45 Quotes from Skin in the Game book by Nassim Nicholas Taleb

Hello friends. This post is a collection of quotes from the book - Skin in the Game by Nassim Nicholas Taleb.

Skin in the Game has been described as a bold work that challenges many of our long-held beliefs about risk and reward, politics and religion, finance and personal responsibility.

Prologue Quotes

We have always been crazy but weren't skilled enough to destroy the world. Now we can. - Skin in the Game, Prologue, Part 1

This idea of skin in the game is woven into history: historically, all warlords and warmongers were warriors themselves, and, with a few curious exceptions, societies were run by risk takers, not risk transferors. - Skin in the Game, Prologue, Part 1

Bureaucracy is a construction by which a person is conveniently separated from the consequences of his or her actions. - Skin in the Game, Prologue, Part 1

The curse of modernity is that we are increasingly populated by a class of people who are better at explaining than understanding, or better at explaining than doing. - Skin in the Game, Prologue, Part 1

Avoid taking advice from someone who gives advice for a living, unless there is a penalty for their advice. - Skin in the Game, Prologue, Part 2

Science has been taken over by vendors using it to sell products (like margarine or genetically modified solutions) and, ironically, the skeptical enterprise is being used to silence skeptics. - Skin in the Game, Prologue, Part 2

A bureaucratized system will increase in complication from the interventionism of people who sell complicated solutions because that's what their position and training invite them to do. [...] There is absolutely no benefit for someone in such a position to propose something simple: when you are rewarded for perception, not results, you need to show sophistication. - Skin in the Game, Prologue, Part 2

Regulations, once in, stay in, and even when they are proven absurd, politicians are afraid of repealing them, under pressure from those benefiting from them. Given that regulations are additive, we soon end up tangled in complicated rules that choke enterprise. They also choke life. - Skin in the Game, Prologue, Part 2

Book reviewers are bad middlemen; they are currently in the process of being disintermediated just like taxi companies (what some call Uberized). - Skin in the Game, Prologue, Part 3

Chapter 1-4 Quotes

The ethical is always more robust than the legal. Over time, it is the legal that should converge to the ethical, never the reverse. Laws come and go; ethics stay. - Skin in the Game, Chapter 1

Administrators everywhere on the planet, in all businesses and pursuits, and at all times in history, have been the plague. - Skin in the Game, Chapter 1

My heuristic is that the more pagan, 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. - Skin in the Game, Chapter 2

Science isn't the sum of what scientists think, but exactly as with markets, it is a procedure that is highly skewed. Once you debunk something, it is now wrong. Had science operated by majority consensus, we would be still stuck in the Middle Ages, and Einstein would have ended as he started, a patent clerk with fruitless side hobbies. - Skin in the Game, Chapter 2

Society doesn't evolve by consensus, voting, majority, committees, verbose meetings, academic conferences, tea and cucumber sandwiches, or polling; only a few people suffice to disproportionately move the needle. All one needs is an asymmetric rule somewhere - and someone with soul in the game. And asymmetry is present in about everything. - Skin in the Game, Chapter 2

What matters isn't what a person has or doesn't have; it is what he or she is afraid of losing. - Skin in the Game, Chapter 3

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. - Skin in the Game, Chapter 3

People whose survival depends on qualitative "job assessments" by someone of higher rank in an organization cannot be trusted for critical decisions. - Skin in the Game, Chapter 3

It is no secret that large corporations prefer people with families; those with downside risk are easier to own, particularly when they are choking under a large mortgage. - Skin in the Game, Chapter 4

The only way we have left to control suicide-terrorists would be precisely to convince them that blowing themselves up is not the worst-case scenario for them, nor the end scenario at all. Making their families and loved ones bear a financial burden - just as Germans still pay for war crimes - would immediately add consequences to their actions. - Skin in the Game, Chapter 4

Chapter 5-8 Quotes

Always do more than you talk. And precede talk with action. For it will always remain that action without talk supersedes talk without action. - Skin in the Game, Chapter 5

While rich people believe in one tax dollar one vote, more humanistic ones in one man one vote, Monsanto in one lobbyist one vote, the IYI (Intellectual Yet Idiot) believes in one Ivy League degree one vote. - Skin in the Game, Chapter 6

The way to make society more equal is by forcing (through skin in the game) the rich to be subjected to the risk of exiting from the 1 percent. - Skin in the Game, Chapter 7

When you buy a thick book with tons of graphs and tables used to prove a point, you should be suspicious. It means something didn't distill right! But for the general public and those untrained in statistics, such tables appear convincing - another way to substitute the true with the complicated. - Skin in the Game, Chapter 7

Statistics isn't about data but distillation, rigor, and avoiding being fooled by randomness. - Skin in the Game, Chapter 7

Having rich people in a public office is very different from having public people become rich. [...] It is downright unethical to use public office for enrichment. - Skin in the Game, Chapter 7

