06 Dec Beyond resilience: antifragility. (HECTOR GARCIA και FRANCESC MIRALLES)
As the legend goes, the first time Hercules faced the Hydra, he despaired when he discovered that cutting off one of its heads meant that two would grow back in its place. He would never be able to kill the beast if it got stronger with every wound.
As Nassim Nicholas Taleb explains in Antifragile: Things That Gain from Disorder, we use the word fragile to describe people, things, and organizations that are weakened when harmed, and the words robust and resilient for things that are able to withstand harm without weakening, but we don’t have a word for things that get stronger when harmed (up to a point).
To refer to the kind of power possessed by the Hydra of Lerna, to talk about things that get stronger when they are harmed, Taleb proposes the term antifragile:
“Antifragility is beyond resilience or robustness. The resilient resists shocks and stays the same; the antifragile gets better.”
Now let’s take a look at how we can apply this concept to our daily lives. How can we be more antifragile?
Step 1: Create redundancies.
Instead of having a single salary, try to find a way to make money from your hobbies, at other jobs, or by starting your own business. If you have only one salary, you might be left with nothing should your employer run into trouble, leaving you in a position of fragility.
The same idea goes for friendships and personal interests. It’s just a matter, as the saying goes, of not putting all your eggs in one basket.
In the sphere of romantic relationships, there are those who focus all their energy on their partner and make him or her their whole world. Those people lose everything if the relationship doesn’t work out, whereas if they’ve cultivated strong friendships and a full life along the way, they’ll be in a better position to move on at the end of a relationship.
They’ll be antifragile.
Right now you might be thinking, “I don’t need more than one salary, and I’m happy with the friends I’ve always had. Why should I add anything new?”
It might seem like a waste of time to add variation to our lives, because extraordinary things don’t ordinarily happen. We slip into a comfort zone. But the unexpected always happens, sooner or later.
Step 2: Bet conservatively in certain areas and take many small risks in others.
The world of finance turns out to be very useful in explaining this concept.
If you have $10,000 saved up, you might put $9,000 of that into an index fund or fixed-term deposit, and invest the remaining $1,000 in ten start-ups with huge growth potential—say, $100 in each.
One possible scenario is that three of the companies fail (you lose $300), the value of three other companies goes down (you lose another $100 or $200), the value of three goes up (you make $100 or $200), and the value of one of the start-ups increases twenty-fold (you make nearly $2,000, or maybe even more).
You still make money, even if three of the businesses go completely belly-up. You’ve benefited from the damage, just like the Hydra.
The key to becoming antifragile is taking on small risks that might lead to great reward, without exposing ourselves to dangers that might sink us, such as investing $10,000 in a fund of questionable reputation that we saw advertised in the newspaper.
Ikigai: The Japanese secret to a long and happy life
Héctor García & Francesc Miralles