Glance through any textbook and you will quickly notice a pattern.
Sir Edmund Hillary was the first Western man to summit on Mt. Everest, the tallest mountain on Earth. Mary Kingsley was an unmarried English woman who used part of her inheritance to travel and study in “uncivilized” parts of Africa during the 19th century. Benjamin Franklin, Albert Einstein, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Martin Luther King Jr., Amelia Earhart, George Washington, Jane Goodall, and many others tuned out their voice of reason and resistance from the outer world and leaped fearlessly into the unknown. Those who face uncertainty head-on are the leaders and heroes who go down in history and who, in their own unique way, change the world.
I’m the type of person who hears a lecture, is deeply moved, and is then inspired to go buy the book. Uncertainty was no exception. Jonathan Fields is a lawyer turned entrepreneur, innovator, writer, speaker, creative, and embracer of uncertainty.
In business, science, art, and life, all progress stems from risk-taking; and facing said risks involves looking beyond the fears that permeate that unexplored territory. Though so many of us have unanswered questions and big dreams, fear of failure often holds us back from completing, or even starting our big projects and adventures. Life becomes more fulfilling when one chooses to pursue the unanswered questions, explore bold new ideas, and create rather than replicate.
“…uncertainty is a signpost of novelty and innovation, telling you that what you’re creating is really worth creating.”
Uncertainty is not a bad thing. Success is not a matter of eliminating uncertainty, but instead developing a tolerance for that unknowing, and amplifying it in ways that will help you to grow. It’s natural to feel pain and anxiety in response to the unknown; however, this reaction has outlived its evolutionary purpose and now hinders us from the ideas and endeavors that could bring more meaning into our lives. We prefer the safety net provided by a financially secure job, widely accepted ideas, and regularity. The potential to lose money, be judged harshly, or fail miserably are simply the terrifying flip-side of innovation, success, and fulfillment. Yet, we as humans have a propensity to stare into the vast unknown and see the blinding darkness, rather than the millions of far-off stars.
Since overcoming fear and uncertainty does prove to be such a challenge, the author provides practical guidance, broken into relatable and helpful chapters.
- Find your creativity anchors: Rituals and routines serve as a source of psychological bedrock and help you to maintain confidence in at least some areas of your life; this allows you to fearlessly delve further into lesser known areas, but also know when you need to come back to reality. Example include exercise, meditation, meals, religious services, classes, and time spent with family and friends.
- Build your creative hive: Maintain relationships with mentors, people who support you, and those you look up to. Create an environment in which you can receive constructive criticism and positive feedback, as well as offer the same to others.
- Socialize creation: Incorporate feedback-driven technologies into your creation process; release your product or service early on and continually tweak it based on what your audience thinks could be improved. This method drastically cuts down the time it takes to reach an optimal product.
- Train your brain: Attention training (such as meditation) and exercise help keep your body and mind in shape; in conjunction with one another, they are the strongest known creation-force multipliers.
- See the forest: Is what you’re doing a project, a calling, or the thing that you can’t not do? This question will help you know when to exert more effort, change your path, or call off the project. Be familiar with your biggest dreams and drives, maintain balance between your heart and your head, and don’t lose yourself on the deeply meaningful quest.
- Own the story line: Rather than jumping to negative conclusions about your situation, resort to a place of equanimity and ask yourself what other interpretations might exist. Find the silver lining, accept the dark clouds, and keep on working towards your dream.
As you begin to accept uncertainty, work around it, and face the associated fears, its power over you will slowly fade, further expanding your creative potential. Understanding how uncertainty functions, as well as how to befriend the unknown can benefit entrepreneurs, artists, and everyone else
This book came into my life at the perfect time, as I am currently drowning in uncertainty and fear of what’s to come. I tend to soar high on hopes and dreams and then crash hard when I drop my rose-colored glasses and notice the backlog of ignored failures catching up to me. The book is aimed at entrepreneurs, artists, and other creative types, but offers guidance and resources that we can all benefit from. We are all creative geniuses with the potential to do great things, but that requires that we step out of our comfort zone, discern our life’s purpose, and jump in without hesitation.
Remember the list of famous leaders and creators above? Transform your fear and doubt into fuel for brilliance, and perhaps one day your name will be added to that ever-growing list of world-changers.