Speaker, Trainer, Troubadour, Author

Kim Ratz

Helping people create more harmony
in their own life, and in
their relationships with others ...

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Live&WorkWise

May & June 2013, from Kim Ratz, Speaker-Trainer-Troubadour

A free, fast & fun read to inspire hope, improve skills to cope, and induce a chuckle along the way ...
(Previous issues: Click Here)


A Thought to Help You Live&WorkWise: Volatility & Antifragility

Because the "guitar string" metaphor resonated with so many of you 2 months ago (managing "perfect" & "debilitating" stress), I want to share some additional, thought-provoking ideas I first read about in the Wall Street Journal - Book Review, 11/17/12. Titled, "Learning to Love Volatility," author and economist Nassim Nicholas Taleb introduces 2 terms:

  1. "Black Swans," which are "large events that are both unexpected and highly consequential" (think WWI & 9/11, Katrina & Japan's tsunami, the internet & Google), and
  2. "Antifragility" to describe things (systems, institutions) that "gain from volatility, variability, stress and disorder."

Keep in mind that while he is primarily looking at financial institutions and economic systems, he suggests that the same principles and strategies can apply to other institutions and systems too. Ordinary events, he says, have little impact in the long run, while black swans force us to react because of their severe and long-term consequences. The mistakes, he suggests, is that we often respond by trying to predict and prevent black swans, or we give up because black swans are uncontrollable. Taleb suggests a 3rd answer: "Try to create institutions (my add: and attitudes) that won't fall apart when we encounter black swans - or that might even gain from these unexpected events." Taleb promotes that sometimes it takes an extreme situation (like a black swan) to push us to realize an ability we otherwise never knew we had. By understanding the principles of antifragility, we'll be better able to make our choices when "stuff happens" or that we didn't see coming, and when we have more questions than answers because of all the unknowns.

My take: He's right - we do seem to be experiencing more "black swans," and while we can't always control what happens, we can control what we do in response. Work teams that will succeed in the 21st century need to foster both attitudes and aptitudes that people can and will exercise when "black swans" happen and affect the workplace ... The key is that people need to have the intentional discussion about strategies to help when they occur. Taleb suggests 5 strategies to boost the "Antifragility" factor to help financial institutions and economic systems to survive and even thrive during "black swans" ... With some tweeking and reframing, they are also applicable to any organization and individual desiring to be more resilient in our radically changing world ...

Here are Taleb's "5 Rules":

  • Rule 1: Think of the economy as being more like a cat than a washing machine.
    In a post-enlightenment view the world is a very advanced machine, which can be repaired, improved, and controlled ... That also means things can break because they can't take care of themselves - they need someone to operate them and take care of them ... Instead: by allowing some amount of disorder to "push" the system, the response is enough to create some antifragility ... He used the example of depriving the bones of stress, which can become brittle. Exercise "pushes" bones and muscles to not get soft -- i.e., antifragile ... "Stifling natural fluctuations masks real problems, causing the explosions to be both delayed and more intense when they do take place," says Taleb.
    My take: Conflict and challenge don't happen if people don't care. Use black swans to build your antifragility, and that of your team, so that you are resilient, and strong and capable enough to respond when pushed ... Organizations and systems are made up of people, who are organic and complex, and who by nature want to survive and "make it" ... Capitalize on that and let people find ways to help themselves and each other and they will do it!

  • Rule 2: Favor businesses that benefit from their own mistakes not those whose mistakes percolate into the system.
    While Taleb is thinking of financial institutions, this rule also resonates with many people who work in the public sector and in other service and helping professions. Some organizations and teams of people respond to challenge and stress better than others, and even find ways to come out better as a result ... Other groups seem to flounder in trouble because they are not trying to really solve the problem and learn from it, and they are spreading the pain by impacting others too ...
    My take: No matter what type of work you do, or what life role or goal you pursue, if you don't learn from your mistakes and adjust accordingly, you are not going to realize anywhere near your potential ... And increasingly, if you don't keep finding ways of growing within the same work, or growing into other areas that keep you "lean & mean" - you'll find yourself falling behind ...

  • Rule 3: Small is beautiful, but it is also efficient.
    While you want to be big enough, groups and systems can reach a tipping point where they get too big, and increase their risk and fragility ... He argues that decentralization would lower deficits and increase savings by reducing underestimations of projects and improved decision-making ...
    My take: I remember when schools tried "bigger is better" by creating huge school campuses that could offer more classes and require less administration ... It wasn't long before we saw that individual student needs were being bypassed or buried in the bulk ... We adapted by creating "communities of learners" that would sub-group within the larger campus to try to compensate some attention, and now the research and designs are gearing back to smaller school size, smaller class size, and more individualized instruction ... Decentralization almost always makes sense, especially if the focus of the service/program is to serve people, by interacting with people to solve problems that affect individuals, families and communities ... If your system requires you to link several decentralized locations, then figure it out so the right people share the right information in the right ways at the right times, and don't use the need for logistics keep you from doing what you need to do ... Remember the "KISS Principle": "Keep it Simple Sweetie."

  • Rule 4: Trial & Error beats academic knowledge.
    I think it's interesting how many studies come to this same conclusion from a number of different ways ... Tinkering has played a bigger role in western inventions and innovation than science ... Think of all the college dropouts who own multi-billion dollar tech companies ... Antifragility thrives in this environment of uncertainty amidst calculated risk and significant potential gain ...
    My take: I don't think this has to be an "either/or" - I think it needs to be an "And" ... While it's true that not everyone needs to go to a typical 4 year post-secondary program to succeed, it's a lot less likely for someone to succeed who doesn't have a great pre-school experience, as well as a great K-12 educational experience that a young person can receive if they graduate from high school ... I've worked in Adult Basic Education and GED Centers enough to know how challenging it is when someone doesn't have the equivalent of a high school completion by any state's standards, so a strong public education system is vital to our society's future success in every sense - economically, as well as public health and safety, improved living standards in our communities, continued innovation and inventions, etc. I also know there are many current-day "Albert Einsteins," working right now in their garages and basements on inventions/innovations that will soon be part of our everyday lives, like a new way to generate power for an appliance or vehicle or community, or a new way to share data or communicate, or a new way to fight a disease ...

