Best of Twitter: Antifragility, Via Negativa, Imposter Syndrome and more

This is my weekly list of the most interesting tweets I found—with a little commentary from me.

Small Failures Prevent Big Disasters (Antifragility)

If you protect a system, a company, or a child from small failures or stressful situations, most likely you’re setting them up for a larger failure in the future. Ability to deal with smaller/safer failures stresses is important for the system/company/child to grow up to be much stronger. Nicholas Nissim Taleb’s book “Antifragile: Things that Gain from Disorder” is a potentially life-changing philosophy that everyone must be familiar with in these uncertain times. Here is a shorter introduction to the core ideas.

Removing Bad Things Is More Effective Than Adding Good Things: Via Negativa

Removing a toxic worker from a team (or fixing the toxicity) improves team performance much more than adding a superstar worker to the team. Avoiding stupidity will give you better results in life than trying to become very intelligent. Here’s an older tweet recommending via negativa in the context of mental health:

And in fact, this idea applies to all health, not just mental health. And you can get quite a lot of insights by applying this idea to all aspects of your life, not just health. For a more detailed discussion of via negativa see this article from the wonderful Farnam Street blog.

The Importance of Short and to the Point Writing

Successful entrepreneur and VC Shaan Puri has an entire thread on this concept:

Do you think like this before you write an email or a tweet? The most successful people do.

When you’re writing, you must spend far more time on rewriting than on the writing itself. Can you make it shorter? Can you make it clearer? Can you make it a story? Can you add emotion?

Here Paul Graham (founder of Y Combinator and one of the most influential people in the world of tech startups) explains the process of writing and rewriting:

Reading between the lines

Did you know that Neptune was discovered by a mathematician doing calculations on paper and not an astronomer using a telescope? Urbain Le Verrier noticed unexpected perturbations in the orbit of Uranus, deduced that it was caused by the gravitational pull of another planet, and computed the size and position of the planet. He then told astronomer John Galle to look for a planet at a specific time and place in the sky, and that’s how Neptune was discovered.

Here is a completely different example of that kind of deduction. In the 1950s when the US was working on the Hydrogen bomb, one of the important ingredients was a top-secret. Armen Alchian, an economist, used stock market data to see which companies’ stocks went up in correlation with announcements related to the bomb and correctly deduced that the secret ingredient was Lithium. He was forced to destroy this paper and keep the deduction secret because of national security issues.

Do you know other, more recent examples of people deducing important information by guessing from correlated data?

Just for fun

New to Some

(This section contains tweets where there’s an interesting concept that many might know but it would be new to at least some people.)

Do you know about imposter syndrome? Do you ever get the feeling that you are really unqualified for your job? That you don’t quite know what you’re doing and you’ve just been promoted because your boss doesn’t know how clueless you are? Everyone feels like this: If you don’t believe that, read this delightful incident that happened to Neil Gaiman. You need to learn to deal with it: here’s HBR talking about how to overcome imposter syndrome. In fact, as the tweet above says, for fastest growth, do the thing that most triggers your imposter syndrome.

(I’m sure you know someone struggling with imposter syndrome: please forward this to them.)