November 24, 2021

A concept from one of my favourite writers, Nassim Nicholas Taleb, is the antifragility of systems to unexpected and consequential events. In other words, the way to build different systems so that they, not only weather the storm of unexpected events and survive, but potential thrive of them, as they have been intentionally prepared for these events.

Recent times have showed many examples around the world of fragile systems that falter in the wake of pandemic viruses and financial collapses.

Humans are a system unto themselves, each one a complex interaction of different parts working together to produce often amazing things. The normal, homeostatic function of a human is pretty amazing, even before they start running fast and jumping high.

Pain and injury are often unexpected, consequential events.

When we are helping people with their rehabilitation from these events, we are looking to get them back to what they want to do, but also try and help them decrease their risk or exposure to these events in the future.

Lots of health professionals like talking about prevention, but the hard truth is we can’t prevent pain and injury. They are inevitable, and unpredictable.

If we can’t prevent them,what do we do? We may not know what pain or injuries may happen, or when, and we should not avoid living our lives because they might. We can try to decrease our risk to them, or try to decrease the consequences they have on our lives.

So in order to prevent our system spiralling out of control, what can we do to make ourselves more robust in the face of our uncertain and volatile worlds?

Using the book “Antifragile” as a guide, here is Newcastle Performance Physio’s Antifragile Strategy.

Parts of this make up what we call the “New Normal” – our efforts to help someone change their perception of what “normal” means in health.

  1. Physically stronger. One of my favourite things to say is “if you can handle more stuff, you can handle more stuff”. Being able to absorb and produce more force means you can tolerate more of it in your body. Simple physics
  2. Movement Variability. Better than flexibility is the ability to do lots of things. When work or activity is repetitive we lose the ability to do things different to that. Working on having lots of movement options makes your body better at adapting to situations without breaking or freaking out.
  3. Understanding. Having more knowledge about how you work, and what makes things better or worse, makes it easier for you to make better decisions. If you can make sense of what is happening to you, how to act is clearer.
  4. Control. It’s your body after all. All of the above contribute to giving you more control over what happens. Pain and injury are hard enough, but the feeling of being lost and unable to change course makes things infinitely worse.
  5. Purpose. Being clear on why you are doing things makes it easier to keep doing them. Life will always throw up reasons to stop. Having a clear purpose, intention or destination makes continuing to adapt and progress much easier.
  6. Support. This is us. We don’t do the work, you do. We just help you develop everything listed above, and help you to be sure you’re doing the right thing. Rehab is hard enough, doing it alone and without guidance is lonely, boring and unsuccessful. You’re driving the bus, and deciding where to go, we’re in the passenger seat helping you work out how to get there.

So there’s our guide to making your system antifragile. Confident and resilient in the face of whatever comes your way.