Should you tell the story behind the numbers?

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As Nancy Huston brilliantly explains in L’espèce fabulatrice, our culture and identities — surname, first name, birth date, words, langage, mariage, job, ethnicity, political affiliation, etc. are woven of stories. If facts just tell, stories sell. Religions, political parties, the media and big companies all exploit human penchant for narrativity.

We’re in some way wired to prefer the comfort of a coherent story to the dizzying void of absurd or uncertainty.

Quite unsurprisingly then, quants, actuaries, statisticians, business analysts — generally speaking data-oriented professionals are expected to “tell the story behind the numbers”, to “provide original insights”, to “connect…

Practical arguments to help you choose

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As a skateboarding-illiterate overthinker tempted by skating as transport for small distances, I went through a great deal of research to choose the right board. Here are some practical observations that may help you if you’re in a similar context.

Skate isn’t the easy way

First, from a purely empirical point of view, skating may not be the best option among the different non-motorized means of transport :

  • The skill entry cost is very high compared to a bike or scooter, for instance.
  • The vast majority of boards are not waterproof, so you must not skate when it rains. Depending on where you live, this…

If you shoot for the moon, you’ll probably miss and end up with poor results

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In this article, I show that not all decisions have the same “structuring” property, and that it has an intricate link with path dependence. This fact has important consequences on process optimization through time — consequences from which we can derive project management advice.

Your experience in getting a kidney stone operation first and anesthesia later is different from having the procedures done in the opposite sequence.

Concrete examples sometimes say more than a thousand words — this one from Nassim Taleb (Antifragile) gets you an immediate sense of what path dependence is.

To make the link between path dependence…

Basics that are worth remembering

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Small disclaimer first: I’m not a sports physician nor a professional athlete, so I have no kind of authority on the matter at hand. However, that may make my advice clearer, closer to “real world” issues, and more actionable for novices. I’ve been running for 10 years, participated in a number of instructor-led training sessions, and can’t help but analyse other runners’ stride and habits.

Over the years, I’ve seen what we may call the “running industry” emerge: equipment, fashion, popularisation of race events, blogs, magazines, just to name a few. There is so much information to skim, so much…

How spending more time on first decisions can help you derive more flexible systems while keeping your sanity

Anatomy of a Catch-22

If you buy a house that is an hour’s drive from where you work, no matter how well you optimize your time, you’ll undoubtedly lose 2 hours per (work) day. If you engage with the wrong partner, no matter how zen you are, you’ll eventually live in a nightmare. If you chose a job that doesn’t suit you, whatever the ex-post narratives you’ll reassure yourself with, odds are great that you’ll hit a dead-end.

Because we navigate through time in only one direction, our entire life is path dependent and first decisions set the course. There are foundational choices that…

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Would you capture it, or just let it slip?

I see people quibble endlessly about many things, but surely not about the fact that Eminem’s Lose Yourself is the most uplifting song ever. I’m sure the intro piano notes and the first loop of the guitar beat already give you goosebumps, too.

I used to listen to this track every day on the bus on my way to work. I couldn’t help but progressively turn the volume up, accumulating a kind of inner energy that would burst when the beat drops just after “The clocks run out, times up, over, blaow!”. …

Make of versatility your craftsmanship and go toe-to-toe with your fear

Image by Alexas_Fotos from Pixabay

Let’s kill the suspense right away, here’s my point: counterintuitively, your fears and weaknesses may be your most precious allies towards self-development.

The unstoppable rise of connectivity gave birth to a winner-take-all trend in many domains. It’s probably way harder to rank second at both a chess contest and a MMA championship, but even if you do so, you won’t receive as much economic and social return as the #1 chess player or the #1 MMA fighter. …

Quentin Pierrot

French Actuary | Born-again gymnast | Motivation, discipline, stoicism — You can reach me at

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