The Upside of Uncertainty
IN The Upside of Uncertainty, Nathan and Susannah Furr assert that “Behind every uncertainty you are facing—even the unwanted and unpromising varieties—insight, growth, and possibility are waiting in the wings. We are all wired to fear the downsides of uncertainty, but we forget that change, creation, transformation, and innovation rarely show up without some measure of it.”
That’s not to say that there are no real downsides. We feel them first: anxiety, stress, exhaustion, frustration, and confusion. Uncertainty, as they define it, is “anything unknown, any ambiguous state where you might not even know what to pay attention to, let alone all the ways it could play out.” In contrast to risk, uncertainty does not include any knowable outcomes—no probabilities to factor in. It is uncharted territory.
But uncertainty presents us with possibilities that emerge that can help to not only navigate the situation but thrive in it and beyond it.
To do this, the authors present us with tools to help us with the unknown. While some of the tools overlap, they divide them into four categories: Reframe, Do, Sustain, and . They go into detail describing how to implement each of the tools in all four categories.
Reframe tools enable and strengthen a perspective shift, motivating you to look creatively for all the possibilities and to believe in an upside that you can’t see yet.
Discovering the upside of uncertainty starts with undergoing a radical shift in perspective: Instead of fearing and avoiding the unknown, you recognize and embrace it as the origin of possibility. The Reframe tools are largely cognitive in nature, meaning they are about how you make sense of the world.
Framing ∙ Reverse Insurance ∙ Frontiers ∙ Adjacent Possible ∙ Infinite Game ∙ Stories ∙ Regret Minimization ∙ Aplomb (Doubting/Self-Doubt) ∙ Uncertainty Manifesto
Prime tools prepare you by encouraging projects that matter to you, taking into account your personal uncertainty landscape to enable satisfying outcomes when it’s time to act.
The Prime tools are situated on the “doing” axis, inviting you to start taking steps toward any uncertainties you face. These include both the uncertainties you choose, such as starting a new project or adventure, and those you don’t, such as unexpected loss or downturn.
Know Your Risks ∙ Personal Real Options ∙ Uncertainty Balancers ∙ Dumbo Feathers ∙ Runways & Landing Strips ∙ Reimaging Resources ∙ Fait Sur Measure ∙ Don’t Force Machinery
Do tools describe how to thoughtfully unlock rewarding possibilities hidden in the uncertainties you face to promote a future you want to live in.
As you implement the Do tools, remember that what happens in the future depends on the “conversations” you are willing to have, then give yourself permission to boldly engage with what’s already been done to create new possibilities. Anything and everything can be recomposed.
Activate & Unlock · Values versus Goals · Cognitive Flexibility · Learning in Fog · 10,000 Shots · Bricolage · Small Steps ∙ Pivot
Sustain tools give comfort and remind you why and how to keep going or how to pivot when things don’t go as planned.
Sustain tools are most helpful in a time of crisis. Sustain tools nourish and comfit you through the downsides of uncertainty. Regret, anxiety, grief, self-doubt, and even embarrassment can be powerful obstacles to navigating uncertainty as well. The symbol used to represent Sustain is the Paris coat-of-arms containing a boat floating above turbulent water with the Latin motto fluctuat nec mergitur or tosses but not sinking.
Emotional Hygiene · Reality Check ∙ Magic
While facing the reality of your circumstances may bring “challenge, discomfort, and heartache, it is the only place where innovation, solution, and evolution happen.” The authors encourage us to go beyond just being resilient to transilience. Transilience “is about transformation, leaping from one state to another.” To recap, there are four critical things to remember when faced with uncertainty:
- Reframe uncertainty as an essential portal to opportunity and consider all the possibilities you can imagine.
- Prime yourself and the uncertainty you face with self-knowledge, research, balancers, and supporters, and a collection of real options and potential exit strategies.
- Face every uncertainty based on values, cognitive flexibility, and curiosity to reveal the essence waiting to be activated and unlocked.
- Sustain yourself and your projects with emotional hygiene, reality checks, and magic.
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