Category Archives: theory

Becoming Antifragile – How To Gain From Disorder


Image Credit: Andre Faria Gomes

Image Credit: Andre Faria Gomes via Slideshare: Antifragile: Lessons Learned

“Wind extinguishes a candle and energizes fire. Likewise with randomness, uncertainty, chaos – you want to use them, not hide from them. You want to be the fire and wish for the wind.”

-Nassim Taleb

Last week I gave a talk at the monthly Catalysts Collective event here in San Francisco on the topic of antifragility. The following points are highlights from my talk.

To understand the premise of Antifragile – Things That Gain From Disorder there are three key areas to consider.

We know what it means to be fragile – to be easily broken. Another way to interpret it is to be damaged by disorder. The world’s banking system is a good example – something left vulnerable to chaos, randomness, and uncertainty.

After the state of fragility comes resiliency. Things that are resilient have the ability withstand disorder. Imagine a structure built to withstand earthquakes. When an actual earthquake occurs, the building (hopefully) remains standing. It does not change.

A great story of being resilient is the phoenix. The phoenix may rise from the ashes, but he rises only to become what he once was before. 

The final state Taleb focuses on is the state of being antifragile.

Antifragility is when something benefits from disorder. While startups are known to harbor an improbability of success, when viewed in increments success happens as a result of randomness, chance, volatility and instability. 

When viewed from the macro level, the startup economy benefits society as a whole. It creates room for opportunity and innovation. Things like volatility and instability are required in order for them to achieve the point of contribution at scale. This concept can be applied to the contribution of individuals too – organic things, like muscle mass, require some level of instability or challenge in order to grow.

I believe that being antifragile is essential for personal revolution.

Some benefits of being antifragile include:

  • Increased confidence
  • Welcomeness to change
  • The allowance of discomfort
  • Possessing a growth mindset versus a fixed one.

Here are  ways to become antifragile:

  • Think of perceived failure as opportunity
  • Lean into fear
  • Embrace community
  • Listen to yourself and to others
  • Seek opportunities
  • Build a strong baseline
  • Use the barbell strategy.

The barbell strategy is a method presented by Taleb. Consider the image of a barbell. The maximum amount of risk you’re willing to take goes on one side. It’s balanced by Maslov’s basic needs (food, water, safety) on the opposing end.

This is a very basic introduction to the basic concepts of Antifragility. If you’d like to learn more, I recommend checking out the book itself or visit the following blogs that present nice summaries and applicable tips for becoming antifragile.

Taylor Pearson – Antifragile Book Notes

StartupBros – How You Can Profit From The Unknown: Becoming Antifragile

Buy – Antifragile: Things That Gain From Disorder (Amazon)

Summertime Reads: The Element, at Work


There are many books written and released around this time of year to entertain us on a hot, sunny, leisurely day at the beach with an ice-cold bevvy at hand. Some of these are written to educate, examine, and create dissent around current affairs, while others are written to inspire, entertain, or encourage us to think outside the box to better make sense of the world around us. Some books even manage to move the reader on a deep and profound level.  I recently devoured a book that for me, accomplished all of these.

The Element, by acclaimed speaker and thought leader Sir Ken Robinson, discusses the basic desire for us as human beings to connect to our individual “element.”  The Element, in essence, brings us to the core of our talent and as unique individuals, what we’re most optimized to do as a productive member of society.

The theme, admittedly au courant, is reminiscent of authors like Chris Guillebeau who encourage a similar aesthetic that our prime place of happiness and productivity exists where passion meets purpose.

In a reverse Marxist twist, Robinson taps into the education system and breaks apart the very formulaic systems created to educate, take stock of our talent, and train us for the job market. He explains that our element cannot be established with the current systems in place. He explains why standardized testing is a fluke on so many levels and convincingly provides reasons why the system’s measurements of strengths and intelligence are broken.

