The central argument is that as humans we are uncomfortable with the amount of randomness in life and therefore constantly look for (and find) causality where none exists. I see this everywhere. In the venture capital business I come across it all the time when figuring out whether people who have been successful once will be successful again.
Everyone can explain how their success is a result of what they have done – people they have hired, decisions taken etc. – but the truth of life is that a goodly portion of them will have been successful solely because they are lucky. The dangerous thing is when someone who was lucky takes their “lessons” and applies them to a different business.
As individuals understanding where we have been lucky and where success came without luck is critical for our continued development and good performance.
A related point that Taleb makes is the importance of understanding the role of chance in your result when evaluating whether you made a good decision. I.e. the last investment decision I made could have been a bad one even if I made a profit if the only way I got there was by extreme good luck.
As Taleb puts it – you could win playing Russian roulette, but that doesn’t mean it was a good decision to play!