Being antifragile isn’t quite the opposite of fragile.
When placed under a bit of stress, a fragile object breaks easily.
On the other hand, an antifragile object becomes stronger when exposed to stress.
In his book Antifragile: Things That Gain From Disorder, author Nassim Nicholas Taleb expounds on this unique property.
Some things benefit from shocks; they thrive and grow when exposed to volatility, randomness, disorder, and stressors and love adventure , risk, and uncertainty. Antifragility is beyond resilience or robustness. The resilient resists shocks and stays the same; the antifragile gets better.
Here are more noteworthy excerpts, emphasis my own.
Crucially, if antifragility is the property of all those natural (and complex) systems that have survived, depriving these systems of volatility, randomness, and stressors will harm them.
They will weaken, die, or blow up. We have been fragilizing the economy, our health, political life, education, almost everything … by suppressing randomness and volatility. … stressors.
To simply recover from adversity isn’t enough. To be considered antifragile, one must not only bounce back, but bounce back stronger than before.
In today’s world where things are increasingly engineered to be convenient and easy, it might be hard to expect people to willingly seek out chaos, randomness and adversity.
But anyone who wants to adopt an antifragile mindset can start by following these fundamental ground rules.
Focus On What You Can Control, Adapt To What You Cannot
Like a steady ship on rough seas, antifragile objects remain even keeled, whether it be tough times or periods of tranquility.
Consciously focus on the things you can control and embrace the inevitable changes that follow.
For example, COVID is a random, chaotic event. Although one can take reasonable measures to reduce the likelihood of contracting the virus, there is no guarantee you won’t catch it.
So, if you do get infected, what then?
The person with a fragile mindset will bemoan disaster, fall into despair and curse his/her luck.
On the other hand, the antifragile person understands the quarantine protocols and procedures. Although he/she resents these new circumstances, they are prepared and adapt to it accordingly.
The antifragile sees this as an opportunity to re-educate themselves on their body’s immunity or to reflect on this time away from family and friends. They return stronger, resilient, and more appreciative of their relationships than ever before.
Stay alert in good or bad times. Adapt to new and challenging circumstances. Don’t miss the opportunity to take notes and apply those lessons to other areas of your life.
Addition by subtraction, Less Is More
To be antifragile, one needs to be able to “go with the flow”. To be nimble and agile in today’s fast paced world requires a minimalistic mindset. Can you do more with less?
As Taleb described, the incumbent systems have complicated our lives but also trivialized our senses today. Our body and mind have been conditioned under this fragility.
Do not add more things to try and make your life better. Instead, subtract and remove bad habits, practices and elements that fragilize you. It’s time to get sober, quit smoking, eat healthy and stop hanging around toxic people.
That said, do not intentionally deprive yourself of stressors. While long term stress can be debilitating, momentary stressors can help you grow physically and mentally. Examples of positive stressors include physical exercise, fasting or even a cold shower.
Simplify your life and routines. This will help you to survive and thrive in stressful situations.
Diversify And Backup
When a technical malfunction or a blackout occurs, the loss of critical information could spell disaster for many big corporations. To prevent such a catastrophe, there are built-in redundancies like backup servers.
Do not wait till a crisis happens before you start preparing a backup plan. Be sensitive to the changing environment. Do not over-strategize in the present. Always think ahead and keep your options open.
Having options allows you the flexibility to adapt to change easier and take advantage of opportunities when they happen.
Learn new skills or get a side hustle. Start a savings or investment plan.They will come in handy someday.
While I was a professional fighter in the UFC for over 10 years, I took on media responsibilities and speaking engagements. It was a means to diversify my career options after my fighting days were over.
These opportunities opened the doors for me professionally to an executive job that would never have happened otherwise.
Being antifragile is all about thinking differently in how you evaluate and react to problems. Keeping your options open and having buffers will help you navigate volatile times.