Today I want to talk about fragility – and more importantly anti-fragility.
This is a concept I have thought about for many years.
I recently read a book that was written back in 2012 that I believe explains this concept very well.
The book is called Antifragile by Nassim Nicholas Taleb.
Some of this information in this email will come from my own thoughts and some from Nassim’s book.
What does it mean to be Anti-fragile?
To best understand what anti-fragile is, we should look at the word fragile.
When I think of something that is fragile, I think of something very delicate.
Something that you would use extreme caution when handling because even the slightest disturbance can cause harm or breakage.
Glass is a perfect example.
Once glass is broken or compromised, it cannot be restored to its original state.
Despite our best efforts, that glass will never look the same again – and definitely will not return to its original strength.
Things that are Anti-fragile are the opposite of fragile things.
Nassim points out in his book that one may falsely state that the opposite of fragile is strong - something that cannot be broken.
This is actually incorrect.
The opposite of fragile is anti-fragile.
The reason is very important to understand.
Something that is anti-fragile can be broken, stressed, or shocked and still become stronger as a result - this differs greatly from fragility in that fragile things become weaker when broken.
Examples of Anti-fragile
A great example of this is our bodies.
Think of weight lifting.
When you are getting stronger by lifting weights, you are actually putting your body under immense stress.
That stress causes tears in your muscle.
As those muscles repair themselves, they get stronger.
The same can be said of sickness.
As our bodies are under the stress of illness, our body is weakened - temporarily.
As we develop antibodies, our bodies become much stronger.
As we do this our bodies are becoming anti-fragile, because next time that bug comes our way we have been fortified against its affects and can fight it off quickly.
Our bodies can also be fragile if we are not properly taking care of them.
They are designed to be anti-fragile, but harmful things will offset its ability to become stronger from stress.
It is important that we don’t categorize harmful behaviors and group them as good stress.
Am I Anti-fragile?
This is something I have thought about a great deal recently.
When I am faced with a trial, am I fragile or anti-fragile?
Do I fall apart, or regroup and come out the other side much better because of it?
You see this often when someone goes through one of life’s hardest struggles, ie.. loss of a loved one, or a terrible divorce – just to name a few.
Both of these trials can cause us to temporarily lose hope.
I would argue that those feelings are natural.
The real question we should be asking ourselves is: what will I do next?
Will I grow from that struggle or will it send me into a downward spiral?
I have seen it go both ways with people I know on a personal level.
Remember, anti-fragile doesn’t mean you won’t break, it simply means that you will become stronger from that experience instead of weaker.
Is America Anti-fragile?
I believe America may be one of the finest examples of anti-fragile.
From its founding until the present time, it is no stranger to difficulty.
Just from a war perspective alone it has seen immense stress.
From its earliest days, it was faced with an impossible struggle during the Revolutionary War.
It has seen many difficult wars since.
The result, the strengthening of its people, its economy and its resolve.
Not to mention: a civil war, a great depression, the riots of the 60’s, etc.
This list goes on and on – and we can now add the year 2020 to that.
What many people don’t understand about America is that it’s people as a whole are anti-fragile.
That’ doesn’t mean this stress doesn’t leave its mark.
Absolutely these things leave their scar, but what makes us different is our resiliency.
Those marks are things we have learned from and have become much stronger because of them.
It is because we are anti-fragile as a people.
We are able to take those stresses we experience and come out the other side more fortified.
This is what many people that bet against the United States don’t understand.
Even though our current situation seems bleak, I have no doubt our anti-fragility will persevere.
We will become stronger, but to do that it will depend on us – the anti-fragility of ourselves.
We must become stronger inside as individuals.
We must fix our own fragility.
How it Relates to Money
I believe this virus has shown us on a personal level just us how fragile many of us are financially.
Many businesses and households were in a money crunch within 1 week of the economy slowing down.
That is financial fragility.
Not only were we fragile in our savings, but also in our employment.
Many jobs were quickly eliminated – again leaving us in a fragile situation.
The good news is that this situation does not have to be permanent.
In some regard we all have those areas of weakness in our money – or have at least experienced it at some point.
So, don’t feel discouraged if that is where you are currently.
I believe where real empowerment comes is when we have the resolve to fix those areas when they are exposed.
We can bolster our savings.
We can fortify our jobs by either getting into a more stable career or improving our skill so that we are listed with the jobs that are more likely to survive.
Debt also makes us extremely fragile.
We all know that even when the money stops coming in, that those debtors still demand payment.
This struggle is not a desirable place to be.
Sound financial principles are the best way to make our finances anti-fragile.
Use this virus as a lens as you move forward.
We can take the stress it has caused and either become anti-fragile or fragile - it’s up to us.
Look at the areas you were not prepared in and use that as a template for getting ready the next time we see financial turmoil.
It will happen again, it’s just a matter of time.
The good news is that taking past experiences and learning from them will help you for the next financial downturn.
That template can help you create anti-fragility in your finances.
We all know that having stress, volatility, shock, etc. is part of life.
You can’t escape it but you can prepare for it and respond correctly to it when it comes.
It should be our goal to create internal fortitude against the struggles we will experience.
The best time to prepare is before they arrive.
Don’t be afraid to place that stress upon yourself so that you can improve – you can’t become stronger without it.
Use it to make yourself stronger: physically, emotionally, spiritually, mentally, and financially.
It is important to remember that anti-fragile individuals aren’t immune from struggle, they just become stronger instead of allowing it to break them.
Let’s all work on becoming anti-fragile in the important areas of our lives.
Thanks for reading,
Founder of 1911 Apparel