How to become Antifragile


From The Archives - I’m going back through the old blog and reposting some of the best articles.

You may know that we named our gym Barbell Strategy for an idea that was raised in one of our favorite books, Antifragile by Nassim Taleb. But we haven't discussed the idea of antifragility lately. I'll share with you some recent thoughts I've had about it.

First, what does it mean to be antifragile, and why would you care about it? Antifragile is a term Taleb coined to mean the opposite of fragile. Something that is fragile is something that is harmed by volatility, stressors, disorder, etc. Something that is antifragile is not just resilient but actually benefits from volatility (is more successful, capable, healthy, etc.). You should care because this concept applies to everything, from countries to economies to businesses to people. You should want antifragile systems around you, you should want to BE antifragile, because volatility is an inescapable part of life. Think about it - when life throws you a curveball (which it will eventually), do you want to fall apart, hold it together, or grow stronger and thrive? What do you want for your kids, if you have them?

I've been thinking about this a lot because I spend a lot of time with my kids. I'm homeschooling them and I let them run a bit wild and get dirty, we don't follow a strict daily schedule, they don't eat grains or dairy, and they don't wear supportive shoes or sunscreen, and okay, go ahead and send the hate mail. But what I'm trying to build for them, for our whole family, is antifragility. I let them hit all the small bumps so that they know how to recover when a big bump hits. There are 3 things that I've identified that make us antifragile: simplicityquality, and variability. And I think these are the very things that are missing from our and our kids' modern, super-structured, high-stress life.

Think about a typical school or work day. It's very complex, shifting from activity to activity or subject to subject, following the clock rigidly, cramming in lots of meaningless activities. There's nothing about it that organically unfolds because a school or an office needs to take care of large groups of people, not individuals. It's also low-quality, without the flexibility to take into account individual needs, with rampant standardized tests or employee evaluations and subsequent performance anxiety, with focus on memorization or answering emails and sitting in meetings rather than meaningful learning and work. Finally, it lacks variability, with days that are much the same, shielded from the natural world's variation in artificially lit, climate-controlled buildings and binding schedules.

How does this apply to the things we concern ourselves with at the gym? Think about simplicity, quality, and variability when it comes to training and movement. We try to keep our workouts simple, based on foundational movements rather than tricks or machines; we take our time to develop high-quality skills and functional strength, and we insert a fair amount of variability (on both long and short time scales) in the ways that we move and train, rather than doing the same prescribed workout each day. Think about nutrition. Simple, whole foods. Sourced for quality - no additives or fake foods, sourced responsibly. Eat a variety of foods to get all your micronutrients.

It's not easy to choose simplicity, quality, and variability in our lives when we are drowning in complexity, cheap substitutes, and repetition. But seek these things out, and I think that you will become more antifragile, and when bad stuff happens, you will only rise from the ashes, stronger.

Michael Deskevich