“Gridiron Genius” Quotes

I recently read Gridiron Genius: A Master Class In Winning Championships and Building Dynasties In the NFL by Michael Lombardi. Here’s the quotes I found most interesting:

“Champions behave like champions before they’re champions.” -Bill Walsh (9)

“Take pride in my effort as an entity separate from the result of that effort.” (16)

“Walsh opted for less experienced men who shared his curiosity and displayed a willingness to learn his system and methods.” (23)

“In the ultimate team sport, real success doesn’t depend on tactics or discipline or order. It always comes down to how well a coach leads.” (35)

“Belichick is not worried about where an idea comes from; he cares only about whether it makes the team better. He knows that as the man running the organization he’s going to get the credit by default, so he makes sure to spread it around.” (38)

“That’s what being a first=time NFL head coach is like. It is more than likely you’re going to be bad at it. You just have to keep working at it until you get good and pray that you don’t end up a one-hit wonder.” (42)

“There simply has to be a thread of unity running through any successful team.” (102)

“Weirdly, Walsh’s offensive success – and his unique perspective on the passing attack – stemmed in part from his experience as a defensive coach. Belichick also used his defensive knowledge to design one of the most prolific offenses in modern football. Both men understood the checks and adjustments that occurred within defensive schemes. They built a counterattack by knowing their enemy.” (118)

“When a TV announcer asked their offensive coordinator about it, he said if Peyton Manning ever went down, they were “fucked” and “we don’t practice fucked.”” (185)

“One of Belichick’s favorite sayings is “To live in the past is to die in the present.”” (230)

“J. Roscoe Miller said: “I have two kinds of problems: the urgent and the important. The urgent are not important and the important are never urgent.” (232)

“Walsh called this the three F’s of decision making: firmness, fairness, fast.” (235)

“A pessimist leads an unhappy life, waiting for the next bad thing, never trusting the emotional highs. A realistic optimist may seem a crank to casual observers, but in actuality he’s quite content.” (239)

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“Hit Makers” Quotes

I recently read Hit Makers: The Science of Popularity in an Age of Distraction by Derek Thompson. Here are the quotes I found most interesting:

“The most basic human needs – to belong, to escape, to aspire, to understand, to be understood – are eternal.” (6)

“Most consumers are simultaneously neophilic – curious to discover new things – and deeply neophobic – afraid of anything that’s too new. The best hit makers are gifted at creating moments of meaning by marrying new and old, anxiety and understanding. They are architects of familiar surprises.” (7)

“The deeper question for people with a new product or idea is: How can I make something that people will share on their own – with the audience of my audience?” (8)

“Content might be king, but distribution is the kingdom.” (8)

“The story of a product’s distribution is as important as a description of its features. It is rarely sufficient to design the perfect product without designing an equally thoughtful plan to get it to the right people.” (9)

“The most famous moviemaking corporations in the world, like the Walt Disney Company and Time Warner, have for years made more profit from cable channels like ESPn and TBS than from their entire movie divisions.” (11)

“In the big picture, the world’s attention is shifting from content that is infrequent, big, and broadcast (i.e. millions of people going to the movies once a week) to content that is frequent, small and social (i.e. billions of people looking at social media feeds on their own glass-and-pixel displays every few minutes).” (12)

“There are simply too many “good-enough” songs for every worthy hook to become a bona fide hit. Quality, it seems, is a necessary but insufficient attribute for success.” (37)

“One third of the White House staff works in some aspect of public relations to promote the president and his policies.” (38)

“The average presidential soundbite on the news shrank from forty seconds in 1968 to less than seven seconds in the 1990s.” (38)

“When people see an artwork that reminds them of something they’ve been taught is famous, they feel the thrill of recognition and attribute the thrill to the painting itself.” (43)

“This is the “less is more” or “less is better” effect. It means that less thinking leads to more liking. A cheeky UK experiment found that British students’ opinion of former prime minister Tony Blair sank as they listed more of his good qualities. Spouses offer higher appraisals of their partners when asked to name fewer charming characteristics. When something becomes hard to think about, people transfer the discomfort of the thought to the object of their thinking.” (44)

“Fashion, as we know it, was not written into human DNA. It is a recent invention of mass production and modern marketing. People had to be taught to constantly crave so many new things.” (49)

“One the one hand, humans seek familiarity, because it makes them feel safe. On the other hand, people are charged by the thrill of a challenge, powered by a pioneer lust.” (49)

