How to Become an Antifragile Writer
Mar 9, 2022
Nassim Nicholas Taleb developed the concept of antifragility in his book Antifragile. Antifragility describes something that becomes stronger as a result of an applied stress. In contrast, fragility describes something that will become weaker as a result of that stress.
The following graph by Ravi Mehta illustrates the point:
Babies are antifragile. They are constantly facing stressors from the new environment they find themselves in. On their journey to walking, they grow stronger as they fall and fail day after day. After months of failure, they grow strong enough to walk.
To further illustrate antifragility in babies, Taleb cites a study that concludes that the best way to prevent babies from developing a peanut allergy is to expose them to small doses of peanuts early in their life.
This early exposure to the real world makes them stronger as they have the opportunity to build a tolerance to peanuts. Without the exposure to peanuts, babies become fragile and have a higher risk of developing an allergy. Based on this study, pediatricians are now recommending feeding peanuts to infants.
Of course, Taleb’s antifragile concept isn’t just about babies. Everything from countries to ideas to technologies to careers can become more antifragile.
An antifragile writer improves their writing (and thinking) through incremental gains from small, frequent stressors. An antifragile writer publishes frequently. They receive constant feedback. They change based on this feedback. And, they aren’t afraid to fail.
In contrast, a fragile writer will spend months writing an essay without feedback. When the writer finally publishes the essay, it hasn’t been “tested by the market,” and it isn’t as strong as it could have been. It’s like giving a baby a peanut butter and jelly sandwich on their third birthday and hoping they won’t have a reaction.
To become an antifragile writer, your goal is to more frequently expose more of your writing to the stresses of the real world (ex: publicly publishing your ideas on the internet).
With that in mind, here are two ways to think about antifragile writing:
1. Build A Portfolio
To become an antifragile writer, change your mindset from aspiring to write the best possible individual essay to building the best possible portfolio of posts
This approach takes the pressure off any individual post and reframes your writing as a work in progress
Over time, your portfolio will grow and strengthen into a body of work as you receive feedback, learn, and grow
As your portfolio builds into an interconnected web of ideas, you will be able to link back to old posts and build on previous ideas
A portfolio is more antifragile than an individual essay
2. Know That Your Writing Will Never Be Complete
Your writing will never be complete, so gain the confidence of publishing incomplete work
Conquer the fear of publishing writing that isn’t perfect, and you’ll publish more, receive more feedback, and learn faster
Publishing a few posts that don’t live up to your standards is better than not publishing at all
Just like a baby is willing to fall on their journey to walking, be willing to publish incomplete writing
Babies are antifragile because they grow stronger when they are stressed by the unforgiving real world.
Become an antifragile writer and grow stronger by more frequently exposing more of your writing to the stresses of the real world.