becoming antifragile

“Difficulty is what wakes up the genius.”

― Nassim Nicholas Taleb, Antifragile: Things That Gain from Disorder

According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, fragile is

  1. easily broken or destroyed 
  2. constitutionally delicate: lacking in vigor 

When subjected to volatile situations, fragile things break. But there are times when volatility ends up benefiting the object instead of degrading it. The concept of antifragility applies to things that benefit from harm caused by volatile and adverse circumstances. Unlike fragile things that break under stress, antifragile things gain advantage and become better.

Some good examples are: coal undergoing immense heat and pressure over time to become a priceless piece of diamond, or the rock or a piece of marble that has to go to countless blows of the chisel, till it becomes a beautiful piece of art. 

Antifragility is fueled by unity. Even if the individual components may be fragile, when they get together, they can build a system that can be highly antifragile in nature. For instance, people or businesses themselves can be considered fragile on their own, but when they work harmoniously in a system, they become unbeatable. When faced with a misfortune or natural calamity, people tend to unite and hence gain strength.

We can train both our body and mind to be antifragile. The quality of an antifragile system is that it not only strengthens you when you face stresses or shockers, but also prepares you for any future possible adversities. This happens by the principle of overcompensation, which is the hallmark of antifragility: Strength develops by overcompensating against adversities. 

Antifragility may give you an added physical and mental strength, which you may not need right now. Hence, the time and energy that you spend cultivating the strength may seem futile and lacking intention.  But if a situation demands in future where you are subjected to use it, whether it be carrying a huge piece of furniture when you move or facing a big obstacle in your business where you need to come up with a quick and effective solution, all these efforts to become antifragile pay off. 

If you want to achieve and maintain extraordinary success in this ever-changing and unpredictable world then antifragility is the most useful skill that you can develop. The antifragility that develops from the chaos around us actually helps us in preparing ourselves so that the next time the same situation or circumstances arise we are better equipped and ready to face them. In this way, antifragility can act as a very valuable instrument in converting chaos to order and making us stronger and wiser in the process.

PS: If you enjoyed reading this essay and are inclined to learn the essential tools and strategies of Stoicism in these uncertain and difficult times, I encourage you to read my eBook Stoic Life which is the third book in the Meditations for the Learning Mind Series. Through this book, you can be in tune with the Stoic philosophy on a daily basis as you face the challenges of everyday life with practical wisdom and inner fortitude. The wisdom of great philosophers such as Epictetus, Seneca and Marcus Aurelius as well as modern authors such as Ryan Holiday and Donald Robertson has been distilled in a form that is easy to digest and consume (even if you’re not a reader!).  The condensed timeless knowledge in these meditations will guide you in navigating through the complexities that come with modern living, and help you in your quest to living a virtuous and meaningful life, especially in this global health crisis.