How to Accept and Tolerate Uncertainty

growth mindset

When we awake each morning, we do not know whether we are going to see out the day. There are those that, often, do not wake up at all – their bodies have succumbed to eternal sleep. We plan for tomorrow, next week, next year or the next five years like these epochs are a certainty yet, if we stop for a moment, our small, withered, inner voice tells us that the only certainty is uncertainty.

When a Life Event happens to us, we raise our heads up above the parapet of certainty, logic and planning and we feel the tug of uncertainty in our hearts.

It seems so obvious, doesn’t it? That fate/chance/God/the universe could wipe us from the face of this planet, and existence, in the blink of an eye – like the motes of dust, spinning on a ball of molten metal in a galaxy with 100 billion stars, we are. But we are wired to still plan and live like we’ll be here forever.

When a Life Event happens to us, we raise our heads up above the parapet of certainty, logic and planning and we feel the tug of uncertainty in our hearts. And a deluge of questions springs forth as our inner child tries to make sense of the skewed, suddenly probabilistic, future that we are confronted with. You fail an exam: will I have a career? Your relationship ends: will I find someone new? How do I deal with loneliness? Your career takes an adverse turn: will I ever reach those career heights again? Will my bills be paid?

This awareness of an uncertain, illogical, future – where our plans are not set in stone – can lead to stress and anxiety. We’d rather know, than not know – this is how we are wired. We’d rather know that there is a lion in the bushes just outside of camp than not.

Over the years I have become acutely aware of how uncertain life can be. I’ve taken decisions where I lean into uncertainty and try to embrace it as much as possible. I am not fearless, as rushing headlong into the unknown is coupled with a shitload of fear and introspection. But, with blissful ignorance and a healthy dose of “fuck it”, I try to grit my teeth and embrace the unplannable.

Trust yourself, trust the process, your support network and  whatever/whoever your God is and lean into uncertain situations.

In a way, this is what this trip to Bali represents to us and, yet, we are leaning into our experiences. Riding a scooter in the midst of the nightmarish Kuta traffic is peak uncertainty but it takes, and builds, self-confidence and trust. Taking a small boat to an unknown location off the coast and jumping into the sea, in the hope that the boat is still there when you’ve surfaced is another small example.

Trust yourself, trust the process, your support network and whatever/whoever your God is and lean into uncertain situations.

There is a concept that I use in my life that I term drift that I’ll try to explain it here. In mathematics, stochastic drift determines the change of the average value of a random process which means that an insurance company, for example, is able to calculate the rate of mortality over a given time period (mortality being a random process and the average value of mortality rates is what is being calculated).

Go into situations knowing that, not only will you overcome, but that you’ll grow.

The point is that my concept of drift is related to the mathematical process above but is simplistic: the more you expose yourself to- and deal with – micro-bouts of uncertainty, the better you will be over time at accepting and dealing with uncertain events. Yes, this is not a new theory – it’s something I use for myself – but the point here is that the drift of how you deal with uncertainty in your life will expand: you will be able to deal with an ever-expanding clutch of uncertain events.

Further, one’s mindset is key to dealing with whatever may be around the corner. a growth mindset is stronger and more keenly attuned to your overcoming and succeeding at dealing with uncertainty than a fixed mindset. Go into situations knowing that, not only will you overcome, but that you’ll grow.

In summary, we can never truly know the outcome of any event yet there are those that affect us at our deepest levels and cause us to view the external world, and ensuing events with uncertainty. This causes stress and anxiety. Lean in, trust yourself and trust the process and you will be able to, eventually, not only tolerate uncertainty but welcome it.

Comment and let us know what you think!



What Does Career Burnout Feel Like? A Retrospective

This post was originally published on a now-defunct blog. My hope is that it helps those of you who may be suffering from burnout or who just want to make a change.

It has been a tough few years. Divorce, depression, learning to be single again and rebuilding myself. Learning to love me again is a hard road to walk down.

During all of this, one thing has not suffered – until now. Whilst in the midst of juggling property and divorce lawyers, of wondering how badly my daughter would be affected by her mother leaving, of dating and wild parties; I have always worked hard at my job.

Professionalism is the hallmark of my success in the investment banking technology arena. It is intrinsically linked to my reputation in this industry and is built on hard work. And my hard work has always been derived from a deep passion and interest in the technology that I was responsible for. That was until the beginning of 2017.

