Thursday, January 2, 2014

Hydra Heads and Habits

I suppose that in my excitement to write about new year's I overlooked explaining exactly how the mythological beast, the Hydra dragon, will actually apply concretely to my thinking.

Well, as I mentioned in my last blog post, I'm rather fascinated by this book called Antifragile, which argues that it's better to be antifragile than to be resilient or robust. To contrast them, the author uses the analogy of the mythological Phoenix bird against the Hydra serpent. When the Phoenix bird dies it is reborn from its ashes, but it's no better or worse off; it's the same. When the Hydra monster gets a head cut off it grows two in response; injury makes it stronger.

I'm enthused to think that it's actually possible to set oneself up to be like the Hydra monster psychologically, in a way, so that obstacles at all times are just things to adapt to and grow from, not things that leave you the same or worse off.

Now, there's no one new year's resolution or self-improvement goal in itself that develops this kind of Hydra-antifragility, so for me to call 2014 the Year of Hydra means I'm going to be thinking about my habits in a specific way that will enable me to be flexible and adaptive, so that I continue growing despite unexpected occurrences. There have been times where I've been so rigid in a habit that it's harmed me.

To compare and contrast, consider the habit of walking. I love walking and take one nearly everyday; it's been a habit since early high school. However, at many points I used to be overly attached to taking a walk everyday, and of doing it on a specific route. That makes me "fragile," as I became extremely upset when the weather was too extreme for me to go out, my route failed to stimulate me, or I lost a route altogether. I was sensitive to the changes, especially weather-related ones.

A way to make this habit "antifragile" would be to vary it up. Instead of one route, I should have many potential ones. Of recent I learned to establish a route in parks I haven't taken advantage of, but always drive past. If the weather is extreme, I should consciously instruct myself that there's other activities for me to do: I could exercise at the gym, watch videos on my Kindle Fire, and so on. In other words, I should acknowledge that reality doesn't always give you what you immediately want; you've got to adapt and not be too upset about it.

That may be a super-small example since it doesn't encompass how antifragility may apply to things like emotional health, career stability, financial matters, and so on, but it gets the logic down. I want to transform all areas of my life and being to be antifragile so that I don't have a year so full of mistakes as 2013 was.

As an example of important antifragility: When working at a salaried job, one would do well to gain a self-employment income on the side, even if one never intends to become self-employed. That, in a way, makes one become antifragile, for the salaried job could vanish without notice, driving income down to zero; having established a self-employment fallback, there's still income and an extra Hydra head to grow.

2013 was not only the Year of Charlie Brown for me, but of too great fragility. I suffered a lot from mistakes, though, going in line with the aforementioned book, that means I got a lot of information to go off of, to prevent myself from making those mistakes again. 2014 is the opportunity to turn knowledge into actual wisdom, for what is wisdom but knowledge put to practice?

2014 will certainly has its own share of mistakes and setbacks, but with work, hopefully far less numerous and far lesser in scope.

Let us test out living this antifragility concept.

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