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Nassim Taleb on True Wealth

Here’s some good stuff I read in recent times that might interest you…

Nassim Taleb on True Wealth
Nassim Taleb is one of my favourite authors, and his Antifragile is one of my favourite books. One of this book’s chapters that interests me particularly is titled Via Negativa. Here, Taleb argues that the solution to many problems in life is by removing things, not adding things.

For example, here is a list of things Taleb counts as constituents of true wealth that are all about subtracting things (via negativa) from life than adding –

  1. Worriless sleeping
  2. Clear conscience
  3. Reciprocal gratitude
  4. Absence of envy
  5. Good appetite
  6. Muscle strength
  7. Physical energy
  8. Frequent laughs
  9. No meals alone
  10. No gym classes
  11. Some physical labor
  12. Good bowel movements
  13. No meeting rooms
  14. Periodic surprises

I could check twelve from this list (let the ones I didn’t check remain a secret). What about you? What in the list remains getting checked for you?

Saving a Death
Hospitals could do better than stealing the value of meaningful last words

A month later, I spoke to her husband on the telephone. I asked him what he told his wife in those final moments before intubation. He said that he told her he loved her — and she told him that she loved him. Among all the pain of unanticipated death, it gave him daily peace knowing that their last words to each other were “I love you.”

We measure the complication rates of almost everything we do in the ICU. Preventing avoidable complications is a clear marker of success. Intubation bundles and checklists have been created to prevent complications. But our focus on clinical and quality improvement sometimes forces a blind eye to the deeply human dramas that take place under our watch. Despite the many advances of modern medicine, up to one-third of patients admitted to the ICU still die before they leave the hospital. Stealing the opportunity for meaningful last words is precisely the kind of avoidable complication that ought to be visible to us in the ICU. My intubation checklist now includes this step.

A meaningful conversation can often be facilitated, even in urgent situations. Even if everything goes well and the patient eventually awakes and is extubated, having an opportunity to express love, encouragement, or support before intubation seems to strengthen family bonds. When framed as hoping for the best while preparing for the worst, families have generally welcomed the idea. My second patient’s final words with her husband will linger in his mind — and my mind for years. While we could not
save her life that day, I think that we helped, in some small way, to save her death. I wish we could have done the same for many patients before her.

Casualties of Our Own Success
Excerpt from Morgan Housel’s brilliant recent post on how we are often casualties of our own success

…success is associated with hubris, and hubris is the beginning of the end of success. Some of the most enduring animals aren’t apex predators, but they’re very good at evasion, camouflage, and armour. They’re paranoid. I always come back to the time Charlie Rose asked Michael Moritz how Sequoia Capital has thrived for three decades, and he said, “We’ve always been afraid of going out of business.” Paranoia in the face of success is extremely hard but in hindsight it’s the closest thing to a secret weapon that exists.

The World is Getting Better
Forget Donald Trump or the person you hate the most, here are just three of the fifty ways the world is getting better

1. In 1997, 42% of the population of both India and China were living in extreme poverty. By 2017 that share had dropped to 12% and less than 1% for India and China, respectively. That means almost three-quarters of a billion fewer people are living in extreme poverty in these two countries than there were just 20 years earlier.

2. Early in the 19th century, 12% of the world could read and write. Today it’s 83%.

3. Just 7% of the world’s population lived in a free or relatively free society in 1850. Today that number is closer to two-thirds.

Essence of Bhagavad Gita
Another brilliant book I have been reading is Eknath Easwaran’s The Bhagavad Gita. I came across this book a few months back while searching for an unbiased account of Lord Krishna’s dialogue with Arjuna in battlefield of Kurukshetra.

Here is an excerpt from the book that took me by surprise. I found it super insightful to say the least…

The battlefield is a perfect backdrop, but the Gita’s subject is the war within, the struggle for self-mastery that every human being must wage if he or she is to emerge from life victorious.

