فصل 05کتاب: خود را برهان / فصل 5
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“I embrace the uncertainty.”
“Uncertainty is where new happens.”
You’re an addict.
You’re out of control and so dependent on your drug of choice, you don’t even realize how it’s affecting your life. You have a gnawing craving and that craving is for prediction.
Will it rain tomorrow? How will my stock perform? Who will win the Super Bowl? You’re constantly looking ahead, trying to figure out what’s going to happen before it actually does.
Certainty. We seek the certain and avoid the uncertain. We want to know what to expect, where to go, and what to wear. We want to be prepared. We want to be safe. It’s far beyond a want though, it’s more like that addiction. We’re sizing people up before we even know them, predicting their character in seconds. We buy goods and brand names we’re used to even though there are plenty of alternatives. We take supplements and vitamins to prevent an illness we don’t yet have, date people for months, sometimes years, to make sure of our future, to make sure that it turns out in a way that we can predict. Give me that certainty, certainty, certainty!!
We all know the bumper stickers and internet memes that praise risk takers and urge us to embrace uncertainty. We even know that our openness to taking risks directly correlates with our potential for fortune and possibility, yet many of us still stay inside our own little organized, certain world.
And there’s a reason for that. Until fairly recently, the world was a much scarier place for the likes of you and I. Every step into the unknown was a dance with death. Life was one big game of Russian roulette. Literally every day, you and every other being on the face of the earth would have been an entrée on the dinner menu for an assortment of beasts and creatures or among the poor suckers that walked blindly into the path of Mother Nature’s dark sense of humor.
Lucky for us, the world isn’t nearly as scary as it was thousands of years ago (although not quite a utopian safe-zone). Life has become much safer, unbelievably so, in fact. Medicine and technology get better by the day; Violent crime, although rampant in our news outlets, is in fact a rarity in the everyday life of your average citizen in a Western country.
Sure, there are still deadly diseases and the threat of random acts of violence or catastrophe, but the chances of you catching a mystery zombie virus or being swept up with Dorothy and Toto to a fantastical Hollywood dreamland are, I’m happy to say, slim.
Here’s some other startling news: chances are you’re not going to suddenly die on the way to the grocery store, your boss isn’t actually going to kill you if you ask for a raise and, believe it or not, asking someone out will not result in your pants mysteriously falling to the floor, painfully exposing your SpongeBob SquarePants underwear and bringing about your early demise via acute terminal embarrassment with the insidious laughter of everyone in Starbucks ringing in your ears as you depart this mortal coil.
In other words, our aversion to risk, which was once necessary, no longer is. Those same survival instincts that once kept us alive can now be the very thing that keeps us from actually living.
A PARADIGM OF POTENTIAL
Our obsession with certainty can be tragic and counterproductive for two reasons.
First, uncertainty is where things happen. Uncertainty is your personal pathway to opportunity. It’s the environment in which you grow, experience new things and produce new, unprecedented results. Uncertainty is where new happens.
“The desire for safety stands against every great and noble enterprise”
When you stick to what you’re comfortable with, doing the same things you’ve always done, you’re in effect living in the past – not moving forward. You’re repeating things and behaviors that, at one time in your life were risky since you didn’t know what they would lead to, but have since turned into routine.
Think about it: How can you go to new places if you never leave the house? How can you make friends and start romances without meeting new people? How can you do anything new by doing what you’ve always done?
You can’t. The truth is you can’t even predict what the people you know will do, let alone the people you don’t know. Whether it’s the checkout line or a night club or the bank, social situations are inevitably filled with uncertainty. Jeez, half of the time you can’t even predict your own thoughts and feelings! Think of the many times you’ve rushed to judge and then later changed your mind.
How will you ever get a raise if you don’t take the risk of asking? How will you get ahead in your career if you’re always holding on to certainty and comfort?
You won’t. Success is never certain. It never comes without risk. Even if you’re the smartest or the hardest working, there’s no guarantee of anything.
The people who go on to do great things in their lives know this. They also embrace it.
“In any moment of decision, the best thing you can do is the right thing, the next best thing is the wrong thing, and the worst thing you can do is nothing”
- Theodore Roosevelt
Reflect on that Teddy Roosevelt quote for a minute here. Missing the target isn’t the worst thing you can do. Not taking the shot is.
