smarter and gain the same insights they have along with the foundational principles that led them there.
So in that spirit, I picked up Skin in the Game this morning for another slog through a chapter. Except this time, by complete accident, the book opened on the Dedication page:
As soon as I read these words, I threw my head back in laughter, J Jonah Jameson style. It was a moment of clarity. A weight had been lifted. I immediately tossed the book into the “done” pile, and am happy to never pick up another book by this author ever again.
p.s. J.K. Simmons is always a win.
Will I miss out on some complex ideas by a brilliant thinker? Am I dense and just don’t get it? Maybe. But a book about “skin in the game” dedicated to a libertarian politician seems to me like a contradiction in terms. And that is one too many benefits of doubt to give.