Updated 09 April 2018
BEIRUT: Irreverent, nonconventional and mysterious, Nassim Nicholas Taleb is a controversial, but gifted thinker. Earlier this year, he published “Skin in the Game: Hidden Asymmetries in Daily Life,” his fifth book in a collection of works including the best-selling book, “The Black Swan” (2007).
The book is part of Taleb’s multi-volume essay on uncertainty, titled the “Incerto.” The collection also includes “Fooled by Randomness” (2001), “The Black Swan” (2007–2010), “The Bed of Procrustes” (2010–2016) and “Antifragile” (2012). The books are a reflection on luck and decision making expressed in a unique manner — a fusion of autobiographical sections, philosophical tales, historical and scientific commentaries in non-overlapping volumes that can be read in any order.
In the latest book, he refers to having “skin in the game,” the process of having incurred risk by being involved in achieving a goal. The term was coined by American business mogul Warren Buffet and refers to a situation in which high-ranking insiders use their own money to buy stock in the company they are running.
Taleb began his career as a financial options trader and then worked as a quantitative analyst and managed his own investment firm until 2004 when he retired from trading. Besides being a fulltime author, a mathematical researcher and a philosophical essayist, he is presently a professor at New York University’s Tandon School of Engineering.
In his book, Taleb shows that having skin in the game is important in all aspects of our lives.
Citizens, artisans, police officers, fishermen, political activists and entrepreneurs all have skin in the game, but corporate executives, most academics, journalists and bankers do not — or so goes the premise of the book.
Taleb cites examples ranging from Antaeus the Giant to Donald Trump and shows how the willingness to accept one’s own risks is an essential attribute of successful people in all walks of life.