It’s your life-long quest. A universal goal. The holy grail of happiness.
It’s what everybody on the planet wants just a little more of. (And it’s an entrepreneurs biggest obstacle to incredible performance.)
What am I talking about?
The inability to deal with uncertainty (i.e. your search for security) is at the root of so many of performance limiting behaviors I couldn’t list them all here. Your lack of confidence. Indecision. Not enough information. Procrastination. Perfectionism. Heck, it may be at the root of every self-limiting thing you do.
So if it’s so debilitating, why are we so drawn to the dream of security and terrified by the prospect of uncertainty?
Because it’s pretty much been programmed into your head since day one.
In some way or another, it’s all you’ve been taught. Uncertainty is BAD. It’s dangerous. It’s evil. Taking risks never ends well.
Whether or not it’s any of those things is debatable. But there’s one thing it absolutely is…
It’s EVERYWHERE. It’s reality. And it’s not going away. So you need to buck up and learn to face it.
Because if you don’t, then nothing will change.
Refuse to accept uncertainty as a fact of life and you’ll end up clinging to things you don’t really want.
You’ll end up wasting more and more money on solutions that simply won’t work. (And that’ll be the least of your problems.)
You’re going to keep suffering the frustration of whatever it is you’re struggling with today. A lack of confidence, procrastination, information overload, perfectionism, doubt, whatever. It will never go away.
And even worse than that, you’re going to keep clinging to a life that is below what your true personal potential can offer you.
Because swapping your true potential for “certainty” is always a bad trade.
I’m going to show you why. (And by the end of this post, the realization you come to may have you in tears.)
But before we get to all that, let’s talk a little about the real nature of uncertainty.
Your Ideas About Uncertainty Are All Wrong
It’s the prospect of facing uncertainty – the possibility of becoming worse off than you are right now – that keeps you stuck. After all, “The devil you know is better than the devil you don’t.” Right?
That’s simply one falsehood you’ve been fed your entire life.
The truth is, uncertainty is neither good nor bad in and of itself. It simply is.
Think about this…
You’re sitting at a poker table and the player across from you goes “all in.” You’ve got three kings in your hand and feel pretty good about them. So you call their bet and go “all in” yourself.
You’ve just willingly put yourself in a situation of uncertainty. Is it bad or good?
Well, if the player who went “all in” first has a full house (which beats your three of a kind), it wasn’t a very good bet. But if they were bluffing with two pair, you’re raking in a pretty huge pot. And that situation of uncertainty wasn’t so bad at all.
To paraphrase another great coach and friend of mine Dr. Joseph Riggio, it’s not that you don’t like uncertainty. It’s that you don’t like the uncertainty that you don’t like. You don’t want the outcomes you don’t want.
And the problem is, people are all to quick to embrace the negative aspects of uncertainty from the very outset. Before they ever think about the possibility of success. They equate uncertainty to risk. And risk almost always equates to loss.
So they go out in search of what they think will give them some security. But seeking security is nothing more than an excuse you make for not trying. It’s your rationalization for settling for something you really don’t want.
And here’s something else you most likely don’t understand. While there is uncertainty in taking a risk, there’s just as much uncertainty in staying put…
The Uncertainty of “Certainty”
If you’ve been following me for any length of time, you know that my first “job” out of college was as a business analyst with Arthur Andersen. I had a lot of business ideas of my own at the time. But back then, I thought a career with Andersen was the perfect fallback plan. I knew I could do well there. I’m willing to bet I could have even made partner in a few years. That was my big huge security bet. My lock. My assurance that I’d always have income and a job.
I mean it was Arthur Andersen for crying out loud! One of the “big five” accounting firms in the world.
But after a short while there, I opted to trade in that security for another opportunity in the great “unknown” trying to turn around a family clothing store.
How lucky was I?
In 2002 Arthur Andersen got caught up in the Enron scandal. It was convicted of obstruction of justice for shredding key audit documents. By August of that year, they were effectively out of business.
An iconic company with over 90 years of history. A company that once employed 85,000 professionals worldwide.
Suddenly it was gone. Virtually all of it.
All of the people who believed that Arthur Andersen was their certainty of life-long security… were suddenly out of work. Grasping for whatever security they could find.
I know what you’re thinking.
