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

What Doesn’t Kill You Makes You Stronger, Sometimes…

Written by: on October 26, 2022

“Who wants to go through pain in order to come out stronger on the other side?” I can almost hear my high school coaches screaming it in my ear as they pushed us to train harder, run faster, and push ourselves further.

While I don’t endorse the toxic masculinity that typically comes with male-driven athletics, there is something to be said about the mindset to push past the pain, resistance, and difficulty to find yourself stronger, more agile, emotionally fortified, and cognitively more dynamic after experiencing self-induced and everyday challenges.

But are most people willing to endure such hardship or are we more prone towards fragility? Do most people avoid disorder at all cost or when met with it doe not know how to deal with it positively or beneficially? This is the question that Nassim Nicholas Taleb considers in his philosophical and social science book, Antifragile: Things That Gain From Disorder.

To help frame his argument, Taleb uses three key terms: 1) Fragile; 2) Robust; 2) Antifragile. He refers to this as the “Triad.”

Taleb defines fragile as things that break under pressure. “Fragility implies more to lose than to gain, equals more downside than upside, equals unfavorable asymmetry,” wrote Taleb. (1)

Robust is a concept that the author builds on in his book, The Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable. Robust things resist the pressure to break, often unharmed. Robustness is the ability to take something negative that happens to you and turn it into a positive. And yet, robustness is not enough according to the author.

Antifragile is different than reliance or robustness. “The resilient resists shocks and stays the same; the antifragile gets better…The antifragile loves randomness and uncertainty, which also means— crucially—a love of errors, a certain class of errors,” agued Taleb.(2)

He compares antifragile to Hercules battle with Hydra, a mythological serpentine beast that despite getting its heads cut off, it only sprouts more heads. A small side note, the deer, starfish, iguana, sea cucumber, and zebrafish are among many in the animal kingdom that can grow back limbs after they are removed. Why did God not see it fit that humans regrow body parts that are accidentally removed?

The author is not calling people, organizations, or systems to throw themselves headlong into hardship without preparation and understanding of how to deal with what is required to make you antifragile. The antifragile leaders, organizations, and systems are not persons or things who has their foot down on the gas pedal 24/7, 365. In fact, “Our antifragilities have conditions,” wrote Taleb. “The frequency of stressors matters a bit. Humans tend to do better with acute than with chronic stressors, particularly when the former are followed by ample time for recovery, which allows the stressor to do their job as messengers.” (3)

To prepare for antifragility, Taleb argued that training is necessary. Individuals and organizational teams need to prepare to embrace chaos and disorder emotionally, physically, socially, spiritually, and cognitively.

Of course, this connects back to Bolsinger’s call on leaders to embrace the working, heating, holding, hammering, hewing, and tempering of becoming a resilient leader. However, leaders who are equipped also need to equip others. A leader cannot also expect all of the individuals in their organization to see, embrace, and deal with disorder in the same way. This stretches to Erin Meyers work on understanding the culture and context of each individual in the organization. Therefore, the challenging work of leaderships to truly understand how to motivate, inspire, equip, and renew individuals as they face hardship individually and collectively.

(1) Nassim Nicholas Taleb, Antifragile: Things That Gain From Disorder (New York: Random House, 2014), 158.

(2) Ibid, 20.

(3) Ibid, 58.

About the Author


Andy Hale

Associate Executive Coordinator of CBF North Carolina, CBF Podcast Creator and Host, & Professional Coach

8 responses to “What Doesn’t Kill You Makes You Stronger, Sometimes…”

  1. mm Troy Rappold says:

    Nice connections to Bolsinger and Meyers; I hadn’t made that leap. Leaders need to be antifragile and we need to help others become antifragile so together we can make our organizations and churches antifragile. It isn’t easy. In your present role, do you serving in that capacity? If you do, what a great challenge–that’s a big enough purpose to make a guy jump out of bed each morning.

    • mm Andy Hale says:


      That’s a great question. I do live into this now more than in a church organization. Our organization’s role is to look ahead and make calculated decisions about how we can best resource churches for the present and future.

      For example, we are working on a project now to help cultivate a companion model for dying churches. The reality is that’s our reality in the American church as more and more churches are closing their doors, selling their assets, and moving on.

  2. mm Roy Gruber says:

    Andy, Great job connecting previous readings to this one. I’m not sure what your seminary experience was like, but it seems as though Christian education avoids topics like the one in this book. How much emphasis do you think should be placed on leading the dynamics of an organization as unique as the church?

    • mm Andy Hale says:


      Most seminaries do not prepare ministers for yesterday’s church, let alone the church of today.

      I think ministers should lean heavily into Emotional-Intelligence, balanced self-care models, coaching, peer learning, and differentiation. Unfortunately, many ministers are going to continue to be the outlet for people’s frustration in our political and cultural divides. Instead of just taking it, ministers need to know how to process it in a healthy way and push back when appropriate.

  3. mm Eric Basye says:

    Hey there Andy. Great blog. This was a clean, concise summary, and much more readable than the book:)

    On a scale of 1-10 (1 being terrible, 10 being excellent), how would you rate this book for its “leadership principles” in light of the many other books you have read for your podcast and otherwise?

    • mm Andy Hale says:

      If you like a philosophical approach, I will give it a 5. In my response to Elmarie’s post, Ryan Holiday’s book, “The Obstacle Is the Way,” is a far better book for building more resilience and grit regarding challenges.

  4. mm Nicole Richardson says:

    Andy, Taleb has a chapter, “What Kills Me Makes Others Stronger”. What takeaways do you have from this in light of what Roy asked you?

  5. mm Denise Johnson says:

    Thanks for your post. You talk about that leaders need to equip others. I am curious, how might you do that using Taleb’s mentor idea?

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