Why do we humans feel so lost in times of uncertainty? Because we are.
Planning is a natural tendency for humans, even a need for some people. When we plan, we have the illusion that we’re protecting ourselves from danger–our lizard brain makes us think that.
But uncertainty makes planning impossible because planning depends on predictability, on knowing what’s ahead. And when I can’t see what’s ahead, I don’t know what type of future I’m planning for. As a result, I get stuck. Paralyzed. Anxious.
Years ago, I took dance improvisation classes with Camille Hanson (pictured above). She always said to me, “Don’t think, just do.” It’s true: I was thinking, I was planning. I wasn’t moving because I didn’t know what to do next (key word, know).
So, how do you approach life when you don’t know what’s ahead?
A system (an individual, a company, an economy) is antifragile when stress, shocks, uncertainty, randomness make it better.
Nicholas Nassim Taleb created the term ‘antifragility’ to describe the concept of negative fragility, the exact opposite of fragility–not robustness or resiliency. When something is fragile, it breaks easily. If it doesn’t break even under big pressure, it’s robust. What if pressure renders it even better? It’s antifragile; it benefits from pressure, unpredictable events, and shocks.
A house of cards is extremely fragile: any sort of shock, even a very weak one, will take it down.
A phoenix (the mythological bird) is extremely resilient and robust: it will burn down to death and then relive from its ashes as it was before–not stronger, not more beautiful, not bigger.
A child left on their own when taking their first steps, on the contrary, is antifragile: they try, fall over, maybe bump their head on the coffee table and cry a little. They stand up and try again, slightly adjusting their posture, their eyes on the goal–mom, dad, the couch… And then, suddenly, they’re walking. A series of trials and errors made them better: from a crawling baby to a walking toddler after trying and falling.
Building versus Planning
Planning, by definition, breeds fragility. A plan can only work out when things go as, well, planned. And when they don’t? It fails.
Before the crisis, like many other early-stage entrepreneurs, I had a business plan I was going to follow to launch my business: I had earnings projections, a pipeline of clients, prospecting strategies.
But, you know, things didn’t go quite as planned. So, what now?
In itself, building is antifragile. I do things (key word, do) that, together, will create what I envision. I keep my eyes on my vision and I adjust as I go.
I do something in one direction and see what happens. If it works, I do more of it. If it doesn’t, I course-correct. Or maybe it works but I realize I don’t like what I got, so I redefine my vision.
Because there’s no plan, there’s no failure–only trial and error. I have a vision and work towards realizing it by doing. I try things out. I tinker around, confident that the errors will allow me to improve the process; and the better the process, the better the result.
Building your antifragile self
Who’s leading you?
Identify your inner leader: close your eyes and think about a time in your life when you were at your peak. One of those moments you were thinking, “F**K yes! Life is awesome!” Who were you in that moment? Give that part of you a name.
What do you want?
Create your vision: visualize with as many details as you can the type of life you envision for yourself–maybe it’s starting a business, showing your art at the MoMA, losing 10 pounds, running a marathon…
What does your vision need from you?
As you wake up every day, see your vision. Then, bring in your inner leader and ask her/him/it: what will I do today that will bring me closer to my vision? Maybe you need to make seven phone calls, draw something, eat an apple instead of a bagel, run for 20 minutes.
If not now, then when?
Just do it. Do it for the sake of doing. Don’t focus on the outcome and don’t analyze; just do.
Leap, and the net will appear.
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