Is the term antifragile new to you?
Our modern world is built on fragile systems. Systems that get worse, not better, with the smallest of stressors. Technology is a wonderful and scary tool. Systems get hacked. Bugs cause chaos. And it all depend on our power grid.
Think about our ‘just in time’ food delivery system, transportation, municipal water, medicine, banks, and even our governmental system. All are delicately fragile.
The lights are on, gas is in the car, food in the fridge, and your baby is healthy. A small glitch or hiccup in ‘normal’ can disrupt your comfort level. When a regional natural disaster like Hurricane Sandy hits, our modern systems become worthless. God help us if disaster ever struck country or world-wide.
Living life is messy even in ‘normal’ conditions. That’s why the preparedness minded work to simplify systems and build redundancy. How do we know if our plan will hold up to the stress of what’s coming? It would be wise to create controlled stressors in normal times to gauge your anti-fragility before all hell breaks loose.
The Problem with Linear-Life-Thinking
Life is not linear. Doing the stuff to prepare and respond to life’s ups and downs will determine whether you survive, thrive, or die. Self-sufficiency never arrives by accident. It’s built through choices. We haven’t left the rat race entirely. Like the rest of you regular guys/gals, DRG and I still have to pay the bills.
Over a year ago, we experienced our own personal SHTF situation. Dirt Road Girl was diagnosed with stage 4 cancer. As you might imagine, we were devastated. Suddenly, one thing mattered. Survival!
Due to DRG’s attitude, prayers from family and friends, and a second opinion from a wise doctor, she’s bouncing back and taking full advantage of her second chance at life. She’s more than resilient. She’s becoming antifragile.
She’s a shining example of what ‘doing the stuff’ is all about. Her fighting spirit motivates me – stops my complaining – causes me to be more honest with myself – teaches me to laugh at life… and death – makes me embrace both my mortality and immortality.
Building an Antifragile Life
No shame in failure – try again – and fail again. Caroline Cooper used the term ‘antifragile’ in an email to me recently. What a great word! It comes from Antifragile: Things That Gain From Disorder, a book by Nassim Nicholas Taleb.
“Some things benefit from shocks; they thrive and grow when exposed to volatility, randomness, disorder, and stressors and love adventure, risk, and uncertainty. Yet, in spite of the ubiquity of the phenomenon, there is no word for the exact opposite of fragile. Let us call it antifragile. Antifragility is beyond resilience or robustness. The resilient resists shocks and stays the same; the antifragile gets better.” [Emphasis mine]
This is not a book review since I’ve not read his book yet. Anti-fragility is what I’ve been promoting on this blog without being aware of the term. (I’m ordering his book today).
How can becoming antifragile make our preparations and life better?
Let’s see, we live in a fragile system/world. A SHTF event, personal or otherwise, will happen. It shakes us to our core. Our foundation is compromised. Paradigms are destroyed. What you thought would work doesn’t. The ‘plan’ and the ‘backup plan’ fail. The map you were told to follow leads you to a bridge to nowhere.
What do you do next?
The SmartPrepper builds anti-fragility. Strategies that gain from disorder and disaster.
Here are some antifragile strategies to get you thinking.
1.) Economics: Decrease your exposure in the fragile banking system as much as possible. A hundred years ago our Federal Reserve (private central bank) started a stupid system that can’t withstand shock. Our fractional reserve banking is too big to fail. Their rules don’t apply to the individual – you and me. If individuals make stupid mistakes, we get immediate results. Failure is a great teacher.
Antifragile Strategy: Invest in tangibles. Productive land, skills, natural health, quality tools, precious metals, and stuff you can’t make on your own. Having the ability to produce potable water may be more valuable gold. You can’t drink gold.
2.) Community: We live in a global community whether we like it or not. Stuff happens in China and we feel it in main street America. Globalization means the problems we face are too big to understand and fix. Government leaders, no matter what their party affiliation, can’t solve problems for you and your family.
Antifragile Strategy: You are the answer for your problems. But you can’t do it alone. You need local community no matter how self-sufficient you’ve become. A bunker mentality will not save you.
Start by building antifragile systems and skills locally – produce real food (even with limited space), make your home a producer instead of a consumer (rain collection systems, alternative and sustainable energy, etc.), buy locally grown real food, and support local producers.
3.) Education: Let me be clear. ‘Education’ is not referring to school. Schools do one thing very well – schooling. Schools are the last places on earth to learn anti-fragility. Students are not allowed to explore their interests. There’s simply not enough time and the overseers can’t allow individualism to take root. Schools are just another too-big-to-fail, propped up government institution that is wildly successful at failure.
“Children do not need to be made to learn about the world or shown how. They want to, and they know how.” – John Holt
[And it won't happen through schooling - me]
Antifragile Strategy: Follow your interests! Homeschooling/unschooling allows your children to follow their passions. Just like any other investment, there are sacrifices that must be made to achieve the desired result.
John Taylor Gatto once said, “Genius is as common as the air we breath.” Schools are not structured to allow genius to be developed. If that’s true with kids in school, the same goes for you as a life learner. Keep learning. Avoid the cookie-cutter mentality of factory schooling – for you and your children’s future. Build skills, then get educated.
