Handling Challenges the Nassim Nicholas Taleb Way – Black Swan

person rock climbing

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The current unpredictable environment is the Black Swan event Nassim Nicolas Taleb mentioned in his book ‘The Black Swan’.  According to him, a black swan event is an extremely rare event with extreme consequences.  They cause untold damage and as they are difficult to predict can be managed by building robust processes and systems.

He was one of the few to have written about such events in 2007 even before the 2008 financial crisis and post 2008 argued for non-interference to let the systems develop a flexibility to handle such situations on their own.  He was also against bailouts and even criticized governments for using taxpayer’s money to help big corporations as bailing out denies them an opportunity to become resilient.

What he argued for systems applies to an extent on humans as well.  People, who are insulated from challenges, continue to operate from their comfort zones and get the biggest shock and fail when confronted with a new challenge.  This applies especially to those people who have been facing difficult situation in the current scenario in the form of job or business loss.

What Taleb argued was that we should let broken systems fail, as this failure will ultimately strengthen them against future shocks and calamities that are difficult to predict.  Continuing to patronize them by providing cushions against these shocks will deter them from adapting to or improvising which is critical survival in the long run.

When someone lose a job or suffers losses in business, behaviour of the past acts as a yardstick to manage present crisis.  If an external force managed the previous crunches without letting individuals handle it, they deprive them of experience they can dip into and use the wisdom gained to fine-tune their current strategy for survival.  If I have already faced a life-threatening situation earlier on, I will be far better equipped to handle such future situations with a much better strategy and mindset.

Here, I am not suggesting resigning from a job and experiencing that feeling to gain experience.  What I am trying to convey is that we all have our own repository of experience filled with umpteen instances of successes and failures.  An individual, who has tried more, would have failed more and consequently will have a better idea on how not to fail.  Multiple failures teach resilience a trait very critical to manage any crisis.

young troubled woman using laptop at home

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I will however, make point of caution here on multiple failures leading to being wiser.  An individual or even a corporation need to put in place mechanism to never let a failure go waste by dissecting and understanding what led to that fiasco.  Accepting failure every time without learning from it or not using it to become wiser, in the long term would lead to frustrations and anxiety.

I had to struggle for months before I got my first job and when everything seemed settled, I suddenly decided to move to Canada leaving a well-established job here.  I returned in a few months’ time, had to struggle again for a job, initially settled for a lower paying one before getting one more suited to my experience.  I however realized soon that a job is not what I want to be in and quit, in the midst of covid crisis.  However, with my previous experience of handling failures and challenging situations coupled with 7 years of trekking, I am somehow at ease with myself.

The right experience can also lend the kind of calmness you need and require to manage yourself effectively.  This experience a lot of time can be learned from others as well or we can refer to books and find out how others managed themselves during difficult times.  However, it can only be a framework, the individual action and the steps to follow remain the responsibility of the individual herself, as it is something no one can do for us.  Every person has a unique way of handling things and when we try to copy other’s strategies, we need to keep that in mind.

What works for ‘A’ may not necessarily work for ‘B’. However, ‘A’ can definitely provide the framework with which she handled her issues which can provide ‘B’ with certain data point to keep in mind and avoid some absolute ‘no go’ steps.

Ultimately, we need to take every challenge as a learning opportunity and instead of getting bogged down by it, try observing it.  Notice, your own feelings, your own thoughts, your own ideas and your own reactions as you expose yourself to a new challenge and use that observation to find out which areas need to be aligned in order to handle it more effectively.

You will get an intuitive answer if you would have handled any challenging situation before else it will force you to think and come out of your comfort zone.  It will be scary at first, but once you get used to it, instead of running away you will embrace it with a smile.

I would be very eager to read your story of handling a challenging situation in your life, do let everyone know.



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