Captain Fantastic vs. Bear Grylls

Recently, I watched the movie Captain Fantastic on the advice of a friend, who highly recommended it.  In it, there’s a scene where a teenage girl is reading the book Lolita. Her father asks her to describe it. After a bit of prodding, she says,
“There’s this old man who loves this girl, and she’s only 12 years old… that’s the plot.
Because it’s written from his perspective, you sort of understand and sympathize with him, which is kind of amazing because he’s essentially a child molester.
But his love for her is beautiful.
But it’s also sort of a trick because it’s so wrong.
You know, he’s old, and he basically rapes her.
 So it makes me feel… I hate him.
And somehow I feel sorry for him at the same time. “
This is the way I felt about the movie itself.  There are many layers to this film and it forces you to think about many things such as: how do we raise strong and healthy children, what are appropriate ideas for kids to be exposed to and at what age, what role do social skills play in the overall mental health of our children, and is the American culture really that disgusting?  I found that I had a strong reaction after watching it the first time, but also found that in the succeeding days I kept thinking about it.  The sign of powerful piece of art, to be sure.
The basic premise of the movie is that the dad Ben (and his late wife) had moved their kids to a place deep in the forest to raise them and escape the trappings of modern culture — and as it turns out, their own emotional distress.
Overall, I admired the skills, education and training the kids were getting but I hated the way the Ben was going about it.  There was much to admire at first.  He and his wife were somehow able to teach their (seven!) kids how to speak multiple languages, give them an mastery of American history better than most college grads, and an understanding of quantum physics.  Not to mention excellent survival skills such as  building fires, rock climbing, forging for berries, and killing wild game.
On paper, this sounds like a great idea.  Who wouldn’t want their kids to be educated and skilled like this?  For me, part of the problem is evident when the oldest son is brought into town ( a rare occurrence for them).  He encounters other teenage girls outside of a gas station and is so socially awkward and ill prepared to interact  that he can’t answer them when they ask him if he’s gong to come in the door.  He stands mute and frozen in his tracks.  As strong as he is in some areas of his development, he is utterly lacking in others.  This leaves him fragile to enter the world outside of his family’s forest home.
Ironically, the father has taught the children all of these survival skills, but they have no idea how to survive in the world they ultimately must participate in.  His depression and fears are not allowing him to see what is happening and they are forced to grow up here because of their dad’s emotional pain.  We learn that he and his wife wanted to escape to a place away from all of the trappings, artificiality and general unhealthiness of the western world.  Familiar thoughts for many of us, but running away usually isn’t the best strategy, as I’ve written about before.
Ultimately, the movie ends on a happy note, the father and his children are slowly integrating more and more into the “real world”, finding some healthy balance and we are led to believe the things might turn out well for them.
So, as I was analyzing the film and the father character, I thought of a popular TV show that my 11 year old son and I like to watch together called Man vs. Wild.  It stars survivalist and British Army veteran Bear Grylls as he is demonstrates how to survive in different environments.  It can be quite entertaining to watch Bear survive a variety of extreme parts of the world and invariably, the episode will feature a segment where he is “forced” to eat insects, raw meat, or drink his own urine.  Great stuff. Especially for a tween.
So, what’s the difference between the two men?  Why do I find one magnetic and the other scary?  Why is one fragile and the other antifragile?  Let’s have some fun and compare the two!
Captain Fantastic
Bear Grylls
 Time in modern society
Spends 90% of time away from modern society.
Spends 90% of time in modern society
 Time spent on learning survival skills 40% (estimate)
20% (estimate)
 Is prepared in case of apocalypse?  YES  YES
 Is prepared in case of financial crisis?  YES  YES
 Is prepared for emotional crisis?  NO  Seems like it, but not enough info
 Can navigate modern culture?  Yes, but kids no way.  YES
 Personality  Depressed loner  Fun loving.  Attracts others.
After a hiking all day, killing and cooking your own food, a fun night out might be… Patronizing discussion about why the family doesn’t celebrate holidays, and why (insert item) is bad for you  Hitting the bars, swapping stories with people, laughing and have one or two too many drinks.
 Of course, I’m just guessing at all of this.  One of them I don’t know personally at all and the other is, well, a fictional character.
The point is though, I’d rather be acclimated to society and pick up the survival skills just in case it all goes to hell, rather than acting like the apocalypse is already here.
You are giving up all of the good benefits of modern culture, when you don’t need to.  The anti-fragile person embraces modern society and can pick and choose where and when to interact with it for his or her  benefit.
The antifragile also realize the benefits of interacting with nature and spend as much time as necessary for revitalization and spiritual reconnection with the universe.
By the end of the movie Ben seems to have figured this out and life looks much more balanced.  He and the kids are living in a regular house in what looks to be some kind of country home.  The still are very self sufficient, but integrating with society, going to school, participating in the economy, etc.
Good for them.  But I’d still rather hang out with Bear.

