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How to be Anti Fragile

by Akash Karia · Updated Jul. 10, 2024

In this article, you’ll discover how to be anti-fragile.

But first –

What’s the difference between resilience and anti-fragility?

Resilience is your ability to bounce back from adversity—like a rubber band snapping back into shape after being stretched.

But there’s a more powerful concept that builds on resilience: anti-fragility.

This goes beyond mere recovery; it’s about coming back stronger and better than before.

 

What Is An Anti-Fragile System?

Antifragility refers to systems that improve when exposed to stressors, shocks, or failures.

Unlike resilient systems that merely resist shock and stay the same, anti fragile systems get stronger.

  • Resilience: Simply bouncing back from challenges.
  • Anti-fragility: Actively growing stronger because of those challenges.
  • Origin: Coined by Nassim Nicholas Taleb.
  • Relevance: Perfect for navigating today’s rapid and unpredictable changes.

 

Principles for How to Be Anti Fragile

Here are several principles that will help you be anti fragile:

 

1) Embrace Stress as Your Ally

If you want to be anti fragile, then you have to start by embracing stressors.

Yes, that’s right.

Instead of running away from stressors, you actively have to use them.

 

How?

First, by conciously choosing to view the stress response as a tool for growth.

Here’s the evidence for this:

In her studies, Alia Crum found that people who see stress as enhancing — rather than debilitating — experience better health outcomes, higher life satisfaction, and improved performance under stress.

In other words, people who see stress as a natural and beneficial part of life are able to turn the pressure they face from a threat and into a resource.

Also read: Thrive Under Stress

2) The Art of Non-Judgement: Failure is Simply Feedback

Adopt a non-judgmental approach to outcomes, focusing on learning and growth rather than success or failure.

Here’s a personal example:

Last weekend, I took part in my second boxing fight.

I “lost”.

Yet, I left the ring with a smile.

Why?

Because my coaches had instilled me a “non-judgemental” mindset

Win or lose, each is just a point of data.

Viewing setbacks as neutral data points strips away the personal sting and opens the door to genuine growth.

If you internalize every defeat as a personal failure, learning stops.

You get caught up in self-criticism and limit your own potential with beliefs like “I’m just a loser” or “I’m not athletic / smart enough.”

But when you let go of judgment…

You gain the freedom to move beyond the “loss” and use it as a stepping stone.

 

3) If You Want to Be Anti-Fragile, Make Curiosity Your Superpower

Being non-judgemental does not mean that we deny reality when we experience setbacks or losses.

We can still acknowledge them, analyze them objectively, and recognize areas for improvement.

The key difference is that we don’t get trapped in a cycle of self-criticism.

Instead of criticism, approach the loss or setback with curiosity. Ask yourself:

  • What could I have done differently?
  • What can I learn from this experience?
  • How can I be better?

By approaching the situation with curiosity instead of judgment, you gain valuable insights without the baggage of self-doubt.

 

4) Strive To Outdo Yourself: “The Better Than Yesterday” Mindset

The “Better Than Yesterday” mindset thrives on consistent effort.

Strive to make small improvements each day, even if they seem insignificant.

Remember:

  • Progress is not always linear. There will be days when you don’t see major breakthroughs, and that’s okay.
  • The key is to stay committed to the process of learning and growth.
  • Over time, those small, daily improvements will compound, leading to remarkable progress and a sense of fulfillment.

By adopting a “Better Than Yesterday” mindset, you shift your focus from external validation to internal growth.

You celebrate your progress, learn from your setbacks, and embrace the journey of continuous improvement.

 

5) Make Introspection a Habit: Journal. Reflect. Grow.

Here’s the final tip for becoming anti fragile.

Practice introspection.

How?

Keep a journal. It doesn’t have to be fancy, just a space where you can be completely honest with yourself.

Write down your thoughts and feelings. Don’t censor yourself. When you’re going through a stressful period, the simple act of putting pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard) can be help you clarify what you’re feeling, and why you’re feeling is.

