Why anifragility is more important than resilience

Being resilient is not enough!
We need to go one step further and develop an antifragile mindset to survive!

I was introduced to the notion of antifragility through listening to a presentation from Dr Justin Coulson, Australian wellbeing guru (see previous post). Coulson referred to Nassim Taleb’s text Antifragile – Things That Gain from Disorder. Taleb is viewed as one of the foremost thinkers of our time and his book reveals how to thrive in an uncertain world:

In Antifragile, Taleb stands uncertainty on its head, making it desirable, even necessary, and proposes that things be built in an antifragile manner. The antifragile is beyond the resilient or robust. The resilient resist shocks and stay the same; the antifragile get better and better

Antifragile Nassim Nicholas Taleb
Antifragile: Things That Gain from Disorder
The core ideas behind Taleb’s book are interesting and worth considering in this Covid disrupted world. The author divides the world and all that’s in it (people, things, institutions, ways of life) into 3 categories:

The fragile

You are fragile if you avoid disorder and disruption for fear of the mess you might make of your life: you think you are keeping safe, but really you are making yourself vulnerable to the shock that will tear everything apart.

The resilient

You are resilient if you can stand up to shocks without flinching and without changing who you are.

The antifragile

But you are antifragile if shocks and disruptions make you stronger and more creative, better able to adapt to each new challenge you face.

How would you describe your way of being?

How do you want to be?

Antifragile people:

  • Grow from the experience & get stronger
  • Have an antifragile mindset
  • Reduce feelings of being fragile, that is, they are not always trying to stay safe & ignore scary situations and instead harness antifragility

An antifragility mindset has a positive synergy with grit and a growth mindset (most notably these notions were developed by Angela Duckworth and Carol Dweck respectively). In fact, the 3 mindsets combined form a powerful way of being and by understanding these mindsets and practicing them will help us understand fragility, perfectionism and fear of failure.

In the words of Farnam Street blogger (fs.blog) “Robustness is not enough.”

Consider that Mother Nature is not just “safe.” It is aggressive in destroying and replacing, in selecting and reshuffling . When it comes to random events, “robust” is certainly not good enough. In the long run everything with the most minute vulnerability breaks, given the ruthlessness of time— yet our planet has been around for perhaps four billion years and, convincingly, robustness can’t just be it: you need perfect robustness for a crack not to end up crashing the system. Given the unattainability of perfect robustness, we need a mechanism by which the system regenerates itself continuously by using, rather than suffering from, random events, unpredictable shocks, stressors, and volatility.

Let’s grow our antifragility together. Let’s adopt and model an antifragile mindset.

Complex systems are weakened, even killed, when deprived of stressors.

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