6 Steps to Increase Self Esteem

Image result for low self esteem

I wrote her off for the tenth time today
And practiced all the things I would say
But she came over
I lost my nerve
I took her back and made her dessert

— The Offspring


I find this song by the Offspring hilarious, but also close to the truth more often than I’d like to admit.  I’ve seen estimates that over 85% percent of people suffer from low self esteem at different points in our lives.   Self esteem is one of the fundamental building blocks of living an emotionally anti-fragile life.   If you have no belief in yourself, no respect for yourself, no ability to stand up for yourself, then how can you expect to make decisions — tough decisions — that will enable you to live a fulfilling life?

I’ve found it difficult to find good advice regarding self-esteem that’s not long-winded or hard to actually put into practice.  I came across this YouTube video by The Journey which itself is a quick summary of a book by Nathaniel Branden called the Six Pillars of Self Esteem.  I haven’t read the book.  I might at some point, but I like the video.   It’s  pithy and concise.  If you can’t watch the video, here are the six pillars:

  1. Practice of Living Consciously.  Have to be willing to act on what you perceive to be the right thing to do at any given moment. Don’t procrastinate.  Don’t waste hours a day on social media when you know you should be doing something else.  Ask yourself where is this leading me?  Am I dong the best thing for myself right now?
  2. Practice of self acceptance.  Stop toruring yourself because you don’t compare to someone else.  There are millions of others with the same “defects” you have that are millionaires, artists, in fulfilling relationsihps, executives, and generally successful at life.  So your extra pounds, your big nose, your disability… none of it matters.  It doesn’t hold others back, so don’t let it hold you back.
  3. Practice of Self Responsibility. No one else is thinking about how to help you or make you succeed or feel happy.  If you leave it up to someone else, they will fail miserably.  Take care of yourself, because no one else will.  Make sure you’re saving enough money.  Make sure you are treating your body right.  Make sure you are not burning yourself out at work.
  4. Practice of Self Assertiveness.  Stop repressing your thoughts and ideas. You will never, ever find the perfect thing or coolest thing to say.  So go out here and say “hey, I have the right to exist”!  Let other’s be touched by your contribution to the world.  Not everyone will love what you have to say.  But if you never express yourself, it’s guaranteed that no one will like your ideas, because they’ll never know.  You’ll grow old with regrets and boredom.
  5. Practice of Living Purposefully. Take action on improving the things you want to improve.  Don’t live life like a zombie sheep… eat bad food, complain about your job, watch mindless videos or TV,  sleep.  Repeat.  Identify what would make your life great and then take steps to achieve it.
  6. Practice of Personal Integrity.  Thoughts and actions need to be in alignment.  If you say you going to do something, you do it.   You need “congruence” between thoughts and actions. Self esteem is a reputation we acquire toward ourselves and if we keep doing things we know we shouldn’t be doing, that reputation suffers.

The Dao, Buddha, and Quatum Mechanics

I came across a great video by Shantena Augusto Sabbadini in which he makes a link between the Dao De Jing’s ( or Tao Te Ching)  view of the universe and the behavior of particles in quantum mechanics.

The video really speaks for itself, but I’m going to highlight a few of the interesting points and share my thoughts with how it relates to antifragility.

If you’re unfamiliar with the quantum mechanics and particularly the Double Slit Experiment, here are a few good, easy to understand summaries (and if you’re not familiar with it, prepare to have your mind blown!)

Original Double Slit Experiment

Double Slit with Quantum Eraser / Delayed Choice

Another good one here.

Here are the main points from Sabbini’s video:

Quantum mechanics tells us that all of the particles in the universe are made up of probability waves and are not “real” in the sense that they always exist in a tangible form in specific place.  Things only become real when measured/observed/sensed by a conscious observer.

This is why we experience the world the way we do — as real tangible objects — because we experience the universe from within a body, and a body gets it’s inputs though its senses of sight, hearing, touching, etc.  In other words, a body is sensing device.  It makes observations.  Hence, this is our only way of experiencing life.

Chapter 1 of Dao De Jing

Amazingly, the Dao De Jing tells us the same story in it’s first chapter:

The Dao that can be spoken is not the eternal Dao
The name that can be named is not the eternal name
The nameless is the origin of Heaven and Earth
The named is the mother of myriad things

And so, always eliminate desires to observe its mysteries
Always have desires to observe its  manifestations

These two emerge together but differ in name
The unity is said to be the mystery
Mystery of mysteries, the door to all wonders


All our talk about reality is not reality.  We can never fully describe it.  It is just a map.  (The Dao that can be spoken is not the eternal Dao)

