A quick Google search of the word “chaos” will give you this definition:
“The property of a complex system whose behaviour is so unpredictable as to appear random, owing to great sensitivity to small changes in conditions.”
Chaos is a direct result of vulnerability. How well you can handle it dictates how you will move forward, if at all.
There are generally three resulting scenarios whenever we are faced with chaos. The fragile will get destroyed, the resilient will be able to withstand chaos and return to their original state, and the antifragile will not only survive but get better as a direct result. For instance our muscles grow stronger after strenuous workouts and a rubik’s cube gets easier for one to solve with continued repetition.
The idea of antifragility was first introduced by Nassim Nicholas Taleb, an essayist, scholar, statistician, and former trader and risk analyst whose work focuses on problems of randomness, probability, and uncertainty.
In his book Antifragile: Things That Gain From Disorder, he explains:
“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. And antifragility determines the boundary between what is living and organic (or complex), say, the human body, and what is inert, say, a physical object like the stapler on your desk.”
The key to longevity therefore, is antifragility; and the key to antifragility is to embrace chaos, willingly subject ourselves to it, and allow ourselves to learn and adapt.
“Given the unattainability of perfect robustness, we need a mechanism by which the system regenerates itself continuously by using, rather than suffering from, random events, unpredictable shocks, stressors, and volatility.”
Taleb goes on to offer ten core principles by which we can improve our antifragility:
- Stick to simple rules
- Build in redundancy and layers (no single point of failure)
- Resist the urge to suppress randomness
- Make sure that you have your soul in the game
- Experiment and tinker — take lots of small risks
- Avoid risks that, if lost, would wipe you out completely
- Don’t get consumed by data
- Keep your options open
- Focus more on avoiding things that don’t work than trying to find out what does work
- Respect the old — look for habits and rules that have been around for a long time
To be antifragile, you need to play the long game. Subject yourself to short term disruptions so that you can become increasingly stronger and when the unpredictable chaos of life eventually shows up, you will be strong enough to withstand the stress and live to fight another day.