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A Man's Guide to Being Antifragile

A Man's Guide to Being Antifragile

Years ago I read Nassim Taleb's, Antifragile...

And his other books. But the term antifragile was actually created by him to explain an organism, system, or even a human, that grows and gains through adversity and catastrophe.

Before he coined the term, the english language only essentially two reactions to adverse events or catastrophe, that is, fragility (breaking because of adverse events), and robustness or resilience etc... (being able to withstand adverse events), but we didn't have anything to explain those things that grow because of catastrophe.

Taleb typically talks about these 3 categories in terms of investing, the markets as a whole, nations, tribes, and so forth.

Certain portfolios actually gain when the market crashes, for example.

Certain companies do the same. They're actually set up to do so.

But he ventures into the realm of the antifragile human, too, especially toward the end of his books.

Being antifragile, as a man, is being unbreakable, it's being truly free from stress, fear, worry.

From a financial standpoint, it's interesting, because you can have too much, which means too many eye balls, or as he says, you're forced to attend black tie dinners and converse with uninteresting people.

There's a sweet spot, where you have enough to do whatever you like, without having to do the things you don't like.

Of course, you can also become antifragile by wanting nothing and having nothing, and thus, having zero fear of losing anything.

There's nothing to lose if you have nothing to lose.

The mistake most make is acquiring things as they grow financially. We identify with the things we own, which end up making us fragile.

We're affected if they were to break or be taken away from us.

Physically, we need to be robust, strong, and in great shape, to be antifragile...

We need to be dangerous, too. To be able to defend those in our care, and ourselves. A weak man is a useless man, far too vulnerable to harm.

But no matter how much we have monetarily, or how great of shape we're in physically, or how dangerous we become, the only way to be truly antifragile, free, and powerful, is to be so mentally.

Understanding What Matters

To do this, you really do need to understand what matters, which society does a horrible job training us to do.

We're taught to value valuables over those things that are so valuable, you can't even quantify them.


If I were to offer you $10 million,  but the catch is you wouldn't be able to wake up tomorrow, you wouldn't take it (or your wife wouldn't wake up tomorrow, or kids, or whatever).

Meaning, waking up tomorrow is worth more than $10mm, or $20mm, or $1 billion.

Having your values set up correctly doesn't mean you don't pursue wealth or power, it just means that you don't need it, you're not attached to it.

You pursue self-improvement and your potential without the neediness of being attached to a specific outcome.

It's not easy to do. It takes awareness and practice. Be aware of what you're attached to, and release the attachment. 

Stoicism with Power

I love that two of the primary Stoics we can read were wildly successful men, Seneca - a billionaire by today's standards - and Marcus Aurelius - the Emperor of the greatest empire the world had ever known. 

These guys strived to improve, for sure, it's not that they shunned wealth or physical health or any of these things we want to achieve, but they weren't attached to it.

They understand that being attached to anything that can be taken away makes you weak and fragile, and that by releasing that attachment, you actually become more powerful, you make better decisions, and you live in the moment, you become truly free.

We think that stress has to be a part of our pursuits. It's as if we're not stressed we don't feel like we want it bad enough or something like that.

But stress exists only in thinking about the future, when what matters is what's going on right now, even the work we have to do right now.

A much better way to live, even work and operate at a high level, is to do the best work and things we can do in a given moment, right now, without worrying about the future.

Just do the best thing right now, and keep doing that forever, while being completely unattached by whatever outcomes we desire or those we dread.

As the Stoics would say, control what you can, release what is out of your control, and love fate - love what will happen, simply because it has happened.

How to BE Antifragile

Let's think about this...

We want to be antifragile, independent, and free, so we can live life on our terms without being so fragile that any event can break us. It's the peak state for a man, but there's a lot that goes into it.

Hedge the downside, while reaching for the stars - as cliche and corny as that sounds. 

Here's a simple road map:

  1. Go for it without caring if you get it. That is, improve without needing the result. We're here to reach our potential, to see how great we can become, but focusing on the measurements of greatness creates fragility, comparison, attachments to things that can be taken from us.
  2. Do your best in a given moment without worrying about the results. Doing the right thing in a given moment, over time, creates grand results anyway. By focusing always on the end goal, we take ourselves out of the moment, we become stressed, fearful, worried, which ends up degrading the thing we ought to be doing in the present. Focusing on the goals and dreams actually makes them less likely to be achieved. It's the work that matters, that's all.
  3. Have no attachments. Never feel attached to anything that can be taken from you, including your life, but especially things, like your home, your truck, your watch, etc...
  4. Be robust and resilient financially and physically. Don't waste money. Keep enough for a rainy day (hedge the downside). Be strong and dangerous, be able to protect and provide (hedge the downside). It's good to take care of the 'just in case' situations.
  5. Practice hardship. Training is the best way to do this. Do difficult things simply because they're difficult - the side benefit is you become more resilient to mortality before it's your time. You also train yourself to love doing difficult things, so climbing out of hardship becomes easier, almost automatic.
  6. Live in the moment. Our fears and regrets exist in the future and the past. We gain peace and strength when we exist only in the moment. We also gain focus and energy. When we're in the moment, doing the right thing right now, the side benefit is that we end up compounding these correct actions into a strong and powerful and successful and healthy life.

Books that will help you become antifragile:

The Black Swan, Antifragile, & Skin in the Game by Nassim Taleb

The Way to Love by Anthony De Mello

Any book or translation of works by Seneca, Epictetus, or Marcus Aurelius

Resilience by Eric Greitens

The Subtle Art of Not Giving A Fuck by Mark Manson

The Lost Art of Discipline by Chad Howse

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