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Thursday, May 12, 2016

Trial, error, and antifragility

I was looking for the transcript for the Brainstorm event with Christopher Hallpike when I came across the one from last October with Mike Cernovich. I started looking it over, and before I knew it, I found myself 14 pages in. It's full of good advice from Mike, and it includes me talking about how I've applied his advice, both from Gorilla Mindset and from watching his example.

Here is a brief selection from it. I should be able to send it out in epub format to the Brainstorm members next week. The transcript for the Steve Keen event will probably go out around the same time.
QUESTION: I am reading Antifragile by Nassim Nicholas Taleb and find the way of going through life by trial and error interesting. Will you both agree on that?

MIKE: My two-part answer to that would be, and I talked about this at the seminar I had the other day, is that life is not like a dance but a wrestling match. That’s a quote from Mark Twain. As for trial and error, you have to let life push back. A lot of people say how do I find my talents? How do I find what I am good at? How do I find my passion? Reality is going to push back at you, and that is where you are going to figure out whether you are good or not. That is where trial and error comes in. So, yeah, I am a huge believer in trial and error. Vox has talked about failing quickly, which is another thing that I believe in.

Let's say, for example, you want to be really good at something. This is the way that I think you need to go about things. You need to try a lot of things until you find out something that you have the potential to be world-class at. I think everybody has the potential to be really good at something. It might not be the same thing, but there is something inside of you. Everybody has a gift if you try everything, but if you don't try enough things then you are not going to find out what you are good at and what you're not good at. For example, I always liked boxing. I was pretty good at boxing, but I would never have been an elite guy. Maybe if I fought really hard I could have been on ESPN once or twice on an undercard, but I never would have been a world-class boxer. So I said, well I am not going to get my head beaten in much longer for something I will never be elite at. How my business model works is that every time I get negative attention, every time I get conflict, I get stronger, my websites get stronger, and I sell more books.

VOX: I think that for both of us, being antifragile is particularly important because we are so targeted by SJWs who are constantly trying to disqualify, discredit, and disemploye. They can't fire you from your job. They can't fire me from my job. It is just not possible. That is exactly what being antifragile is.

MIKE: But more than that, the more they attack, the more your web traffic grows.

VOX: That is true as well, but the important thing, the important concept, is to allow yourself to live life in an antifragile way, because antifragility is about more than politics and personal enemies. You want to be antifragile with regards to the economy, changes in your personal life, and even the people around you. For me, the trial and error concept is vital because one of the biggest flaws that I see in a lot of the intelligent people around me is that they are constantly trying to work out the perfect plan. That just doesn't work. Like Mike Tyson said, everyone has a plan until they get punched in the face. That is the situation that most of us are in with our businesses, or with our jobs. We all have a plan, and we all try to come up with an idea that will work, but then reality so often throws you a curveball that you can't plan for.

MIKE: I was just re-emphasizing that point which is you're not going to know what you're good at until life decides what you're good at. We don't really have unlimited potential for anything. Some things we are going to be better at and some things we are going to be terrible at and some things no matter how hard you try, how hard you practice, you're never going to be great at. That is why instead of sitting around thinking well in ten years here is what I am going to be, you need to be thinking in ten minutes here is what I am going to do and I am going to do it. You will find out real quick if that is going to work out for you.
I highly recommend both Antifragile and Gorilla Mindset. They are very, very different books, but they will both affect your thinking in positive ways. And speaking of Brainstorm, we'll probably hold the monthly closed event sometime next week. There is much to discuss.

Labels:

58 Comments:

Blogger The Kurgan May 12, 2016 6:05 AM  

I think most people truly ignore the lowest tech aspects of antifragility.
The average person doesn't realise at all that people in 1938 were mostly not expecting to have bombs drop on them in a couple of years.

