I have been inspired by re-reading Nassim Nicholas Taleb’s book ” Antifragility – Things That Gain from Disorder”. Taleb is a well known philosopher, and to my understanding he is greatly respected among people who really are interested about our future and are living on the edge. And as all great thinkers throughout the history Taleb also has enemies, his insights and opinions are understood to be controversial by most of those people who are in charge of the legacy organizations today. And that’s for a good reason. Taleb is really able to point out step by step, how fragile our current social, political, economical and even personal structures and lifestyles are.
I believe that his new term ”antifragile” is something which has been missing from our vocabulary. Certainly it has some of the same mystical glamour than the notion ”serendipity”, which Horace Walpole described more than two centuries ago as ”a very expressive word”. For me antifragility has become lately a very expressive word and a phenomenon, which helps to explain many of the reasons to our current problems in the society and personal life.
While reading Taleb I have also found a great expression for the lifestyle, which I started to follow a few years ago when I resigned from a well paid institutional job, moved to the country side on the lake, built up my effectual entrepreneurship and began to connect globally with inspiring people living on the edge. My own experiences have helped to understand the fact that antifragile lifestyle is something you need in order – not only to survive – but also thrive while entering the Postnormal Era. But as in nature, where everything evolves, so it’s also fundamental to understand that antifragile lifestyle will be continuously cultivated. And there is no theoretical model, which you could follow, so you have to create your own path by trial and error, piloting and pivoting.
As Taleb says, antifragile gains from disorder and certainly the Postnormal Era is full of disorder, unexpected events, ambiquity and uncertainty. It’s obvious that in this era to forecast the future is a waste of time and what seems robust in a short term is fragile in a long term (like the two different lifestyles of brothers John and George – a bank clerk and a taxi driver – brilliantly described by Taleb in his book). So adapting an antifragile lifestyle might be a clever way to prepare for the challenges of this new era.
What is the antifragile lifestyle then, how can one start to learn and follow it? Referring to the picture above (modified from Taleb, copyright Ilkka Kakko) where some areas of our lives are highlighted, it clearly shows how fragile and antifragile lifestyles are different. Note: categorizing people strictly with these characteristics is a bit provocative and in most cases we all will be somehow “hybrid in between”, but I believe that this approach will help someone to start thinking one’s values and lifestyle. What might look at the first sight robust and resilient might in a long run turn out to become a big catastrophe. Just having a fallacy of being safe and secured will make it even more difficult to figure out the situation, to react and to recover, when something unexpected is happening.