Post Modern thinking says that even though we may not be able to fully describe the “real” reality and we say that maybe for humans maybe it’s all about how our thinking creates our own reality within our heads.  We have analyze, talk, measure, analyze and talk some more.
The Dao tells us to go the other way.  Stop talking and just experience reality.  I like this.  Just live in the moment.  This is what Buddha tells us, as well as more modern authors such as Elkhart Tolle and Micheal Singer.  To use a modern example, many of us are so busy tweeting, posting Fascebook updates and uploading photos of every moment of our lives to Snapchat and Instagram that we’re barely even experiencing life as it happens.
The name that can be named is not the eternal name.  The Dao also tells us that when you name things, it creates a split between subject and object.  It creates the “myriad things” and also creates desire.  Desire ( or hatred) for objects, puts meaning on them and so gives meaning to life.  This naming and desire leads to suffering.  This is also one of the four noble truths of Buddhism.
Sabbadini  goes on to remind us that scientifically speaking, there are no separate objects in the universe — only fields interacting in space-time., just as a wave is not really a separate object from the ocean. Only in name is it different.  If you are a wave and identify with your separateness, you are bound to suffer because a wave will eventually be dissolved into the ocean.  It never really was separate.
So with desire you experience the boundaries — but notice Lao Tzu does not say this is necessarily bad.  With naming, desires and passion, you experience what it means to be alive in our world.  The joys, the struggle, the pain, anxiety, fear, love, fulfillment, and achievement.
He does not say anything about trying to take yourself out of the world (where else could you go?).    Having these two things together (and I think learning how use and experience each one of these together) is the wonder of all wonders, the secret of all secrets and the gate of all mysteries.
Now — what does all this tell us about living an antifragile life?  Plenty, in my opinion.   I see the verses of the Dao De Jing as tools or patterns that you can apply to your life.  When things are bad ( or anytime), you can remember that you don’t have to be attached to your thoughts.  We are all one.  You don’t have to let other people or emotions get the best of you and drive your life.  (Desireless!).  On the other hand, sometimes experiencing the full range of emotions is what makes us human and gives meaning to life. So we have to let is pass through us.
Certainly, when something good happens, it feels nice to embrace it,  celebrate it and experience it fully.  That’s fun right?  To me, that’s exposing yourself to good things but having limited exposure (notice I didn’t say no exposure) to the bad things.  The bad times come and go.  You know that’s a part of being human. You acknowledge them, experience them, even though it doesn’t feel good, but then are able to let them go.  The are bumps in the road… small setbacks… small losses.



Seneca’s Letter VI or Why I Write This Blog

Recently, I had several happy experiences relating to advice I’ve given to other people.  The first was in a meeting on the topic of self development and  I shared my experience creating a “nurturing list” in which you list things that bring you joy,  so that it times of anxiety, fear, or depression you can look at this list and “remember” what things bring you joy and then go do one or more of them.  As I was describing this, I saw several heads nodding.  After the meeting, I had several people come up and thank me for this nugget of information.  That felt nice.

Another experience occurred while talking with a friend who was going through a divorce. She was very stressed about going to meetings full of of lawyers and uncomfortable negotiations.  Understandably, she felt some intimidation and anxiety from this impending situation for which she had no experience.  “Have you ever hear of Amy Cuddy and her TED talk on Power Poses?”, I asked her. She told me she hadn’t, but watched it right before her meeting and told me she felt much more in control and at ease.  Who knows what that one ripple effect may have caused in the universe.  Her kids and their kids my be better off for it.

These are small things in grand scheme of the life, but I like to think they have positive after effects, and it satisfies me greatly to know that I’m playing my part and not holding on to this things for myself.


I have 40 plus years of knowledge that I have taken in,  thought about, analyzed,  and stored away.  As I get older I occasionally use those memories and apply them and/or add additional meaning to them because I’ve learned something else that applies to it in a different context.  The cycle then repeats with the overall wisdom increasing each year as I learn more and have more experiences.  This is the beauty of aging, if you’re living right, and I suspect is why in general, older people report being the happiest .  For all things that are a drag about aging, I’m finding that the wisdom that comes it is ultra gratifying and special –and (almost) makes up for the loss of the physical.

And while this knowledge does me a lot of good in dealing with all aspects of life including career, financial, nutritional,  and especially emotional health, it’s ultimately unsatisfying if I don’t share it with others.  I think it gives me even greater pleasure getting positive feedback from people I’ve passed along knowledge to than actually using it myself.  Maybe some of it is my own ego gratification ( look how smart I am!), but I’d like to think much of it is stems from an innate human drive to help others — and that can’t be all bad can it?

In Letter VI of Seneca’s Letter’s From a Stoic, written 2000 years ago he had similar thoughts that he shared with his friend Lucilius:

And when you say: “Give me also a share in these gifts which you have found so helpful,” I reply that I am anxious to heap all these privileges upon you, and that I am glad to learn in order that I may teach. Nothing will ever please me, no matter how excellent or beneficial, if I must retain the knowledge of it to myself. And if wisdom were given me under the express condition that it must be kept hidden and not uttered, I should refuse it. No good thing is pleasant to possess, without friends to share it.


In that spirit, I want to share some of my favorite authors of self development content  — whether it’s from books, blogs, or podcasts — along with a very quick synopsis of why I it was life changing for me.  Reading or listening to any one of these will be make you a bit more antifragile, but they all have something unique and valuable to say.  I recommend all of them highly.

Nasim Taleb —   The reason I started this blog.  His most famous book is the Black Swan, but the game changer for me was Antifragile: Things That Gain From Disorder, which asserts that things can actually get better from chaos and stress.  I apply these ideas to people in this blog.

Micheal Singer —  You are not your thoughts.  You can observe you thoughts and act on them, if you choose, but you don’t have to fixate on them and let them rule your life.   The Untethered Soul is most famous book. But I love this talk he gave at at a university.  Hearing these ideas in his own voice is most effective. I’ve watched it three times.