Shotgun shells, gold coins and food are not a bad idea to always have available

Anonymous Sensei May 12, 2016 6:38 AM  

I enjoyed Mike's book and should probably reread it soon, but Antifragile actually succeeded in deeply altering my perspective on life.

Anyone intelligent enough to pick out the paradigm-shifting ideas from Taleb's rambling and amusingly arrogant style would be remiss in not doing so, it's like suddenly being able to see an extra color you'd somehow missed all your life.

Blogger Phillip George May 12, 2016 6:44 AM  

yeah, and I think the pyramids got built because a very lot of people who were really quite ordinary at their jobs just kept at it. With dust, fleas and shitty wages. There was something bigger than all of them combined.

they still hold the record

Blogger Orville May 12, 2016 7:19 AM  

The time spent reading you, Mike and Scott Adams has been very transformative. I'd add Persuasion by Robert Cialdini in too, as it dovetails with your comments on rhetoric showing that effective persuasion is not based on rationality. I just formed an LLC this week and will be taking the plunge in finding an online brand and theme. Looking forward to failing towards success.

Blogger Orville May 12, 2016 7:22 AM  

That online branding was all prompted by reading "Antifragile" as I'm seeking to build up multiple sources of income. Each one doesn't have to be a lot, but accumulative. Plus it allows for me to find which one I'm most effective at and focus on it.

Blogger Thomas Davidsmeier May 12, 2016 7:31 AM  

I got Gorilla Mindset as a free audiobook for signing up for Audible for a free trial. I thought I was going to dislike it because as a Christian, I tend to find most psychology type stuff to be useless Satanic drivel.

I was more than pleasantly surprised. Most of the advice about "visualization" and "mantras" and the how to's can be approached from a Christian point of view. Mike is repeatedly (hypnotically?) says that he is writing to book to help the reader live the life they want to, not the life that Mike thinks they should. So, his advice is general and applicable to all sorts of different personal situations. After finishing it, I think he did a really admirable job of reaching this particular goal.

I have not implemented even a fraction of what I should have from the book, and some of the stuff that I have kept doing is the silliest seeming things (cold showers, posture, and breathing stuff). I am going to go back and listen to it all again and buckle down.

Blogger Nate May 12, 2016 7:33 AM  

Anti-Fragile is a new phrase for a very old concept... which our grand-fathers would've called "The Position of Fuck You".

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xdfeXqHFmPI

Blogger Thomas Davidsmeier May 12, 2016 7:34 AM  

So, in summary,

Gorilla Mindset != Useless Satanic Drival

Anonymous Baseball Savant May 12, 2016 7:47 AM  

VD,

Is there a way for us to purchase the transcript?

Blogger VD May 12, 2016 7:48 AM  

Is there a way for us to purchase the transcript?

We'll make it available at Castalia House for $4.99.

Blogger BassmanCO May 12, 2016 7:51 AM  

Nate, is the rest of the movie that good?

Anonymous Baseball Savant May 12, 2016 7:53 AM  

VD,

Great. Thank you.

Blogger Nate May 12, 2016 7:55 AM  

"Gorilla Mindset != Useless Satanic Drival"

That's certainly a matter of opinion. The Ilk are far more divided on Cernovich than Vox is. Vox loves the guy and sees tons of value. Where as a lot of the ilk look at the guy and see a talented salesman selling magic crystals to idiots.

once he starts talking like otherkin... its hard not to shake your head and walk away.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fy6se-zYJNE

I mean if you can watch this video.. and still take Mike seriously... then good for you. I hope he helps ya.

Anonymous Leonidas May 12, 2016 8:29 AM  

It may be, as Nate says, a very old concept, but "Antifragile" is one of the most life changing books I've ever read.

"Gorilla Mindset" was good, but not "Antifragile" good. Also, for me, it had a lot of things I was already doing anyway in it.

Anonymous Sensei May 12, 2016 9:09 AM  

It may be, as Nate says, a very old concept, but "Antifragile" is one of the most life changing books I've ever read.

