Sometimes our failures are what sets us apart. When we do not produce the work the way we intended, we can still be noticed.
There is Certainty in Uncertainty
“I think it’s much more interesting to live not knowing than to have answers which might be wrong.” Richard Feynman
Pine Cones and Acorns
If our best ideas are like pine cones and acorns then they need to fall outside the canopy of the great trees from which they fall. It is scary and uncertain to land on an exposed piece of land but necessary to germinate. Our best ideas that fall at the roots of the parent tree never have a chance to fully evolve. Unless someone transports them to open sunlight, adds moisture, and places them in fertile earth.
This is why we share ideas with others. We cannot foster all our great ideas. Too many fall under our own aboral umbrella. We have to seed them with just enough structure that someone else can take them forth. Sometimes our best success comes from moments of serendipity. The seatmate on a flight, the stranger at a conference, the visitor who sits in on a meeting. Our weakest ties become the greatest hope that our best ideas might find a home and scale to full form.
Simon Sinek reminds us that ideas only take their true form when we share them out loud. We have to give them life and put them into the narrative. Like the pine cone and acorns, their fate depends on the ecosystem in which they land.
Bold endeavors involve degrees of uncertainty. Athletic competitions are on my list. Viewing in-race photos afterward is always surreal. I know how the event turned out and yet at the moment of the picture (unless it is at the finish line) there is often uncertainty swirling in my mind. Uncertain thoughts include:
- Can I sustain this pace?
- Have I taken enough feeds at the aid station to avoid ‘bonking’?
- How can I overcome ______ (mechanical issue) and still finish?
- I should have worn a different layer.
- Will I make it?
- Am I still on-course?
The more ambitious the challenge, the deeper the uncertainty dip or, the longer it endures. Formidable quests are similar to swimming in breaking waves. The deepest troughs offer no visibility of the horizon and the anxiety of an approaching swell. The highest crests provide the sensation of weightlessness and a crow’s nest scan of the surrounding landscape but the reality that we will recede into the next trough. The constant ebb and flow create a dynamic environment. If we become complacent, the waves will wash us ashore or drag us out-to-sea.
The signature moments for many individuals is when we overcome the moments of uncertainty. When we sign-up for a heroic journey and intently venture into the uncertain world, only to return with a new perspective about the world we inhabit and ourselves, we have achieved the remarkable.