Seneca Letters From A Stoic.  Awesome, concise advice contained in a series of letters written 2000 years ago.  Just having the historical record is incredibly cool.  But getting into the mind of one of histories greatest mentors superb.  The advice is timeless and although coming from the heart of Western Civilization, I find it compliments Eastern philosophy very well.  This is one of things that makes it so powerful.

Lao Tzu — I  just started reading the Dao De Jing ( or Tao Te Ching) and am really liking it.  I feel very calm and centered after reading these very short and simple, but powerful tidbits of wisdom.  Yin and Yang….

James Altucher —  James’ honesty is addicting and he always interviews excellent guests in his podcasts. It’s where I heard of several of these on this list.

Sally Hogshead – How to Fascinate.  She opened my mind to the very simple idea that it was okay to be myself as it applied  to my career — and not to try to conform to what I thought my job description should be.  She advises accentuating the things that make you unique and play to your strengths (and stop trying to play to your weaknesses).  When you do this, you will start to “fascinate”.

Jack Canfield — I love this book because it’s divided up in 60 some chapters of great ideas on how to my more successful and happy.  He’s collected all of these ideas and put it into a reference book on success.   You can jump in and out as you please.  It’s another one that I’ve read or listened to several times.








Running Away Makes You Fragile — What the Ancients Knew

Every time I read a chapter from Seneca’s Letters From a Stoic, I feel a bit smarter.  I feel a bit lighter and more connected with the secrets of the universe.   I love reading Seneca’s letters because they are easily accessible.  You  can pick a passage,  get in and out of in 15 minutes, but it will leave you thinking all day.

Letter 28 is one of those.  In a concise and pithy three pages,  Seneca tells how why you cannot run away from your troubles, and how doing so actually makes you a more fragile person.  He had this figured out 2000 years ago!

He starts the letter ( to his friend Lucilius) by telling him:

“Are you surprised, as if it were a novelty, that after such long travel and so many changes of scene you have not been able to shake off the gloom and heaviness of your mind? You need a change of soul rather than a change of climate.”

He then goes on to quote Socrates:

“Why do you wonder why your globe-trotting does you no good, seeing that you always take yourself with you? The reason which set you wandering is ever at your heels”

It’s great. He’s basically telling his friend: Dude, you need to look in the mirror.

I feel we’ve all done or thought something like this. “This cold weather is making me depressed.  I’ve had it.  I need to move to California or someplace warm.  That will get rid of my troubles”.  Or “I’m done with this place.  The women/men here are all losers.”

It’s usually not true.  The change should begin within.

Okay,  so maybe you think this not so earth shattering.  You may have even thought this yourself – but what he goes on to say, really made me sit back and say “wow!”.

“You rush here and there, to rid yourself of the burden that rests upon you, though it becomes more troublesome by reason of your very restlessness, just as in a ship the cargo when stationary makes no trouble, but when it shifts to this side or that, it causes the vessel to heel more quickly in the direction where it has settled. Anything you do tells against you, and you hurt yourself by your very unrest; for you are shaking up a sick man.”

Awesome.  Your running around actually makes things worse for you!  Fragile!  But he goes on to say if you work on yourself, you become antifragile.

“That trouble once removed, all change of scene will become a pleasure; though you may be driven to the uttermost ends of the earth, in whatever corner of a savage land you may find yourself, that place, however forbidding, will be to you a hospitable abode. Where you arrive does not matter so much as what sort of person you are when you arrive there.”

I’m not sure what kind of therapy and self-help they had in ancient times,  but in today’s world that could mean reading self-development books,  talking things out with friends and family, getting therapy,  or attending a 12-step program.

The key is that mental health is truly one of the building blocks of a successful and happy life, how ever you define it.  We’ve known it for thousands of years.


How to Live in a Big City



Almost all murders occur in large cities. So too for most car theft, rape, pick-pocketing, and hellacious traffic jams.

Why do we live in them then?  Well, of course they also have most of the jobs, new ideas, universities, specialty grocery stores, wine bars, and cool new Spanish restaurants.

In other words, all of the good stuff too.  In fact, the bigger cities get the more of each (bad and good things) they get — at an increasing rate.  As a city doubles in size, it doesn’t just double the amount of schools, police, and hipster coffee shops, it increases by an extra 15%.  This is true for almost any thing:  flu cases, time spend in traffic, patents filed (new ideas), art galleries, yoga studios, wages, and wealth.

Watch this fascinating TED Talk video given by  theoretical physicist Geoffrey West of The Santa Fe Institute, where lays out his research on this exact topic:



This is the crux of why the suburbs are (still) so popular — people want access to the jobs, but they don’t want the crime, traffic, and anything else undesirable.  The problem with this is that while it may get you away from much  of the crime, it creates even more traffic problems for everyone, not too mention many of the good things, like convenient walkable neighborhoods and schools, corner coffee shops, funky bars, and museums become too far away.