Nate is misunderstanding antifragility yet again. The clip and quote are about resilience, not antifragility.

Blogger Josh May 12, 2016 9:45 AM  

Where as a lot of the ilk look at the guy and see a talented salesman selling magic crystals to idiots.

Jews have a long history of doing that.

Blogger Nate May 12, 2016 9:49 AM  

"The clip and quote are about resilience, not antifragility. "

No sugar. There is nothing more antifragile than true financial independence. That's what antifragility is. Being untouchable. Having no strings.

And that's what the position of Fuck You is. You own your car. You own your house. You have money in the bank. There are no strings on you.

Blogger Hostem Populi May 12, 2016 10:08 AM  

@17 No, that's just being resilient. Antifragile is getting stronger from stressors, not simply being immune to them.

A good example of an antifragility would be physical training. If you train yourself to lift weights or run a 5k, you put a certain amount of stress on your body to make it stronger. Each successive application of stress makes you stronger for the next application. The reverse is also true, if your body isn't receiving a certain regular degree of stress, you get weaker. The starkest example would be the deterioration of the human body experiences after prolonged durations in zero G earth orbit.

A resilient person will financially be able to say, "Fuck you," during a recession, but he won't be any better off. The stressors of the recession won't bring about any windfall.

The antifragile person will actually make more money off the stressors of the recession.

Blogger James Dixon May 12, 2016 10:08 AM  

> And that's what the position of Fuck You is. You own your car. You own your house. You have money in the bank.

Almost there, but not quite enough money in the bank yet. :( With whatever Social Security money the government deigns to throw my way in just over four years, we should be there.

Blogger Josh May 12, 2016 10:13 AM  

I am far from the position of fuck you at the moment

Blogger rycamor May 12, 2016 10:13 AM  

Sensei, what you are missing is that from the position of Fuck you, one can be far more ready to profit from the changes life throws at you. See a business opportunity? Grab it. See a danger coming, you can up and move. So yes, it does involve antifragility. And Taleb himself even talks about having "fuck you" money in the book.

Anonymous Orville May 12, 2016 10:21 AM  

Nate says, "I mean if you can watch this video.. and still take Mike seriously... then good for you. I hope he helps ya."

But I say, "eat the fish and spit out the bones".

On a side note, since I've started doing contrast showers in the morning after working out, I found that I have very few aches and pains in my 58 year old body.

Blogger praetorian May 12, 2016 10:24 AM  

I am far from the position of fuck you at the moment

Getting to Fuck You is really hard with kids, which is a structural problem and why actively anti-familiy elements of society need to be gassed.

Anonymous Jack Amok May 12, 2016 10:25 AM  

Nate, you're confusing antifragile with robust or resilient. At least by tales definitions. Vox didn't just survive scalzi et AL attacking him, he turned it into a hugely successful book.

Antifragile isn't just surviving threats, it's about thriving on them.

It's a good book, you should read it

Blogger rycamor May 12, 2016 10:29 AM  

Hostem Populi wrote:@17 No, that's just being resilient. Antifragile is getting stronger from stressors, not simply being immune to them.

A resilient person will financially be able to say, "Fuck you," during a recession, but he won't be any better off. The stressors of the recession won't bring about any windfall.

The antifragile person will actually make more money off the stressors of the recession.


Look into the history of the Great Depression and you will find that there were people who profited greatly from it, and they were people who were already financially independent enough to make choices with their money.

The whole idea of antifragile is to use the noneventful times to put yourself in a position to profit from the events that can come your way. In that sense, it is not rocket science, but people have let their vision be clouded by the modern way of life (mortgages, loans, insurance, purchasing cars on credit, etc...)

