Doctor of Leadership in Global Perspectives: Crafting Ministry in an Interconnected World

Better, Stronger, Faster

Written by: on December 5, 2023

“Antifragility” has been tumbling through my conscious and unconscious mind for the last few days. I pondered it this morning at the gym: is my workout antifragile, strengthening my muscles beyond the load I’m placing on them or fragile, because the movements are repetitive and unnatural?[1] “Antifragile” also led to some interesting conversations with friends and family who came up with antifragile examples such as: metal, because when you pound it, it gets stronger and can be shaped into durable tools; the Six Million Dollar Man, because following his devastating accident, scientists made him  “better, stronger, faster;” the French figure skater Surya Bonaly, who’s fall in Olympic competition ultimately became her freedom.

We also pondered “antifragile” in light of faith, the local church, and denominations. Are these things “fragile, robust, or antifragile” when exposed to the “Extended Disorder Family” of uncertainty, chaos, time, and the unknown?[2]

Antifragile: Things that Gain from Disorder

Nassim Nicholas Taleb’s book, Antifragile: Things that Gain from Disorder, has provided a wealth of information to contemplate. He writes with humor and boldness, organizing his thoughts into seven  books within one, and presents his information through personal stories and parables interwoven with philosophy and science, saying, “I write about probability with my entire soul and my entire experiences in the risk-taking business; I write with my scars, hence my thought is inseparable from autobiography.”[3] Focusing on the topic of incertitude Taleb proposes a road map for living in a world we do not understand.[4]  His term “antifragile” refers to those things that get better under pressure, as opposed to those things that remain static, which he calls “robust,” or those things that break under pressure, which he terms “fragile.”[5]

Two ideas that particularly caught my attention in Taleb’s thinking were his philosophy on global connectivity, specifically the structure of nation states and the global flow of information, and his approach to procrastination.[6]

On Global Connectivity

I am interested in Taleb’s idea that nation states, in order to weather Black Swan events, need to be politically and economically structured in ways that mitigate the damage and ensure accessibility to needed survival resources.[7] For Taleb, this means “encouraging the distribution of power among smaller, more local, experimental, and self-sufficient entities.”[8] In an interview with New Yorker journalist, Bernard Avishai, Taleb said, “…in short, build a system that could survive random stresses, rather than break under any particular one.”[9]

In this same interview, Taleb also communicated, regarding global information networks, “’The great danger has always been too much connectivity.’ Proliferating global networks, both physical and virtual, inevitably incorporate more fat-tail risks into a more interdependent and “fragile” system: not only risks such as pathogens but also computer viruses, or the hacking of information networks, or reckless budgetary management by financial institutions or state governments, or spectacular acts of terror. Any negative event along these lines can create a rolling, widening collapse.”[10]

I find it interesting that our current global context promotes and values interconnectedness and Taleb brings caution to this matter. These are issues that will take time for me to digest more thoroughly.

On Procrastination

On a smaller scale, I was intrigued by Taleb’s thoughts on procrastination. My mind jumped to Steven Pressfield’s presentation on procrastination in his book, The War of Art. In comparing these two perspectives on procrastination I found interesting insights.

Taleb sees procrastination, in non-life-threatening events, as a natural human tool for making good decisions, because it allows us time to gather and carefully process information. It also allows for events to develop naturally as opposed to intervening prematurely, which can be harmful. He notes, “Few understand that procrastination is our natural defense, letting things take care of themselves and exercise their antifragility… and is not always bad.”[11] He gives an example from his writing experience and explains, by “deferring the writing of a passage until my body tells me that I’m ready for it, I may be using a very potent naturalistic filter.”[12] Taleb suggests that we embed ourselves in environments and careers that do not force us to fight procrastination but reward it as a “naturalistic-risk-based form of decision making.”[13]

Steven Pressfield, also an author, presents equally intriguing thoughts regarding procrastination. As a writer, he overcomes resistance to his work through ritual, establishing a routine by which he sits down each day and writes for several hours, worrying not if it’s good or bad, but faithfully doing the work. He says, “All that matters is that I’ve put in my time and hit it with all I’ve got.”[14] He also adds that procrastination can cause fear: “The degree of fear equates to the strength of Resistance. Therefore, the more fear we feel about a specific enterprise, the more certain we can be that the enterprise is important to us and to the growth of our soul.”[15]

In my own experience, I can see how procrastinating on writing or on completing a project can actually help me wrestle with, filter, and refine my thoughts. Because I’ve chosen to be part of educational and career systems that implement deadlines, however, I sometimes just need to sit down and do the work with the knowledge I have at the moment.

