The Joy Of Anti-fragility


My family and I suffer from several health conditions, which means that I have to live with a lot of unpredictability in my personal life, so wherever I have control I strive for predictability, or anti-fragility.  I like to sail through life without a care in the world and I’m prepared to invest and to constrain myself to achieve it.

I’ve been consciously reducing the fragility in my life for at least a decade, chipping away at all those little worries and annoyances, balancing investing to reduce my fragility today with saving to reduce it tomorrow.  It’s a strategy that’s worked out very well so far, here’s a short introduction to a few of the steps I’ve taken:

  1. For many years I’ve minimised my spend on insurance policies, often not taking them out at all or taking out moderate cost policies rather than gold plated ones.  I’ve consistently put all the savings I’ve made into an ‘insurance account’ that’s now well stocked!  Whenever something goes wrong that money can fix I don’t think twice about solving it from those savings, which I don’t consider using for any other purpose.
  2. In conflict to the strategy above though I do have home emergency cover because I like the assurance that I can ring a single number and the insurance company will find and marshal all the trades necessary to resolve the emergency.  In an emergency the last thing I want is more responsibility on my shoulders.
  3. I have two laptops that are essentially identical, they have the same applications and data, the same hard disk etc.  If one fails I can pick up the other, or swap the hard drive over and be up and running again.  Each acts as a backup to the other, one I carry with me, the other drives the big media-centre screen on my desk.  One runs Windows 10, the other Windows 8 (just in case Windows 10 breaks).  Of course all the devices in the house are backed up to the ‘house server’ and the cloud and the house server also has an off-site backup.
  4. I have an iPhone and an iPad mini and an emergency phone.  The emergency phone is a Nokia 6310i with ‘all week’ battery life that I take on holiday, bike rides and hikes.  The iPhone and iPad have mostly the same apps and act as backups to each other.  I have an upstairs and a downstairs Kindle!
  5. I have a large garage that’s split into two, the front is a store room and it’s well stocked with all the consumables that we buy in bulk, can’t buy locally, or that we use daily/weekly.  I don’t like to run out of things, nor do I like to shop. 
  6. The back garage is a workshop, full of three generations of tools and LOTS of bits and pieces, accumulated from a lifetime of disassembled furniture and other recycled household ‘rubbish’.  When things break or problems can be resolved by ‘making’ then I almost always have the combination of wood, brackets, screws, bolts, fasteners, wires, junction boxes, glue, sealant … that’s needed.  I love the feeling of confidence in my ability to fix and the glow that comes from recycling.
  7. Everyone in the family has iPhones and we have older spare iPhones, if they break we just fall back to older versions until we get them fixed using the insurance fund, most of us also have ThinkPad Laptops which are also easy to swap and fix.  For swapping iPhones about we also depend heavily on the fact that we all use GiffGaff which provides a fantastic online experience for ordering new SIMs in any size and activating them on our many accounts, automatically and instantly moving phone numbers without losing credit.
  8. Debbie and I have a nice balance of safety-net final-salary pension schemes that kick in at 60 and 65 and money purchase pension schemes that provide near infinite flexibility from 55.
  9. We have an emergency fund and a slush fund, which allows us to take advantage of bargains, or buy in bulk etc.  This saves money when used with restraint, I almost never buy anything that I know for sure I won’t consume within a few months.
  10. I carry my Brompton and my emergency bag (food, clothes, toilet paper, first aid kit, plastic bags …) in the boot of the car.  I’ve used both many times in the last year,  the emergency bag is particularly useful for unplanned trips to the hospital that turn into over-night stays and for unplanned ‘events’ on holiday or day hikes.  Knowing that the bag and bike are in the boot I just relax and sink that bit more into the seat as I drive. 
  11. In my daily use rucksack I carry two small see-though plastic pencil cases, one with a full range of medications (various pain killers, steroids, anti-spasm meds … and spare reading glasses) the other with all those ‘useful things’ (cables, pens, blister plasters, sun screen, chargers ..).  I’m becoming forgetful so the spare glasses get used way too often.  I have a holiday rucksack and a bum bag that are equally stocked, so whichever bag I grab I’m ‘safe’.
  12. When I find something that I really like and use heavily I will often setup a recurring search for it on eBay or Amazon and then buy when on sale.  For example last winter I bought 3 pairs of my favourite summer walking shoes and 4 pairs of summer hiking trousers, both for 1/3 of their normal price and I bought a 12 pack of my aftershave cream at 1/2 price, 4 packs of razor blades at 1/3 price and two boxes of protein bars for 1/2 price.  I spend less than 5 minutes a day shopping, but I make it count.
  13. Finally I have a redundancy of interests to suit my varying health.  I love to exercise outdoors, but when I can’t I have my stationary bike at home.  I love to read, but when I can’t concentrate I have a huge collection of audio books.  I like to create stuff, but when I can’t I can curl up on the sofa and immerse myself in some of the superb long running TV shows.  I like to achieve something each day at work but when I can’t I clean house or tidy the garden.

This is just a small fraction of the redundancies that I’ve built into my life.  As a lover of simplicity though every redundancy has to earn it’s place.  I’m not a hoarder, everything has a purpose, a place to be stored, is used regularly or can be kept without spoiling.  I don’t want redundancies to become a burden, when they are designed to provide ease:

  1. For example keeping two laptops is essentially effortless now because each has a separate purpose and synchronising data is so seamless and installing and updating apps mostly automated, if it ever became a chore I wouldn’t do it. 
  2. I keep a holiday rucksack pre-packed with everything I need for a 4 day break.  On the last day of the break I wash all my clothes and restock it with consumables, so that it’s ready for the next break, effortless!

I like living this way, sailing through life, ready for the unexpected wave or gust of wind, wearing a life jacket just in case, but enjoying the wind in my face and the freedom.

I’m writing this post in Caffe Nero, it’s a miserable rainy morning but it’s going to brighten up later.  By the time I get home after a decent walk my conservatory office will have warmed up nicely from the sun (but I have an electric radiator just n case).  The photo today is of the ‘shell’ on Cleveleys beach which unfortunately wasn’t quite ‘anti-fragile’ enough for the heavy pounding of the winter waves, it’s gradually breaking up, but it’s lovely while it lasts!

Steve Richards

I'm retired from work as a business and IT strategist. now I'm travelling, hiking, cycling, swimming, reading, gardening, learning, writing this blog and generally enjoying good times with friends and family

2 Responses

  1. March 24, 2015

    […] my personal blog I wrote an article yesterday about how I’ve built an anti-fragile lifestyle, to offset the unpredictability that my health […]

  2. September 3, 2015

    […] my personal blog I wrote an article yesterday about how I’ve built an anti-fragile lifestyle, to offset the unpredictability that my health […]

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