To be or not to be

At the core of becoming antifragile is our ability to take decisions when facts are scarce and when the outcome is difficult to predict.

Our key to unlocking this ability is a powerful idea that runs invisibly through almost every aspect of our culture. It is the hidden pattern gave Shakespeare’s Hamlet his most famous line, “To be, or not to be.” It shapes the defining mantra of the world’s most powerful nation: “You can become anything you want to.” It lies behind the universal structure of the Hero’s Journey, which runs through almost every spellbinding, bestselling story ever told: from Casablanca to Star Wars, Harry Potter, and Breaking Bad.

This key is the idea that we might one day grow to fulfil our destiny, our identity.

Our identity, or who we think we are, determines the clothes we wear, the food we eat, and the cars we drive (or don’t). It shapes the jobs we choose, the ways we vote, and the people who become our friends, lovers, and life-partners. Who we think we are determines every action that we take: whether we follow the well-worn path or the road less travelled.

And in a time of change, this small but powerful idea becomes even more important, for four reasons. Two of them are problems, and two are opportunities:

  1. The first is that change brings us challenges that make it harder to do the things we are used to doing and to have the things we are used to having. These changes are not necessarily difficult in themselves but because they challenge our identity.
  2. The second is that these challenges then force us to make choices we’d rather not make, at times we’d rather not make them.
  3. The third is that, if we approach them in the right way, these decisions can actually become opportunities — to get clearer on what matters most to us and who we most want to become.
  4. And the fourth is that the clearer we become about who we are willing to be (and not to be), and why, the easier it becomes to make these choices, and the more inspired we then feel each morning to get up and do what we have chosen to do.

In a time of change, knowing more clearly who we want to be and not to be is a powerful method both for defining what success looks like to us and for achieving that success.

This is the fourth step to becoming antifragile.

When faced with significant, unpredictable change, how quickly and easily do you choose what action to take? Would you like to become faster at this?

Adapted from Inner Leadership: a framework and tools for building inspiration in times of change.

You can sign up to daily posts here.

You can buy the book here and the workbook here.

(And remember: you don’t learn to swim by reading about swimming, you also need to practice.)

Photo By Sheep purple via

Leave a Reply