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Home / Articles / Happy Herald / From the Editor /   Founder/PresidentUsing Antifragility to Improve
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Monday, August 9,2021

Founder/PresidentUsing Antifragility to Improve

By Brigitte Lang  
“We are estranged from our own deeper physiology because we are no longer in contact with nature. Instead, we are controlling nature with air pollution, heating and technology, but you have to know you have a depth within yourself which needs to be stimulated. If it doesn’t get stimulated it becomes weaker, like a muscle that’s not being used anymore.”

– Wim Hof

As I’ve been diving into my bucket list, I’ve been introduced to some key ideas for training ourselves. It’s time to shift our habits, as well as the patterns that get in the way of our meaningful work. But here’s a big problem:

1. We set out to do something regularly – exercise, meditate, write, create something, etc.

2. We fail at it.

3. Then we fall apart. We might beat ourselves up, get discouraged, and give up.

This is a fragile, nonresilient approach. Maybe we try this half a dozen times, and eventually think something is wrong with us. There’s nothing wrong with us. The problem is with the fragile approach of falling apart when we fail.

The idea of antifragility comes from Nassim Nicholas Taleb’s book “Black Swan.” The basic idea is that many humanmade systems are fragile. I can relate to that feeling, but I’m also seeing new possibilities since I started doing ice immersion therapy, a way to strengthen our fragile mind and body practiced and taught by Wim Hof, a Dutch extreme athlete known as The Iceman. There are numerous free books and videos available to help us learn how to strengthen ourselves by helping our systems become more antifragile. Human systems have natural antifragile capabilities – when we exercise, we’re stressing the system, and after we recover, we’re stronger and better able to handle that stress. Bones get denser with impact. Lots of natural systems have antifragile mechanisms built in. We can make humanmade systems more antifragile by designing ways that stress will make the system better able to handle stress.

Let’s look at how to apply this idea – any kind of learning, habit formation, physical or mental training, anything where we’re trying to improve something. Here are some key ideas I’ve found useful:

1. Expect stress, failures and crashes.

2. Design the strategies to not only be resilient, but to get stronger with stresses and failure.

3. Start by removing fragility from the system. Examples: smoking, debt, having too many possessions, or being super hurt or pissed when you get criticism or failure.

4. Take small risks often. Small experiments designed to help us learn from failure. Example: every day, I try to get better at doing hard work, with each day being a miniexperiment. I fail often, which means I learn often.

5. Embrace uncertainty, risk, failure, discomfort. These become things to help you grow, rather than things to be avoided or complain about, or things that cause you to collapse entirely. Embrace variability, noise, tension.

6. The attitude is to always learn and get better from failure. Don’t bemoan it, embrace it and learn, improve, grow stronger. Love error. When your system gets stressed, how will it respond to get stronger?

7. Intentionally inject stress into your life – do sprints, lift heavy weights, fast, take cold showers, take on challenges, experiments and adventures. Do small experiments, designed to learn from failure such as training in unprocrastination for the day.

8. Do weekly reviews – use them to learn, adjust and continually improve.

9. Reduce things that make you more fragile. What makes our training more fragile? Complaining, resentment, and similar negative thinking habits. While we might not be able to avoid these completely, we’re going to try to reduce them, to improve our overall resilience and antifragility.

10. We want to give ourselves just enough stress that we can handle and grow from it. Regularly. So training is to put ourselves into uncertainty and discomfort regularly, when we have the capacity to handle it, and then let it help us grow. Stress, recover, grow.

11. Be kind to yourself – but overcome your tendencies. Beating yourself up doesn’t help. It only makes you more fragile. It is tremendously helpful to learn to be compassionate with yourself. That said, it’s easy to let yourself off the hook. So it helps to bind yourself, when you’re in your best frame of mind, in a commitment contract. Tell people, “If I don’t meditate every day this week, I owe you $100.” Or something like that – it doesn’t have to be money.

See opportunities in everything. It’s an antifragile idea to take advantage of opportunities. When good opportunities arise, be able to take advantage of them. For training, see opportunities to practice, and then take advantage of those practice opportunities as much as possible.


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