“Creative people often bristle at the suggestion that they have to stoop to market their ideas or dress them in familiar garb. It’s pleasant to think that an idea’s brilliance is self-evident and doesn’t require the theater of marketing. But whether you’re an academic, screenwriter, or entrepreneur, the difference between a brilliant new idea with bad marketing and a mediocre idea with excellent marketing can be the difference between bankruptcy and success. The trick is learning to frame your new ideas as tweaks of old ideas, to mix a little fluency with a little disfluency – to make your audience see the familiarity behind the surprise.” (62)

“To sell something familiar, make it surprising. To sell something surprising, make it familiar.” (70)

“The central insight of MAYA (most advanced yet acceptable) is that people actually prefer complexity – up to the point that they stop understanding something.” (71)

“People sometimes don’t know what they want until they already love it.” (71)

“Repetition is powerful, not only for music, but for all communication.” (86)

“Most people love original storytelling, provided that the narrative arc traces the stories we know and the stories that we want to tell ourselves.” (111)

“Every great story is more than its plot. It is a self-enclosed universe of life, or as Tolstoy wrote, a vehicle for the delivery of all feelings from sorrow to ecstasy.” (116)

“Distribution is a strategy to make a good product popular, but it’s not a reliable way to make a bad product seem good.” (142)

“Plato proposed that laughter was an expression of “superiority” over a person or character in a story.” (146)

“Even the biggest hits often need the light touch of fortune’s tailwind.” (163)

“In this way, all hits can ironically sow the seeds of their own demise, as over-imitation ultimately renders the trend obsolete.” (179)

“If this makes the business of hits seem hopeless, then good. Making complex products for people who don’t know what they want – and who aggressively cluster around bizarrely popular products if a couple of their friends do the same – is unbelievably difficult work.” (180)

“The franchise strategy might be a prudent way to mitigate the uncertainty of the moviemaking process. But it carries specific negative consequences, both creative and financial. Writers who observe Hollywood’s abandoning of smart, complex dramas for superhero franchises have moved on to television. It’s not a coincidence that the “golden age of TV” coincided with the “franchise age of movies.”” (182)

“The blockbuster strategy guarantees that the flops will be spectacular – and, for film executives, devastating. All but three of the thirty biggest box office bombs in Hollywood history were released since 2005.” (182)

“The business of creativity is a game of chance – a complex, adaptive, semi-chaotic game with Bose-Einstein distribution dynamics and Pareto’s power law characteristics with dual-sided uncertainty. You, the creator, are making something that doesn’t exist for an audience that cannot say if they will like it beforehand.” (183)

“Dealing with this sort of uncertainty requires more than good ideas, brilliant execution, and powerful marketing (although it often requires those things, too). It also begs for a gospel of perseverance through inevitable failure.” (183)

“There is no antidote to the chaos of creative markets, only the brute doggedness to endure it.” (183)

“The most successful storytellers are often collage artists, bringing together never-before-assembled allusions to create a story that is both surprising and familiar.” (186)

“Viral disease tend to spread slowly, steadily, across many generations of infection. But information cascades are the opposite: They tend to spread in short bursts and die quickly. The gospel of virality has convinced some marketers that the only way that things become popular these days is by buzz and viral spread. But these marketers vastly overestimate the reliable power of word of mouth.” (193)

“It became a hit not because of fifteen thousand one-to-one shares, but in large part because three celebrities had the power to share the video with a million people at once.” (195)

“A “viral” idea can spread between broadcasts. For most so-called viral ideas or products to become massive hits, they almost always depend on several moments where they repad to many, many people from one source.” (203)

“Some consumers buy products not because they are “better” in any way, but simply because they are popular. What they’re buying is not just a product, but also a piece of popularity itself.” (206)

“For many cultural achievements, the art itself is not the only thing worth consuming; the experience of having seen, read, or heard the art for the purpose of being able to talk about it is its own reward. Such consumers are not just buying a product; what they’re really buying is entry into a popular conversation. Popularity is the product.” (207)

“Vincent Forrest told me, “The nature of the in-joke is that it creates an opportunity for people to get to know each other. If a button says, ‘I like reading,’ there’s no conversation there. Plenty of people like reading. But a specific Jane Eyre joke is only going to go noticed by a smaller number of people who love Jane Eyre and can genuinely connect over something.” The smaller, densely connected audience beats the larger, diffuse group.” (210)

“People purchase and share all sorts of things because they want people to see that they have them. Vincent Forrest sells buttons to be worn in public. He sells 1.25-inch baubles of identity.” (211)

