Taleb's tips for life

In case you missed, there was a great article on Nassim Nicholas Taleb in the Times Online. The exercise stuff is wacky, but the rest of the article is well worth reading. It's capped off with Taleb's "top life tips".

1 Scepticism is effortful and costly. It is better to be sceptical about matters of large consequences, and be imperfect, foolish and human in the small and the aesthetic.

2 Go to parties. You can’t even start to know what you may find on the envelope of serendipity. If you suffer from agoraphobia, send colleagues.

3 It’s not a good idea to take a forecast from someone wearing a tie. If possible, tease people who take themselves and their knowledge too seriously.

4 Wear your best for your execution and stand dignified. Your last recourse against randomness is how you act — if you can’t control outcomes, you can control the elegance of your behaviour. You will always have the last word.

5 Don’t disturb complicated systems that have been around for a very long time. We don’t understand their logic. Don’t pollute the planet. Leave it the way we found it, regardless of scientific ‘evidence’.

6 Learn to fail with pride — and do so fast and cleanly. Maximise trial and error — by mastering the error part.

7 Avoid losers. If you hear someone use the words ‘impossible’, ‘never’, ‘too difficult’ too often, drop him or her from your social network. Never take ‘no’ for an answer (conversely, take most ‘yeses’ as ‘most probably’).

8 Don’t read newspapers for the news (just for the gossip and, of course, profiles of authors). The best filter to know if the news matters is if you hear it in cafes, restaurants... or (again) parties.

9 Hard work will get you a professorship or a BMW. You need both work and luck for a Booker, a Nobel or a private jet.

10 Answer e-mails from junior people before more senior ones. Junior people have further to go and tend to remember who slighted them.

I especially like 1, 4, 5, and 7.

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Some of us don't think the

Some of us don't think the exercise stuff is wacky at all.

Some of the wacky people

Some of the wacky people think that.

To clarify

The part I find wacky is his belief that exercise is most effective if done as randomly as possible. I know this is one of De Vany's theories, yet I have yet to see any studies that say it's better than any other exercise program.

Might be appealing

I fucking despise routine. Randomness of exercise might actually make it remotely tolerable to me.

You're foregoing the upside

You're foregoing the upside of routine, habit building. Doing things automatically is a great way to avoid procrastination or lack of will. Randomly exercising intensely every 10 days might be more effective than exercising regularly every day at the same time, but in the first case, you have to remember to do it, to decide when you're going to do it, you have to take the conscious decision to exercise and forgo short term more pleasurable activities. There's a greater chance that after 10 days you'll say... the random workout can wait a few more days and then forget about it. There's no will-struggle with a habit.
Fortunately you can probably combine both, if you rely on an external source of randomness and build the habit of following that source. The main idea is to remove any decision making.

Won't work

The exercise stuff per se looks novel but if the diet-and-exercise stuff is a unit then I see a fatal, if for now unavoidable, weakness in the diet:

He’s always hungry. At both lunches he orders three salads, which he makes me share.

Caloric restriction is pretty easy, in fact trivial, if you live in an environment that restricts your calories for you. But if it's up to you to forego calories, and I don't see how it can be otherwise, then this diet faces the exact same fatal flaw of every previous diet.