  • Rule 5: Decision makers must have skin in the game.
    If the decision makers and leaders don't feel the heat, they're not going to be as motivated to act ... Yet obviously this is not always the case among financial institutions, as well as other systems and organizations ... I liked his example of how the Romans forced engineers to sleep under a bridge once it was completed ...
    My take: DUH! If you want someone to be invested, they must be engaged. This one is a no-brainer!

I am enjoying the discussions I've now added to my workshops about Talebs premise and strategies to be more resilient, and encourage you to consider bringing this discussion to your team ... Be more aware of how the "black swans" affect your professional (and personal) roles and goals, and ways to increase your "antifragility" factor so that you not only get through them - you can even come out better in some way ...



kimratz adds music to all his programs to inspire people and help improve skills

Quotes related to Antifragility for the days ahead ...

A man who is master of himself can end a sorrow as easily as he can invent a pleasure. I don't want to be at the mercy of my emotions. I want to use them, to enjoy them, and to dominate them. - Oscar Wilde

Rarely has anything significant been achieved that was not preceded by adversity. - unknown

Control is never achieved when sought after directly. It is the surprising outcome of letting go. - James Arthur Ray

Worry is the interest you pay on a debt that may not be yours. - unknown

When dealing with the unknown, children are often bewildered by the fact that their parents do not know all the answers. - Edgar Jackson

When we walk to the edge of all the light we have and take the step into the darkness of the unknown, we must believe that one of two things will happen. There will be something solid for us to stand on, or we will be taught to fly. - Patrick Overton

The normal and the everyday are often amazingly unstoppable, and what is unimaginable is the cessation of them. The world is resilient, and, no matter what interruptions occur, people so badly want to return to their lives and get on with them. A veneer of civilization descends quickly, like a shining rain. Dust is settled. - Lorrie Moore

Great hearts can only be made by great troubles. The spade of trouble digs the reservoir of comfort deeper, and makes more room for consolation. - Charles H. Spurgeon

Resilience is not a commodity you are born with, waiting silently on tap. It is self-manufactured painstakingly over time by working through your problems and never giving up, even in the face of difficulty or failure. - Lorii Myers, No Excuses, The Fit Mind-Fit Body Strategy Book

It takes courage to grow up and become who you really are. - E.E. Cummings

Courage is resistance to fear, mastery of fear, not absence of fear. - Mark Twain

Wings are not only for birds; they are also for minds. Human potential stops at some point somewhere beyond infinity. - Toller Cranston

There is always one moment in childhood when the door opens and lets the future in. - Deepak Chopra

It may sound strange, but many champions are made champions by setbacks. - Bob Richards

It's when you run away that you're most liable to stumble. - Casey Robinson

When I dare to be powerful, to use my strength in the service of my vision, then it becomes less and less important whether I am afraid. - Audre Lorde

Life is a succession of lessons which must be lived to be understood. - Ralph Waldo Emerson

Life is not a matter of holding good cards, but of playing a poor hand well. - Robert Louis Stevenson

Play like you're in first, but train like you're in second. - Unknown

Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can and the wisdom to know the difference. - Reinhold Niebuhr




Two other thoughts for your summer-time consideration ...

  • Special gift idea for Fathers Day (June 16):
    Dads, this year do something different on Fathers Day your kids will always remember ... Tell them you already have the best gift a dad could ever have -- THEM!, and then give your daughters and sons a gift that will really drive home that point! "To My Daughter (and "To My Son") -- Do You Believe? Thoughts from your Fathers Heart" is a gift book with 54 affirmations designed to give dads a tool and an opportunity to share many thoughts dads have about their kids and how they feel to be their dad, yet haven't verbalized to their kids ... Also a great gift idea for dads to give their daughters and sons at graduation, going off to college, their wedding, or when your child becomes a parent ... Click HERE for more info ...

  • "July is National Make a Difference to Children Month,"
    and I'm proud to be the sponsor for the 7th year to promote ways to make a difference in the lives of children in whatever way you can ... For many it's as parents, for many it's as providers of programs and services to kids, and for ALL of us it can be as "Partners" ... Visit this page on my web site to consider which of the many ways you can be an active partner in even the smallest of ways, yet have a BIG and positive impact on today's kids, who will be tomorrow's adults, moms & dads workers, and leaders ... This observance reminds us of the many subtle yet significant ways we can wisely invest in children in July (and every month!), and reap the positive benefits of kids who grow up in safe, connected and supportive communities ... Click HERE for more info ...


I help people create more harmony in their own life, and in their relationships with others. It's about Choices and Congruence - by aligning your Attitudes, Aptitudes and Actions - so that at day's end you feel content, not regret. I do this through keynotes that inspire hope, workshops that help people improve skills to cope with change, challenge and conflict, and original music, stories and humor to induce some fun along the way!

Presentations See & Hear Kim Clients & Comments e-Newz, Books, CDs F.A.Q.s About Kim

charicature of Kim playing guitarkimratz@aol.com

952.938.4472
(Central TZ)

3665 Woody Lane,
Minnetonka, MN 55305

Since 2006 Kim has been proud to sponsor:

Kim is proud to sponsor Make a Difference to Children
July is National
Make a Difference
to Children Month


Click HERE for more info ...


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