The Rise of the Antifragile – Beyond Mere Resilience

The Rise of the Antifragile – Beyond Mere Resilience


Sometimes life can be quite tough. You may experience unforeseen circumstances, you may not have mitigated the risks of your actions, or you may just end up in the wrong place at the wrong time. The point is that it is impossible to predict any given situation or every possible outcome of your actions.


It is part of the complexity entailed in every facet of life. And you know what? This happens for a reason. The reason is to understand and embrace this complexity. This complexity is what created you and what inspired others to look beyond it and create marvels.


Take a look around you. Notice the items in your room. From your laptop to your desk and also the amenities in your house. Look outside your window. Everything you see, all these inventions are there because people embraced this complexity and decided to not only face it but also transcend it. They were inspired by the challenges that this complexity was imposing upon their paradigm and they were smart enough to think, wait a minute, I can make something valuable out of it.


These were and are people like you and me. Living their everyday lives, facing challenging obstacles and trying to have a purposeful reality. Complexity will always be there. It will always try to intrude our emotional state and remind us that nothing is easy, even if we think it is.


So, how do we actually deal with this conundrum?


What is the most effective way to embrace complexity in our lives and keep challenging ourselves even if the circumstances are kind of knotty?


The answer to this question is one and only: You have to be what I like to call antifragile.


The Rise of the Antifragile


Antifragile is a word that didn’t come to me organically. It is a term introduced by the brilliant Nassim Nicholas Taleb, in his seminal book Antifragile: Things that Gain from Disorder.


For me, Nassim Nicholas Taleb is one of the hottest thinkers in the world. He introduced one of these terms in my life that I consider both revolutionary and life-changing. It is like having a question about life and not being able to answer it and there comes a man who reveals all his wisdom and gives you the answer you were expecting for so long.


I am not going to analyze in depth what I have read in this book, because Taleb approaches the term from an all-encompassing angle, trying to answer questions like:


  • Why is the city-state better than the nation-state?
  • Why is debt bad for you?
  • Why is what we call “efficient” not efficient at all?
  • Why should you write your resignation letter before starting on the job?
  • How did the sinking of the Titanic save lives?

I will probably need to write a pamphlet in order to properly delve into the core of these questions.


So, in a nutshell, my understanding of the term is this: You know how human muscles get stronger when subjected to stress and tension? The same way, many things in life benefit from stress, disorder, volatility, and turmoil. What Taleb has identified and calls antifragile are things that not only gain from disorder but need it in order to survive and flourish.


As very elegantly the Economist describes it:

Antifragility is the secret to success in a world full of uncertainty, a system for turning random mutations to lasting advantage.

Here comes the million-dollar question, though: How does one become antifragile? What are the steps you need to take in order to start empowering your antifragile nature?


Well, there is no simple answer to this, but there are definitely some things you should start considering if you would like to improve the way you deal with chaos and complexity in your daily life:


1. Understand what efficiency really means and become more efficient in everything you do


Efficiency. What a widely misunderstood term. I had to go through a lot of stages and career changes in order to understand what efficiency is and how to be properly efficient in whatever I do.


Efficiency is closely related to discipline and focus. It is the process you need to undertake in order to achieve different goals you might have. These goals can range from starting your own business or learning guitar to mastering a specific craft.


Now, why is this related to antifragility? You can consider efficiency as a proactive measure. Or maybe the first step toward achieving an antifragile nature.

If you have the notion of efficiency well established in your mind, you will become more familiar with the notion of chaos as well. Nobody started becoming efficient without understanding that chaos is part of the efficiency equation.

From my early years as an electrical engineer student, when I had to deal with complex mathematical equations, to my latest entrepreneurial days, chaos was the main parameter in the efficiency equation.


If I wouldn’t embrace it, I would become lost and confused. I would probably give up and question my own abilities and existence.


As I already mentioned above, chaos is there for a reason.


2. Become a strategic thinker


Strategic planning/thinking is also closely related to proactivity. Most strategic thinkers are people who are really close to what we call antifragile.

Strategic thinkers like to estimate all of the parameters that affect their actions. They are planning ahead in order to minimize the risk of failure and achieve a great outcome in everything they do. They embrace chaos and use it as a ladder.

They are characterized by the following traits:


  • They anticipate – they wait until there is the right moment to make a bold move
  • They think critically – question everything
  • They interpret – gather a lot of information before developing a viewpoint
  • They develop processes – use automation as a tool to reduce time-consuming activities
  • They align – they engage with the right people
  • They learn from their mistakes – no comment

Being a strategic thinker will get you in a position of antifragility in no time.


3. Inject small amounts of stress in your life


Intentionally try and introduce pressure and stress in your life. By that, I don’t mean long-term stress – the kind of stress that consumes your life and distracts you from your main focus. I mean the kind of stress that releases the right hormones so that your body and mind can activate the antifragility that is built inside them. Typical examples might include:


  • Putting personal short-term deadlines in things you want to achieve.
  • Playing competitive video games with friends.
  • Taking cold showers once in a while.
  • Practicing competitive sports – team or individual.
  • Practicing martial arts.

4. Reduce negativity – Practice via negativa


According to Taleb, “the first step towards antifragility consists in first decreasing downside.” And what is the best place to start? Your social environment.

Stop interacting with people who want to impose negativity in your life. We all have been in situations where we were stuck with people who can offer less than we are expecting.

Being antifragile doesn’t mean that you need to keep hanging around them because you have embraced chaos and you think it is a great way to challenge yourself. Being antifragile means to have the courage to say “enough” and let them out of your life for good. The type of people you should usually avoid are:


  • The excessive braggarts
  • The toxic thinkers
  • The pretentious
  • The megalomaniacs
  • The non-dreamers

5. Consider self-employment


There is nothing wrong with having a job in a company or an entity where you are an employee. Been there done that.


It’s just, whether you like it or not, it is almost impossible to feel responsible for the entity you are working for if it is not yours.


Whatever you do, you know that you will always be vulnerable to the entity’s decisions. You feel that the entity is like the parent who takes care of the important stuff and you are there just to help a bit.


This puts you in a position of decreased responsibility and you end up being hypnotized and exposed to the entity’s volatility.


Becoming self-employed is one of the decisions in a person’s life that actually skyrockets antifragility. Self-employed people are usually:


  • more responsible
  • more proactive
  • more strategic
  • holistic thinkers

All these traits are important components of an antifragile nature and the most compelling arguments for the support of self-employment.




I decided to write this article because I consider ant-fragility one of the most important traits a quintessential mind ought to possess.


I also mention it in my “30-Challenges – 30 Days – Zero Excuses” book, where I state how antifragility has helped me cope with everyday challenges and also embrace obstacles and complex situations. I believe it can help you too. Check it out here.


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Image source: Craigmarker

Adrian Iliopoulos

I am the founder and main contributor at "The Quintessential Mind" - A unique personal blog that offers a holistic approach to self-development. I am striving to create high-quality content by investing in a reality-based form of self-help, informed by a deep understanding of psychology, philosophy and my own personal experiences and social adventures.
Adrian Iliopoulos