The ideal situation — and most antifragile — is expose yourself to all of the good things about cities, but minimize the downside.  How to do this?  Well, many people are already doing his organically, some consciously and some unconscionably.  We’re seeing a revival in urbanism and movements by people and business back to the city center, but I think it’s helpful to think of it in a conscious and logical manner.    Here are some strategies:

  • If you don’t have kids and school systems aren’t an issue, live right in the heart of the city.  You can choose a condo, apartment, or possibly even a house.  The key is to make sure it’s a safe neighborhood, so you’re not exposed to much of the crime.
  • If you have kids and the public school system is bad, live in the closest safe’ish neighborhood to downtown.  Most big cities have this kind of “suburb” that’s really more like an extension of the city than a suburb.  Meaning, it’s got sidewalks, storefronts, and good public transportation.  It should be almost seamless to get downtown.
  • You could also just send your kids to a private school and stay right in the neighborhood you like, if you have the money to do so.
  • Live in a part of the metro area where your commute is reversed.  I can tell you first hand that this is a big deal.  I’ve had several jobs on the outskirts of the city while I lived near the city center (in a separate municipality), but the commute to work was more like 20 minutes instead of 40-60 minutes the other direction, because of the fact that everyone was coming into downtown during the morning rush hour while I was leaving it.  This can definitely help you keep your sanity.
  • Take practical precautions so you can get out and enjoy the city.  Make sure you don’t leave your door open when you leave.  If you’re worried at night but want to leave your windows open, get a window lock that make it impossible to open them from the outside.  Lock your garage, etc.   Anything that makes you safer and lets you still get out and enjoy all that cities have to offer.
  • Make friends. Join groups.  Not only will you enjoy your experiences more sharing it with others, but it also partially solves one of the safety issues.




Raising Antifragile Children



If you have children, you spend a lot of time thinking about how to raise them, stressing over times when they fail, celebrating their good deeds and generally wondering if you’re doing everything you can to give them the best life possible.  After all, that’s the essential job of being a parent, right?

We want our children to be able to handle not only the childhood years, the sometimes dicey teen years, but also the big bad real world adult years, where the shit can really hit the fan and the amount of stressors and responsibilities increase exponentially.

I’ve never heard anyone say they want their child to be a loner, be emotionally fragile,  or be susceptible to diseases and die early. We want them to not just survive, but thrive.  That’s what being antifragile is all about.


Smokey was fragile. Don’t be him.


The Antifragile Pyramid — For Kids

I developed a concept of what I call the Antifragile Pyramid for kids.  Follow these steps and you’ll raise a superman or superwoman.


Proper Nutrition.  I think it all really has to start here.  As we’ve all heard before, you literally are what you eat. If a child’s brain chemistry if off, if their hormones are out of whack, if they have weak bones, if their blood sugar is sky high all the time and they don’t feel like moving and they are already pre-diabetic, what chance do they have?  How will they ever be able to succeed at school, socialize with their peers and have at least normal self-esteem?  The answers is, they simply cannot.  There are entire books written on diet and nutrition, but here are the basics.  The more you can do of these, the better.  No one will be perfect… that’s not the goal.  I find that the more I’m just aware of these facts and try to integrate them within reason, the happier and healthier my own kids seem.

  • High amount of fat — especially the “good fats” high in omega-3’s.
    • Get omega-3 vitamins
    • If your child drinks lots of milk, like my 3 year old still does, buy full-fat whole milk with extra omega-3 oils added
    • Buy grass fed beef whenever possible
    • Eat fish such as salmon and trout
    • Eat moreuts and seeds
  • Vegetables and fruit
    • No need to worry about whether this fruit or that fruit has higher sugar content.  Most cutting edge experts agree, if it’s a real food, it’s almost always good for you
  • Greatly reduce processed foods, meaning almost anything with a label.
    • Try to cook at home as much as possible with real ingredients
    • Try to cut out almost all fast food
  • Low(er) sugar.
    • Take steps to reduce the sugar they take in.  I know first-hand… this is hard because kids love sweets, but all the experts agree now:  too much sugar is toxic to the body.  You’ve got to reduce where you can.

That’s it.  The more high-fat, highly nutritious meals they eat, the less they will crave the sugar and processed carbs.    Again, you don’t need to be perfect, just get more good stuff in them, however you can.

Love.  If you just get the first two, it may be enough.  Children who feel loved know that you have their back and can face the world without fear of failure.  Studies show that children who feel loved are physically healthier, mentally healthier, have increased brain function, and are less fearful — just to name a few.


Keep them moving.  50 years ago or so, childhood obesity was almost non-existent — somewhere around 4%. Now, almost one in five children is obese!  It’s crazy… but of course the adults haven’t fared any better.   Video games, TV, computers, and bad nutrition are combining to create an army of kid-sloths.   When you’re fat as a kid, you don’t feel good about yourself, which only alienates you even more; you’re head is foggy, so you can’t concentrate as well on your homework; and when you do play outside or play sports you don’t do as well, and again, get tired earlier, which makes you want to quit playing.  It’s a vicious cycle.