Pressfield’s reflections on overcoming fear align with Taleb’s presentation of antifragility. If we can withstand the pressure of fear, pressing through with determination to finish the work, we will most likely get better at the skills we’re implementing and broaden the mindset from which we work. And, when our projects present us with fear, we can often assume it’s because this project matters and is something in which we’ve got “skin in the game.” Overcoming the paralysis of fear and fulfilling those callings that God has given us can bring new life to ourselves and possibly to those around us.


In our current world filled with uncertainty, Taleb’s Antifragile provides wisdom on constructing both societies and life routines that represent our values, foster growth, and can withstand the pressures that will come through unexpected events of natural and human consequences. Daniel Lieberman, in a discussion with the DLGP cohort, mentioned that he is concerned about our current postmodern culture, because it is a “dead end,” leading to ruin.[16] Perhaps Taleb’s concept of antifragile offers us some hope. Can we develop personal, communal, and global systems that will not crumble with the inevitable,   massive consequences of our “progress?” The sooner we clearly define our context and take action in building flexible systems to withstand the coming pressures, the more likely we are to survive.


[1] Nassim Nicholas Taleb, Antifragile: Things that Gain from Disorder (New York, NY: Random House Trade Paperbacks, 2012), 47, 64.

[2] Taleb, 13.

[3] Taleb, 18.

[4] Taleb, 11.

[5] Taleb, 20.

[6] J. Richardson, “Book Review: Antifragile: Things that Gain from Disorder, by Nassim Nicholas Taleb,” World Futures Review, 2013, 5(2), 219-221. https://doi-org.georgefox.idm.oclc.org/10.1177/1946756713491391.

[7] Black Swan events are “large scale unpredictable and irregular events of massive consequence,” Taleb, 6.

[8] Bernard Avishai, “The Pandemic isn’t a Black Swan but a Portent of a More Fragile Global System,” The New Yorker, April 21, 2020, https://www.newyorker.com/news/daily-comment/the-pandemic-isnt-a-black-swan-but-a-portent-of-a-more-fragile-global-system.

[9] Avishai, “The Pandemic isn’t a Black Swan but a Portent of a More Fragile Global System.”

[10] Avishai, “The Pandemic isn’t a Black Swan but a Portent of a More Fragile Global System.”

[11] Taleb, 122.

[12] Taleb, 122.

[13] Taleb, 123.

[14] Steven Pressfield, The War of Art: Break Through the Blocks and Win Your Inner Creative Battles (Los Angeles, CA: Black Irish Entertainment LLC, 2002), vii-viii.

[15] Pressfield, 40.

[16] Daniel Lieberman, “DLGP Online Chat with Cohort 1,” Portland Seminary, November 27, 2023.

About the Author

Jenny Steinbrenner Hale

16 responses to “Better, Stronger, Faster”

  1. mm Shonell Dillon says:

    Great post, how will anti fragility affect your work in the future?

    • Jenny Steinbrenner Hale says:

      Hi Shonell, Thanks for your thoughts and question. I think learning about the idea of antifragility could affect my work in several ways in the future. One thing that comes to mind is ensuring that our nonprofit program is as flexible and able to survive unknown stressors as possible. One example could be making sure our funding comes from diverse sources so that if we lost some grants, we have others on which to depend. What about you?

      See you tomorrow!

  2. Alana Hayes says:

    Great post! Somehow I missed Lieberman saying that our current culture was a dead end… Goodness! Id love to unpack that.

    • Jenny Steinbrenner Hale says:

      Hi Alana, I agree, it would be great to unpack that thought with Lieberman. I’m tempted to go back and listen to his closing statements on postmodernism again. I think what he meant was that postmodernism, itself, leads to a dead end. I’m feeling hopeful the pendulum will swing back a bit towards the middle… though, what really is the middle these days?

