On Becoming Antifragile

Antifragility is an interesting concept and one that I’ve become much more interested in over the years since it was first coined:

Some things benefit from shocks; they thrive and grow when exposed to volatility, randomness, disorder, and stressors and love adventure, risk, and uncertainty. Yet, in spite of the ubiquity of the phenomenon, there is no word for the exact opposite of fragile. Let us call it antifragile. Antifragility is beyond resilience or robustness. The resilient resists shocks and stays the same; the antifragile gets better.

This property is behind everything that has changed with time: evolution, culture, ideas, revolutions, political systems, technological innovation, cultural and economic success, corporate survival, good recipes (say, chicken soup or steak tartare with a drop of cognac), the rise of cities, cultures, legal systems, equatorial forests, bacterial resistance … even our own existence as a species on this planet.

Fascinating. You would think that we’d be more used to this concept as humans since we’ve long lived with the old adage:

What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.

… right? We may, in fact, become better, stronger, faster, and more equipped every single time we are exposed to harsh conditions and experiences.

But, that’s not always true. Sometimes we come out worse for wear. But hey, we can try, can’t we?

Here are 10 principles that we all can live by that can help us become more antifragile:

  1. Stick to simple rules
  2. Build in redundancy and layers (no single point of failure)
  3. Resist the urge to suppress randomness
  4. Make sure that you have your soul in the game
  5. Experiment and tinker — take lots of small risks
  6. Avoid risks that, if lost, would wipe you out completely
  7. Don’t get consumed by data
  8. Keep your options open
  9. Focus more on avoiding things that don’t work than trying to find out what does work
  10. Respect the old — look for habits and rules that have been around for a long time

In many ways this can be summed up as follows:

Play the long-game instead of the short one.

This is much easier said than done, but, if you want to really become antifragile… then you have to be willing to do what most people do not.