The end of last year was tough: 1 am releases, weekend working and long office hours. But, I thrive under that kind of pressure and welcome it. At the turn of the year, I started to feel something new – disinterest. My manager – with whom I have a great relationship – stated his intention to leave and I thought about following suit.

I put my growing disinterest in my job down to me having been in the role for a few years and mastering my domain to the point that there was nothing left to learn. Little did I know that this was not to be the reason.

After scouring the internal company job site, I eventually applied for – and accepted – a role within the Digitial Initiative of the bank. A challenging step up the corporate ladder, or so I thought. To cut a long story short, my disinterest is now a glowing ember in the gasbag that is my career. And it is a result of burn out. At nearly forty years old, I have burnt out. The toll that my mind and spirit has paid in recent times has left me needing a break to re-evaluate my life and reignite my motivation.

The voice inside of me used to whisper the sweet notes of change but now, like an F1 car on the home straight, it is screaming those same notes and I cannot deny it any longer.

You see, I am part of a  social class that remembers the advent of the internet, that grew up watching dad wake up at 6 am to work as a mental health nurse in order to pay the mortgage. The mortgage and bills were the twin monoliths that immigrant parents worshipped through (mainly) working class jobs, back in the day. There was no concept of career “choice” for them. It was: find a job, stay in said job and pay the bills. Put the kids through school. This is the mentality that I adopted, which is why many of my dreams of extended travel to far off lands were curtailed due to the duty that I felt had to The Job and my folks.

But we live in a different time now. The internet has given us choice. The whole concept of “work” is changing rapidly from nomadic working to ultra-flexible office hours. People are starting businesses, taking professional courses and helping others from beaches, jungles, mountains and swimming pools the world over. Okay, it is not as idyllic as that, but you get my point.

What does all of this mean for me? Well, for the first time in my life, my relentless pursuit of a career is going to be put on the back burner for a while. I intend to take a break and explore starting my own business(es), studying and living. The voice inside of me used to whisper the sweet notes of change but now, like an F1 car on the home straight, it is screaming those same notes and I cannot deny it any longer.

Getting what YOU Want out of Life

“Start where you are. Use what you have. Do what you can.” – Arthur Ashe.

I am struggling. I am struggling with the weight of expectations; those self-imposed and those thrust upon me by society in my formative years and now, by the whispers of social media. We are all told to “do more”, “be more”, “have more”, “love more” etc. The interweb seeks to unlock our true “potential” so that it can, ironically, deliver us the best, greatest version of ourselves, to ourselves. Our own personal Nirvana.

What is the truth, though? Where do we fit in, those of us that are not uber-connected millennials? Those of us who are children of hard-working parents, whose only notion of achieving their “potential” was to bring home the bacon each month? What does the notion of “potential” mean to me, an almost-forty-something single dad?  And, importantly, what can I do to achieve my potential now?

Continue reading “Getting what YOU Want out of Life”

Decentralising Education in Paradise

Rain, temples, lush jungle and undereducated workers are the staples of Bali in general and Ubud in particular. From taxi drivers to waiting staff to construction workers (mostly women, from what we have seen).

Like many developing countries education is reserved for those who can pay. Here, a Travel and Tourism course costs 30 million Rupiah a year. For five years. And this course just gets you through the door in the hospitality game; it doesn’t elevate one to management or supervisory positions.

Continue reading “Decentralising Education in Paradise”

The Shadow Behind Bali’s Temples

Temples. They are everywhere here in Ubud and across Bali. From the garden of your hotels to EVERY street corner.

And, every morning, Bali’s people will meditate and put flowers as offings in those temples, and in front of their houses. As this ritual is performed by everyone, you walk in Bali with the delicious perfume of the flowers, transporting to spiritual mode tourists soon take for granted.

Continue reading “The Shadow Behind Bali’s Temples”

What Failure Taught Me

“Do not judge me by my successes, judge me by how many times I fell down and got back up again.” — Nelson Mandela.

Failure has defined my life. Since that day back in August 1996 when I experienced the first major failure of my academic life, I have been sensitive to failure and, crucially, always tried to learn from my mistakes.

I can remember the day like it was yesterday. My schoolmates and I arrived at school to collect our A-level results. We clambered over one another like wildebeest at the watering hole, around the teachers giving out our result envelopes.

Continue reading “What Failure Taught Me”