Blogger Hostem Populi May 12, 2016 10:30 AM  

For the TLDR crowd, this podcast was released about a year before the book "Antifragile," was released, but it covers the major ideas of the book in just an hour.

http://www.econtalk.org/archives/2012/01/taleb_on_antifr.html

Anonymous Jack Amok May 12, 2016 10:30 AM  

Josh, you don't have to be at fuck you financially to be antifragile. You just need to be at a place where your mistakes or bad dice rolls don't destroy you so you can learn from them.

Blogger SouthRon May 12, 2016 10:30 AM  

"Gorilla Mindset != Useless Satanic Drival"

That's certainly a matter of opinion. The Ilk are far more divided on Cernovich than Vox is.


Agreed. Anytime I start seeing visualization and mantras thrown around, I become wary and read the rest with great care.

There are some good things in Mike's book, like improving your self talk for people that have low self esteem and are always beating up on themselves, but there is a lot of dross and garbage as well.

From a linguistics perspective the misapplication of Noam Chomsky's theory of transformational grammar into the therapeutic or predictive capabilities that are NLP has been considered discredited for decades.

Blogger Nate May 12, 2016 10:39 AM  

'Getting to Fuck You is really hard with kids'

Our very own Viidad did it. Its simply about making some hard choices. Choosing to live well beneath your means. Hording money. Understanding that a house is not an asset.. its a liability.

its about having money in the bank... and no debt.

If you have a few usefull skills... enough money in the back to live a 5 months with no income at all... and you owe no one... you tell me... what threat can hurt you?

Anyone that makes a run at you loses. You stand up to anyone you want to stand up to.. and by standing up... you win.

Everyone wants to know what anti-fragile looks like in practical terms. Well in practical terms... it is the position of fuck you. And it doesn't take a million bucks.

It takes living cheap.

Anonymous #8601 Jean Valjean May 12, 2016 10:44 AM  

I was initially skeptical about Cernovich, but it has become clear that he walks the walk. His website and twitter are now must reads for me.

Blogger Hostem Populi May 12, 2016 10:44 AM  

That moment when you realize someone is impervious to the point.

Blogger praetorian May 12, 2016 10:44 AM  

Not disagreeing. Getting lucky (in marriage, business or both) helps too. But most folks aren't going to get there and so it's no way to expect a society to be run.

Gas the anti-fam, raise kids now.

Blogger rycamor May 12, 2016 10:50 AM  

Hostem Populi wrote:That moment when you realize someone is impervious to the point.

I read the entire book. Even the mathy parts. Fat tails and all. Antifragility at its simplest essence is just minimizing your downside risks while maximizing your upside potential. Financial independence is *one way* to do that. It's not the only way, and no one here has said it is.

Blogger VD May 12, 2016 11:07 AM  

Anti-Fragile is a new phrase for a very old concept... which our grand-fathers would've called "The Position of Fuck You".

That's merely one application of a very broad and significant concept. Applying antifragility in the business world means something very different than applying it in your personal life, and it's different from the engineering applications as well.

As a general rule, it's not wise to discuss what you haven't read. Very little of the book applies to the aspect Mike and I were discussing. It also reverses some common assumptions, which is both interesting and valuable.

"Be rich and debt-free" has a lot more to do with Rich Dad, Poor Dad than Antifragile.

Blogger Nate May 12, 2016 11:36 AM  

"That's merely one application of a very broad and significant concept."

yeah I shouldn't have worded like I did. Sounded like I was minimizing it.

"Be rich and debt-free" has a lot more to do with Rich Dad, Poor Dad than Antifragile."

hrm.. sadly its more Dave Ramsey than Rich Dad, Poor Dad. Rich Dad, Poor Dad was all about creating systems that produce independent income streams that don't require you to baby sit them. He spends a lot of time in that book talking about how the self-employed guy is really just a slave to the job he created because if he ever stops slaving at it he can't feed himself.




