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  • Writer's pictureMatt Symes

The Power of Anti-Fragility

The Lead Yourself First newsletter is a deep dive into what keeps leaders healthy and performing at their peak. Every fourth week, I'll distill one or more points to help you prioritize self-leadership and personal growth.

Man walking in nature during the early morning hours

Embrace Pain, Sink Into Joy, And Discover Genuine Happiness: The Power of Anti-Fragility


This is about happiness for high-performers.

High performers often have a difficult time “finding happiness,” and those actively chasing it rarely find it either. But there is a roadmap for mastering the art of observation. And the best part is that what you’re doing today, with a few small alterations, will lead to those elusive moments of happiness.

It's a myth that perpetual joy is the hallmark of happiness. In reality, genuine happiness often emerges from understanding and embracing our painful emotions.

Tal Ben-Shahar reminds us that pain is a universal human experience; the only ones exempt are either psychopaths or the deceased. It's not about avoiding pain, but harnessing it.

Nassim Taleb has famously coined the term "anti-fragility." Unlike mere resilience, which suggests bouncing back to an original state, being anti-fragile means growing stronger through adversity. Think of it as psychological muscle-building or post-traumatic growth. 

And if there is one secret of high performance it is this: see the world as it actually is. Reflect on it. Avoid the tendency for EGO to descend into delusion or deflection. The coin I carry in my pocket says: Pain + Reflection = Growth. 

Ironically, making happiness your primary goal actually diminishes it. Instead, happiness often shines through when we least expect it, like the unforeseen colours in a rainbow, the gentle interactions with your child, or the tender observation of the family all together at a gathering.

Ben-Shahar's SPIRE model offers a roadmap:

- Spiritual: Find meaning and purpose.

- Physical: Prioritize rest and stress management.

- Intellectual: Feed your curiosity.

- Relational: Cherish moments with loved ones.

- Emotional Well-Being: Embrace the full spectrum of emotions, from joy to sorrow.

Gratitude, as one example, is a potent enhancer of well-being across these dimensions.

True happiness isn't a destination but comes in moments along the journey of the infinite game. It's about achieving harmony across the SPIRE and allowing them to transform us.

This quick video is worth watching:

Don't shy away from discomfort. It could very well be the catalyst for your growth. By nurturing our SPIRE strengths, we navigate life's unpredictability, drawing joy from its highs and lows.

Into Action:

  1. Start with a plan for the day - what are the six items you will get done today regardless of what the world throws at you?

  2. Reflect honestly, every day. What went well? What prevented you from having a perfect day? What could be improved?

  3. Embrace gratitude: I keep a gratitude journal and it prompts me to: write thank you notes, send those meaningful gifts, and compliment individuals authentically based on my observations. 

  4. Learn to see the pain and joy every day with a sense of awe. And take note of it as it is happening. 

As I embraced this pattern, I was able to live and be more fully in the present.


PS - If you want to dive into practical tips for pushing through growth challenges, scaling organizations, and optimizing your process, check out the Racki & Symes podcast.


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