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Jonathan Fields’ Uncertainty

November 6, 2011

Jonathan Fields (@jonathanfields) (www.jonathanfields.com) kindly honored my request for a copy of his Uncertainty: Turning Fear and Doubt into Fuel for Brilliance book (Amazon).

Based on my experiences working with clients concerning transformation and how we appreciate and approach Uncertainty as a quintessential / elemental aspect of the transformation journey, I was very intrigued!

The Book

The book is a beautiful exploratory journey through the world of uncertainty.

The Introduction begins with The Three Psychic Horsemen of Creation:

One of the single greatest determinants of high-level success as an innovator or creator in any realm is the ability to manage and at times even seek out sustained high levels of uncertainty, bundled lovingly with risk of lose and exposure to criticism.

The Introduction then declares the purpose of the book:

Uncertainty is about what goes on in your head, your heart, and your gut as you strive to create anything truly extraordinary.

This book will give you a better understanding of your own creative process and a set of concrete daily practices and environmental changes that will allow you to reframe uncertainty, risk, and exposure as allies for creating and innovating on a level you never thought possible.

And with such an inviting Introduction, the book then delves into the heart and soul of uncertainty.

Why Uncertainty Matters

Chapter 1 emphasizes that “every quest to create something bold starts with a question, a hunch, or an idea” and that “creating” versus merely “replicating” “requires us to live with uncertainty”; thus, “we need to develop the ability to tolerate uncertainty”.

Notice the distinction between “creating” and “replicating”, and the expression that its a “quest” wherein “uncertainty” is a given such that we must cultivate the ability to “tolerate” it — if nothing else, this offers a refreshingly realistic perspective!

Far too many people sadly dull their natural ability to “tolerate” uncertainty by neglecting to renew their commitment to a quest and their extraordinary journey, but dwell (if not obsess) on the mundane and ordinary!

What Uncertainty Does to Us

Chapter 2 emphasizes that “uncertainty causes pain” which manifests as “suffering, anxiety, and fear” and fuels us to “do whatever we can to eliminate the bad feeling”; and the “rush to create certainty and eliminate risk and judgment” “unintentionally snuffs out our ability to create genius.”

Notice the whole notion of “creating certainty” versus “discovering” or “finding” it, and notice how “rushing” (versus deliberately acting to) “create certainty” conflict with “creating genius” — again, if nothing else, this offers a refreshingly realistic perspective!

The Myth of the Fearless Creator

Chapter 3 emphasizes that many seemingly “fearless creators” also “experience the same open-ended circumstance that shut most others down”, but they “build these things [situational changes, personal practices, and shifts in mind-set] into their lives, with great deliberation, as scaffolding that allows them to lean more deeply into the [creation] journey.”

Briefly consider the interplay between curiosity, uncertainty, scaffolding, and action.

  • If one is curious, recognizes uncertainty, and has the appropriate scaffolding, they may be more inclined to act.
  • If one is curious and does not recognize uncertainty, they too may be more inclined to act, perhaps to a fault!
  • If one is curious, recognizes uncertainty, and does not have the appropriate scaffolding, they may be less inclined to act.

Perhaps, its the interplay between scaffolding and uncertainty that shapes how we bridge the chasm between curiosity and action!

Find Your Certainty Anchors

Chapter 4 explores “certainty anchors”, particularly rituals and routines, to “help counter the resistance that comes when you lean into the side of the creation process”:

Certainty anchors are experiences — ones that either happen naturally or that you build intentionally into your life — that serve as a source of psychology bedrock. They allow you to take more risks and embrace uncertainty in your work with more confidence in the name of creating better, deeper outcomes.

Essentially, certainty anchors may be considered behavioral aspects of scaffolding.

Build Your Hive

Chapter 5 explores “judgment-leveling creation hives” that are an “incredibly effective vehicle that can open you to the feedback you need to grow your ability and your endeavor as efficiently as possible”.

Essentially, hives may be considered environmental aspects of scaffolding.

Socialize Creation

Chapter 6 explores how to “shorten the time needed to arrive at certainty” by focusing on how to “test your ides, gather information, and build on what works, and eliminate what does not work” using “lean methodology” or “feedback-driven technologies”. Essentially, “adding certainty more often and in smaller chunks and fueling action.”

Essentially, feedback may be considered a workflow aspect of scaffolding.

Also notice the “incremental” (“more often and in small chunks”) approach to additive certainty and how it fuels action. Far too many people seek a “big bang” up-front approach to certainty (or resolving uncertainty) and resist action otherwise!

Train Your Brain

Chapter 7 explores “attentional training (AT)”:

Meditation, mindfulness and many forms of contemplation-driven spiritual practice are examples of something called attentional training (AT), practices that either innately or by will require intense, focused awareness. Through daily repetition, they create both physiological and psychological changes that can profoundly alter the way we experience and handle nearly any challenge or endeavor.

Notice the emphasis on “intense, focused awareness” and how such practices become certainty anchors.

See the Forest

Chapter 8 explores the “bigger question” that emerges “every time a new major hurdle presents itself”: “whether to keep going, to change what you’re doing, or to fold and shut down the endeavor altogether”; and this chapter also explores the “opportunity to lose yourself in the quest” that can be countered when we “establish a set of circuit breakers designed to allow you to come back from a question that has turned into an abyss”.

The ability to recognize, appreciate, and successfully confront the dark side of any quest is crucial!

Own the Story Line

Chapter 9 explores “reframing”, which “allows us to create and associate a different story line around” the “normal fear and anxiety” from “uncertainty and risk that comes with creation” “instead of defaulting to an automatic story that engenders negative emotion”.

Likewise, our ability to feed the dark side of any quest versus starve it is ever-present (and human)!

Bring it Home

Chapter 10 emphasizes that “uncertainty must be present in the quest to create anything deeply meaningful” and that “over time, facts and actual experiences will replace leaps of faith and hunches”.

Ultimately, when considering uncertainty, we should always remember: “Certainty, beyond the fact that you were born and you will one day die, does not exist.”

In Conclusion: The Alchemy of Fear

Jonathan Fields’ (@jonathanfields) (www.jonathanfields.com) Uncertainty: Turning Fear and Doubt into Fuel for Brilliance book (Amazon) is a masterpiece filled with human wisdom:

Doing all of these things pushed me — a lot. But they’ve also allowed me to lean with greater comfort than ever before into the uncertainty and fear that must be part of the quest to create something brilliant from nothing. I am no longer just an artist, an entrepreneur, or a creator. I’m training, and likely forever will be, in the alchemy of fear.

It’s my greatest hope that this book provides both the inspiration and the foundation needed for you to do the same.

Jonathan, thank you for beautifully sharing how embracing uncertainty may be wonderfully liberating!

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One Comment leave one →
  1. Si Alhir (Sinan Si Alhir) permalink*
    November 20, 2011 12:54 am

    @jonathanfields: @salhir so glad you enjoyed the book and thanks for the wonderful thoughts around it

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