You may look at successful people and think they’ve always had it figured out. Many of them seem to have a kind of confidence, charisma or talent that makes everything they do seem easy. They certainly seem to have something you don’t, but believe me, their rise to the top was anything but certain or easy. Most of them doubted it every single day, sometimes hundreds of times per day. That’s right, they sat there, just like you are right now, wondering how they would make it, whether it was all worthwhile or whether they had what it takes.
There were days when they doubted what they were doing. Where they thought, “this is never going to work”. Many found themselves on the verge of giving up at numerous occasions along the way.
They didn’t succeed because they were certain they were going to succeed; They succeeded because they didn’t let uncertainty stop them. They did it anyway. They ignored their doubts and kept pushing forward. They were relentless when the only thing they had to fuel them was relentlessness.
Give some thought to all the people who have achieved something great, only to quickly fade into obscurity. I’m sure you can think of a few, whether they’re entertainers or business people or athletes.
In my career I’ve coached many “successful” people who came to me because their lives had gone flat, and they had become uninspired and tepid. What happened? For many of them, they got comfortable. For years, they had pushed their comfort zones to get where they wanted to be. But as soon as they chose certainty over uncertainty, they stopped achieving. They hit the wall.
Why does it happen? Because when you’ve accomplished one of your goals, when you’re rich and successful, the future naturally seems a little more certain. I’m sure we’d all feel a little more secure with a million bucks or so in the bank.
But that mindset shift is exactly what creates the environment for our ultimate undoing. When we’re no longer uncertain about money, the desire—the need even—to pursue it recedes. When we’re no longer uncertain about success, our ambition can blunt or mellow. We get to wallow in our bloated illusion of certainty. Eventually we get to do that thing called, “settle”. We settle for certainty.
That’s the kind of power that uncertainty has in our lives. It can make us or break us. It can make us rich or make us poor. It can be the key to our success or drive us in the other direction.
For many people, it ends up being both.
CHASING WHAT DOESN’T EXIST
The funny thing is, no matter how much you chase certainty, you’ll never really be able to hold it or retain it. That’s because it doesn’t exist. The universe will always send us little reminders of its chaos and power, and no one is exempt from the prompting.
Nothing is certain. You could go to sleep tonight and never wake up. You could get in your car and never make it to work. Certainty is a complete illusion. Voodoo.
Some of you might find this terrible to think about, but it’s true. No matter how hard we may try, we can never predict exactly what life will bring. Our plans will falter at some point eventually.
By running from uncertainty in search of certainty, we’re actually rejecting the one thing in life that is guaranteed in favor of something that’s nothing more than a fantasy.
“All I know,” Socrates once said, “is that I know nothing.” Many wise people understand this. In fact, they owe their wisdom to that very realization – that they don’t actually know a damn thing.
Because when we think we know everything, we inadvertently turn ourselves away from the unknown and, by default, whole new realms of success. The person who accepts how unpredictable and uncertain life is has no choice but to embrace it.
They’re not afraid of the uncertain; It’s just a part of life. They don’t seek out certainty because they know it doesn’t really exist. They are also the kind of people who are aware of and open to the real magic and miracles of life and what can be accomplished.
One of the pillars of philosophy is the examination of how we know what we know. How can we prove that what we believe is true? In most cases, we can’t.
In reality, even many of the things we think of as hard facts aren’t. They’re half-truths. They’re assumptions. They’re misinterpretations. They’re guesses. They’re based on cognitive biases, faulty information, or conditioning. Use science as an example. What we believed 5, 10 or 20 years ago has since been disproved. We have made radical leaps in understanding and those leaps are continuing every day. What we know today will one day be looked upon as archaic and outdated. Consider those same limits of understanding are everywhere in your life.
If we can’t even be certain about what we “know” today, how can we know what will happen tomorrow?
As you’ve probably noticed, when you do try to stay in your comfort zone, you never truly feel comfortable. There’s always that nagging feeling that you could be doing more. There’s always that desire for a life that’s better than the one you have now.
The more we try to stay comfortable today, the more uncomfortable we’ll be tomorrow. There really is no destination, there is only exploring, exploring and exploring.
