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Antifragile

Antifragile

Nassim Taleb is a combative and highly original thinker whose work encompasses math, risk analysis, uncertainty, and probability. His book The Black Swan had a profound effect on the world of economics by describing how hard-to-predict and rare events (seeing a black swan in the wild is pretty rare) impact societies.

In his subsequent book, Antifragile, Taleb argues -- and man does this guy like to argue! -- that we must learn how to make our public and private lives (our social policies, personal finances, etc.) not merely less vulnerable to randomness and chaos, but actually “antifragile” — we need to discover how to actually benefit from the realities of increased stress and entropy. He cites the mythological Hydra as a model -- Hydra generated two new heads each time one was cut off.

We often talk about ways to make us stronger, more antifragile, less breakable.

We can never be unbreakable, of course; so much that happens is completely out of our control -- pandemics, natural disasters, the passing of people who mean everything to us.

But but but: we become better because of what we went through.

Taleb cites human bones and muscles getting stronger when subjected to stress and tension. "Whatever doesn't kill us makes us stronger," Nietzsche tells us. Antifragile ideas actually need chaos to survive and flourish. Antifragile goes far beyond the resilient or robust. The resilient resists shocks and stays the same; the antifragile gets better and better.

So how do we do it? How do we become more antifragile?

I think it's by playing the long game. In the end, our health is everything -- it's impossible to do much without it.

So we somehow have to bake into our daily things that might not feel great in the short term; things like eating real food and resisting engineered food, getting outside and moving our bodies, taking time to pause and breathe and be at one with the world as it is right now, and reassessing relationships.

We view all of this through the lens of long-term health.

Randomness and chaos will enter, as they always do. Let's expect them, and not resist when they do.

If you know of and practice ways of being antifragile, I'd love to hear about them!