People who influence us

Nassim Taleb, philosopher

As you will see in this post, we like TED talks.  However, we like Nassim Taleb even more. And despite the fact that Nassim gave a talk at the 2008 TED conference, you will not find it on the web.  Maybe because he has accused TED of ‘intellectual dishonesty and lack of substance’. He calls TED a:

“monstrosity that turns scientists and thinkers into low-level entertainers, like circus performers.”

He claimed that the curators did not initially post his talk “warning about the financial crisis” on their website on purely cosmetic grounds. Remember – this was in early 2008, on the eve of the GFC.  He made his first fortune (or what he calls his ‘f__-off money’) as a trader ‘predicting’ the 1987 Stock Market Crash.  He made another fortune from the GFC.  What you need to know is that he did not ‘predict’ either of these financial events – but rather constructed his portfolio to outperform from underestimated events, irrespective of when they occurred.  He did not predict ‘when’, but was certain about the ‘if’.

We admit to being an all-out fan of this bloke.  If he started a cult, we would join.

There are few people in our time who have had the courage to look as deep at how life works as Nassim has.  But not only that, he is prepared – in fact seems to enjoy – sticking it to the establishment.  He almost undermines the quality of his thinking with his personal attacks on weaker minds, but he manages to pull it off.  How does he do that?  Because he is a ‘sceptical empiricist’ – meaning that he does not believe in or talk about what he has not experienced first-hand.  This includes amassing a fortune applying his theories to the financial markets.

But to say that Nassim is a financier would be like saying Mozart played the piano.  The financial markets are just one area in which Nassim has applied and honed his theories.  His most recent book, Antifragile: Things That Gain From Disorder (2012), applies his empirical thinking across many more domains, including medicine and politics.

While he is perhaps best know for his bestselling book The Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable (2007), we do not think it is his best one.  Start with Fooled by Randomness: The Hidden Role of Chance in Life and in the Markets (2001), and then work up to his most recent publication Antifragile: Things That Gain From Disorder.

Be warned, if you have any intellectual pretentions, stay away from Nassim, you will not enjoy yourself.

Want to know more:

Visit his Fooled by Randomness website

Visit his (unofficial) fan page

Dan Pink, author

We measure a thinker not just on how well they deal with a particular topic – but the topics they choose to deal with. We have read all three of Dan’s books, and each one has fundamentally changed the way we think and work – every day of our lives.

  • A Whole New Mind – Why Right-Brainers will Rule the Future
  • Drive – The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us
  • To Sell is Human – The Surprising Truth About Moving Others

Out of the three books, Drive has perhaps been the most influential.

To be honest, Dan is better at writing than talking, but if you are a visual kind of person, then you will get a good understanding of where he is coming from here:

Find out more from Dan’s website.

Simon Sinek, author and optimist

We first came across Simon Sinek on TED (are you seeing a theme).  He gave a talk on ‘How great leaders inspire action’ – and what a great talk – 9.8 million views, and still rising.  We have referred a number of our associates and clients to this talk, and all have expressed their thanks – and passed it on:

What a lot of people do not know is that Simon has also written a great book Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action.  This book takes the theme of Simon’s TED talk and turns it into a practical management manifesto.  Very much worth a read.

Visit Simon’s informative blog.

Stefan Sagmeister, designer

Stefan is a designer based in New York. We came across Stefan on T.E.D. (along with a lot of other people worth listening to), and was cross-referred by our friends at Braid.

He has worked with all the cool people (the Rolling Stones, The Talking Heads, Lou Reed, and The Guggenheim Museum), but I like his personal brand:

“Sagmeister & Walsh is a NYC based design firm that creates identities, commercials, websites, apps, films, books and objects for clients, audiences and ourselves.”

His talk ‘The Power of Time Off’ is about the importance of taking ‘sabbaticals’ throughout your career, as opposed to saving up all your spare time for retirement:

Find out more at his website:

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Estate planning for sole directors of private companies

Estate planning for sole directors of private companies

If you are the sole shareholder and director of a private company, have you thought about what will happen to your business if you lose capacity or die? Failure to plan for this eventuality can affect the financial viability of your assets and leave your family vulnerable – so it is something you need to turn your mind to. Fortunately, there are several solutions that are easy to implement and lots of advice about these issues is available.

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