Boost your antifragility


April 15, 2020

Anything that has more upside than downside from random events (or certain shocks) is antifragile; the reverse is fragile.

— Nassim Taleb

I think most people would agree with me when I say that civilisation as we know it is fragile.

We only have to look towards the last pandemic of Covid-19 to realise this.

Businesses that had been merrily swimming along gone almost overnight.

People who one minute had a job, later did not.

Supermarkets that usually had a plentiful supply of Andrex Double Ply toilet roll lay empty, desolate, deprived.

It is times like this where I like to reflect on what this outbreak has taught me (so far).

As I write this we are in our 4th week of "lockdown" in the UK, and I think I have completed 20+ online quiz's with varying friendship groups and family members.


Through catching up with friends and family virtually, you get a sense of what people are like when you remove all forms of routine they have.

When you remove a lot of what makes your life your life, what do you have?

Let me explain this through an example.

Yesterday, I was having a Zoom call with my friend who, similar to myself, is a knowledge worker.

He was talking me through what his routine is on a day to day basis.

He wakes up between 0630 and 0700 everyday.

The hour after he wakes up is usually spent completing the rituals he would have done had he been going to work normally.

He has a similar breakfast most days.

He does some resistance training for 30-45 minutes keeping things simple.

He has a shower.

He get's dressed into his normal work clothes (which is a t shirt and jeans for him) and does his hair.

He switches his laptop on and settles into a working day around 0900-0930.

He'll take a few structured breaks throughout the day, try and get some day light and fresh air before the sun goes down.

He finishes his work around the same time as he has chunked up his tasks throughout the day, completing the most difficult first and the easiest in the later afternoon.

Then in the evening, he eats around the same time (between 1900 and 2000), spends about an hour catching up with family, quizzing with friends (usually with me, his music and film knowledge is second to none), or doing something that gives him so pleasure or a sense of purpose.

Then he hits the hay at the same time each night, usually between 1100 and 1145.

When we spoke about how we think this might change the world of work, fitness and beyond, he commented that for him nothing has really changed.

A lot of the things that he was doing before the Coronavirus outbreak, he was still doing now.

His routine, his usual touch points and rituals remained pretty similar.


I compare this to another friend of mine who I've also caught up with (virtually, don't worry I'm staying home).

In the week he wakes up at varying times between 0700 and 0900, much later at the weekends.

His resistance training is sporadic, sometimes he does it in the morning and sometimes it is in the evening.

His work is similar to mine, but he has been working long into the night because he is very easily distracted throughout the day.

He often then struggles to switch off before he goes to bed, which can lead him to staying awake in to the early hours of the morning browsing the internet, checking out the top ten snooker shots of 2019 to try and tire himself out.

Then the cycle repeats itself.

One friend seemed a lot more comfortable in the chaos that the other. I will let you guess which one is less fragile than the other.


I won't speculate what I think the future of the world will look like when we come out of this...

But I will give 3 tips that myself and my clients have used to become antifragile through these weird times.

The more we value things outside our control, the less control we have.

— Marcus Aurelius

1. Understand and accept that this is outside of your control

As the quote from your man Marcus above illustrates, we need to be able to accept what is inside vs outside of our control.

This is a popular technique in psychology for helping people with anxiety, and social phobias to deal with this in an effective manner (1).

We are all going to get pissed off with things that are outside of our control.

For me, I've been getting annoyed at the random noises that seem to happen outside the window of the room I'm working at.

I can't control this but it still does my head in!

The behavioural scientist Paul Dolan talks about this concept in his book, Happiness by Design, suggesting that a really useful to focus on actions that give us pleasure (that good old fashioned dopamine hit) and purpose (the sense that we are working towards something meaningful).

Happiness then is really just where we are focussing our attention.

If we are focussing our attention on things that we can't control, we probably aren't going to be very happy for the next couple of months.

