Found this on Nicolas Taleb's Facebook page. It helps to understand his concept of "antifragility" - basically, fragile things are hurt by adverse conditions, robust things survive adverse conditions, and antifragile things get made stronger by adverse condiitons.
The classical, mostly Stoic, idea is that what matters isn't the random event itself, but how one responds to it, how one acts when hitting a snag. This was believed by scholars to make people "robust", that is immune from adversity --since we can control how we respond to events. But the point is, once again, misHarvardified: the classical man was vastly more antifragile than academic & library rats want him to be. He was not withdrawn from the world, but above it. His principal asset was in how much courage and fortitude he put in front of circumstances, how he could say "f*** you" to fate, how he defied reversals of fortune.
If that's the case, then he is not robust, as academics want him to be, but antifragile, as he wants as much disorder, adversity, and volatility to show off, to say "f*** you" to circumstances. If so, he is long volatility.
The good news is that it takes a certain training. When a certain fellow failed his election bid for the Italian presidency (with an embarassingly low number of votes), as the results of the ballots were being announced, one of the senators was heard telling another: "now watch this man and learn from him how to lose".
It reminds me of this post: http://sebastianmarshall.com/give-me-strife-and-suffering-but-in-manageable-doses, which is why I'm putting it here.
Immune to adversity - cool concept.
The Italian Arditi special forces during WW1 used to do all kinds of crazy shit - like standing 1cm away from a giant punching machine or crawling under live machine gun fire - to make them "immune to danger" as they called it. Injuries during training were common and seen as positive, almost expected.
Source: Italian Arditi - Osprey Publishing (great line of books btw)
I started reading "Hagakure," which was written by the samurai Yamamoto Tsunetomo from 1709 to 1716. I don't agree with everything in the book - some of the things Yamamoto-sama says sound crazy to my modern sensibilities, but there's some powerful quotes in here about bushido. Here's some I liked, with some thoughts of my own -
We all want to live. And in large part we make our logic according to what we like. But not having attained our aim and continuing to live is cowardice. This is a thin dangerous line. To die without gaming one's aim is a dog's death and fanaticism. But there is no shame in this. This is the substance of the Way of the Samurai. If by setting one's heart right every morning and evening, one is able to live as though his body were already dead, he pains freedom in the Way. His whole life will be without blame, and he will succeed in his calling.
The first book of philosophy on bushido I read was the Budoshoshinshu. It had a significant impact on my thinking. One of the largest tenets of bushido is keeping awareness of your death in mind when you live. I try to do this, because it gives you a sense of urgency and importance.
A lot of times the principle is misunderstood - the principle is actually make preparations as if you'll live forever, but live this day that you'd be proud if it was your last. Bushido is not about being reckless. It's about keeping awareness of the end with you, and in doing so, living much more.
It's almost paradoxical - the man who is aware of his death, who relinquishes his claim on life, he lives much more fully. The man who is ignorant of his death does not live as much. Death is not something to be afraid of - it's something to be aware of. Being aware of it makes you more alive, and more effective, and more purposeful.
I'm reading Nassim Taleb's 3rd book, Anti-fragility after being impressed by The Black Swan. Anti-fragility is the opposite of fragility. Whereas fragile things are eventually destroyed by chaos, robust things are insensitive to chaos, anti-fragile things benefit from chaos.
Fragile things are things like architecture, over-leveraged accounts, debtors, machines.
This is characterized by The Sword of Damocles, a sword hanging over someone by a horse-hair.
Robust things are the same, except designed with more redundancy to withstand extreme events. Re-inforced glass, bullet-proof plating, data systems with backups, financial systems with adequate reserves (whatever 'adequate' means). For example, a banking system with a 1% reserve requirement ratio is more fragile than a more robust banking system with a 30% reserve requirement ratio.
This is characterized by the Phoenix, which resurrects itself to its former state when dead (this is an example of 100% robustness).