Anonymous Neil M White May 12, 2016 11:38 AM  

Vox, this is my first time on your blog (I own three of your books though). The antifragile stuff is interesting and I'll need to check out the book you recommend. So much of popular culture is designed around making us vulnerable to change and upheaval when really we need to be able to withstand it. There are no jobs for life any more and not really any political stability. Just brief periods of rest - so I'm with the commenter that is prepping. He's a smart guy. Antifragility is something I write about on my site in the context of passing it on to my kids and my son in particular. I want him to be resilient, adaptable and ready for anything.

Anyway, keep doing what your doing and keep the books coming.

Cheers

Neil

Anonymous Sensei May 12, 2016 11:43 AM  

@21 Sensei, what you are missing is that...

What you say is not wrong, but I wasn't missing anything. Nate has seized upon a particular application/aspect of antifragility as captured in that particular phrase and is calling that antifragility itself, and demonstrably misunderstands the core theory and its broad applicability. Yes there's a financial focus, but that's arguably the least revolutionary aspect of the theory. There are other ways to gain financial independence. Taleb has given a name to an elusive and not widely-recognized concept that can be applied in basically every area of one's life. I strongly suspect all the people who say the book changed their life are referring to that, not Dave Ramsey.

Anonymous kfg May 12, 2016 11:46 AM  

" . . . the self-employed guy is really just a slave to the job he created because if he ever stops slaving at it he can't feed himself."

And if the hunter ever stops hunting he can't feed himself. In the words of the copybook heading:

"If you don't work, you die."

The burden of life is that life needs maintaining.

When I owned a brick and mortar my issue wasn't that I was a slave to the job, which I enjoyed, it was that I was a slave to the government, the landlord, the insurance company, the phone company, the utility company, etc.

Very little of the money I made actually went to me and I didn't have just one boss, but many, as the people I worked to supply money to also had a significant impact on what decisions I was able to make in running my own business.

Anonymous kfg May 12, 2016 11:47 AM  

"There are other ways to gain financial independence."

For instance, not requiring money to live.

Blogger bob k. mando May 12, 2016 11:57 AM  

13. Nate May 12, 2016 7:55 AM
I mean if you can watch this video..



*facedesk*

well, the Animal / Reptilian brain is NOT the 'divine' ...

sorry, i can't watch any more.

Blogger Jimmy The Freak May 12, 2016 11:58 AM  

Nate,

hrm.. sadly its more Dave Ramsey than Rich Dad, Poor Dad. Rich Dad, Poor Dad was all about creating systems that produce independent income streams that don't require you to baby sit them.

This is one thing that I couldn't get past with Rich Dad, Poor Dad. Money is like a nation's borders - if you don't manage/defend it, you are vulnerable to losing it. I guess this is true of any resource. If you just hand it over to someone else to manage, you better trust them completely.

Blogger rycamor May 12, 2016 12:06 PM  

The antifragile aspect of wealth is not how much you have, but how much of it at risk. If you have ten million in the bank, but own 50 million worth of highly-leveraged real estate, you are not antifragile. You are not even resilient. You are fragile. I knew people who went broke almost overnight when the crash of '07 happened.

Antifragile would look more like: a) being very frugal and careful with 90% of your money (or 85%, whatever) and then b) choosing to use that other 10% for risky investments that have potential for huge return. So your downside is you go from 100% to 90%--survivable, definitely not a catastrophe. Your upside might be orders of magnitude over what you have now.

Same idea applies in how you spend your personal time. If all you do is focus on your current job, and moving the next step up the ladder, you're never going to get a big return. No middle manager is going to say "Hey Joe, we had a windfall this year, so here's a check for $2 million". It'll be a pat on the back and a small raise next quarter. So put 90% of your effort into maintaining status quo, and 10% into learning a new skill, running a side business, writing a book, whatever. Now you are in a position to profit from the unexpected.

Blogger VD May 12, 2016 12:12 PM  

hrm.. sadly its more Dave Ramsey than Rich Dad, Poor Dad. Rich Dad

I stand corrected. I've never read either.