“An inside joke is a private network of understanding. It crystallizes an in-group, a kind of soft cult, where unique individuals feel like they belong. Vincent Forrest’s physical products are buttons and magnets. But what he’s really selling is something else: a sentiment that feels so personal that you simply have to talk about it.” (215)

“The average white American has ninety-one white friends for every black, Asian or Hispanic friend. The average black American has ten black friends for each white friend.” (216)

“Introverts, like all people, love sharing within their clique evidence that they are distinct from the mainstream.” (218)

“Wolfe said, “I’m a firm believer that a person can only be advertised so many times in the same format before they become cynical.”” (223)

“The most important element in a global cascade isn’t magically viral elements or mystical influencers. Rather it is about finding a group of people who are easily influenced. It turns the influencer question on its head. Don’t ask, “Who is powerful?” Instead ask, “Who is vulnerable.”” (223)

“Successful creations grow most predictably when they tap into a small network of people who do not see themselves as mainstream, but rather bound by an idea or commonality that they consider special. People have all day to talk about what makes them ordinary. It turns out that they want to share what makes them weird.” (223)

“A 2012 Harvard study found that people use about one third of personal conversations to talk about themselves. Online, that number jumps to 80 percent.” (226)

“Nine of the ten most popular stories have the words “you” or “your” which to each reader, mean “me” and “mine.” (226)

“Facebook is tapping into the natural narcissism of all broadcasts. One to many, we sculpt, smooth, and sand our life stories; mammal to mmall, we’re more likely to relate.” (228)

“Publicly, they want to be interesting. Privately, they want to be understood.” (229)

“If 40 percent of respondents say they are aware of a new show, and 40 percent of that 40 percent say they want to watch it, and 20 percent of that 16 percent say they are passionate about the new show, NBC can confidently predict that the program will be a hit. This is the 40-40-20 test, and it works.” (239)

“The value of a hit television show is greater than its ratings or its ad rates alone, because those don’t account for an even more important feature: their ability to support other shows.” (240)

“Even in the early 2000s, more than 90 percent of original series on broadcast and cable were renewed the following season. In 2015, however, the number of original shows has exploded, and now only 40 percent of them survive to see another year.” (242)

“In 2000, there were 125 original scripted series and fewer than three hundred unscripted cable series, or “reality shows.” By 2015, there were four hundred original scripted series and nearly one thousand original reality series – an across the board tripling.” (243)

“In 1979, twenty-six shows surpassed that lofty threshold (of a 20 Nielsen rating). In 199, only two shows hit the mark: ER and Friends. In 2015, none did. As television watching options expanded, the threshold for hits lowered.” (243)

“Imitation is not a sign that people know the secret of popularity. It is a sign that there is no secret, and the only thing people know is the last thing that succeeded.” (250)

“People are good at telling you their feelings. But they’re less dependable at reporting their habits or projecting their future wants and needs.” (261)

“Given time to reflect, people prefer to talk about the person they want to be, not the person they are.” (261)

“The greatest threat to newspapers wasn’t better newspapers. It was bad television.” (264)

“Merely considering something that’s “good for you” satisfies a goal and grants license to indulge. People say they want hard news in their social media feeds, but mostly click on funny photos. People say they want to eat greens, but mostly order greasy sandwiches at salad-serving restaurants. People aren’t lying – they do want to be the sort of person who reads news! They do want to see salad options! – but mere proximity to good behavior satisfies their interest in behaving well.” (271)

“There is a Japanese word “Tsundoku” which means the piling up of unread books.” (272)

“Facebook “will be probably all video” in five years, said head of Facebook operations in Europe, the Middle East and Africa.”” (273)

“Culture isn’t just what people do. It’s also what people say they do.” (279)

“Pierre Bourdieu argued that taste is partly a performance, a show of “cultural capital.” The elite do not just like opera because they have been exposed to it; they are exposed to opera because they think it makes them elite.” (279)

“The best writers also knew to just do the work and forget, for a moment, that anyone would ever read their reverie.” (281)

“The paradox of scale is that the biggest hits are often designed for a small, well-defined group of people.” (285)

“Narrowly tailored hits are more likely to succeed, perhaps both because of their inherent qualities – they are focused works – and because of their network qualities. People are more likely to talk about products and ideas that they feel unusually attached to.” (286)

