I’ve said it before on this blog, and I’ll say it many times again: a man must learn to survive and thrive in uncertain conditions.
Survival is the art of preparing for the unexpected. If you find yourself surprised by a sudden change of events and unable to respond, it’s your own fault.
So how does a man prepare for the unknowable?
The most versatile survival tool you can learn is antifragility. This term was coined by N.N. Taleb in his book, Antifragile.
I consider the book essential reading. However, it’s not the easiest read. It’s over 400 pages, contains many nuances, and requires (in my case) several months just to digest the implications of the concept.
So I decided to write up a “bottom line summary” kind of post here.
The most concise summary of the book is found in the conclusion:
Everything gains or loses from volatility. Fragility is what loses from volatility and uncertainty.
In other words, expect there to be sudden & unpredictable changes that occur in your life. Whether you gain or lose will depend on whether you are fragile.
Ideally, you want to be antifragile. Position yourself in a way where you will gain from sudden changes.
Here are the basic categories of fragility vs. antifragility in my own words. Save this page and study it often. Much of your life as a man will be spent working towards putting yourself and your family in an antifragile position.
Read the book for the context and nuances.
- Identify what your peers confidently believe “cannot fail.” Remain skeptical and prepare for its destruction.
- Forget trying to predict the future with statistics. Simply modify your exposure to potential changes.
- Relying on theories is dangerous. Just learn the “rules of thumb” and other practical tricks.
- Do not make your decisions on rational thought alone. Heed your emotions and use rational thought to keep yourself in check.
- Do not think in terms of “true or false.” Ask yourself whether or not you’re being suckered.
- Do not advocate or vote for more centralization at the national level or anything that increases public debt.
- Ignore theories that attempt to explain “why” something is. Just pay attention to evidence-based phenomenons.
- Don’t try to predict the future, just use the rules of thumb that help you avoid making bad decisions.
- Don’t believe claims because they are (internally) logically consistent. Remain skeptical and try to find evidence that refutes the claim.
- The parts cannot be separated from their holistic context.
- Do not study modern ideologies. Study Ancient Mediterranean wisdom (e.g. the Bible)
- Too much explicit knowledge will harm you. Acquire tacit knowledge by actually doing the work.
- Skip the curriculums, guided tours and lectures. Build yourself a large library, travel, tinker with your ideas.
- Stay out of the classroom. Real life + personal library is a superior teacher.
- Erudition is superior to academic knowledge.
- Skip the ancient Greek philosophers (Plato, Aristotle, etc.). Read the Roman stoics, Nietzsche, Hegel, Jaspers.
- Ignore the theories of economists. Religion creates better economic systems.
- Study art, not science. (e.g. read science fiction, not science/futurist articles.)
- Conversations outlast books (i.e. the purpose of books is to capture and stimulate more conversation)
- Soccer moms raise nerds. Give your children time and freedom to explore the library and engage in “street fights”
- Two is better than one. Use one, rent out the other.
- Do not be dependent on corporate employment. Have options for freelance work and stash away some “screw you money.”
- Play the long game; don’t get suckered in for short-term wins.
- Industries change. Universal skills remain. Master a difficult and versatile skill to ensure financial security.
- Don’t take on debt. Venture capital is a superior way to lose your money.
- If your income is dependent on an outside agency, you’re gonna get screwed. Keep your business simple and be able to do everything yourself if necessary.
- If it takes complex infrastructure to launch, it’s too risky. Test small ideas and fail fast.
- Don’t cover up mistakes. Embrace mistakes early so you can course correct.
- Do not engage in (or trust) directed research. Better to tinker and allow for “happy accidents.”
- Do not build (or rely on) centralized systems. Decentralized systems better handle randomness.
- Large operations fall the hardest. Keep your operations small and versatile.
- Don’t let your body become weak as you age. Exercise your muscles now to get stronger.
- Do not use additive treatment (e.g. medications) unless there is serious risk of losing the life. Focus on subtractive treatments (e.g. removing vegetable oil & sugar).
- Muscles do not equal fighting ability. Learn to street fight.
Antifragile Relationships / Communication:
- Don’t try to make friends. Develop your charisma, and people will be devoted to you.
- Relate to others through stories and myths, not ideologies.
- It’s better to be strong than weak.
- Do not trust the advice of anyone without skin in the game.
- Do not make rules. Apply virtues.
- Pain and trauma is an opportunity for growth.
- The acute pain of change is better than the chronic pain of not changing.
- Doing nothing is better than doing something harmful.
- The more nomadic you are, and the smaller your tribe, the less exposed to risk you are.
- Avoid bureaucrats. Hang out with entrepreneurs.
- If you can get fired for speaking the truth, you’re in the wrong profession.
- The middle class dream is for suckers. Live an unconventional life that suits your preferences.