Anonymous Orville May 12, 2016 12:20 PM  

The other major tenet of "Antifragility" is system complexity. The more complex a system, whether healthcare, finance, engineering, etc., the more prone to collapse it is. Somebody said it above where he owned a brick and mortar store, but was a slave to a whole host of entities who added a lot of complexity and therefore points of failure.

Blogger Nate May 12, 2016 12:22 PM  

"I stand corrected. I've never read either."

ain't missing much.

Blogger Nate May 12, 2016 12:26 PM  

"sorry, i can't watch any more."

So you don't want to buy this mystical crystal that balances your aura?

Blogger bob k. mando May 12, 2016 12:30 PM  

46. Nate May 12, 2016 12:26 PM
So you don't want to buy this mystical crystal that balances your aura?



well, it's not that i think all this abdominal breathing and posture stuff is completely without point.

but the Divine is about as far from the Animal as one can get.

Anonymous Orville May 12, 2016 12:34 PM  

I tried the Wym Hof breathing exercises when I first started taking contrast showers, but find I don't need to as much anymore, but I suspect its because the water is warmer now than in the dead of winter.

To say breathing exercises is of the devil, is to condemn Lamaze as a demonic childbirthing ritual. Again, fish and bones.

Blogger Were-Puppy May 12, 2016 12:46 PM  

@20 Josh

I am far from the position of fuck you at the moment
---

Me too man. Or maybe i've been on the receiving end so much last few years, i'm in the "nothing to lose" category now

Anonymous Full-Fledged Fiasco May 12, 2016 1:08 PM  

Vox, do you use a professional transcriber?

Blogger James Dixon May 12, 2016 1:10 PM  

> hrm.. sadly its more Dave Ramsey than Rich Dad, Poor Dad.

And yet the vast majority of people in the US aren't even at the Dave Ramsey level. :(

> If you just hand it over to someone else to manage, you better trust them completely.

That's why most people are best served by index funds for their stock investments.

Blogger praetorian May 12, 2016 1:30 PM  

Rich Dad, Poor Dad was all about creating systems that produce independent income streams that don't require you to baby sit them.

The Gods of the Copybook Headers have a way of chasing down the last passive income stream...

Anonymous kfg May 12, 2016 2:16 PM  

" . . . own 50 million worth of highly-leveraged real estate, you are not antifragile."

Let's say you own the real estate "outright."

What are the land rents on that?

Anonymous Sagramore May 12, 2016 2:34 PM  

Is Gordon Ramsey the Wealthy Berber?

Blogger Jon M May 12, 2016 3:10 PM  

Nate, I largely disagree with you on Cernovich, but appreciate your devil's advocacy. I was starting to buy into him uncritically, and your skepticism made me step back and think more critically about what I was reading.

You are still wrong, but thanks for an important kick in the intellectual pants.

Anonymous kfg May 12, 2016 3:24 PM  

" . . . devil's advocacy . . ."

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Qaa44RgeWcY

Note that he uses the example of "bro culture" as a scene and a vegan/fruitarian/juicing as a counter example.

But also note that he juices, and the v/f/j scene is one the most hardcore, religiously dogmatic scenes you will find out there.

Mike projects being a pretty decent guy, but he isn't immune to making the same errors that he warns about, while he is making them.

Always think critically.

Blogger VD May 12, 2016 4:21 PM  

Vox, do you use a professional transcriber?

I don't think so. I use one of the Ilk who volunteered.

Anonymous patrick kelly May 12, 2016 6:04 PM  

Glad to see Antifragile getting some attention on the blog.

"Mantras and visualization" don't have to be neo-agey hoodoo voodoo occultic.

They are ways of quieting noise in your head and around you and re-focus on your goals and how to get there. I found visualization, or "practicing in my head" to be a real help playing and performing music among other things. I would be surprised if Vox and others haven't had similar experiences with martial arts or soccer or sports.

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