High-Bandwidth Love

I’ve been diving back into the concept of antifragility in a big way. That’s the opposite of “fragile”, according to the work of Nassim Taleb, author of the book of the same name as well as the person who popularized the idea of “the Black Swan” – unforeseeable events that change everything.

One of the big takeaways from that book is that antifragile is not the same as “robust” or “resilient”. It’s completely different: resilience is the ability to come back to the status quo after stress; antifragility is instead the ability to thrive and grow stronger under adversity. Your muscles are anti-fragile, for the most part; you put them under stress, even break the fibers, they grow back stronger than before, not just the same.

Apply Anti-fragility to Relationships

My circle of friends right now is pretty distressed right now. There is a lot of fear and dismay about the state of the world, and when you add the general stress of the holiday season to that it is a perfect storm for depression and worse. In an age of constant digital connectivity, it’s easy to slip into the mode of the quick text message, the thumbs up reaction, the love or the retweet to show solidarity.

Don’t do that.

Or, if you do that, make that the first step towards some more contact. Level up your communication with them. Increase the bandwidth, so to speak:

  • If you would normally like something, comment.
  • If you would normally comment, send them an email or private message.
  • If you would normally email, call them. Yes, on the phone.
  • If you would normally call them, schedule a video chat with Skype or Facebook (blech).
  • If you would normally video chat with them, figure out a time to connect with them in real-time meat-space. That means coffee, or dinner, or a movie, or maybe a plane ticket across the county.

Do it.

That Seems Like a Lot of Trouble

Yes, it is. It makes things more complicated, it takes time. But it also provides you with two things:

  1. You are strengthening your personal connections and network. If you reach a point where you need help, this is your safety net.
  2. You are getting more information about the people around you and their state of mind. The tone of voice that tells you they are sad even though the words are “I’m fine is not something you will hear in a text message.

That last one is especially something that I, personally, am urging you to do because it’s something I wish I did. A good friend of mine took his life earlier this year, and while rationally I know that it is not my fault, the last few text interactions we had haunt me. We tended to communicate that way, through text or through chat unless we were both in the same town at which point our friendship deepened over cigars and conversation.

I will always wonder if I might have heard something in his voice if I’d called instead of texted him. It drives home the reasons why making relationships more antifragile is not only a compassionate service to others – it’s a step towards my own well-being.

You have a whole weekend ahead of you. See what you can do to strengthen those connections, because there’s storm winds on the horizon.

Photo courtesy of Naveen Kadam

bonus: Check out the RSA presentation of Taleb’s Antifragile Talk!

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