In his book Antifragile, Nassim Nicholas Taleb distinguishes between fragile, resistant, and “antifragile” – a word he coins because there has not been a word to capture the opposite of fragility. Some things are fragile and break easily. Others are resistant and robust and are able to withstand pressure. But things that are “antifragile” don’t simply hold up under pressure; they get stronger with pressure. They grow and develop under pressure.
In many ways we are fragile people. Bones break, muscles ache, and we live this life only for a short season. According to the Scripture, our lives are a mist – here today and gone tomorrow. The apostle Paul said that we are like fragile jars of clay, jars that held expensive treasure. We are frail, but in us is the power of God.
We are fragile people, there are aspects of us that are antifragile. Our faith is antifragile. Our faith doesn’t just make it through trials and pain, but our faith is matured through trials and pain. Our learning is antifragile. We develop our ability to adjust and learn by taking on new challenges. A leader’s capacity is antifragile as well. A leader grows and develops by being placed in situations that require new skills to be learned or new thinking to be deployed.
Just as muscles are developed by adding additional weight to the routine, one sure way to grow and mature in 2019 is to be overwhelmed. Life in an imperfect world will likely throw us all some overwhelming trials in 2019, but it is important to add weight to your leadership development if you want to mature this new year. Here are three practical ways to grow as a leader in 2019:
Set an overwhelming goal.
Not every goal should be overwhelming. There is some wisdom in setting achievable goals, so that momentum is created and confidence is built. But large goals bring out potential in people that has yet to be realized. This is true personally and organizationally. If all a leader’s goals are easily achieved, then there is no need to learn new things, no need to rally everyone around something that requires everybody. An overwhelming goal forces learning and fosters an environment where everyone must contribute.
Take some risks.
We don’t learn and grow when we are in the safety of our comfort zones. Risks reminds that we need God’s grace to sustain us. They help us see a bigger picture of the world and they place us in a posture of being overwhelmed so we are required to learn something new. Taking a risk personally may mean traveling to a new place on a mission trip or committing to start a Bible study in your neighborhood. Taking a risk professionally may mean trying something new that could result in failure but will definitely result in new learning. If you don’t take a risk, you won’t grow.
Learn something difficult.
Have you not read a Christian Classic because “they are too hard to read”? Have you only listened to podcasts about your favorite professional sport? You are not alone. Most people stop learning difficult things when they finish school. But if you want to stretch your antifragile mind, learn something that many people deem too challenging or difficult.
Treat your growth as an exercise in being antifragile. Set some big goals. Take some risks. Learn something difficult.