“The more you’re able to tolerate ambiguity and lean into the unknown, the more likely you’ll be able to dance with it long enough to come up with better solutions, ideas, and creations.”
If there is one thing for certain, it’s uncertainty. And, in many cases, how we handle that uncertainty means the difference between success and failure. Success, as it turns out, is about more than just “handling” uncertainty. The book – Uncertainty: Turning Fear and Doubt into Fuel for Brilliance – serves as a guide on how to use inexact times to gain greater knowledge, capability, and movement in moving ideas and initiatives forward.
As author Jonathan Fields explains, thriving in times of uncertainty involved finding, and leveraging “crux moves”. The term “Crux move” comes from rock climbing; they are the critical times when you need to make the most challenging and complex moves to propel yourself up the mountain. In rock climbing, as in life, getting the most from these crux times requires many smaller moves ahead of time.
The point is this: successfully navigating uncertainty relies on our ability to (a) complete seemingly mundane daily tasks in times of calm, and (b) think strategically and leverage our prep work during times of uncertainty. This combination of effort is enabling, enlightening, and empowering.
Although “Turning Fear and Doubt into Fuel for Brilliance” may sound like a lofty and idealistic subtitle, Uncertainty offers a set of concrete practices to move your ideas forward in a meaningful way. It is about embracing uncertainty by providing context and meaning to your daily efforts and engaging others in your pursuits.
Step In, Step Back, Step Forward
“When you are called to create, the psychology of the endeavor also changes. Experiencing a calling creates a sense of deeper conviction, of purpose that often you, even as the creator or vision leader, don’t fully understand. It’s not religious, though it can be, but there is a sense that ‘in this moment, this is what I must do.’”
Uncertainty, page 154
There is good news and bad news. The good news is when we engage in work that is our soulful calling, we are highly motivated and dig in with a fervor and passion rarely experienced elsewhere. The bad news is that we can get sucked in too deep and lose sight of where we are on the path to achieving our calling.
This is a two-part challenge: finding that moment of alignment and knowing when you need to pull back and refresh your view.
Challenge 1. When that moment hits you, you feel inspired about what you need to do. Staying on track with the work required is equally vital to understanding when you are most productive. As Jonathan Fields points out, you need to find your “rhythm” of work – this will allow you to prioritize based on the task’s level of importance and urgency compared to your energy and inspiration levels at the time.
It is easy to bury yourself in the work to be done, so it is essential to find the right times to do the work and then use the remaining time in your “other” practices (e.g. interacting with your hive, training your brain – two activities we’ll discuss momentarily).
Challenge 2. You also need to know when to pull back; to set checks and balances to ensure you are not overwhelming yourself with the work or simply doing the work for work’s sake. Equilibrium is necessary to prevent yourself from being over-absorbed and losing sight of doing what you were called to create.
In other words, sometimes you need to step back to ensure you are working on the right things and gaining the right perspective on where you are in the creation process.
Find Your Energized Hive
The quicker you can get honest feedback, the more quickly you can adapt. As Jonathan Fields points out in a lesson learned from Pixar – “The core skill of innovators is not failure avoidance, it’s error recovery.” (p. 79)
You need the people surrounding you (your hive) to provide more than just support. They need to deliver honest assessments and constructive feedback. You need to find your group of like-minded, open-minded people who will participate in an active give-and-take on ideas and initiatives.
In addition to valuable feedback, the energy you can get from your hive can be extremely powerful in helping you navigate the waters of uncertainty. We’ve all experienced those moments – when you have a meeting with great people who exchange ideas, suggestions, and advice freely and openly, and everyone leaves energized and ready to tackle the next task. Engaging in conversations of this caliber can keep you focused on the goal, and avoid having the doubt creep in.
Finding your hive can be done through social media channels, in-person meetings, taking classes in areas related to your ideas, and/or identifying mentors to engage. If there isn’t a hive already in existence that’s right for you, then create one. Get your hive engaged so that everyone involved can climb effectively to the next level of their creative pursuits.
Exercise Your Brain
“At the moment you find enough stillness for the chatter that fills your head all day long to drop away, revelation begins to sneak in. Insights and big world-changing ideas effervesce into existence.”
Uncertainty, page 123
Magic does not make ideas happen. Work does. Getting the right mindset to move your initiatives forward is essential, and it is necessary to develop a “training” approach to open and engage your brain.
The concept here is called “Attentional Training” or AT, which consists of “practices that either innately or by will require intense, focused awareness. Through daily repetition, they create both physiological and psychological changes that can profoundly alter the way we experience and handle nearly any challenge or endeavor.” (p. 112)
Simply stated, AT is working certain practices into our life that clarify, focus, and open our mind. These practices or exercises facilitate the movement of our initiatives through uncertainty.
You need to find those practices that:
- Unlock your mind
- Match physical activity with mind activity
- Help you visualize next steps and outcomes
- Engage your mind fully
Uncertainty outlines several practices to consider, including; meditation, mindfulness, visualization, exercising, and others. Some may work better for you than others, so experiment and see which tactics are the most effective for you.
It takes work and focus to get to where you want to go. It’s important to build AT practices into your daily and weekly routine because they can help you identify the most critical next actions to realizing your goals.
It’s as simple as 1-2-3. Find your AT practice. Exercise your brain. Do great things.
Uncertainty is a book for people trying to identify their calling and for people trying to make their calling happen. Fields iterates that there is a mix to make it all materialize. Ingredients include your mind, body, inner spirit or soul, community, and work. Each element needs a dash of discipline and openness to determine what you should do and how to do it most effectively.
The book is about:
- Idealism matched with practicality.
- Uncertainty matched with disciplined navigation.
Successfully navigating uncertainty means getting accurate information quickly and adapting in order to get closer to your goal. It means opening yourself up to new thinking and practices that take you to the next level of achievement and satisfaction. It means making the small moves to position yourself for those crux opportunities and then leveraging those moments to the fullest.