The Anti-Fragile Theory: How to gain from pain

“Antifragile” is a buzzword today and makes absolute sense in the world of entrepreneurship – it is the ability to benefit from disorder. Parents, especially in today’s world of abundance, are constantly trying to protect and provide for their children, making them fragile and restraining their ability to fend for themselves.

Providing deep insight into the topic of today’s Webisode is Ms Lina Ashar, educationist, entrepreneur, writer and Founder of Billabong High International School and Mr Praveen Kenneth, Founder, Law&Kenneth and Chairman, Elohim&Kenneth.

Ms Lina used the beautiful phrase “bubble wrapping kids” to explain the effect of overprotective parents. She said, “Parents, while you think you’re being kind to your kids, when you’re bubble wrapping your kids, you’re being cruel. We have to be cruel to be kind to our kids. Today, kids can’t tolerate discomfort like they ever have been able to and they have negative reactions to the world around them all the time.”

Mr Praveen took us back to his childhood where his parents were focussed on his older sibling who was unwell for a long time and how knowingly or unknowingly that made him fend for himself and how that turned out to be a blessing. “Nothing came on a platter and I had to fight for every single thing that came my way. I came from a system that is not always serving me. Everything had to be earned which I thought was very cruel at the time but that’s what made me who I am today.”

The most important lesson from Praveen’s example is “the story” that we tell ourselves. You can choose to be a victim or you can make your situation work to your benefit.

The quality of resilience can be cultivated in children. It is the ability to bounce back from disorder and that makes you robust. It is a quality that can help sail through troubled waters, a skill required in entrepreneurs who need to take healthy risks and whose journey is not guaranteed to be all rosy. But being antifragile is when you benefit from a disorder and that is certainly the better place to be.

Explaining the need to accept uncertainty as a part of life, Mr Praveen said “We need to have serious conversations about the joy of failing. We don’t prepare our kids for challenges or adventures. The story of every entrepreneur has instances of failure. Each time I fail, I get closer to victory. We need to train kids that failure is the stepping stone to all our successes. If that can be made a part of our daily conversations, that would be great and we should celebrate the joy of failing.” He advised parents not to provide in abundance to their children as that does not let them dream or chase their dreams as the parents themselves are fulfilling their dreams.

Ms Lina also stressed the importance of rewarding children for their efforts instead of the outcome. “We need to teach them to reflect and ask themselves what would they do differently next time? An overprotected child cannot think for himself/herself and cannot handle failures or ambiguity and that is the tragedy of overprotective parents.” The only way forward is to constantly learn and grow and today all the information we need is at our fingertips. She started her journey as a teacher and she wanted to reach out to as many kids as possible in India through her schools. She changed her model multiple times to adapt to changing times and the environment and she explained how each setback made her think and come up with a solution.

In these times of the pandemic, human beings are proving their resilience each day and taking it by the day. It is an evolving process and there has been a lot of optimism despite the negativity surrounding us. Mr Praveen feels hopeful that human resilience will overcome this challenge too like we have in the past and come out stronger and gentler.

Mr Praveen stressed that we need to encourage our kids to dream. “The world needs creators. The one thing that can make a difference to the universe is your creation! However, for every 1000 companies born today, only 2-3 survive in 5 years. So the journey of an entrepreneur is uncertain.” Here is where the quality of being antifragile is a boon. If you welcome storms, you will be a good entrepreneur.

In his current entrepreneurial journey, Mr Praveen is trying to figure out models and use technology to bring commonsense to life. “We engage in things we feel for. Life is all about connection and I’m in the business of understanding what people feel.”

To end the delightful discussion, Mr Praveen said “If kids can pause and say “How do i feel about this? Instead of how will I be seen, their lives will be very different and fulfilling.”

Ms Lina too ended with a thought-provoking message to parents. “Whenever you’re going to act in any way for your kids, just think – is this in the best long-term interest of my child and you’ll almost always know what to do in that situation.”

You can watch the entire Webisode here:

Extra references:

Ted Talk – paradox of choice

Antifragile: Things That Gain from Disorder by Nassim Nicholas Taleb

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