“These artists and teams produced their most resonant work after they had already passed a certain threshold of fame and popularity. Perhaps genius thrives in a space shielded ever so slightly from the need to win a popularity contest. Rather, it comes after the game has been won, after the artist can say, essentially, “Now that I have your attention…” (287)

“People’s basic needs are complex, but old. They want to feel unique and also to belong; to bathe in familiarity and to be provoked a little; to have their expectations met, and broken, and met again.” (290)

“Hollywood thought that toys were advertisements for movies. Hollywood was wrong; the opposite was true. The films were proofs of concept. The future of the movie business was everything outside the movie theater.” (294)

“In 1920, there were no Sears department stores in the United States. By 1929, there were three hundred.” (294)

“In the two months after its 1938 premier, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, the movie made $2 million from the sale of toys – more than the actual film made in the United States that entire year.” (296)

“Often, the difference between success and failure, he decided, was the quality of the people surrounding the artist.” (305)

“Ryan Leslie says, “If you want to be a popstar, you need a pop star’s top five. If you want to be a politician, you need a politician’s top five. Your network needs to match the quality of Obama’s inner circle, or Clinton’s, or a Bush. If you want to be the best tennis player in the world, the five tennis people in your life have to be better than the five people around Serena Williams.”” (305)

“Most hits bear the indelible imprint of not only their maker, but also some forgotten enabler along the way.” (306)

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“Subliminal” Quotes

I recently read “Subliminal: How Your Unconscious Mind Rules Your Behavior” by Leonard Mlodinow. Below are the quotes I found most interesting. If you like them, buy the book and then read it.

“It can be difficult to distinguish willed, conscious behavior from that which is habitual or automatic.” (12)

“Research suggests that when it comes to understanding our feelings, we humans have an odd mix of low ability and high confidence.” (19)

“Research supports that “environmental factors” such as package design, package or portion size, and menu descriptions unconsciously influence us.” (20)

“Both direct, explicit aspects of life (the drink, in this case) and indirect implicit aspects (the price or brand) conspire to create our mental experience (the taste). The key word here is “create.” Our brains are not simply recording a taste or other experience, they are creating it.” (25)

“Deep concentration causes the energy consumption in your brain to go up by only about 1 percent. No matter what you are doing with your conscious mind, it is your unconscious that dominates your mental activity – and therefore uses up most of the energy consumed by the brain.” (35)

“Our unconscious doesn’t just interpret sensory data, it enhances it. It has to, because the dta our senses deliver is of rather poor quality and must be fixed up in order to be useful.” (46)

“When we are repeatedly asked to re-create a memory, we reinforce it each time, so that in a way we are remembering the memory, not the event.” (66)

“If your child’s fantasy is a ride in a hot air balloon, research has shown that it is possible to supply that memory with none of the expense or bother of arranging the actual experience.” (75)

“As humans, we are so prone to false memories that you can sometimes induce one simply by casually telling a person about an incident that didn’t really happen. Over time, that person may “remember” the incident but forget the source of that memory. As a result, he or she will confuse the imagnied event with his or her actual past.” (76)

“Whether or not we wish to, we communicate our expectations to others, and they often respond by fulfilling those expectations.” (113)

“Labeling children as gifted had proved to be a powerful self-fulfilling prophecy.” (114)

“It stands to reason that one can also adjust the impression one makes by consciously looking at or away from a conversational partner.” (122)

“One of the major factors in social success, even at an early age, is a child’s sense of nonverbal cues.” (124)

“When asked to rate men they can hear but not see, women miraculously tend to agree: men with deeper voices are rated as more attractive.” (130)

“Speakers with higher-pitched voices were judged to be less truthful, less emphatic, less potent, and more nervous than speakers with lower-pitched voices. Also, slower-talking speakers were judged to be less truthful, less persuasive, and more passive than people who spoke more quickly.” (133)

“A little speedup will make you sound smarter and more convincing.” (133)

“If two speakers utter exactly the same words but one speaks a little faster and louder and with fewer pauses and greater variation in volume, that speaker will be judged to be more energetic, knowledgeable, and intelligent. Expressive speech, with modulation in pitch and volume and with a minimum of noticeable pauses, boosts credibility and enhances the impression of intelligence.” (133)

“Though your evaluation of another person may feel rational and deliberate, it is heavily informed by automatic, unconscious processes.” (156)

“Desire for food and water is the strongest ideology.” (164)

“Your in-group identity influences the way you judge people, but it also influences the way you feel about yourself, the way you behave, and sometimes even your performance.” (170)