We’ve covered the nutrition part, but it’s critical to keep them active as well.  Team sports is one answer, but that’s only an obvious one.  And some kids don’t like them, plus you have to deal with the parents and the increasing corporate-aggressive nature of youth sports today.  So If that’s not your thing,   here are some other ideas to keep them burning calories, keep their brains active and bring the joy of movement into their lives:

  • Unstructured play.  Often times the best kind of activity is just plain-old having fun.  Playing Tag, Kick The Can,  or any other invented game where there’s a lot of running around and your kid is sweating like a pig.  Awesome!
  • Family Hikes.  Getting outside and interacting with nature is very beneficial.  Plus hiking on uneven surfaces as well as some elevation changes give your body and mind just right amount of variability.
  • Family Bike Rides.  Same as above.  Biking can be a great way to explore if a hiking trail isn’t available or you just feel like going faster!  Nothing more exhilarating than letting gravity pull you down hill after a nice hard bike uphill.
  • Swimming.  Works your whole body and is fun.  Even better is open water swimming and/or splashing, running, surfing in an ocean (or one of the Great Lakes) with nice wave action.  What kid doesn’t love playing in waves?
  • Sledding/snow sports. If you’re locked down for the winter under bunch of ice and snow,  another activity that kids love is sledding ( or almost any kind of snow play).  It takes a lot of work to haul the sleds up hill each time (and your kids sleds), but screaming with joy for 5-10 seconds on the down hill is totally worth it.
  • Playing in the house.  Sometimes you just don’t want or can’t go outside, –especially in the winter — so you have to get creative.  Do whatever it takes: run circles around the house, wrestle on the bed, play imagination games.  Anything that gets your heart pumping and is random and fun.


Socialization.  The next step in the pyramid is getting kids interacting with others their age and allowing them  to try and solve problems amongst themselves.  Success in life is often a direct result of who can communicate best with others.  How often do you see the guy in high school who barely graduated become a millionaire by 35 because he could sell cars better than anyone or owns a chain of restaurants.  If you child is very shy, this is probably even more important.

  • Have Play Dates.  From as early an age as possible, they need to see other children, learn to share, develop bonds with others their age, and have a couple kids that they can call their “friends”.
  • Daycare/Preschool.  I think daycare gets a bad rap sometimes; the thinking is that kids get pick up a lot of illnesses and they are away from mom and dad for a long period of time.  While these two things can be true they don’t always have to be bad.  Yes, they are exposed to germs from lots of other kids there and probably get sick more often.  I say, good!  I’d rather have them be exposed early and often in small doses than live in a sterile house for 5 years and then bam, they get really sick and possibly develop greater allergies.  It’s also true that they are away from the their parents, but as long as this not 10 hours a day for 5 days a week, I think it’s probably a good thing.  Each kid is different of course, so you have to adjust to your child’s personality, but the theory is a sound one in general.
  • School.  There is a huge variability in schools in this country, but in general, I favor kids going to an actual school vs. home schooling.  Ideally it would be one with a variety of options, from theater to music to sports programs.  It should be diverse, but not unsafe.

Get them involved.  After good nutrition, love, exercise, and socializing with others, you’re already gone a long way toward having a child with great self-esteem and one who is as antifragile as possible, and ready to face whatever the future brings; but one of the last pieces of the puzzle is to help them find something they are good at.

When a child is able to excel at something or even just participate on a team they gain self-esteem, learn the value of teamwork, feel a sense of inclusion, and get exposure to a diverse range of interests.  Whether your child is in the Lego club, girl scouts, cub scouts, karate, a basketball team, the orchestra, the drama club, or the debate team, they can gain all of the benefits described above.

Self-esteem.  If you have got this far on the pyramid, you should have child who is self confident and takes pleasure in engaging with life.  As the website says, “self-esteem is the passport to a lifetime of mental health and social happiness”.  I couldn’t agree more.  Having self confidence and a belief in yourself, will mentally prepare you for whatever life can throw your way.

The more stressful events a child overcomes, the more confidence he/she gains that they will be able to handle the next one.  In essence, they become more antifragile.

A few tips for increasing self-esteem in children:

  • No belittling or bullying
  • Let them win
  • Play with them — especially games the ylike
  • Be present
  • Give them responsibility
  • Reward them and recognize them for jobs well-done.

See  the site  for more ideas and explanation about self-esteem in children.

Well, if you’ve got this far,  congratulations.  You will have raised a child that has a healthy immune system: is physically fit, including  having strong bones, muscles, and heart;  has friends and family to fall back on in times of need,; is curious, skillful, and learned about the world; and has the confidence to navigate the rest of the way.


Drink Mexican Water and Walk on Rocks

I was listening to James Altucher’s podcast with Nassim Taleb from 2014 again recently… trying to pick up anything he had to say about applying antifragility to one’s personal life. I founds a few good nuggets in there about what he does in his own life and added some of my own thoughts.


  • Walk as much as you can, preferably on uneven surfaces.  Nassim loves to take walks. He mentions this in his books and other interviews.  Usually he talks about strolling as opposed to hiking or walking for exercise, but in this interview he says he likes to walk on rocky surfaces because the variability forces his body and brain to adjust.  The first time, he says, “… I broke my nose, but after that I adjusted…”   Personally, I like walking on the beach whenever possible.  It has a similar effect, and is less dangerous to my face.
  • Drink the local water when traveling.  When he goes to a foreign country he always like to at least drink a little bit of the water.  This he says, is both for “ethical reasons” and antifragile ones.  The theory is if you are only drinking bottled water your whole life, that one time you do take in other water, by necessity or accident, you might get violently ill.   I suppose this is a bit like getting a vaccine.
  • Get a tan.  I’ve argued for this for years now, even as sun phobia has gotten greater and greater.  Sunshine has lots of benefits, from Vitamin D creation, which is super important to our health and immune system to lower heart disease risk, to increased mood.  Of course, you can overdo it.  But you can over do anything.  As Nassim says, if you’re of Irish decent and living in Ireland, you’re probably okay.  If you move to Palm Springs, California, then you may want to dial it back a bit.
  • Eat a variety of foods.  Similar to drinking the local water, eating a variety of foods exposes us to more nutritional benefits, tastes that we never new existed, and keeps us from getting too fragile from eating the same type of food — even if the food is good for you.  My mother was in a health food store a while back, and struck up a conversation with another customer.  “My goal in life”, she said, ” is to one day be able to survive on nothing but wheat grass”.  Can you imagine, not only how boring this would be, but what would happen the one time, years later,  when she gets exposed to a piece of  bacon or something?   When my kids were very small I made sure I allowed them to have a little peanut butter, honey, shellfish, etc.  All the things you’re not supposed to have before age 1.


7 Antifragile Alternative Investments


Here are my  suggestions for “alternative” investments that will make you a more antifragile person. That is to say, after implementing these, you will have less fear of chaos, stress, and volatility entering your life — your downside risks will less, while your upside potential will be greater.  For a quick definition of antifragile see here.

1. Cash

Ideally you’d have the following:

  • Savings account with at least 6 months living expenses
  • Cold hard cash that you keep under the mattress, in a strong box or what have you
  • Foreign cash in two different currencies


  • If you’re out of job, you’ll need the savings to live on.
  • If you have a job, but need to pounce on an great investment opportunity (or pay a ransom) immediately, you’ll need something very liquid.  This will put you in a more advantageous position than someone whose assets are tied up.
  • If the banking system fails as it almost did in 2008, you’ll be happy you’re one of the few with big stash of real money.  Cash will be king.
  • If you’re country’s cash is no longer accepted or inflation is skyrocketing, you’ll at least have some foreign cash to get by

2. Alternative Energy


  • Solar panels
  • Windmill/wind power
  • Extra diesel fuel and a generator (diesel fuel stores the longest)
  • Tesla power wall or back up battery
  • Gasoline futures.  See


  • High optionality. If one power supply is unavailable or too expensive, you can use another method.
  • In a case of a real calamity, if you are able to produce your own power and sell it, you become much more valuable than you were in normal times, so you’re almost hoping for chaos! — at least from a financial perspective.  That’s antifragile.

3. Dual Citizenship

Imagine something terrible happens in your home country, such as a civil war or financial collapse.  Wouldn’t it be nice to be able to just buy a plane ticket and be on your way to another (home) country?  In today’s globalized and interconnected world, no country is immune to collapse.  I happen to live in the United States, which seems powerful and stable, but is also the country that people would love to bring down the most.  It would be nice to know that I could make me way to Canada, if need be.

This idea is not just for doomsday scenarios.  Perhaps you want to purchase real estate for investment or retirement purposes — or there are better job opportunities in your other country.  If you’re a citizen, it’s no problem.  Speaking of…

4. Foreign Real Estate

This a good hedge against other investments in your home country that are tightly correlated, but it also gives you that alternate place to live in case the zombie apocalypse  hits your home town.

It also you encourages you to travel more to a foreign country and learn about the culture there, which is another excellent antifragile strategy.

5. A Garden  / Extra land

A garden or farm allows you to grow your own food.  This is good for several reasons:

  • you get highly nutritious, organic food which keeps you healthier and protects you more effectively from disease, free radicals, toxic chemicals, and stress
  • you can sell excess food for profit.  As chaos rises, your food prices should go up
  • if the land becomes super valuable, you can just sell it and set up a garden/farm somewhere else

Extra land has similar benefits. It’s a place you can:

  • put your garden,
  • construct a greenhouse,
  • construct some other type of building for your benefit,
  • move to if your current living situation is undesirable,
  • or just sell to someone else if the price is right.

6. Friends

True friends do not require a high degree of maintenance (low downside) and will come through for you in times of need (big upside).  From a practical perspective they also provide the following  benefits (and there are hundreds more):

  • access to jobs
  • someone to share your feelings with
  • ideas to help with your kids, finances, home repair,  recipes, etc…
  • conduits/introductions to other acquaintances that can help with literally anything
  • backup/duplicate functions such as house sitting, pet sitting, babysitting or even backup friends or mating partners if you encounter a loss.

7. Yourself

It’s safe to say the best investment you can always make is in yourself.  This could be a whole other blog post or even a separate book, but it should be obvious that the more time and money you spend on bettering yourself, the more adaptable, stronger, smarter, and healthier you’ll be.  Which means you can survive and thrive even when the world is in disarray.

The foundations are always nutrition and mental health in my opinion. Stay on the cutting edge of health and always try eat as well as possible.  See a therapist or read inspiring self improvement books.  Engage in activities that bring you joy.   Everything else should take off from there.  Here are some people and resources in no particular order that have helped me greatly and which I highly recommend:

  • Sally HogsheadHow to Fascinate.  In this book, Sally talks about how each of us has one or two distinctive personality types ( out of 49)  that can makes us effective and powerful.  The main takeaway for me was don’t worry about your weaknesses, play to your strengths.  This makes us more “fascinating” to others.  Simple, yet very effective advice.  It changed the way I approached my career and thought about myself, in general.
  • James Altucher — Listen to his podcasts, read his blog posts and/or his book Choose Yourself.  You can’t go wrong with James.  He’s so brutally honest that if nothing else, it makes a great read or listen.  He has so many unbelievable guests on his podcasts, that you’re bound to learn something new and amazing each time.
  • Jack CanfieldThe Success Principles.  I was a little skeptical at first because this is the guy who wrote the Chicken Soup for the Soul series, which I figured was too cheesy for me (even though I had never read it), but this dude lays out some awesome advice.  The book is like a bible of success habits — something you can turn to again and again.  I’ve listened to it on audio book three times now on my way to and from work.
  • Jon GabrielThe Gabriel Method.  Equal parts nutrition book, weight loss book, and  mental health book, Jon combines visualization and mediation with expert-level bio-chemistry and nutrition information.  This guys knows his stuff.  It’s also the first time I remember hearing the idea that you’re overweight because your body wants you to be.  Until you can conquer things like emotional pain and stress, toxicity, and bad poor nutrition habits, you won’t lose the weight no matter what kind of diet you’re on.  In fact it’s an anti-diet book.


The Antifragile Career, Part 3: Thriving at Your Job


“You don’t understand, you’re out.” These were the words my dad heard from the principal at the high school where he was a social studies teacher during the 1980s.  The school year was wrapping up and due to budgetary restraints and lower enrollment in the district, some of the teachers would be out of a job next year.  He had known there were some layoffs coming for some staff, but had been trying to negotiate for why his job should be secure.  At the time, he had three children under 13 years old and no backup plan.  He was the sole income earner for the family.  What he thought was a stable, steady public school teaching job, was suddenly very tenuous.

In today’s environment, it’s not enough  just to get a job and go on automatic pilot.  Jobs tend to be fragile.  Companies go out of business unexpectedly, governments are under increasing pressure to cut taxes, and technology advances at such a fast rate that what was once state of the art is now obsolete.  The list could go on and on.  Most people don’t realize how insecure their career actually is.

When my dad was told his bad news, he knew he had to spring into action immediately.  He had been unprepared at the moment, but there was still a slight chance he could be in a better position by the time next school year started.

He found a clause in the union contract that said if was qualified to teach a second subject, they would have to find a spot for him, due to his seniority.  So during one mad scramble of a summer, he was able to go back to school, call in a couple favors, and take a bunch of English classes — which enabled him to get certified to teach by the time the fall rolled around.  He had saved his job (even if he wasn’t the most popular teacher with the administration).

Things were stable for the moment, but this must have been a wake-up call for him, because the next year, he enrolled in law school and by working nights, weekends, and summers completed his law degree four years later.  Even though he chose to remain a teacher until he retired, he nonetheless had put him self in a much more powerful position.  He had taken a stressful event (getting a layoff notice) and turned it into something better ( a teacher with dual certification and a law degree).  That’s the definition of antifragile, right there.

You never know when you could receive a bolt of bad news out of the blue, but you can always do your best to prepare for the worst.  Here are some strategies for thriving at your job and keep your options open in case you have to switch jobs or even careers.

  1. Learn new skills on the job.  This is almost always free (no risk!). Some companies offer additional skills training.  Some might offer management training.  Both are good — and management skills are broadly transferable, even it is harder to move laterally sometimes.
  2. If your company offers international travel, take it.  It opens up new doors personally and professionally and you learn things about other cultures that you normally never would.  Plus it probably makes you a stronger player within the organization itself.  Double plus… they pay for it!
  3. Learn a new language.  See above.
  4. Take on a new project.  If you can’t travel, you can at least “explore” within the organization.  The more sills you have, the more valuable you become.
  5. Be friendly.  Be likable.  Go to lunch with people.  Hang out and chat with people once in a while.  This does two things:  1) it makes you more popular within the company (harder to fire) and 2) if you are let go, it gives you other connections in case you are looking for work.  Those people will want to help you and pass along any openings or advice that they have.
  6. Learn a non-related skill in your off time (or when you are at work, if you can pull it off).  If you have to (or want to) switch careers entirely, you need some kind of skill.  There are hundreds of things you could do but here’s a few ideas:
    1. Take some computer programming classes or just learn online and practice
    2. Learn how to cut hair, go to beauty school
    3. Learn about plumbing
    4. Make things and try selling them online ( cookies, crafts, t-shirts, artwork, etc..)
    5. Bartend or wait tables a few hours a week
  7. If nothing else, just do a good job at your current company.  It probably goes without saying, but the more valuable you are to your boss and your company, the more likely you are to thrive there. That will at least get you to robust within your own company.  Then you can start apply some of the other antifragile ideas above.

The more of these things you do while at your current job, the more relaxed you feel.  Eventually, you’ll be so confident about handling any situation that you will get bored if things are just the same old, same old every day.   You’ll actually crave variability and some randomness!  You may want to start that side (or second career).  And if one doesn’t work out, that’s fine… there is always another more exciting option to try….