The Value of Uncertainty

Most people like to know. They like to know what’s coming next. That like to know what will happen next year. They like to know how every decision will turn out, sometimes even before they make the decision. 

 

Many so called “experts” would have us believe that to succeed we need to remove as much uncertainty from our life as possible. They see uncertainties as leading to a lack of control. They say it adds stress to our lives that we don’t need. 

 

Since they are experts I suppose they are right about all of that. But here’s the thing; without uncertainty there are no possibilities. Possibilities and innovation come directly from uncertainty.

 

We also need some stress in our lives. It’s what causes us to take action. A life with absolutely no stress is a life of immobility. It is a life lived stuck where it’s at with little reason to grow and expand. It is likely a passionless life as well. Not all stress is bad and thinking that it is only adds the kind of stress that is bad for us.

 

As to uncertainty, think of all the things you take for granted that you wouldn’t have if not for uncertainty. 

 

The mere fact that you’re able to read this came from uncertainty. Whether you’re reading this on a computer, a tablet or a smartphone none of those would have ever been invented if the inventors were certain they couldn’t make anything better than a pencil and paper. I’d hazard a big guess that they had no conclusive idea how their inventions would turn out but they put the uncertainty aside and began anyway.

 

Do you suppose Tim Berners-Lee was certain how the whole World Wide Web thing would work out? Do you think he could have imagined its impact on the world? He didn’t let his uncertainty stop him and neither should you.

 

The list could go on forever. Virtually everything that was once thought impossible came about because someone decided to embrace the uncertainty of what could be possible.

 

Certainty is boring. Embrace the unknowns in your life and be excited about the possibilities ahead. Never believe that “good enough” is good enough. Look for “better” in every part of your life. There is something you’re uncertain about in your life and it’s possible that uncertainty could be the thing that makes a difference in the lives of many many people.


Go for it!


The Benefit of Living an Uncomfortable Life

A while back I was managing a program and someone asked me about a decision I had made. I responded that I was comfortable with what I had decided. I also said I was comfortable with the thousands of other decisions I had made for the program too. 

 

I’d say less than a minute later I realized how arrogant that sounded. It also wasn’t exactly true since I work hard at being intentionally uncomfortable. 

 

One of the biggest obstacles on many people’s journey to success is comfort. The split second you are comfortable with where you’re at you’re not there anymore. The moment you’re comfortable with all of your decisions is the same moment your decisions become less effective. In the instant you become comfortable doing something your pursuit of doing it better stops.

 

If I could give anyone advice to help them be consistently successful I’d tell them to live as uncomfortably as they can stand. Actually it would be to live a little more uncomfortably than they can stand. 

 

The world is ever changing. The marketplace for every business is morphing in ways unthinkable a couple of years ago. Being comfortable, for even a day or two means risking being left so far behind that you may never catch up.  

 

Comfort is an expense that no organization can afford. If your goals include growing or even if your goals are merely to survive the next five years then you must embrace discomfort now. Virtually nothing works the way it did even a few years ago and it’s likely that what works this year won’t work next year.

 

As a leader you must push yourself to uncomfortable places. You must help your people get comfortable with being uncomfortable. You must ensure that they are uncomfortable with the mere thought of comfort. 

 

Uncomfortable people grow, uncomfortable organizations succeed and their success is lasting. Comfortable people are vulnerable and so are comfortable organizations. They are vulnerable to extinction.

 

If you’re comfortable saying things like “we’ve always done it that way” then I hope you’re really comfortable because those may be the final words ever spoken on behalf of your once successful organization. 

 

The benefit of living an uncomfortable life is surviving and even thriving in a world that uses old ideas only as a measuring stick against new ones. 


It’s fine to relax so go ahead and uncomfortably relax because uncomfortable is the new comfortable. At least it is for those people and organizations that hope to still be successful in the months and years ahead.