“We are highly invested in feeling different from one another – and superior – no matter how flimsy the grounds for our sense of superiority, and no matter how self-sabotaging that may end up being.” (174)

“Emotions, in today’s neo-Jamesian view, are like perceptions and memories – they are reconstructed from the data at hand.” (182)

“When nerve cells send a signal to the pain centers of your brain, your experience of pain can vary even if those signals don’t.” (182)

“An isolated pratfall such as the coffee-spilling incident tends to increase the likability of a generally competent-seeming person, and the anticipation of meeting an individual tends to improve your assessment of that individual’s personality.” (194)

“The “causal arrow” in human thought processes consistently tends to point from belief to evidence, not vice versa.” (201)

“Our unconscious can choose from an entire smorgasbord of interpretations to feed our conscious mind. In the end we feel we are chewing on the facts, though we’ve actually been chomping on a preferred conclusion.” (203)

“They show that when assessing emotionally relevant data, our brains automatically include our wants and dreams and desires. Our internal computations, which we believe to be objective, are not really the computations that a detached computer would make but, rather, are implicitly colored by who we are and what we are after.” (206)

“The subtlety of our reasoning mechanisms allows us to maintain our illusions of objectivity even while viewing the world through a biased lens.” (214)

“We choose the facts that we want to believe. We also choose our friends, lovers, and spouses not just because of the way we perceive them but because of the way they perceive us. Unlike phenomena in physics, in life, events can often obey one theory or another, and what actually happens can depend largely upon which theory we choose to believe.” (218)

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“Elastic” Quotes

I recently read “Elastic: Flexible Thinking In A Time of Change” by Leonard Mlodinow. Below are the quotes I found most interesting. If you like them, buy the book here.

“The rational, risk-avoiding part of a person’s brain doesn’t fully develop until about the age of twenty-five.” (27)

Logical thought can determine how to drive from your home to the grocer most efficiently, but it’s elastic thought that gave us the automobile.” (42)

For most situations, those who accept options that are good enough, rather than feeling compelled to find the optimal one, tend to be more satisfied with their choices and, in general, happier and less stressed individuals.” (56)

“Many recent studies in social psychology suggest ath monetizing creative output can disrupt the processes that lead to innovation.” (63)

“Offering an extrinsic reward for an intrinsically enjoyable behavior can be counterproductive. Difficulty in original thinking arises, says psychologist Teresa Amabile, when you “try for the wrong reasons.” (63)

“Women’s desirability ratings of the creative but poor men were strongly correlated with their degree of fertility, while fertility had no effect on their rating of the non-imaginative but rich men.” (64)

“When their fertility was high, 92 percent of the women chose artistic ability over wealth, but when it was low, only 55 percent did so.” (64)

“Cramond decided to administer what was essentially a test of elastic thinking to children diagnosed with ADHD and, conversely, to administer a test for ADHD to a group of children in a “scholars’ program.” She found astonishing overlap.” (65)

“When an ADHD brain comes upon a task it finds truly interesting – that is, a task that briskly stimulates the reward circuits – it obsesses over it and becomes hyper focused.” (66)

“I sometimes engage in a little mental flexibility exercise. I list some of my strongly held beliefs on slips of paper. I fold them, pick one, and imagine someone telling me that the belief written on it is false.” (94)

“Poet Friedrich Ruckert:
Each man faces an image
OF what he is meant to become.
As long as he does not achieve it
He cannot achieve his full measure of peace.” (116)

“If the act of walking or running can free your mind, so can taking a few minutes in the morning after you wake up to simply lie in bed. Don’t think about your schedule that day or ponder your to-do list but, rather, take advantage of your quiet state to stare at the ceiling, enjoy the comfort of your bed, and relax a little before popping up to face the world.” (126)

“When you reach an impasse, you may feel frustrated and be tempted to give up, but that is precisely the moment when, if you keep struggling, your ACC may kick into action and your most original ideas can being to surface.” (145)

“Research shows that sitting in a darkened room, or closing your eyes, can widen your perspective; so can expansive surroundings, even high ceilings. Low ceilings, narrow corridors, and windowless offices have the opposite effect.” (149)

“If you are striving for insight, interruptions are deadly. A short phone call, email, or text message can redirect your attention and thoughts, and once you are there, it can take a long while to get back.” (149)

“In life, once on a path, we tend to follow it, for better or worse. What’s sad is that if it’s the latter, we often accept it anyway – not because we’re afraid of change, but because by then we are so accustomed to the way things are that we don’t even recognize that they could be different.” (156)