“Sure Rich, but stories like those are the exceptions. How many firms blow up because of scandals like that?”
The thing is, they’re NOT the exceptions. The circumstances around Andersen’s downfall might have been more exceptional. More spectacular or newsworthy. But the lesson you need to take away is that they represent the rule!
There is no certainty in anything. No security.
Dramatic change doesn’t have to be sparked by scandal.
Everything changes. Economic conditions. Business goals within a company. You could find yourself downsized and out of work. Made redundant and relocated to a less appealing position. (Without even moving anywhere!)
And it doesn’t even have to be in business.
You might think staying in an unhappy relationship is better than going back out into the dating scene and meeting new people. But that doesn’t mean your significant other isn’t just as unhappy, and that they won’t leave you!
Can you see what I’m telling you?
There is no real security or certainty. Not in business. Not in relationships. Not anywhere!
If you’re not getting whatever you want in your life now, clinging to the status quo because it offers a sense of security is a huge mistake. To “suck it up and follow the rules” because it’s safer than the uncertainty of being out there on your own is only selling yourself short.
Understand what I’m telling you. Uncertainty is a fact of life.
Certainty Can’t Be Bought
(Especially Where You’re Shopping)
When you go out looking for solutions to your performance problems, what you’re essentially looking for is an external solution to your security fears. You buy books, take courses, listen to CDs and DVDs not with the intent of becoming more confident and certain in your own right, but rather with the intention of somehow avoiding uncertainty altogether.
You can’t buy your way out of a problem you behaved your way into…
It’s a flawed motivation. And it has terrible consequences.
You buy something that promises quick and fast results. But it doesn’t work as advertised. And then you feel let down. Now you’re even more doubtful and uncertain. Maybe you try another solution. And the results are the same.
Before you know it you’re stuck in a never-ending spiral of frustration and growing fear that paralyzes you even further. One that makes you more far more willing to “stick to what you know” instead of reaching out for greater, more fulfilling goals. The world becomes more uncertain and further and further out of your control.
Reframe Your Ideas About Uncertainty
What’s the solution? Simple.
(That’s a statement, not a question.)
That’s right. Give up. Surrender. Stop trying to control what’s beyond your control! Stop trying to control uncertainty of the outside world.
What you need is an internal change. One that will make your commitment to success bigger than any obstacle you could ever face.
A commitment that will give you your own personal certainty based on an unshakable belief that when you commit to something, it’s as good as done!
OK listen. Living in an uncertain world can be a bitch. It’s NOT fair. It’s NOT a bed of roses. And it’s NOT spinning on it axis to make you happy and successful and all the other things you’d like your life to be. That’s all true.
But pay attention to this.
It’s not out to keep you down either. It’s not out to screw you over. To pull the rug out from under your every well intentioned, well planned effort.
The world is just out there. Stuff happens. Sometimes it’s what we want. Sometimes it isn’t what we want. But whether or not it’s good or bad is up to you.
You know, there are people in the world crazy enough to believe uncertainty actually equates to opportunity. And happiness. And freedom. And potentially massive wealth!
They’re called entrepreneurs. And what sets them apart from the rest of the huddled masses is that they’re willing to give up what they know sucks for something they merely believe might be a hundred times better.
What’s their secret?
They know that if they make a mistake, they can move on to try something else. They plan appropriately. They don’t bet the farm on any single effort. They’re crystal clear on what their objectives are. They know how to focus their efforts.
Uncertainty in the world around you is one thing. You can’t change it – so start dealing with that fact right now. But there is another area of uncertainty that you can affect.
Uncertainty about yourself.
And in my next post we’re going to get into more detail about the performance limiting areas inside you. Things you can work to change.
It’s Time For Some Terrifying Homework
I’ve got a couple very important questions I want you to answer. To help you reframe your perception of uncertainty.
Asking these kinds of life-altering questions is always a challenge for me. Not the “asking” part. But I always worry that my readers will balk at them. And rather than face the harsh truths they reveal, they’ll default back to their old way of thinking and viewing the world.
But I’m going to ask them anyway. And I want you to take them to heart and answer them.
If you don’t feel up to answering the them in the comments – if they seem a little too personal – fine. Then answer them honestly and specifically in your journal. But come back here and share what you discovered with your fellow travelers.
Are you ready? Here we go.
Think about these. And write your answers down.