How to Profit from Chaos: Lessons from Antifragile by Nassim Taleb

“Perhaps being deprived of poison makes us fragile and the road to robustification starts with a modicum of harm.” – Nassim Nicholas Taleb

This is a new, experimental format for Nat Chat. Normally, I’m interviewing someone who broke out of the traditional college and post graduate career mold, but for this episode, I wanted to do something different.

Neil Soni, who came on for Episode 7, rejoined me to do an in-depth breakdown of the book “Antifragile” by Nassim Nicholas Taleb. It’s a book that has come up repeatedly as having a huge impact on people’s thinking and is one of both of our favorite books.

For me, Antifragile completely changed how I thought about work and life, and I use the concepts from it daily. It highlighted why the education system is so broken, how recent grads can get caught by “silent risks,” why we need to stop being so soft on ourselves and others, and a lot more.

Neil and I tried to cover many of the major themes of the book and how to apply them. You’ll learn a lot from our discussion, including:

  • Why you should build up your tangential skills to become more versatile with your work.
  • The importance of incorporating small, positive lifestyle changes to become more robust in negative situations.
  • Letting yourself feel negative emotions and experiences for personal growth.
  • Why you should let your plans be more of a guide, instead of a restriction from other choices.
  • How you can get luckier through positive luck exposure.
  • Techniques for turning procrastination into productivity towards other things

Enjoy! And if you want more on Antifragile, be sure to check out my notes on the book and pick up a copy yourself. Also, if you enjoy this episode format, please let me know on Twitter.

If you enjoyed this episode, definitely listen to mine and Neil’s first episode. It’s the longest one by far, but also one of the most popular, and we covered a huge range of topics including philosophy, books, learning strategies, marketing, beer brewing… it was really fun.

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Show Topics

2:20 – Nat and Neil begin to explain the core concepts in Antifragile and discuss various examples of antifragility in today’s culture.

13:05 – Some thoughts on fragile and antifragile work environments.

15:38 – Various fragility contributing risks that you may be exposing yourself to and some lifestyle variables you can improve to promote personal antifragility.

20:40 – Nat and Neil speaking on recognizing potential vulnerabilities in your career. They are also discussing the importance of building up tangential skills to become more robust and versatile with your work.

23:08 –  How incorporating small stressors into your life can radically improve everything you do, and Nat touching some on a few of the health benefits from intermittent fasting.

35:24 – The importance of recognizing naive interventionism to allow you and others to experience possible, necessary life stressors to promote personal growth.

50:02 – Why you should try to let yourself feel your emotions naturally to learn and grow, instead of immediately turning towards artificial resolution.

54:57 – Benefiting from moments of procrastination and turning procrastination with one thing into productivity towards other things.

1:00:38 – Nat and Neil talking about Taleb’s barbell strategy; practicing extreme risk aversion or extreme risk loving in various situations, rather than taking consistent moderate risks. Also, going into detail on making wise investments with your wealth.

1:06:49 – Becoming more antifragile with your wealth and peer relationships by applying the barbell strategy to those areas.

1:09:43 – Letting your plans be more of a guide and not letting them restrict you from other opportunities.

1:16:40 – Spending more time experimenting with something and failing, rather than learning about it from a set of rules or someone else before experimenting.

1:21:15 – The importance of having a high optionality in various aspects of life to promote antifragility, especially with having time available for beneficial opportunities.

1:28:36 – Nat and Neil speaking on creating more optionality for yourself by removing the unnecessary and being aware of more naive interventions.

1:42:11 – Some closing thoughts from Nat and Neil on “Skin in the game”, which is making decisions based on if you have exposure to the downsides and upsides of those decisions.

1:45:47 – Wrap up and a quick overview of some healthy stressors you can incorporate into your own life.

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