“Scientists enlisted 119 patients in geriatric nursing homes. Their subjects had been taking an average of seven medications each day. With careful monitoring, the researchers discontinued about half the medicines. No patients died or suffered serious side effects from stopping the drugs, and almost all reported an improvement in health. Most important, the death rate among those in the study was far lower than that of a control group whose members had continued their medications.” (160)

“What we know can put a constraint on the possibilities we can imagine.” (168)

“Our conscious brains can process about forty to sixty bits per second, roughly the information content of a short sentence. Our unconscious has a much greater capacity. Your visual system, for example, can handle about ten million bits per second. As a result, your primary visual cortex can pass only a small fraction of that to your conscious mind.” (173)

“To have original thoughts, you have to let the ideas flow first and worry about their quality (or appropriateness) later. (183)

“The value of an idea can be difficult to ascertain, for it is one of the ironies of science and the arts that the brilliant and the nutty are not always easily distinguished.” (183)

“Ursula K. Le Guin is often quoted as having said, “The creative adult is the child who has survived.” (187)

“Belief in the supernatural declines as children mature and their lateral prefrontal cortex becomes more fully developed; conversely, in old age, as the vigor of the lateral prefrontal cortex declines and cognitive inhibition decreases, belief in the supernatural increases.” (193)

“You could be better at generating imaginative ideas if you do that kind of thinking after working on a chore that involves a period of tedious, focused effort that strains your powers of concentration.” (209)

“The nuns who’d been the most positive lived about ten years longer than those who’d been the least.” (211)

“Because negative emotion creates an instant focus on some particular behavioral response, it narrows the scope of possibilities that your cognitive filters allow through. As a result, a bad mood discourages elastic thinking.” (212)

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“Skin In The Game” Quotes

I recently read “Skin in the Game: Hidden Asymmetries in Daily Life” by Nassim Nicholas Taleb. Below are the quotes I found most interesting. If you like the quotes, buy the book here.

“Hammurabi’s best known injunction is as follows: “If a builder builds a house and the house collapses and causes the death of the owner of the house – the builder shall be put to death.”” (17)

“The Golden Rule wants you to Treat others the way you would like them to treat you. The more robust Silver Rule says Do not treat others the way you would not like them to treat you. More robust? How? Why is the Silver Rule more robust?
First, it tells you to mind your own business and not decide what is “good” for others. We know with much more clarity what is bad than what is good.” (19)

“Rabbi Hillel the Elder drawing on Leviticus 19:18. “Do nothing to others which if done to you would cause you pain. This is the essence of morality.”” (19)

“Isocrates wrote, “Deal with weaker states as you think it appropriate for stronger states to deal with you.”” (20)

“Isocrates managed a rare dynamic version of the Golden Rule: “Conduct yourself toward your parents as you would have your children conduct themselves toward you.” … More effective, of course, is the reverse direction, to treat one’s children the way one wished to be treated by one’s parents.” (20)

“Yogi Berra said, “I go to other people’s funerals so they come to mine.”” (20)

“The general and the abstract tend to attract self righteous psychopaths.”) (21)

“The deep message of this book is the danger of universalism taken two or three steps too far – conflating the micro and the macro.” (21)

“Avoid taking advice from someone who gives advice for a living, unless there is a penalty for their advice.” (23)

“You do not want to win an argument. You want to win.” (24)

“What matters in life isn’t how frequently one is “right” about outcomes, but how much one makes when one is right. Being wrong, when it is not costly, doesn’t count – in a way that’s similar to trial-and-error mechanisms of research.” (25)

“Every single person I know who has chronically failed in business shares that mental block, the failure to realize that if something stupid works (and makes money), it cannot be stupid.” (26)

“Things designed by people without skin in the game tend to grow in complication (before their final collapse).” (29)

“As a Spartan mother tells her departing son: “With it or on it,” meaning either return with your shield or don’t come back alive (the custom was to carry the dead body flat on it); only cowards throw away their shields to run faster.” (33)

“There is actually an argument in favor of duels: they prevent conflicts from engaging broader sets of people, that is, wars, by confining the problem to those with direct skin in the game.” (33)

“This form of entrepreneurship (selling the company or going public) is the equivalent of bringing great-looking and marketable children into the world with the sole aim of selling them at age four.” (36)

“People fail to realize that the principal thing you can learn from a professor is how to be a professor.” (38)

