When you ask people, ‘What’s the opposite of fragile?,’ they tend to say robust, resilient, adaptable, solid, strong. That’s not it. The opposite of fragile is something that gains from disorder. — Nassim Nicholas Taleb, Antifragile
So much of our lives is follow the leader. We do the same things because other people do it. Copycat society. Same? Same.
But I’ve found one of the most useful things you can do is the exact opposite sometimes. Here are three examples.
In his book, Tools of Titans, Tim Ferriss describes how he failed in a sales job over and over again. He was smiling and dialing, and failing. A lot.
He realized all the other salespeople made their cold emails and calls between business hours, 9 am to 5 pm. And then he asked himself . . .
“What if I did the opposite of all the other sales guys, just for 48 hours? I decided to take a Thursday and Friday and make sales calls only from 7 to 8:30 a.m. and 6 to 7:30 p.m. For the rest of the day, I focused on cold emails. It worked like gangbusters. The big boss often picked up the phone directly.”
Ferriss continued this experiment by not pitching a product, but just asking questions. He also studied the technical aspects of the product to sound more like an engineer and less like a salesperson.
He ended emails with I totally understand if you’re too busy to reply, and thank you for reading this far instead of generic replies.
And it worked. He outsold the entire office.
This is a social example. This past New Year’s Eve, my friends and I wanted to get together to do something. But New Year’s fell on a Saturday. This meant going out would be crowded. And expensive (time and money wise).
So what did we do instead?
A good friend of mine suggested we do the opposite. Let’s celebrate at noon. Not at midnight.
We hosted some friends at our place, my wife made breakfast that turned into a brunch. We even counted down with old YouTube videos from past New Year’s at noon.
The day was a big hit. I was in bed by 9 pm, and still had tons of fun.
A product example of doing the opposite comes from Snapchat. When the video app launched, it did one thing the exact opposite than other social competitors.
Twitter archives anything you tweet. Facebook has photo albums of you from 2006. But Snapchat?
When it was first released, whatever you posted, disappeared after a short period of time. Poof. You couldn’t find it.
It was a online moment that felt like a moment in reality. When you talk to your friend or see them out and about, those moments disappear. This made separated Snapchat from other social networks early on.
It does the opposite in other areas too, like not showing follower counts.
Sometimes doing the same thing as everyone else is fragile. The slightest missteps can trip you up.
The opposite is antifragile. Making cold calls at night, celebrating New Year’s at noon instead of midnight, and sharing a video that disappears are all examples that led to good results. Each one got better with disorder.
If something isn’t working for you, ask yourself one question.
What if I did the opposite?
If you dig this post, you might enjoy reading Nassim Nicholas Taleb or Tim Ferriss too.