      Hope you’re doing well. See you tomorrow!

  3. Michael O'Neill says:

    Outstanding post, Dr. Jenny. Great examples and awesome job bringing back Lieberman and Pressfield. How are you holding up under the current state of pressure with our portfolio due so soon? Are you feeling fragile or antifragile? Thanks.

    • Jenny Steinbrenner Hale says:

      Hello Dr. Michael, Thanks for your thoughts! That is a great question. I would say somedays I’m feeling fragile, in regards to the stress we’re feeling about completing our projects. I have moments where I fear my ideas are going to break apart and I’ll lose the sense of cohesiveness I thought I had… Also, I have moments of fear and doubt regarding my ability to meet our deadline. On the other hand, when I put together my progress report this weekend, I thought, “OK, this is doable. I think I can pull this off!” So, at the moment, I’m feeling antifragile! 🙂 How about you?

  4. mm David Beavis says:

    Great work Jenny! I did not expect you connecting Taleb’s work to procrastination. But I think instead of procrastinating and letting my thoughts filter the work, I need to do Pressfield’s approach and just show up and do the work, even if it’s bad. Especially with our projects due in about a month.

    • Jenny Steinbrenner Hale says:

      Hi David, Thanks for your comments. I agree. At this point, I just need to show up and do the work and not stress so much about making it my “ideal project.” I’m guessing your work is very good! Praying we can all stay motivated and energized to bring our projects to completion! See you tomorrow.

  5. Brilliant post, Jenny! I related to Taleb’s thoughts on procrastination b/c I always seem to get my best ideas and insights when I wait to the last minute. However, then I am stressed both physically and mentally. I wonder what Taleb’s thoughts are about stress and the way it harms our bodies, as stress is necessary to become anti-fragile. Do you have any thoughts about that?

    • Jenny Steinbrenner Hale says:

      Thanks, Laura, for your thoughts and question. I wonder, too, what Taleb thinks of the affects of stress on our bodies. I wonder if there could be a healthy point of medium stress where we can still have those sharp and quick ideas coming forward, without the toll on our body. It seems like Taleb has experienced some extreme stress in his life. Maybe he doesn’t react to stress the way I do? It would be so interesting to hear him speak on this topic. Maybe someone in our cohort found an interview with him with insight on this. Hoping we’ll learn more tomorrow.

      Also, this makes me wonder, does God intend for us to withstand a certain amount of stress in life? In some ways, I know he didn’t promise us an easy life. On the other hand, it doesn’t seem like God would support the stressful lifestyle that can take a toll on our overall health. Could that be a conversation about the stress we cause for ourselves as humans and the stress of the unexpected, unpreventable events? I’m really not sure, but would love to hear what you think sometime on this.

      See you tomorrow!

  6. mm Audrey Robinson says:

    What a wonderful, thoughtful, and thorough post.

    I’m curious, how you would envision possibly moving to “encouraging the distribution of power among smaller, more local, experimental, and self-sufficient entities?”

    • Jenny Steinbrenner Hale says:

      Hi Audrey, Thanks for your thoughts and question. That is such a good question. I’m really not sure how we could distribute power to smaller entities at this point in the US. I do wonder, though, if Taleb is describing a more tribal society? It seems he might think the tribal system is more antifragile than a large country set up and interconnected like the US.

      So appreciate the ways in which you make me think deeper! Hope you had a good weekend. See you tomorrow.

  7. mm Chad McSwain says:

    Jenny – what a fun connection between Taleb and Pressfield around procrastination. it presents the tension between chaos and order. What fun idea to ponder! Well, I find that I live like Taleb and always want to be more like Pressfield.

    • Jenny Steinbrenner Hale says:

      Hi Chad, Yes, I totally agree. I so want to have the discipline of Pressfield and yet often find myself resisting the work in so many ways. It was fun to find a justification for procrastination. 🙂 I actually think Taleb has some good points there, but also, more often than not, I just need to sit down and do the work!

      Hope you had a good weekend. See you tomorrow!

  8. Jenny,
    First I love your way of engaging the material in your workout! Great ideas have come from stranger places.
    Your question about our societal progress and its impact on our systems and structures is an idea worth digging into more!

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