Introspection through journaling is a powerful tool for growth because it:

  • Creates Distance: Seeing your thoughts and feelings written down creates a healthy distance between you and your emotions, allowing for more rational analysis.
  • Uncovers Blind Spots: Journaling helps you identify patterns and beliefs that might be holding you back, bringing unconscious thoughts and behaviors into your conscious awareness.
  • Facilitates Problem-Solving: By exploring different perspectives and potential solutions in writing, you can approach challenges with greater clarity and creativity.
  • Tracks Progress: Looking back on past journal entries allows you to see how far you’ve come, celebrate your growth, and identify areas where you might need to make adjustments.

Make journaling a regular practice, even if it’s just for a few minutes each day. It’s a powerful investment in your self-awareness, antifragility, and overall well-being.

 


 

3 Examples of Anti Fragility

Let’s have a quick look at what antifragile systems look like:

 

Biological Antifragility:
Your Immune System

Your immune system is a perfect example of an anti-fragile system.

It doesn’t just recover after fighting off an infection. It adapts. It strengthens.

This is antifragility in action.

 

Personal Antifragility:
Turning Rejection into Growth

Each time you stumble or face a setback, it’s more than just a mistake.

It’s a learning opportunity.

Think of each error as a valuable insight into what doesn’t work, encouraging you to tweak your strategies and behaviors for better outcomes.

Want an example?

Take Walt Disney.

Before building the empire we know today, Walt Disney faced numerous failures:

  • Bankruptcy: His first animation studio, Laugh-O-Gram, went bankrupt.
  • Fired: He was dismissed from a newspaper job for “lacking imagination.”
  • Lost Creation: Perhaps the most crushing blow came when Disney lost the rights to his early creation, Oswald the Lucky Rabbit. Due to a contractual loophole, he was stripped of his beloved character and most of his animation team.

But Disney didn’t give up. Instead, he used these experiences as fuel for innovation:

  • New Vision: Determined never to lose control of his creations again, he teamed up with his loyal animator, Ub Iwerks.
  • Creation of Mickey Mouse: Together, they went back to the drawing board and created a new character, one that would be entirely under Disney’s ownership: Mickey Mouse.

 

Business Antifragility:
Transforming Adversity into Innovation

Soichiro Honda, the founder of Honda Motor Co., is another excellent example of antifragility.

During World War II, Honda’s manufacturing plants were severely impacted.

One was bombed in 1944, and another was destroyed by an earthquake in 1945.

Honda found a way to re-build, but life had more adversity in store for his business.

After World War II, Japan faced severe resource shortages. Gasoline was especially scarce, posing a major challenge for Honda’s business.  Few people could afford cars, and gasoline was rare and expensive.

So Honda innovated.

He recognized a market need for low-cost, fuel-efficient transport.

He began by attaching small engines to bicycles, creating the first motorized bicycles.

These were affordable and used less fuel, ideal for post-war Japan.

His invention was simple but revolutionary.

The motorized bicycles were an immediate success. They met the immediate mobility needs of the Japanese people. They were economical in both cost and fuel consumption.

This success led to the founding of Honda Motor Co. in 1948.

And the rest is history.

 


 

Conclusion: How to Be Anti-Fragile

By embracing the principles of antifragility, you can transform setbacks into stepping stones and emerge from adversity stronger than ever before.

Remember:

  • Make stress your ally. View it as a catalyst for growth, pushing you to adapt and improve.
  • Failure is simply feedback. Extract valuable lessons from setbacks without succumbing to self-criticism.
  • Curiosity is your superpower. Approach challenges with an open mind, seeking understanding and opportunities for improvement.
  • Strive to outdo yourself. Focus on consistent and incremental progress.
  • Make introspection a habit. Through journaling, uncover hidden patterns, gain self-awareness, and unlock your full potential for growth.

Which one was most useful for you?

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