STEP FORWARD AND BE JUDGED
Like plenty of other things in our lives, part of our aversion to uncertainty comes from our fear of being judged by others. We are, in a very real way, afraid of what the tribe thinks and the prospect of being thrown out into the mystery and uncertainty of the wild.
If we put ourselves in uncomfortable situations, maybe we’ll look awkward. People will think we’re “weird”. If we push our limits and try to achieve new things, maybe we’ll fail. People will think we’re a “failure”.
“If you want to improve, be content to be thought foolish and stupid”
You’re never going achieve your true potential if you’re hooked by what other people think. In fact, you could change your life overnight if you simply abandoned the notion that other people’s opinions matter. Life goes on, opinion-heavy or opinion-lite.
That doesn’t mean you should go off and become a brazen sociopath and completely disregard what others think. But if you want to win, you have to be willing to be judged by others and not let it get to you. If you want to do something truly great, you’ll have to accept that some people are going to think you’re delusional or an idiot or righteous.
The person who avoids the uncertain doesn’t do this. They’re too afraid of being judged. They’re too afraid to look foolish or stupid. They are stopped, one foot nailed to the floor by an illusion.
EMBRACING THE UNCERTAIN
This can all come as quite a shock. Some of you are probably squirming in your chair as you read this.
That’s because you’re rejecting and avoiding uncertainty. You’re afraid of it. You’re trying to control and know things that you simply can’t know or control. You’re caught up the La-La land that we are all born into and can never quite seem to get out of.
The good news is; it doesn’t have to be that way.
That’s why I want you to shift your thinking. Embrace the uncertainty. That’s your personal assertion: “I embrace the uncertainty”.
Meet it head on. Cherish it. Enjoy it.
Remember, all of the successes, all of the experiences, all of the things you’ve always dreamed of are waiting for you in uncertainty. Once you accept this, it’s not as scary as before. Sure, you might still be nervous about what will happen, but you’ll also be hopeful and excited at the prospect of what may come.
While the unknown can hold plenty of bad things, it also holds everything good as well. It’s overflowing with opportunity and progress.
I challenge you to go out today and take the bull by the horns and embrace your own uncertainty. Do the things you normally wouldn’t. Shake up that daily routine. Dare to dream, dare to risk and startle your life into life.
Start with simple things. Take a different route to work. Instead of bringing your lunch or eating at the same few places, try somewhere you’ve never been. Start a conversation with the waiter or cashier. Smile and say hello to the people you pass on the street, or give them a friendly nod. Talk to that girl or guy who caught your eye.
Or maybe you’re a natural extrovert who does all of that already. What are the things that make you uncomfortable? What are the things you’d like to do but avoid because of uncertainty?
Do them. Starting now. There’s no better time than this moment. Develop and grow that muscle to be with the uncertain in life. To be with the glory of life itself, unconstrained by your own limits and opinions.
Don’t stop there. Instead of simply stretching our comfort zones, let’s blow the thing up completely. Try acting in a way you’d never think about acting. Doing something completely out of character would be a great start. Embrace that uncertainty and strike a blow for your future!
Embracing uncertainty has the power to transform your life, from your personal relationships to your career. It can help you get in shape, make more money, or find your future spouse.
You’ll no longer be hiding from life, you’ll be living it, drinking from it and enlivened by it.
When you stop searching for certainty, when you quit trying to make sense of everything, a lot of your stress will simply melt away. There really is nothing to figure out. If you took the time to be with what I’m saying, you’d realize that what causes most of your worry is trying to predict the future and then refusing to accept things when they don’t or aren’t going to go your way.
Life is an adventure. It’s absolutely filled with opportunity. But it’s up to you to embrace those opportunities fully and completely in all of their majestic, unnerving and invigorating uncertainty.
Focus on the things you can control and release yourself from worrying about what you can’t, like the weather, the Dow Jones, or what your neighbor thinks about your haircut.
“I embrace the uncertainty.” This one simple statement can completely change the way you live, moment to moment to moment. The only thing that’s guaranteed in life is that it’s uncertain. The only thing we know is that we know nothing.
Go ahead, say it, embrace it: “I embrace the uncertainty”.
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