Easwaran adds…

Scholars can debate the point forever, but when the Gita is practiced, I think, it becomes clear that the struggle the Gita is concerned with is the struggle for self-mastery. It was Vyasa’s genius to take the whole great Mahabharata epic and see it as metaphor for the perennial war between the forces of light and the forces of darkness in every human heart. Arjuna and Krishna are then no longer merely characters in a literary masterpiece. Arjuna becomes Everyman, asking the Lord himself, Sri Krishna, the perennial questions about life and death – not as a philosopher, but as the quintessential man of action. Thus read, the Gita is not an external dialogue but an internal one: between the ordinary human personality, full of questions about the meaning of life, and our deepest Self, which is divine.

There is, in fact, no other way to read the Gita and grasp it as spiritual instruction. If I could offer only one key to understanding this divine dialogue, it would be to remember that it takes place in the depths of consciousness and that Krishna is not some external being, human or superhuman, but the spark of divinity that lies at the core of the human personality.

If you have an interest in reading the Gita, I suggest you pick up this book.

Addendum: Mental Model Video
Anshul, worried that not many people read his articles on mental models, has been working on a series of videos on this topic. 🙂 I will be sharing one video every week. Here’s the first explaining Complex Adaptive Systems.

Click here if you cannot see the video above

Have a great weekend!

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About the Author

Vishal Khandelwal is the founder of Safal Niveshak. He works with small investors to help them become smart and independent in their stock market investing decisions. He is a SEBI registered Research Analyst. Connect with Vishal on Twitter.


  1. S G Arun says:

    I’ve said it before, I’m repeating it ….Safal Niveshak has become anything but an investing platform. Its mental models, now Bhagavat Gita, Taleb et all. Everything but Investing. Dont get me wrong, all these topics are interesting, but one does not have to come to SN to get a dose of these topics! One expects *some* investing flavor in the articles, but sadly over the years that has dwindled now to practically nothing. What next ? Physical models? How to squat, deadlift and run a marathon so you can be healthy, have good bowel movement and a good sleep? I mean, after all, one has heard the saying a healthy mind in a healthy body. So, before getting to the mental milestone, why not the physical milestone ?

    Vishal, Ashul – get back to Investing topics !

  2. devendra says:

    very nice vishal. if you can read mahasamar by narender kohli.7 parts are there.

  3. Saurabh Jain says:

    Anshul – We do read all the posts on mental models.
    In fact, had bought your book on mental models as well and eagerly waiting for next one.
    When is the second version coming out?

    Also the video version is very good and easy to understand.


  4. OneHedge says:

    The gentleman above doesn’t seem to get the point of such articles. It’s the same ol argument about why a college education with advanced subjects (that one will very likely not use in real life) is necessary to get a good job when you can just get enough experience by working the same amount of time? It’s because often studying such subjects expand your mind and give you ability to reason merits of ideas that one without such knowledge usually wouldn’t. I think in order to become a “safal niveshak” addressing such quality-of-life questions is necessary.

  5. Nice Article Vishal. Enjoyed reading it.Thanks!!!

  6. Ansul,
    Videos are good but don’t be worried that less people are reading the articles.
    I am one of the many people who read the mental model articles that you write. They are good.

  7. Dear Vishal and Anshul ,
    Firstly I would like to thank you both for the keen interest and effort choosing each topic that’s extremely insightful and thoughtful. I have throughly enjoyed reading most of the articles.

    In reference to the mental models, I think these are one for the best. Just a suggestion from my end, why not make podcast of these topics.

    Even a small subscription fee just to ensure the seriousness of the readers would be suggested, hope this is otherwise offending!!

    Thanks always for the excellent articles!!

  8. Excellent article and some great recommendations on books. look forward to picking one of those books and returning here soon.

  9. Reading NNT makes me think of listening to someone who is ready to pick a fight. He reminds me of someone who is quick to refute anything and everything, which sends me to a thinking loop and when I find the flaw in the argument there is no one to listen to what I am to say. :).

    What do you think? Do you agree to all his ideas? Esp. pertaining to letting things to fail? Example letting banks to fail in 2008?

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