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


Written by: on December 9, 2023


In Nassim Nicholas Taleb’s (NNT) groundbreaking work, Antifragile: Things That Gain from Disorder, the author challenges traditional perspectives on resilience and introduces the concept of antifragility. Rooted in both financial expertise and philosophical insight, Taleb urges readers to view “volatility, randomness, and disorder,” not as threats but as opportunities for growth.[1] He opens his prologue with “Wind extinguishes a candle and energizes a fire.” This paradoxical theme is present throughout the book as he encourages his readers to embrace the randomness and not hide from the stressors. He says, “Be the fire and wish for the wind.”[2] In the following blog, I will delve into a few of the transformative concepts outlined in this paradigm-shifting book as it relates to my current leadership style and understanding.

Taleb, and the Essence of Antifragility

Taleb has embraced the “New Yorker” personality although he was “born and raised in Lebanon and completed his education in France.”[3] Taleb is an interesting author who offers humor, insight, and a unique perspective on strength and resilience from his wide range of experience and positions in his career. Taleb states, “There is no word for the exact opposite of fragile,” which is the foundation of his unique philosophy, so he coined the name, Antifragile.[4] His central idea revolves around the notion of antifragility, a term he also created to describe the various systems that not only withstand disorder but thrive on it. Drawing from evolutionary biology and many complex systems theories, Taleb asserts that entities labeled as antifragile actively benefit and gain strength from exposure to randomness, chaos, and uncertainty.

Omnifragile Leadership

Taleb’s antifragile philosophy challenges the prevailing emphasis on stability and control. This is something my wife could never support. She is the type that schedules things months in advance and adheres to a strict schedule – often compromising because of her family’s antifragility. Chaos is her worst nightmare (except in her car) and it bothers her that, my daughter, my mom, and I, are somewhat ‘free spirits’ and let the ‘chips fall where they may.’ Perhaps I am ‘omni-fragile’ because I am  frontstage, and strong, and resilient in certain scenarios, and I tend to lead with backstage vulnerability and allow the Spirit to guide me in many other situations. Neither is exclusive to work, marriage, parenting, or time management. I see this as a positive (mostly) and it works (mostly), but it has become clear through our readings that it is also a often a product of evading responsibility. Simon Walker warns that backstage exclusivity will create less of a connection with followers and a life where “unmet needs and unresolved problems” breed happily.[5]

Syntopical Analysis

I have revealed several personal leadership hesitations and a tug to spend more time frontstage in previous blogs and interviews. I think that is why I am drawn to Taleb’s argument. The more time I spend backstage, the more disorder tends to reveal itself. So, I have to support it I wish to continue to procrastinate and embrace the chaos.  A lot of our books have helped me understand my habits and origins of thought (Lieberman, Kahneman, Walker, Peterson, etc.) but I’m still pondering how it relates exactly to my leadership role and future. The syntopical essays and interviews have been extremely beneficial in my personal evaluation because they force reflection. I can relate to all of our readings in some way but the syntopical discussions promote comprehension and expose the stirrings from our learning. I’m still in the “know thyself” stage however, each one of these books, our portfolio, and our discussions as a cohort has pushed me into a more balanced and strategic state of “nosce te ipsum.” I appreciate the support for my chaos this week from Taleb but I have to set boundaries if I wish to be my best. That definitely involves order and control. I appreciate the wisdom from pitfalls but I would also like to avoid them when possible. Introspectively, there are positions in this argument I’m sure we all can relate to that will add to a well-rounded leadership style that points to Christ.

‘Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.’[6]


[1] Taleb, Nassim Nicholas, Antifragile, 15

[2] Ibid, 15

[3] ChatGPT, Prompt: “When did Nassim Nicholas Taleb come to New York?”

[4] Taleb, Nassim Nicholas, Antifragile, 15

[5] Walker, Simon, Leading Out Of Who You Are, 41

[6] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Ro 5:3–5.

About the Author

Michael O'Neill

Director of Operations / Executive Pastor at Kinergy, Inc. Federal 501c3 Non-Profit Organization. An experienced entrepreneur, leader, father, wellness professional, and owner of a multi-location medical practice with my wife, Nicole O'Neill, MD.

