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About Everything Wiki » Motivation » Antifragility: how to develop and find the good in conditions of stress and chaos

Antifragility: how to develop and find the good in conditions of stress and chaos

22 Jan 2024, 12:00, parser
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What is antifragility

Antifragility is the state of a system in which it improves its performance and thrives in response to chaos, stress, shocks, and instability. This term was coined by Nassim Nicholas Taleb, PhD, a former trader and risk manager.

Being antifragile means Beyond «Sissy» Resilience: On Becoming Antifragile / The Art of Manliness look for benefits in unexpected events, and not just wait them out. A business, a work team, and every single person can achieve this state.

In addition to antifragility, two more states stand out in Taleb's approach:

  • Fragility. The exact opposite of antifragility. The stress response here is dictated by panic and the "hit or run" mechanism. In such a system, everything is so tightly connected to each other that an error in one process can lead to a rapid collapse of everything — as in the domino effect.
  • Invulnerability. The state between fragility and antifragility. A stable system that neither suffers nor benefits from chaos.

To make the difference between the states clearer, Taleb illustrates them using the example of characters from Greek mythology:

  1. Fragility is Damocles. His life depends on the strength of the horsehair on which the sword hangs over his head. Any unexpected stress means instant collapse.
  2. Invulnerability — Phoenix. After death, a bird is always reborn from the ashes. She is not afraid of chaos.
  3. Antifragility — Hydra. If one of her heads is cut off, two new ones grow. That is, problems only make her stronger.

How to develop antifragility

1. Don't be afraid of mistakes

If you are careful all the time and avoid failures, you can find yourself at a complete loss when they suddenly occur. And the result of such a meeting will be unpredictable and destructive. The antifragile system periodically encounters problems, experiences them and knows how to react to such a thing in the future. And she's even willing to make mistakes on purpose. For example, this is what Netflix does. The company periodically attacks Chaos Monkey / Netflix TechBlog own servers using the Chaos Monkey program. Thus, she trains them to find and fix bugs, and also makes sure that the failure of one of the servers will not bring down the entire online cinema. When an unplanned threat occurs, the system will not go down.

It is not necessary to purposefully create problems for yourself at work and in everyday life. But you should not avoid them at all costs or perceive mistakes as defeat — this will slow down your development. Let's say you set yourself a goal to switch to proper nutrition, but because of stress, you once ate a whole pizza for dinner ‑ do not scold yourself and do not give up on plans. Analyze why this happened, draw conclusions and work to ensure that this does not happen again in the future.

2. Don't try to escape from the global mess

It is impossible to prepare for all the turns of life, as well as to influence them. Therefore, thinking about changes for a long time and lamenting impotence is an option that will lead to nothing. An antifragile system in conditions of chaos sets itself the task of maintaining in proper form what it really can, that is, itself and its actions. For example, in everyday life it is food, hobbies, sleep, social circle, order in the apartment. If you take your mind off them and immerse yourself in observing the surrounding mess, there is a risk of turning things under your control into ruins.

3. Don't focus on one option

In an antifragile system, the destruction of one opportunity does not lead to complete inaction or confusion. Mistakes and external difficulties are a reason to reconsider old alternative activities or find new ones. This works with both long-term and short-term plans. So, an antifragile person tries to develop skills in different areas: when one of them becomes inaccessible, he can painlessly switch to another. Or if his plans for the day fall apart, he does not give up, but comes up with something else to do.

Let's say you were going to go to the movies with a friend, and he got sick. You can get upset and spend the day in bed. But it is better to consider several other options: go to the cinema alone, invite someone else, go for a walk in the park or invite a friend to watch a movie together remotely.

4. Avoid risks that can lead to total failure

Trying new things is normal and useful, but only if the risk does not require you to go all in. Instead of a single critical or catastrophic risk, an antifragile system prefers a set of small ones. They can be both successful and unsuccessful, but they definitely will not destroy it completely.

For example, it would be a fragile thing to spend all your savings on buying shares in one company. And antifragile — distribute them between shares of different organizations, while leaving some of the money untouched and putting it on deposit with a good annual percentage. Both actions can bring passive income, but in the second case, the risk of losing everything is much less.

5. Create a stable database

To gain flexibility and risk preparedness, an antifragile system needs not only variability, but also a solid foundation that will save in an emergency situation. A stable base can include a "safety cushion" — savings that will help you calmly survive several months without income. It will reduce the level of panic and powerlessness in the event of reduction or a sharp increase in prices.

6. Use the "barbell strategy"

Taleb means by this term a special approach to the allocation of resources. The antifragile system simultaneously takes multiple risks in some areas and is as careful as possible in others. The comparison with the barbell was chosen for a reason. Safe and risky initiatives are like discs at different ends of the neck: if their number is balanced, it is easy to hold the projectile; if not, a slope to one side can lead to a fall.

Let's say you go to the office during the day and get bored, and in the evening you learn a new profession at an online university. If you find a dream job after studying, you can give up the old one, and if not, you will not be left without money. The risk of losing everything is minimal. Unlike the other option: if you quit your job and only then started studying.

7. Get rid of what is not good

Before you go in search of new ways of development, hobbies and ways to earn money, you need to eliminate what makes you fragile. Think about what habits, things familiar prevent you from reaching your potential. For example, criticizing a toxic friend makes you doubt yourself, going to bed late makes you exhausted during the day, smoking prevents you from giving your best in the gym. Try to remove such factors from your life or at least minimize their impact. One or more changes will help to improve the final result.

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