On the value of stress

Being a big fan of Nassim Nicholas Taleb, I read his new article today. It relates to the significance of extreme events. In short, Taleb says that it’s not the high rep low intensity exercise that builds strength, but rather the extremely high difficult exercise. He compares it to assessing the strengths of a bridge: you need to test it using the heaviest vehicles – rather than driving a normal car back and forth on it lap after lap.

nassim nicholas taleb on stress

In his book Antifragile, Taleb discusses the useful of stress. He talks about how people create great things by, in the best possible sense of the word, overcompensating for their shortcomings.

Taleb’s concept of the usefulness of stress is really helpful when you are experiencing stress. It won’t all have been for nothing. People often bring up Nietzsche: What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. The disheartening thing about this quote is that it’s out of context and misunderstood. Nietzsche said that if you manage to make it through, it means you were strong to begin with.

Stress does make you stronger, up to a point. Rather than resenting the fact that I am going through stress, this thought helps me focus on the way in which it will all make sense in the end.

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