12 responses to “Omnifragile”

  1. Dr. Michael – Your post reminds me of the phrase “our greatest strength also tends to be our greatest weakness.” Any good thing taken to the extreme will cause problems, so it makes sense that God is showing you how a more balanced approach could helpful. Which of the books you mentioned has been most helpful to you in this respect?

    • Michael O'Neill says:

      Thanks, Laura. I think Kahneman and Walker have had the biggest impact so far but I’ve taken a little bit from each one. Are you more drawn to our psychology books or authors due to your field?

  2. mm Audrey Robinson says:

    Dr. Michael,
    Wonderful post. As I read it I was reminded of 2 Cor. 12:10. It’s one of my favorites. I’ve never read The Message translation. I’ve copied it below.

    I think Taleb’s book as well as several others are expressing concepts that are already in Scripture. There are areas we are fragile and other areas antifragile. When unpredictability rushes in or any other Black Swan – especially where family is concerned – sometimes I fall apart. I am at my weakest. I’m learning to lean into those times with the help of the Holy Spirit reminding me of this verse.

    Why is it still such a challenge to acknowledge our weaknesses? Rhetorical question. (This is in no way is a reflection on you – just thinking out loud.)

    2 Cor. 12:10 The Message Bible
    My grace is enough; it’s all you need.
    My strength comes into its own in your weakness.

    Once I heard that, I was glad to let it happen. I quit focusing on the handicap and began appreciating the gift. It was a case of Christ’s strength moving in on my weakness. Now I take limitations in stride, and with good cheer, these limitations that cut me down to size—abuse, accidents, opposition, bad breaks. I just let Christ take over! And so the weaker I get, the stronger I become.

    • Michael O'Neill says:

      Thanks, Dr. R. That is a powerful scripture and one I will definitely use in the future. It will always be a struggle to acknowledge our weaknesses. I think it is unnatural. Perhaps due to society or relationships, but it is definitely not easy. I think stepping past that threshold with faith is what will produce supernatural strength!

  3. Tonette Kellett says:


    I love your “omnifragile” and its definition. It suits you well. In the end, no matter your leadership style, being well-rounded and pointing to Christ is the ultimate aim for us all. Well said.

  4. mm Chad McSwain says:

    Dr. O’Neill – Fantastic post. Lots of interactions with the books this semester and personal reflection! You made me think of this question in regard to Taleb: perhaps the way to become antifragile is to embrace more opportunities in the opposite tendency? So, if you naturally tend toward chaos, then pursue more order in your life and vice versa. I see this in couples who often are opposites in personality. Together, they make a strong, antifragile family group (while often annoying each other). I believe that they know they need the strengths of the other person. It’s my Hegelian interpretation of Taleb! I’m curious, do you know how you will continue your formation after this program?

    • Michael O'Neill says:

      I think you are correct with your diagnosis, Dr. McSwain. I have made progress over the years but there is plenty of work still needed on both sides of chaos and order. I’m not sure how it will all unfold but I see my life getting more orderly and my perspectives shifting but I also still feel tendencies and need to stay tight in the Spirit. Thank you and Merry Christmas!

  5. mm Daron George says:

    Dr. O,

    In your exploration of Taleb’s concept of antifragility, how do you reconcile the idea of embracing chaos and disorder (which it seems most of your family does) with the need for structure and order (which your wife does) in leadership, particularly in light of your own ‘omnifragile’ approach?

    • Michael O'Neill says:

      Thanks, Dr. G. I think awareness is key. Staying tight in the Spirit and practicing patience so I can make wise decisions regardless of the situation instead of impulsive ones. I have started to recognize triggers and that usually helps put them into perspective in my family life and leadership roles. Thanks! Merry Christmas!

  6. Michael, I really appreciated you post and your summary of learning at the end! Fantastic insight! I have wondered in the context of this book is chaos a lack of structure or simply the arrival of the unplanned?

    • Michael O'Neill says:

      Great question, Dr. L. Perhaps it is a little of both. Chaos can get away from us so we need to be aware of it and I guess that goes for the unplanned too. We shouldn’t be surprised when the unplanned is presented and should not live in a state of chaos where something unplanned can completely derail us. I think that is why order is necessary but we can benefit from a nice balance.

      Thanks! Merry Christmas!

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