Build a solid base so you can take some punches along the way and benefit from them. Life is messy and we have to be able to roll with these punches. Nobody’s life is perfect where everything works out all the time. This is where the concept of Antifragility comes into play and can help save ourselves from ruin and become stronger because of the adversity. Building an antifragile life is something that was ingrained in generations before us and is a concept that we can use to pick ourselves back up during this crazy time. It is the idea that will give us hope that better generations and lives will be built off of this downturn. History has proven this time and time again, that when we face adversity, the strong will survive and be better off.
Let’s explore the meaning of Antifragile, a couple real life examples and hopefully gain some new reflections on the trajectory of our lives.
Nassim Nicholas Talib wrote the book on this subject. You can check it out HERE. The concept that he goes into focuses on areas that actually benefit from negative events. A certain market that experienced severe volatility ended up skyrocketing because of it. A child eating peanuts while growing up doesn’t have a peanut allergy as an adult. Kids exposed to germs and the elements when younger, have a stronger and more robust immune system as adults because of the exposure. The key to the definition is the long term view of a negative event and what ends up happening because of it. I believe that we can use this concept in our everyday lives to strengthen them.
Antifragile in Practice
The best example that I can think of is World War II and its effect on my grandparents. My Grandpa was in the Air Force and fought in the war. He was shot down twice and survived in enemy territory. He was a nerdy kid who was into rocket science and was an entrepreneur early on, owning his own incinerator business when burning trash was a thing. After his experience in the war he pursued all of his dreams. He was tested, he was put into the most stressful situations you could think of, but he wasn’t letting it get to him. He bounced back stronger and built an amazing life after. He married his dream girl and worked at JPL launching rockets to the moon. In fact his name is on a piece of a structure that is still on the moon. He retired from JPL by the age of 35 because his real estate empire was growing so much and he wanted to spend more time with his 5 kids. Three of those kids turned out to be doctors, and when he passed away his real estate holdings were still worth a fortune. I think of his time in the Air Force as a sling shot for his life because he learned to be resilient, he proved to be antifragile.
It’s hard to look at your own life and try to find an area that you benefitted from a struggle. But what comes to my mind is my time right after college. I wasn’t a go getter, I didn’t have a direct trajectory with my degree, and I didn’t really have a passion. I was on my own, and making very little money. I had to learn how to stretch every dollar I made, and I had to have some self reflection on what I wanted to do. I was tested, I had to learn how to budget, and I had to learn how to fight for a better job. I had to really look at what my strengths were and lean in towards them. I was able to find a career in sales, and build on it. I was able to learn how to save, and build on that. Financially and career wise, this time was the slingshot that forced me to dig down deep and figure things out. It launched me into financial freedom and success, and it wasn’t in spite of adversity, it was because of the adversity.
Not Fragile vs AntiFragile
Two sides of the same coin here. We have to have a solid base, we have to live lives that are not fragile. We have to be able to deal with change, loss, life changing events, and understand that everything is constantly changing. Nothing is permanent. 2020 has been a wild ride so far. We’ve been shut down for the majority of the year, with a massive economic downturn, global pandemic, irresponsible media, and irresponsible leaders misguiding us. If this isn’t a test of our fortitude I don’t know what is. Unemployment rates are extremely high, and futures are uncertain at this point. We need to learn from it. We need to see where we were more fragile than we thought as a society, and then bring that closer to home. We need to see what area of our lives needs improvement now more than ever. Whether that’s finances, social lives, careers, addiction issues, emotional stability, stress, we need to find a way to have meaning and purpose in our lives. Not fragile is making it through this time. Antifragile is making it through this time and taking the lessons that you learned and thriving because of it. The hard times are the slingshot pulling you back in order to launch you forward, and it’s up to us to embrace this.
There’s an honesty that you must have to yourself here. Look at your weakest area, your struggles during this time, and strengthen those weaknesses. Turn them into a positive and we can come out of this better together as a society. I am hopeful both locally and globally that we will become stronger through these times.