I made a list of things I didn't have control over so I can consciously divert my attention away from this, because it's not going to make me happy or antifragile:

Things Rob has no control over:

1. Whether Aldi will run out of bagels
2. Pubs being closed
3. Random noises outside the window
4. Whether I catch coronavirus
5. Gyms being closed
6. My holiday being cancelled
7. Whether this article is liked by readers or not
8. Whether my dog choses to poo inside or outside the house

Things Rob does have control over
1. Bedtime
2. Wake up time
3. Number of times I can train per week
4. How much time I spend on things that are meaningful, like writing dope articles for the masses
5. Focussing attention on loved ones
6. Charging my phone outside the room in the evenings
7. Amount of time spent on social media
8. Checking in on family members regularly

You can quite quickly see which list makes sense.

If you want to build your antifragility and be on the upside of shitstorm like this, pay attention to the things you have control over and that make you happy!

So if you're feeling anxious or overwhelmed, why don't you write out a list of what you can and can't control. If you're feeling brave share this with a friend and talk it through with them.

It will help to get the thoughts out of your head and onto a page or word document.

Trust me!

2. Start another income stream

There is no fancy quote with this one.

If Covid-19 has taught us anything it's that the rules of the game are changing.

If you have been impacted either as a business owner or employee of a company this has highlighted external risks and threats (that are outside of your control) that need proofing against in the future.

As someone who started GramFitness as a side project whilst working (and still currently doing so) in a pretty busy "normal" job for the majority of the time, I can safely say that now is the best time to start something that is going to give you a couple of different advantages.

The time that is going to pass between now and June (or whenever this lockdown ends) is going to pass anyway. You may as well do something that, potentially has been on the back burner for a while, or you've never been able to make a priority.

You'll also have a secondary income. Very handy indeed. Depending on what your goals are, you might be able to grow and scale whatever you develop into... who knows!

You can start building your own infrastructure and assets. The barriers to entry to things is made so low by the internet, there has never been a better time to start.

But, I hear you say, I don't know what I want to do.

Here is a quick framework that will help with that:

Oh maybe there is a fancy quote, in the words of Anton Kriel...

"Even if you have a very very small percentage chance of earning infinity or all the money in the world you're still earning more than fifty thousand so your downside is very small"

— Anton Kreil

If you haven't seen his 10 secrets to Achieve Financial Success, give it a watch when you have some time.

Better yet, make some time to watch it!

“You do not rise to the level of your goals. You fall to the level of your systems.”

— James Clear

3. Invest in your habits and routines

Where to start with habits.

If you've seen ANY of the content we've put out since we started clogging up people's newsfeeds, you'll know that we are big believer in the power of habits.

James Clear, in his book Atomic Habits, beautifully dissects the laws of behaviour change that you can leverage to install that good habit, or ditch that bad habit that you have always been meaning to go after.

There has never been a better time to invest in habitualising a routine that will stand you in great stead when all this has blown over.

Two of the most powerful things you can install in your routine today are:

1. Going to bed and getting up at the same time
To do this, set an alarm for a time that is going to be realistic for you to get up.

I appreciate not everyone is a morning lark, so pick a time that is realistic for you to stick to.

If you don't stick to it try getting into a "Power Down" routine where you switch off most lights around your house, turn off your phones and do something that will help you switch off.

I don't recommend Call of Duty for this.

Set an alarm to remind you to go bed. I-Phone's have a very handy feature on their Bedtime section of the alarm app which will chime at you you 30 mins before you are due to go to bed.

The goal here is to go to sleep and wake up at the same time, which has been shown to have positive affects on cognitive performance (2).

This probably won't happen overnight (excuse the pun) so take your time with it and focus on keeping the behaviour going.

2. Go outside

Getting natural light is going to be very helpful with your circadian rhythm, which is the bodies' natural clock.

There is a plethora of literature on this topic so I won't bore you to tears with references.

Safe to say that going outside at some point in the day should be built into your routine.

Whether that is a walk, jog, or just standing outside for a couple of minutes, prioritise this.

You will feel better, and your body will thank you for it.

1. Wehrenberg, M., 2018. The 10 Best-Ever Anxiety Management Techniques: Understanding How Your Brain Makes You Anxious and What You Can Do to Change It (Second). WW Norton & Company.
2. Brown, F.C., Buboltz Jr, W.C. and Soper, B., 2002. Relationship of sleep hygiene awareness, sleep hygiene practices, and sleep quality in university students. Behavioral medicine, 28(1), pp.33-38.

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