“It may be cruel to cheat people of their profession. People want ot have their soul in the game.” (39)

“If you can’t put your soul into something, give it up and leave that stuff to someone else.” (42)

“Whenever the “we” becomes too large a club, things degrade, and each one starts fighting for his own interest.” (59)

“A saying by the brothers Geoff and Vince Graham summarizes the ludicrousness of scale-free political universalism.
I am, at the Fed level, libertarian;
At the state level, Republican;
At the local level, Democrat;
And at the family and friends level, a socialist.” (61)

“No amount of advertising will match the credibility of a genuine user.” (63)

“Legend has it that three high-ranking delegations (bishops, rabbis, and sheikhs) cae to make the sales pitch. The Khazar lords asked the Christians: if you were forced to choose between Judaism and Islam, which one would you pick? Judaism, they replied. Then the lords asked the Muslims: which of the two, Christianity or Judaism? Judaism, the Muslims said. Judaism it was; and the tribe converted.” (77)

“Roman pagans were initially tolerant of Christians, as the tradition was to share gods with other members of the empire. But they wondered why these Nazarenes didn’t want to give and take gods and offer that Jesus fellow to the Roman pantheon in exchange for some other gods. What, our gods aren’t good enough for them? But Christians were intolerant of Roman paganism. The “persecution” of the Christians had vastly more to do with the intolerance of the Christians for the pantheon of local gods than the reverse. What we read is history written by the Christian side, not the Greco-Roman one.” (81)

“The more brilliant one’s mind, and the higher one’s ability to handle nuances and ambiguity. Purely monotheistic religions such as Protestant Christianity, Salafi Islam, or fundamentalist atheism accommodate literalist and mediocre minds that cannot handle ambiguity.”” (82)

“An intolerant minority can control and destroy democracy. Actually, it will eventually destroy our world. So, we need to be more than intolerant with some intolerant minorities. Simply, they violate the Silver Rule. TI is not permissible to use “American values” or “Western principles” in treating intolerant Salafism (which denies other peoples’ right to have their own religion). The west is currently in the process of committing suicide.” (84)

“Alexander said that it was preferable to have an army of sheep led by a lion than an army of lions led by a sheep.” (87)

“So far we have no fucking idea how the brain of the worm C. elegans works, which has around three hundred neurons. C. elegans was the first living unit to have its genes sequenced. Now consider that the human brain has about one hundred billion neurons, and that going from 300 to 301 neurons, because of the curse of dimensionality, may double the complexity. So the use of never here is appropriate.” (90)

“The dog boasts to the wolf all the contraptions of comfort and luxury he has, almost prompting the wolf to enlist. Until the wolf asks the dog about his collar and is terrified when he understands its use. “Of all your meals, I want nothing.” He ran away and is still running.
The question is: what would you like to be, a dog or a wolf?
The original Aramaic version had a wild ass, instead of a wolf, showing off his freedom. But the wild ass ends up eaten by the lion. Freedom entails risks – real skin the game. Freedom is never free.” (102)

“Whatever you do, just don’t be a dog claiming to be a wolf.” (103)

“What matters isn’t what the person has or doesn’t have; it is what he or she is afraid of losing.” (105)

“Cursing today is a status symbol, just as oligarchs in Moscow wear blue jeans at special events to signal their power.” (105)

“It is much easier to do business with the owner of the business than some employee who is likely to lose his job next year; likewise it is easier to trust the word of an autocrat than a fragile elected official.” (106)

“Jean de La Bruyere wrote that jealousy is to be found within the same art, talent, and condition.” (136)

“A good rule for society is to oblige those who start in public office to pledge never subsequently to earn from the private sector more than a set amount; the rest should go to the taxpayer. This will ensure sincerity in, literally, “service” – where employees are supposedly underpaid because of their emotional reward from serving society. It would prove that they are not in the public sector as an investment strategy.” (139)

“You can define a free person precisely as someone whose fate is not centrally or directly dependent on peer assessment.” (144)

“As an essayist, I am not judged by other writers, book editors, and book reviews, but by readers. Readers? Maybe, but wait a minute… not today’s readers. Only those of tomorrow, and the day after tomorrow. So, my only real judge being time, it is the stability and robustness of the readership (that is, future readers) that counts.” (145)

“Being reviewed or assessed by others matters if and only if one is subjected to the judgement of future – not just present – others.” (145)

“Contemporary peers are valuable collaborators, not final judges.” (145)

