“Fooled by Randomness” – What Brings Happiness?

“Fooled by Randomness” – What Brings Happiness?

Early thoughts from the book “Fooled by Randomness”

Croesus, king of Lydia in Ancient Europe was considered the richest man of his time. So rich till this day, the Roman languages use the expression “rich as Croesus” to describe a person of excessive wealth.

He had a visitor one day…

His visitor was Solon, the Greek legislator known for for his dignity, upright morals, humility, frugality, wisdom, intelligence and courage.

When Solon arrived at his place he didn’t display the smallest surprise at the wealth and splendor surrounding his host, nor the tiniest admiration for the their owner.

Can you imagine that!!!

Croesus was so irked by the manifest lack of impression on Solon’s part that he attempted to extract from him some acknowledgement.

To do this he asked him if he had known a happier man than him.

Solon cited the life of a man who led a noble existence and died while in battle. Croesus prodded for more, Solon similar heroic but terminated lives, until Croesus, irate, asked him point blank if he was not to be considered the happiest man of all.

I like how Nassim Taleb summarized Solon’s answer.

“That which came with the help of luck could be taken away by luck (and often rapidly and unexpectedly at that)”

Deep (for I who often stretch the boundaries of luck). ???

The flip side of that is even more compelling…

“Things that come with little help from luck are more resistant to randomness”

Another deep words which I will often refer to in the future.

I’m not sure if Croesus fully grasped the message of Solon during the conversation but soon he will.

Not long after this conversation, Croesus lost a battle to Persian king Cyrus. Worst of the event was that Croesus was about to be burned alive, yes burned alive. Then he shouted (something like) “Solon, you were right”.

Cyrus of Persia asked about the nature of such unusual invocations and he told him Solon’s warning.

Here’s the twist

This impressed Cyrus so much that he decided to spare Croesus’ life, as he reflected on the possibilities as far as his own fate was concerned.

See the role of luck and randomness

But remember as Solon opined, another thing can happen again and Croesus’ head will pay for it.

I’m still thinking about this narration but I got comment to add now.

Things that come with little help from luck are more resistant to randomness

This point to me is worth ruminating over again and again.

Baring in mind that Solon said this in respect to the question of happiness asked by Croesus even makes it more compelling to think on.

If happiness is your goal, it will be futile to base it on things that are determined by just randomness because they come and go at will and your happiness shouldn’t.

But what are things that are not subjected to randomness or less subjected to it.

A trade with 50% return overnight is surely randomness on your side, on a day it is not on your side, you may lose your capital.

Without doubt, we all seek happiness and even pursue it. To say we might have one point or the other think material wealth is what will bring us such happiness will not be a misstatement. The reality is a lot of us still think so and that’s fine. I know it’s fine trust me.

I wrote a twitter thread once about the need to embrace our cravings and even attain them.

Because attaining is the best mechanism to teach us that what we really want doesn’t lie on this mountain. The earlier we attain, the earlier we realize.

The question “what brings happiness” needs to be placed side by side with this quote again

“Things that come with little help from luck are more resistant to randomness”

Think about that.

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3 thoughts on ““Fooled by Randomness” – What Brings Happiness?

  1. Beautiful! This is transformational. I noticed that those who believe so much in luck are the most laziest. They also wish to be bestowed with the kind of luck of great men. I enjoyed this piece and all the references. I will ponder on Solon’s words.

    Well done and keep writing!

    Reply
    1. Thank you for your kind feedback!

      Let me take one of your points and share my sentiment on that.

      Those who believe in luck may not be lazy, I believe in luck and a lot of my successes can be attributed to luck I won’t even doubt that. I am actually not lazy.

      Tony Elumelu once shared his story (
      https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/tony-elumelu-story-david-alade ) and he simply said the role of luck is often not recognized enough.

      I took that concept further in this other article (https://davidalade.substack.com/p/engineering-luck-can-we-create-our?r=28atk&utm_campaign=post&utm_medium=web&utm_source=copy), explaining how we can dance to the tune of luck.

      Luck plays a significant role in our successes than we may admit and that was one of the things Solon was trying to point out to Croesus.

      The one who because he believe in luck and refuses to work does not understand the language of “lady luck”.

      Beyond that though, Solon was also trying to help Croesus to see that things that rely on luck can often also be taken away by (bad) luck.

      That point made Solon to challenge Croesus to place his values on things less determined by luck against the wealth that has gotten over him.

      I took that further to look into the nature of man’s quest for happiness. We often think of some things as being capable of bringing us happiness but as long as those things are determined by randomness, our happiness can never be lasting.

      In light of that, we must find our definition of happiness in something that is less determined by luck.

      I hope this adds more context to my message.

      Reply
  2. Thank you for your kind feedback!

    Let me take one of your points and share my sentiment on that.

    Those who believe in luck may not be lazy, I believe in luck and a lot of my successes can be attributed to luck I won’t even doubt that. I am actually not lazy.

    Tony Elumelu once shared his story (
    https://linkedin.com/pulse/tony-elumelu-story-david-alade ) and he simply said the role of luck is often not recognized enough.

    I took that concept further in this other article (https://bit.ly/luckengineered), explaining how we can dance to the tune of luck.

    Luck plays a significant role in our successes than we may admit and that was one of the things Solon was trying to point out to Croesus.

    The one who because he believe in luck and refuses to work does not understand the language of “lady luck”.

    Beyond that though, Solon was also trying to help Croesus to see that things that rely on luck can often also be taken away by (bad) luck.

    That point made Solon to challenge Croesus to place his values on things less determined by luck against the wealth that has gotten over him.

    I took that further to look into the nature of man’s quest for happiness. We often think of some things as being capable of bringing us happiness but as long as those things are determined by randomness, our happiness can never be lasting.

    In light of that, we must find our definition of happiness in something that is less determined by luck.

    I hope this adds more context to my message.

    Reply

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