Barbell Strategy (& Risk Hedging)

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The barbell strategy is a strategy proposed by Nassim Nicholas-Taleb of avoiding the middle-road in favor of extremes.

Taleb believes that, in many domains, the systems are so opaque that true risk is almost impossible to gauge. Accordingly, efforts based on attempts to exactly quantify risk are a lost cause.

The barbell strategy would recommend, for example, investing most of one's money in extremely safe assets, and the rest of one's money in risky bets. In a good year, the payoff from the safe assets will make up for the losses in the risky assets. In a good year, a the risky bets will experience a positive (beneficial) black swan, providing nonlinear returns.

Rather than being merely a financial theory, Taleb extends the barbell strategy to many domains in life, such as exercise. He recommends a mix of not-intense exercise (walking) and intense exercise (literal barbell training). In Strength Training is Learning from Tail Events:

Indeed, our body should be seen a risk management system meant to handle our environment, paying more attention to extremes than ordinary events, and disproportionally learning from these.


I enjoy hiking, walking, ocean swimming, riding my bicycle, that sort of things; but I have no illusion that these activities will make me stronger. They may be necessary, but for other reasons than the attainment of strength. I just consider walking necessary therapy, like sleeping.