Many year ago, my brother told me a joke:
“Sometimes, life gives you a high-five.
In the face.
With a chair.
Made out of steel.
Sometimes, life is like that. (In fact, it describes some aspects of my last year rather accurately.)
Ideally, we want to turn adversity into something positive. We have all heard the saying: “When life gives you lemons, make lemonade.”
But how can we do that?
A Martial Arts Lesson on Turning Lemons Into Lemonade
My martial arts teacher likes to point out that there’s no defense. If someone tries to hit you, your “defense” to that sets up your strong offense.
If you try to fight someone who’s good at turning a defense into an offense, you’re screwed. Whatever you do actually improves the position of your adversary.
Someone who can turn a defense into an offense is antifragile to getting punched.
What Is Antifragility?
Antifragility is a concept Nassim Taleb introduced. He explains this with 3 myths:
- Fragile: Damocles is fragile because his life depends on a tiny strand of hair holding up a sword (he loses from stressors).
- Robust: A phoenix is robust since he burns and rises again (he neither gains nor loses from stressors).
- Antifragile: A hydra is antifragile because she grows 3 heads for every head you cut off (she gains from stressors).
If we could react like a hydra to stressors, we’d be virtually unstoppable.
So, a while ago, I experimented with doing just that.
The Antifragility Experiment
During this experiment (which can last anywhere from a day to a week), your job is to turn every lemon you find into lemonade. Start out with minor, everyday annoyances.
Here are a few examples from my Antifragility Experiment:
- I received a hostile email from a reader (lemon). Instead of responding, I turned this into an article (lemonade).
- My doctor made me wait forever for an appointment (lemon). I started reading the most interesting article I could find… and of course, that’s when she finally showed up (lemonade).
- My web builder started to squeeze its existing customers for more money (lemon). I decided it was a chance to save time by stopping to tinker with my website (lemonade).
- I dealt with two coaching clients who weren’t a good fit (lemon). It inspired me to write an article and discourage flaky people from hiring me (lemonade).
Of course, bigger things (like the ones that made my last year challenging) require a much more trained “antifragility” muscle. And sometimes, a lemon is rotten so you just can’t make lemonade with it.
Still, this is the closest you can get to being invincible. So, the next time life tries to hit you in the face, channel your inner hydra and grow from it!