According to Robinson, unlimited variables exist that we do not acknowledge. From the importance of creative intelligence along with other possible “senses” – kinetics, intuition, and balance, to start – we cannot possibly come close to ascertaining a true path for each of the six billion human beings on earth with the methods currently employed.

What struck me repeatedly were the similarities between the flaws in our education system — and the unaddressed flaws in the construct of the present day working environment.

Robinson says:

“The current processes of education do not take account of individual learning styles and talents. In that way, they offend the principle of distinctiveness.”

In the prevailing 21st century business model of start-up culture and the race to IPO the next product, how does this fit in?

In many ways.

We hire programmers as modern-day line workers. They serve as mechanics, tasked with developing solutions and moving repeatedly in a reactive basis rather than a proactive one. Little regard is given to the creativity and underlying passion that this person may have as an individual.

We do not inspire our programmers, developers, managers, salespeople, and even designers to be proactive, to be curious, to learn, challenge, and be challenged. At a hot organization today’s talent is underpaid, uninformed,  yet highly in-demand for the technological advancement they afford.

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V. Context and Supposition

Hand-delivered meaning courtesy of air status-quo.
We secure it in boxes making sense of the world.
Those who find a fit win the best prize.

Is this an excuse for particular behaviours?
I hold dearly to a thread of paths undefined.

Independent thinkers awaken outside of the box.
Circumstantially we’re at risk to lose – or to have  – everything.
I choose beyond measure, unsure if this includes us or boxes.

Creative people seek a place at the table through craft.
In diluted form of luck it drips to the masses.

I saw a photo I shouldn’t have seen
and whip back full of piss and vinegar
upset from the displaced context of things we see online.

I’ve outwardly changed my tune to cancel the noise.
No one will ever know the box I’ve built.

Shiny object or person of affection
game changer or playing games
I’ve since grown tired of hustlers and find no amusement in deriving deduction.

Gray is nothing until it is something, a social acknowledgment signed by both parties.
Until this is proven, we independently choose a path for truth
whomever the guide may be.

Time vested in nothing is a devaluing shade of assumption.
I ask why we burn through people, but maybe I’m the one who does it.
We want it all.

PS I’m not crazy

IV. Symmetry and Sundials

Special principle of relativity: If a system of coordinates K is chosen so that, in relation to it, physical laws hold good in their simplest form, the same laws hold good in relation to any other system of coordinates K’ moving in uniform translation relatively to K. — Albert Einstein: The Foundation of the General Theory of Relativity, Part A, §1

Suspended in time we stand still on a relative moving plane with little regard for rule. In the blank spaces of what hasn’t been said, we each silently regard the potential for the stuff legends are made of.

Two-dimensional reality runs parallel to virtual flesh and blood. We’re composed of blinking synapses that fire on small, colorful cupcakes and the idea of (someday) playing chess in the park.

Oh, the games we play.

Your opportune moves have small meaning on which to be assigned.

I’m a dreamer trapped in fighter’s form, shaped by invisible steel filled on the inside with melting glitter and gumdrops.

Somehow the game intensified along the way, making me feel lost. In our alternate reality the tricks and motives became unclear. Did the broken rules betray us?

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III. Science vs. Magic

Listen to the Science vs. Magic playlist in Spotify

 Have you ever craved something and wished it would appear?

I wonder if you’ll walk in the door. I glance up without realizing the motion has been frequent.

If you appeared it wouldn’t be unexpected. Although I don’t believe in magic enough to think this would actually occur.

I make it sound like I’m sitting here waiting, which I’m not – I mean, it’s not why I came here.

I just like to write about this.

I set my IM status to “manifest” for just short of a year. (Since then I’ve learned that)
It’s hard to manifest things through technology.

Now I meditate on things like purpose, identity, and finding fire.

My home is my base, my enabler. There’s no fire there – just a warmly lit simmer, comfortable and close in the way only time can build.

Are you thinking about me too?

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