37 Lessons Actuarial Science Has Taught Me About Life

actuarial lessons
  1. Compound interest is powerful. Start saving early.
  2. Life is a series of likelihoods. Thinking in a probabilistic way will serve you well. 
  3. Risk is unavoidable. To succeed, you must learn to embrace it.
  4. Much of life is random. But thanks to the law of large numbers, doing something enough times can help you create your own luck.
  5. Salary is important, but meaningful work trumps your wage. 
  6. Focus on the things you can control. Let go of the things you can’t. 
  7. Don’t be afraid of uncertainty. A stochastic life is full of colour. 
  8. The self-help gurus that preach you can have it all in life are wrong. There’s an opportunity cost with every venture we embark on. 
  9. Be careful what advice you follow. Question everything. 
  10. The biggest risk in life is playing it too safe. 
  11. Take active control of your life. The proactive stallion beats the reactive rocking horse. 
  12. There are an infinite number of ways to perceive events. Don’t attach 100% probability to your initial interpretation.
  13. Don’t burn bridges. It’s better, in the long term, to stay cool and bite your tongue. 
  14. Don’t be tempted to chase money to the detriment of character. It nearly always turns out bad.
  15. Move. Sitting at a desk all day is bad.
  16. Health, family and friends come first. Work and study are important but not what life is about. 
  17. Beating procrastination is a daily battle. Nike’s mantra of “Just Do It” is a great antidote. 
  18. Things like smoking, being male, poor diet, lack of exercise and and stress equates to a lower expected lifetime. But that’s on average.
  19. Vilfredo Pareto was right. 80% of your success tends to come from 20% of your efforts.
  20. Not all “experts” are created equal. Letters and credentials doesn’t equate to omniscience. 
  21. Learn to say no, when appropriate. Everyone has an agenda. What’s best for you may not be on it.
  22. 90% right and done beats 100% right but unfinished.
  23. Lower your expectations. Happiness = Outcome/Expectations.
  24. Think long term. Particularly with regard to spending and health. The 1973 Stanford study kid who ate the marshmallow is now broke and obese.
  25. What looks like overnight success usually takes years of work.
  26. Consider your circle of friends as a state in a Markov chain. Guard transitions into the “circle of influence” state carefully.
  27. Thinking optimally and rationally, without bias, is a valuable skill. But surprisingly difficult to master.
  28. Failure in life is inevitable (e.g. actuarial exams!). But that’s not what counts. Getting up and readjusting your path is what is important.
  29. Never stop learning. For a successful actuarial career, exams are only the beginning.
  30. Never take the lift when there are stairs to climb. Small habits make a difference.
  31. Be careful with technology, especially addictive smartphones and social media. We are living in a grand-scale social experiment. 
  32. Challenge your comfort zone. But don’t forget to rest.
  33. Time spent with family, especially your kids, is much more important than achieving any work accolades.
  34. Always question the assumptions you make in life. We make faulty assumptions more often than we realise.
  35. Mistakes happen. Ask yourself “will this matter/will anyone care in 5 years time?”
  36. It’s better to choose the pain of discipline (e.g. studying) over the pain of regret (e.g. failing exams).
  37. As a 41-year-old I probably have about 500 months of my life left to live. Stay conscious of that every day.

Share the ProActuary blog!

Mark Farrell FIA PhD

I'm a UK qualified Actuary and currently Programme Director of Actuarial Science at Queen's University Belfast. Prior to academic life, I spent 10 years working as a consulting actuary.

Click Here to Leave a Comment Below

Leave a Reply: