Early = Anti-fragile

Image result for early bird gets the wormI take the train from Milwaukee to Chicago quite often for work. I have a very good idea of how long it takes to get from my house to the train station and then how long it takes me to park and walk in to board the train.  I’ve become so familiar with that I often cut it close – very close.  There have been several time where I’ve thought:   This is it…  I’m going to miss the train. Only to miraculously, at the last moment, somehow gun my way through morning traffic, find a parking spot and run into station, just in time.   For what though?  Why can’t I just leave earlier?  It would save me a lot of stress.  Why risk missing it?
The answer probably is that the risk isn’t too critical. Worst case, I could just drive there.  But most of the time I have the option to just work from home, so there aren’t many days where it’s super important.

However – flying is a different animal.  I was recently taking a business trip to Boston.  I hadn’t flown in over a year, and maybe my traveling skills were rusty, or maybe my mind was just elsewhere, but I waited in line for security for about 25 minutes, got through, and then realized I had my large suitcase with me, which I had forgotten to check.  I had to run back to the ticketing and check-in area to get my bag on the flight then back up to security again.  Fortunately, I had arrived at the airport over 2 hours early and I had plenty of time.  Lesson learned. But it also got me thinking about downside risk and how dumb it is to cut things close when there is a lot of potential negative consequences.

In this case, the downside risk was quite large.  I would have messed up a four day business trip, and looked stupid and/or not responsible in the process.  All for the benefit of doing whatever (probably nothing) at home for an extra half hour or so.  That right there is the definition of fragile —  events with low upside and huge downside risk.

Conversely, consistently arriving early for things poses very little risk.  At worst you’re inconvenienced a bit and have to do some work or read ( or just relax) at the airport.  That’s a small price to pay for that one time when you mess up or there is a huge security line, etc, etc. and you’re still able to make that important flight.

Early bird gets the worm!


The Top 3 Most Anti-fragile Songs

Judas Priest SforV.jpg  Alanis Morissette - Jagged Little Pill.jpg  Image result for jumpin jack flash

I listen to a lot of music.  I’ll use different playlists to fit my mood.  If I’m on a roadtrip, I want great driving music.  If I’m working out, upbeat, hard-driving music fits the bill.  In the last year or so, I’ve used music to lift my spirits as I’ve recovered from a divorce and tried to handle all of the emotional swings that go along with that. Despair, anger, and guilt from the past relationship.  Fear and self-doubt as I attempt new ones.  Along with bouts of elation as well.  During this time, the music I’ve tended to gravitate towards has a theme of getting over obstacles and moving on.  Well, not just moving on, but actually getting better — because I’m always trying to think in an anti-fragile mindset, of course!

Even though the saying “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger”, is a common phrase, there are surprisingly few songs that have this concept.  Kelly Clarkson has a song called Stronger (What Doesn’t Kill You), so that’s one obvious one.  But a little too obvious for me.  Not a bad song though. Love the message.   Anyway, here are my three favorites with some honorable mentions at the end.

3. You’ve Got Another Thing Comin’ — Judas Priest

Yes, Judas Priest.  These guys wrote some incredibly empowering music, despite their reputation as “devil music” propagandists.

I love this song.  It just makes me want to take on the world

Key lyrics:

One life I’m gonna live it up
I’m takin’ flight said I’ll never get enough.
Stand tall I’m young and kinda proud
I’m on top as long as the music’s loud.
If you think I’ll sit around as the world goes by
You’re thinkin’ like a fool ’cause it’s a case of do or die.
Out there is a fortune waitin’ to be had
If you think I’ll let it go you’re mad
You’ve got another thing comin’

If you think I’ll sit around while you chip away my brain
Listen I ain’t foolin’ and you’d better think again.
Out there is a fortune waitin’ to be had
If you think I’ll let it go you’re mad
You’ve got another thing comin’.

In this world we’re livin’ in we have our share of sorrow
Answer now is don’t give in aim for a new tomorrow.

I could go on.  The whole song is great.  He’s had his share of sorrow, taken some lumps, but he knows there’s a “fortune waiting to be had” — so much upside.  So little downside to just going for it.  You think I’ll let it go?  You’re mad! 🙂

2. You Learn — Alanis Morissette

This is a great song and perfectly anti-fragile song because she recommends all these things that are stressors in life because you learn from them and become a better person.


I, recommend getting your heart trampled on to anyone, yeah
I, recommend walking around naked in your living room, yeah
Swallow it down (what a jagged little pill)
It feels so good (swimming in your stomach)
Wait until the dust settles
You live you learn, you love you learn
You cry you learn, you lose you learn
You bleed you learn, you scream you learn
I, recommend biting off more than you can chew to anyone
I certainly do
I, recommend sticking your foot in your mouth at any time
Feel free
Throw it down (the caution blocks you from the wind)
Hold it up (to the rays)
You wait and see when the smoke clears

I love so many things about these lyrics.  It’s amazing to me that a 19 year old Alanis Morissette came up with most of these lyrics, which from everything I’ve read, it seems that she did.

The concept of a jagged little pill is awesome and encompasses the entire concept.  The pill represents something that’s good for you, will make you feel much better, or even cure you of an illness, but it will hurt going down — that’s it.  Short term pain, for long term gain.  It feels so good “swimming in your stomach”…

The message is clear — Put yourself out there, don’t worry about looking stupid, try things, go a bit crazy, let your emotions go a bit wild… When the dust settles, you’ll be much better off.  You will have learned. You will have attained wisdom.

A couple other lines I love:

Throw it down (the caution blocks you from the wind)  
Hold it up (to the rays)

She’s exposing herself to chaos ( the wind and the sun’s rays) on purpose.  She’s not worried.  She wants to experience life and not hide from it.  This is how I want to live.

Great, great song.

1. Jumpin Jack Flash  — The Rolling Stones

Definitely one of my favorite songs of all-time.  And Keith Richards’ favorite Stones song as well.  I can see why, it’s got an awesome groove.  Totally catchy and it rocks. And it describes his life!  But for the rest of us, the message is so empowering…  It’s a total “fuck you” to anyone or anything that has ever got you down.  Let’s look at the full lyrics:

I was born in a cross-fire hurricane
And I howled at the morning driving rain
But it’s all right now, in fact, it’s a gas
But it’s all right. I’m Jumpin’ Jack Flash
It’s a gas, gas, gas
I was raised by a toothless, bearded hag,
I was schooled with a strap right across my back
But it’s all right now, in fact, it’s a gas
But it’s all right, I’m Jumpin’ Jack Flash
It’s a gas, gas, gas
I was drowned, I was washed up and left for dead
I fell down to my feet and I saw they bled , yeah yeah
I frowned at the crumbs of a crust of bread
Yeah, yeah, yeah
I was crowned with a spike right through my head
But it’s all right now, in fact, it’s a gas
But it’s all right, I’m Jumpin’ Jack Flash
It’s a gas, gas, gas

This dude in this story has endured about as grinding and pathetic of a life as you can imagine, born in a war zone, miserable parenting, whipped by teachers, left for dead, beat up, starved…

But it’s alright.  No, no — it’s more than alright… it’s a gas!  It’s like… “Ha! Fuck you all!  I’m having the time of my life…”

This song always makes me smile.  I’ll never tire of it.

Honorable mentions:

  • Float On — Modest Mouse
  • Heading Out To the Highway – Judas Priest
  • Back in Black – AC/DC
  • I will Survive – Gloria Gaynor
  • I’m Still Standing – Elton John
  • Never Going Back Again – Fleetwood Mac
  • Winning – Santana
  • Song 2 – Blur
  • I Don’t Care Anymore – Phil Collins