You Can’t Spell Fragile Without Agile

When Mark Zuckerberg urged the Facebook team to “move fast and break things” in the early days, he really could have omitted the second half of that motto. After all, when you move fast, things breaking is an inevitable consequence.

If you’re just starting out, be it in a business, a project, or a relationship, speed may not be a bad idea. How much can you really destroy in an empty warehouse?

Chances are, the first widgets you break on your website weren’t that good to begin with. Now, you get to set them up again, except this time, you’ll do a better job! Why not find out if you work well together on a one-week kayaking trip? Sure, you’ll probably both land in the water, but at least afterwards, you’ll know a lot more about each other than after three more coffee dates.

In his book Antifragile, Nassim Taleb explains that many systems actually benefit from “shocks, randomness, and stressors.” Evolution, economic markets, certain companies, even our bodies and minds need a certain level of challenge to thrive. However, for an antifragile system to gain from adversity, its parts need to be allowed to break, Taleb claims. Free markets are efficient because individual companies can die. Evolution works because each animal is a genetic test subject. And so on. Therefore, it is in the very breaking of things that growth is to be found — at least in the early stages.

As our endeavors mature, however, we must grow with them. Over time, antifragility will be reserved for more rare and extreme events, whereas day-to-day operations must be marked by robustness. How long could you run around your carefully furnished house before knocking over a lamp? A day? Two? A week? Sooner or later, you’d break something you have painstakingly assembled with effort, skill, and experience — and now, you won’t be excited at the chance to do it again. You’ll just be annoyed.

In 2014, Zuckerberg officially dropped the company’s motto for the first decade. A 10-year-old must slowly learn what it means to be part of a larger community! Nearly another decade later, however, they are still struggling. As it turns out, not everything they broke so quickly is easy to fix.

At the end of the day, life is not about speed. It is about pacing. Sometimes you’ll need to be fast; sometimes you’ll need to be slow. Keep asking yourself when’s the right time for each setting, and remember: You can’t spell fragile without agile, but you also can’t spell dash without ash.