Books of the type written by the current hotshot Op-Ed writer at The New York Times may get some hype at publication time, manufactured or spontaneous, but their five-year survival rate is generally less than that of pancreatic cancer. - Skin in the Game, Chapter 8

Academia has a tendency, when unchecked (from lack of skin in the game), to evolve into a ritualistic self-referential publishing game. - Skin in the Game, Chapter 8

One should give more weight to research that, while being rigorous, contradicts other peers, particularly if it entails costs and reputational harm for its author. - Skin in the Game, Chapter 8

Chapter 9-14 Quotes

In any type of activity or business divorced from the direct filter of skin in the game, the great majority of people know the jargon, play the part, and are intimate with the cosmetic details, but are clueless about the subject. - Skin in the Game, Chapter 9

In some fake fields like economics, ritualistic and dominated by citation rings, I discovered that everything is in the presentation. [...] There is a certain language one needs to learn through a long investment, and papers are just iterations around that language. - Skin in the Game, Chapter 9

Just as the slick fellow in a Ferrari looks richer than the rumpled centimillionaire, scientism looks more scientific than real science. - Skin in the Game, Chapter 9

Ivy League universities are becoming in the eyes of the new Asian upper class the ultimate status luxury good. Harvard is like a Vuitton bag and a Cartier watch. It is a huge drag on the middle class, who have been plowing an increased share of their savings into educational institutions, transferring their money to bureaucrats, real estate developers, tenured professors of some discipline that would not otherwise exist, and other parasites. - Skin in the Game, Chapter 9

Very few people understand their own choices, and end up being manipulated by those who want to sell them something. In that sense, impoverishment might even be desirable. [...] To put it another way: if wealth is giving you fewer options instead of more (and more varied) options, you're doing it wrong. - Skin in the Game, Chapter 10

Journalists are currently in the most insecure profession you can find: the majority live hand to mouth, and ostracism by their friends would be terminal. Thus they become easily prone to manipulation by lobbyists [...]. You say something unpopular in that profession [...] and you become history. This is the opposite of business where me-tooism is penalized. - Skin in the Game, Chapter 12

Courage is the only virtue you cannot fake. - Skin in the Game, Chapter 13

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. - Skin in the Game, Chapter 13

No peace proceeds from bureaucratic ink. If you want peace, make people trade, as they have done for millennia. They will be eventually forced to work something out. - Skin in the Game, Chapter 14

History is largely peace punctuated by wars, rather than wars punctuated by peace. The problem is that we humans are prone to the availability heuristic, by which the salient is mistaken for the statistical, and the conspicuous and emotional effect of an event makes us think it is occurring more regularly than in reality. This helps us to be prudent and careful in daily life, forcing us to add an extra layer of protection, but it does not help with scholarship. - Skin in the Game, Chapter 14

Chapter 15-19 Quotes

Mathematicians think in (well, precisely defined and mapped) objects and relations, jurists and legal thinkers in constructs, logicians in maximally abstract operators, and ... fools in words. - Skin in the Game, Chapter 15

There are people who are atheists in actions, religious in words (most Orthodox and Catholic Christians) and others who are religious in actions, religious in words (Salafi Islamists and suicide bombers) but I know of nobody who is atheist in both actions and words, completely devoid of rituals, respect for the dead, and superstitions (say a belief in economics, or in the miraculous powers of the mighty state and its institutions). - Skin in the Game, Chapter 17

Survival comes first, truth, understanding, and science later. - Skin in the Game, Chapter 18

How much you truly "believe" in something can be manifested only through what you are willing to risk for it. - Skin in the Game, Chapter 18

Not everything that happens happens for a reason, but everything that survives survives for a reason. - Skin in the Game, Chapter 18

Never compare a multiplicative, systemic, and fat-tailed risk to a non-multiplicative, idiosyncratic, and thin-tailed one. - Skin in the Game, Chapter 19

Rationality is avoidance of systemic ruin. - Skin in the Game, Chapter 19

Cited Quotes

Deal with weaker states as you think it appropriate for stronger states to deal with you. - Isocrates, as quoted in Skin in the Game, Prologue, Part 2

Act only in accordance with that maxim through which you can at the same time will that it will become a universal law. - Immanuel Kant, as quoted in Skin in the Game, Prologue, Part 2

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. - Geoff and Vince Graham, as quoted in Skin in the Game, Chapter 1

Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead, as quoted in Skin in the Game, Chapter 2

Use laws that are old but food that is fresh. - Periander of Corinth, as quoted in Skin in the Game, Chapter 8

Burn old logs. Drink old wine. Read old books. Keep old friends. - Alfonso X of Spain, as quoted in Skin in the Game, Chapter 8

Give me a few lines written by any man and I will find enough to get him hung. - Attributed to multiple authors, as quoted in Skin in the Game, Chapter 12

The facts are true, the news is fake. - Donald Trump, as quoted in Skin in the Game, Chapter 12

The difference between successful people and really successful people is that really successful people say no to almost everything - Warren Buffet, as quoted in Skin in the Game, Chapter 19