“I learned to avoid honors and prizes partly because, given that they are awarded by the wrong judges, they are likely to hit you at the peak (you’d rather be ignore, or, better, disliked by the general media.)” (145)

“Showing off is reasonable; it is human. As long as the substance exceeds the showoff, you are fine.” (147)

“Consider the chief executive officers of corporations: they don’t just look the part, they even look the same. And, worse, when you listen to them talk, they sound the same, down to the same vocabulary and metaphors. But that’s their job: as I will keep reminding the reader, counter to the common belief, executives are different from entrepreneurs and are supposed to look like actors.” (156)

“What can be phrased and expressed in a clear narrative that convinces suckers will be a sucker trap.” (158)

“You can tell if a discipline is BS if the degree depends severly on the prestige of the school granting it.” (165)

“Journalists worry considerably more about the opinion of other journalists than the judgment of their readers. Compare this to a healthy system, say, that of restaurants. Restaurant owners worry about the opinion of their customers, not those of other restaurant owners, which keeps them in check and prevents the business from straying collectively away from its interests. Further, skin in the game creates diversity, not monoculture.” (181)

“If your private life conflicts with your intellectual opinion, it cancels your intellectual ideas, not your private life.” (185)

“Matthew 6:1-4, where the highest mitzvah is the one done secretly:
Be careful not to practice your righteousness in front of others to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven.” (186)

“Sticking up for truth when it is unpopular is far more of a virtue, because it costs you something – your reputation. If you are a journalist and act in a way that risks ostracism, you are virtuous. Some people only express their opinions as part of mob shaming, when it is safe to do so, and, in the bargain, think that they are displaying virtue. This is not virtue but vice, a mixture of bullying and cowardice.” (189)

“Reading a history book, without putting its events in perspective, offers a similar bias to reading an account of life in New York seen from an emergency room at Bellevue Hospital.” (195)

“Different people rarely mean the same thing when they say “religion,” nor do they realize it. For early Jews and Muslims, religion was law.” (199)

“For early Jews, religion was also tribal; for early Muslims, it was universal. For the Romans, religion was social events, rituals, and festivals.” (199)

“Religions such as Christianity, Judaism, and, to some extent Shiite Islam, evolved (or, rather, let their members evolve in developing a sophisticated society) precisely by moving away from the literal. The literal doesn’t leave any room for adaptation.” (202)

“Christians and Jews in practice were not too differentiated from other Semitic cult followers, and shared places of worship with one another.” (205)

“Priesthood was quite a lucrative position since in the pre-Christian, Greek-speaking Eastern Mediterranean, the offices of high priests were often auctioned off.” (206)

“Nobody in the Vatican seems to ever take chances by going first to the Lord, subsequently to the doctor, and, what is even more surprising, nobody seems to see a conflict with such inversion of the logical sequence.” (208)

“Most Christians, when it comes to central medical, ethical, and decision-making situations do not act any differently than atheists.” (210)

“Rationality resides in what you do, not in what you think or in what you “believe” (skin in the game), and rationality is about survival.” (210)

“It is therefore my opinion that religion exists to enforce tail risk management across generations, as its binary and unconditional rules are easy to teach and enforce. We have survived in spite of tail risks; our survival cannot be that random.” (217)

“If medicine is progressively improving your life expectancy, you need to be even more paranoid. Think dynamically. If you incur a tiny probability of ruin as a “one-off” risk, survive it, then do it again (another “one-off deal), you will eventually go bust with a probability of one hundred percent. Confusion arises because it may seem that if the “one-off” risk is reasonable, then an additional one is also reasonable. This can be quantified by recognizing that the probability of ruin approaches 1 as the number of exposures to individually small risks, say one in ten thousand, increases.” (227)

“One of the defects modern education and thinking introduces is the illusion that each one of us is a single unit. In fact, I’ve sampled niney people in seminars and asked them: “What’s the worst thing that can happen to you?” Eighty-eight people answered “my death.”
This can only be the worst-case situation for a psychopath. For after that, I asked those who deemed that their worst-case outcome was their own death: “Is your death plu sthat of your children, nephews, cousins, cats, dogs, parakeet, and hamster worse than just your death?” Invariably, yes. “Is your death plus your children, nephews, cousins (…) plus all of humanity worse than just your death?” Yes, of course. Then how can your death be the worst possible outcome/” (228)

“I have a finite shelf life, humanity should have an infinite duration.” (229)

“I am renewable, not humanity or the ecosystem.” (229)

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