September 8, 2011

Jack Covert Selects: Jack Covert Selects - Uncertainty

By: Dylan Schleicher @ 9:46 PM – Filed under: Management & Workplace Culture

Uncertainty: Turning Fear and Doubt into Fuel for Brilliance by Jonathan Fields, Portfolio, 240 pages, $25.95, Hardcover, September 2011, ISBN 9781591844242
Business is not just a creation; it is a creative process. Jonathan Fields recognizes this, and has written a book addressing a key part of that process—uncertainty. Having left the six-figure income he made as a lawyer to work as a personal trainer and open a yoga center in New York City (the day before 9/11, no less), it is a topic he knows something about.

And he knows that life without the unknown is life without innovation. If we were sure of everything we did before we did it, we would have never discovered fire or invented the wheel. Ambiguity has unseen opportunity, uncertainty is rife with potential. As the author notes:
The more you’re able to tolerate ambiguity and lean into the unknown, the more likely you’ll be to dance with it long enough to come up with better solutions, ideas, and creations.
But we all fear the unknown, and when it comes down to your life’s work, it can be downright terrifying. That’s not going to go away, but you can frame it differently. Writing of “The Myth of the Fearless Creator,” Fields notes that prolific creators learn to experience fear as attention and motivation, like a mountain climber on a precipice. He tells the story of how Sebastian Junger, the author of Perfect Storm and maker of the film Restrepo, learned to deal with this fear. Junger explains:
I start feeling it and then I … just unhook from it. … I was a climber for tree companies and I’m scared of heights, but I never got over my fear of heights. I just figured out how to not think about it. It was really simple.
Uncertainty will help you become more comfortable living amidst the mystery, embracing the unknown so that you can exploit it’s potential. As Fields poignantly remarks, “Genius always starts with a question, not an answer.”

About Dylan Schleicher

Dylan Schleicher has been a part of the 800-CEO-READ claque since 2003. Even though he's stayed on at the company, he has not stayed put. After beginning in shipping & receiving, he joined customer service and accounting before moving into his current, highly elliptical orbit of duties overseeing the ChangeThis and In the Books websites, the company's annual review of books and in-house design. He lives with his wife and two children in the Washington Heights neighborhood on Milwaukee's West Side.