Thursday, December 18, 2014

Ueber Alles. Uber Everything.

Nassim Taleb takes an interesting approach in his books. He directly insults, on a regular basis, the people who are reading his books. He knows a bit about who buys and reads what he writes and he says openly that they are the people who he is complaining about. He 'jokes' and tries to make it clear. As in... I am talking to you. The person reading this. He says you will laugh and think he is talking about someone else. Another MBA. He then proceeds to point out, with jibes, what he thinks are the likely holes in your thinking. Most readers will read this and think he is talking about someone else. It is difficult for us to self evaluate but we are quite good at seeing gaps in other peoples thinking. That is why feedback is useful. Painful to take, but useful.


Taleb's books are fascinating and I will definitely talk about them at some stage. One of my biggest frustrations is our faulty definition of risk. This is partly the theme of his first book 'Fooled by Randomness'. Without basic training in statistics, many people can get fooled by seeing random things happen which they think aren't random. We look for patterns and can make really bad decisions based on stories which simply have no evidence. His second book 'The Black Swan' talks about how things you can't see, control, and largely can't prepare for can be a really big deal. He also says we waste a lot of our time planning around 'noise', i.e. things that aren't important, and don't act in the right way for things that are. In 'Anti-fragile' he argues that by avoiding good noise or rather good stress, we set ourselves up for big falls. Strong things benefit from stress rather than falling apart. So as a theme for all three books, he is saying that we focus on the wrong things. I agree with that, and enjoy the way he describes some difficult concepts (although I don't agree with everything he says). I am not sure I would want him at a dinner party though. He would likely insult most of the people very quickly. Perhaps if the dinner party was with Richard Dawkins and Russell Brand and I could just sit back and watch the fireworks discussion going on. That would be good fun.

I will take a leaf out of his book(s) and talk directly to you though. Part of what I am trying to do with this blog is get people talking. We moan about Social Media and how it works but the truth is no one controls Social Media. We do. If it isn't working there is absolutely no one to point the finger at. The founders of Twitter had no idea what it would morph into. It is still morphing. We get to choose how to do that. The same thing is happening to lots of other things. They are being ubered. Ueber Alles. Uber everything. But as Will Wilkinson says, perhaps Uber for the proletariat. Social media is whatever we want it to be as long as we are brave enough to speak. If we can get over the Picasso Problem and realise things aren't for marks, there is no teacher waiting to correct us, there is no bully waiting to tease us, and people want to hear our story we can make things what we want.

So I am talking directly to you. Yes, the person reading this. I want you to write a Guest Post of about 500 words on anything that you think is interesting. I write about happiness and learning as a framework, but that is all it is. A framework. Thinking of happiness in categories like exercise, diet, breathing, relaxation, positive thinking, relationships, flow and learning just helps me keep a little focus and cover as many bases as I can. I don't claim any expertise though other than some experience at looking at complex things and trying to get to the bottom of what matters. To strip out Taleb noise. I write mainly for and to the people I know, so if you want to have a cup of coffee, I can write up the post for you. I may not have seen you in years, but I am still talking to you. I have lost contact with lots of awesome people and would rather write for friends, old and new, than random people. If like Rob, a limerick is the way to get started - do that. If you want to send me stream of consciousness to work into a post, do that. Best case, you start a blog of your own. It is tough to get people reading it if you don't write regularly, but I can solve that problem for you and we can pick a guest post when you have something you think needs a bigger audience for a conversation.

Broadcasting is over. Let's start a conversation.

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