Since ancient times, people have had to survive many drastic changes; thus, humans are naturally interested in any potential capability to know what the future holds. Unfortunately, it’s not possible to reliably and accurately predict the future; it’s an occupation associated with charlatans. Rather than obsessing about prediction, you can use these principles to become the sort of person who thrives on unexpected change.
The author and philosopher Nassim Nicholas Taleb coined the term ‘antifragile’ to mean a quality of things and systems which benefits from change and volatility. Most people confuse this with being robust, but they aren’t the same. A package with glass contents, for instance, would probably be labeled “Fragile: handle with care”; a package containing sturdy metal objects wouldn’t need any label; and a package containing something antifragile would be labeled “Antifragile: please shake”.
So how can you be antifragile? Acquiring options is a key strategy. Take investment, for example; several years ago, few people fancied the suburbs of West Melbourne – the features and amenities were lacking, although the location was great. Now that development is fully underway, house and land packages are very attractive – and much more valuable. Anyone who had availed of the option to invest in this area before it became hot property would enjoy great returns on a small initial outlay, without needing to predict the future.
Explore different perspectives
Everyone wants to be successful, and although definitions of success may vary, we all try to find a path towards that goal. Most people seek to emulate a specific person’s habits or strategies; names like Zuckerberg, Gates, Jobs, and Buffett are frequently floated around in the realm of career and investment advice. But having a prior track record of success doesn’t make your strategy a template to follow; the same people can also get it wrong by failing to adapt and innovate.
In the big picture, you’ll always benefit from the ability to see things from more than one perspective. Businesses evaluating future opportunities will want to view the market from different angles, or growth lenses. The fundamental reason why change can be so disruptive is its potential to shake up our assumptions of what works and doesn’t. Being familiar with different ways of thinking allows you to quickly perceive shifts and grasp emerging opportunities while letting go of models which no longer work well.
Develop many skills
A well-known example of natural selection is the case of the peppered moth. Individual moths can’t change color, but in each generation, dark- and light-colored moths are born. The ratio adjusts to existing conditions by natural selection; during the Industrial Revolution, trees became dark with soot, favoring the dark moths with camouflage while light moths became easy prey. Recently, emissions-reducing policies have shifted the trees to a lighter color and the survival of light moths has increased at the expense of dark ones.
The lesson here is that some changes require you to already possess certain characteristics in order to adapt instantly. Our advantage over moths is that we can potentially learn skills which help us to thrive in new conditions – but doing so takes time. You could fall behind if you only start developing skills in response to change; be proactive, and diversify your skill set all the time.
The strategies which work today or have worked in the past may be rendered obsolete by tomorrow’s unpredictable changes. We can’t predict the future, but you can develop these intrinsic qualities to make change work in your favor.