4.) Take Risks and Keep Doing the Stuff: Anti-fragility places high value on doing over just thinking. Risk failure. Fail. Try it again. Get it right.
Is this stressful? Indeed! There are no shortcuts to becoming antifragile. There’s no ‘safe’ place. We want to insulate our children from danger. That’s noble to a certain point. But we’ve crossed over into dangerous territory when our protection is smothering. Helicopter parenting, if you will.
Taking risks is an American thing to do. That’s how we built this country. Maybe my view is tainted somewhat from teaching, but I see a growing number of kids that have had risk erased from their lives through government education and helicopter parenting. Free-range kids learn to deal with risks, survive stressors, and gain from their experience.
Antifragile Strategy: Now is the time to practice doing the stuff before an event forces you. I’m a huge proponent of testing gear, knowledge, attitude, and abilities. This alone will prepare you for those pesky unknown unknowns. Even doing the stuff now won’t guarantee success when it counts. But it will greatly increase the odds in your favor when disorder and volatility show up on your doorstep.
Self-imposed stressors help gauge your anti-fragility. Knowledge may weigh nothing, but until you start doing the stuff, your book knowledge won’t matter. There’s a big gap between reading a how-to on blacksmithing and actually hammering hot steel into a useful object.
Here’s some of the ways to start doing the antifragile stuff. Note: Doing this stuff is for healthy people who want to stress their system in a natural, healthy way.
- Part of your plan may be to grab your Bug Out Bag and walk to a pre-determined location if need be. We do what we practice. At least once a week, sometimes more, DRG and I do our B.O.B. workout. That is, we strap on our fully loaded backpacks (72 hour go-bags) and hike around our town and neighborhood (about 3 or 4 miles). If you’ve got a B.O.B. laying in your closet that you’ve never carried, try it. You might find your hips and legs need more practice doing this stuff. We’re not sure if we’d ever need to bug out, but it’s comforting to know we could physically if we had to. [Tip: Don't go all Rambo on your outings. Blend in as much as possible. You're simply conditioning for your summer hiking trip.]
- Stress your body. Anyone that’s hung out here knows that I’m not a fan of conventional workouts (repetitive, boring gym workouts). My plan involves lifting heavy things, moving slowly daily (walking), and sprinting (max effort) once a week. It’s not rocket science. Move in a way that builds functional fitness. If you’re interested in learning more, you can check the Brick House Workout here. Keep your body in a state of randomness.
- Polar dip. That’s right. Taking a dip in a cold water stresses your system. I also take cold showers regularly in the hot months – and occasionally in the winter. There’s nothing like diving into the lake at the Dam Cabin in November, climbing out shivering, and warming up by the camp fire. Sound crazy? You may be surprised at the health benefits. I’m not suggesting you turn your hot water heater into a bar-b-que grill. Just test the cold water to see if it works for you.
- Get grounded. Three years ago I removed the casts (running shoes) from my feet. Now I run in my birthday shoes. My students think I’m nuts. They wonder if I ever step in dog poop – their biggest concern. Barefoot running has taken the stress off my joints, improved my balance, and strengthened my feet and ankles. If you’re considering an unshod run, be smart and invest some time in research. Begin here. Even if you never run ‘naked’, loose the shoes and walk in your yard. Feel the grass/weeds between your toes. There are free health benefits to putting your sole on the ground (earthing).
- Intermittent Fasting: IF has many benefits other than weight loss. Here’s a IF resource I’ve put together if you’re interested. Skipping meals may one not be optional one day.
- Variety: Try new food. Shock you system with occasional wild foods and fermented food. Heck, just stop eating processed junk will send healthy shock waves through the Standard American’s Diet.
- Eat the real stuff: Eating real food is now trendy and revolutionary. We call it organic. It’s really the nutrient dense foods that our grandparents cooked from scratch before our wonderful industrial food machine destroyed our eats. Buying (if you can’t grow your own) local naturally raised or organic plants and animals not only makes you healthy, it your community antifragile.
- Water. Can’t do without this stuff. What’s your system for acquiring H2O? Depending on your city/county to deliver potable water after an event is fragile thinking. Build an antifragile system that improves your life.
- Security. Dialing 911 is an option if your life is threatened. But know that you’re beholden to a response time that may be too late. Take your security into your own hands. ‘Nuff said.
- Waste. Okay, this is a dirty subject, but… I don’t think many of us give it a second thought. When the Sh*t Hits The Fan, what do you do with the brown stuff? We take for granted that our toilet handle will always handle the job and paper work. If our fragile system fails, what’s your plan to eliminate your waste? Outhouse or 5 gallon bucket and a Sears and Roebuck catalog? You may want to look into some type of composting toilet. Just saying.
- Networking. Building relationships with other antifragile people increases your chances of surviving stressors. You won’t need to just borrow a cup of milk from your nurse neighbor post-collapse, she’d be sewing up that gash in your foot from a glancing blow at the firewood shed. Neighboring and networking now is the antifragile thing to do to avoid the rush.
Alright, your turn. What systems and strategies do you recommend for anti-fragility? See you in the comments!