On the Antifragile Human: Be Tough Now

Written by Brant David

How antifragile are you? Author Nassim Nicholas Taleb coined the term — and explains how you can move beyond resilience to untouchable. Tips, video.

Image Credit: Nick Ducoff

Image Credit: Nick Ducoff

aNewDomain — What does it mean to be antifragile? It means you are way beyond resilient or robust.

It means that, rather than just withstanding shocks while remaining unchanged, you’re able to absorb random, unpredicted, shocking events and use them to become stronger, smarter, better.

You even relish volatility, chaotic times, and stress as catalysts for your own growth and transformation. The antifragile are beyond being resilient or robust.

The concept of “antifragile” comes from bestselling author Nassim Nicholas Taleb, the same guy who wrote The Black Swan. Taleb as an author and thinker is a grand master at showing us that most people don’t know most things about most things.

Although it’s in our nature to look for repetitive patterns in our lives and our world — and some among us excel at finding true ones — we are surrounded and beset by capricious fate, randomness, uncertain probabilities, bad decisions, human error, and the unavoidability of risk. Only once you let yourself become aware of just how little you really know well or can directly control are you able to join the ranks of the antifragile.

 And the Antifragile Shall Inherit the Earth

Check out this antifragile discussion by Nassim Taleb and associates, below.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MMBclvY_EMA?rel=0]

In today’s ever more complicated human world with its expanding machinery, evolving technology, and multimedia immersion, it has become increasingly important to become antifragile. Mankind is rapidly creating and heading into a thrilling but frightening new world in which it looks like only the antifragile are going to make it.

Explicitly taking basic ideas from Taleb’s book Antifragile: Things That Gain from Disorder, how can you start to live an antifragile life? Here are some tips.

  • Stick to simple rules. The only way to competently handle complexity and complications without investing the enormous amount of time and energy needed to master something is to find the simple rules or unchanging principles at the center of a system or experience. You don’t need to be an engineer to be a good motorcycle rider.
  • Build in redundancy and layers (no single point of failure). Every system breaks down sooner or later, and you want there to be backup systems ready to fire up just in case. If you want to be successful as a freelance writer, you need to develop relationships with multiple magazines and websites so that you always have a place to publish your work.
  • Resist the urge to suppress randomness. Don’t conjure up patterns or decide on some rational or divine causation where none exist. If you decide that nothing is ever random, you’re living in an illusory world in your mind. You cut yourself off from growth and opportunity or become an unlikable control freak that way.
  • Make sure that you have your soul in the game. What good does it do you to adopt someone else’s actions without their motivations, or go around parroting others’ words when you don’t really know what they mean or you haven’t decided for yourself that you agree with them?
  • Experiment and tinker—take lots of small risks. Individuals have different risk tolerances, so some people’s “small risks” are smaller than others’. Nevertheless, you cannot live your whole life sitting at your desk, fearing to stand up and walk out your bedroom or office door. But that’s what you’re trying to do if you want to always play it safe and never step out of your present comfort zone and into something a little risky. Small risks and minor experiments are what bring us new knowledge.
  • Avoid risks that, if lost, would wipe you out completely. Risks ought to be calculated risks, not whimsical foolishness. If you have money available to invest in stocks, why risk all of it? Invest just 10 percent of it instead.
  • Don’t get consumed by data. Data doesn’t think for you. It just gives you raw material to work with in order to think for yourself. Being consumed by data can give you thought-paralysis, wherein you’re trying to juggle too much information to no purpose. Today, we have so much access to so much data and information that people can (and often do) have lengthy conversations about things that they know nothing about.
  • Keep your options open. Have you ever had someone ask you, “Where do you see yourself in 10 years?” That’s a meaningless question, because no matter how certain and detailed your vision of your future self is, in reality you have precious little idea what your life will be in 10 years. Accept the reality that anything can happen.
  • Focus more on avoiding things that don’t work than trying to find out what does work. As the old saying from the sales profession goes, “Don’t reinvent the wheel.” Today we have more access to information about what does and doesn’t work in various circumstances than we’ve had before in our history. Utilize it. Don’t take it upon your shoulders to rediscover what countless others have already discovered.
  • Respect the old—look for habits and rules that have been around for a long time. Far too many people today dismiss out of hand all tradition or anything that they deem “old”,  wanting only the brand new or that which they’ve been told is “progressive”. This is an anomie-inducing plague in our modern day world. Music wasn’t invented in the 1960s. Or the 1980s. Or after the dawn of the 21st century.

In Conclusion

Chaos and a shock to your system are coming your way. Maybe not today. Maybe not next week. But they’re coming, because what we can be certain of is that constant change is here to stay. Prepare to grow and have your world expanded by chaos and shock, by stress and volatility, by the inevitable randomness of life. Become antifragile.

Image Credit: John Goodpasture

Image Credit: John Goodpasture

For aNewDomain, I’m

Brant David McLaughlin — aka Brant David — is a Milford, NJ-based senior writer for us here at aNewDomain. Follow him at his +BrantDavid Google+ page. Email him at Brant@aNewDomain.net.