Rethinking uncertainty (aka: I’m certainly uncertain)

Patrick Jager
Mar 22, 2016 · 4 min read

Every few days I select a word and I do a Google image search to see what comes up. This week’s word was “uncertain”, based on that weird feeling I get in my stomach when there are things around me that I can’t define, that I can’t control. While there were a ton of images that came up related to the famous Ben Franklin quote: “In this world nothing is certain but death and taxes”, another image/quote really caught my eye. Maybe it was because of it’s similariteis to Pliny the Elder’s uncertainty quote, or maybe it was the big black text on white background that made me really take notice:

What’s uncertain in my life?

Hmmm — from macro to micro it includes:

Syria, ISIS, Russia, migrant crisis, political unrest across the globe, interest rates, Zika virus, SCOTUS, POTUS, political apathy, teenage apathy, retirement and college funds, time management, client load, stock market, corporate growth, future growth, home construction, community issues, faith issues, family issues, environmental issues, not to mention: death and taxes. You name it, there are questions of uncertainty all around me/us.

When you hear “old-timers” (which I wonder when I ‘officially’ join) talk about the good ‘ol days “when things were easy”, it sounds like uncertainty is a modern phenomenon. But truthfully every era, every generation, every community has had uncertainty. And on that I am certain. My grandparents might have talked about the “good days”, but they had WWII, the threat of communism and the atomic bomb as massive components of uncertainty. My parent’s uncertainty included Vietnam, Watergate, Three Mile Island, debt and how to raise three kids. What people who talk about the “good days” are reflecting on isn’t a lack of uncertainty, but rather hindsight.

Hindsight makes the uncertain certain because you can see that everything you did, and every issue you faced had an outcome, and you are still here to talk about it. Hindsight can make even the most uncertain of times feel like “good ‘ol days”. But when you are in the midst of uncertainty, most don’t have the foresight to know that it will become clear later.

Our species is the most intelligent (or so we’ve been told), but we are also the most emotional. Uncertainty can be crippling when emotions override intellect. Three easy things to bring emotion in check in terms of the uncertain:

  • We cannot control the world — even our small part of the world.
  • We cannot make the laundry list of challenges disappear.
  • But we can control how the uncertainty around us makes us act, makes us think and makes us feel.

Now it’s time for me to look back at my list of personal uncertainties (see top of article) and evaluate them with a little hindsight. Finding: its easier to handle the massive number of uncertainties when I remember that it’s not “new” to have them, and that the majority of them are issues that I can’t control and should not obsess on. And with that, I feel better. And I am able to focus more strongly on those things immediately in front of me.

So today, I challenge you to write out your uncertainties. Write them down, file them away, and reflect on them later. How many work themselves out? How many were you able to change because of foresight and being proactive about them? We live in uncertain times. That is #truth. But that’s always been the case, and will be the case forever more. But our outlook on uncertainty doesn’t have to control us. Of that I too am certain.

Like this? Please share with others! And if you have ideas of future articles, please reach out — I’d love to connect!


Patrick Jager is the CEO of CORE Innovation Group — expert strategy and implementation in media, communications and business development.

Patrick Jager

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Entrepreneural CEO bringing the ‘next’ to a world of the ‘normal’. CORE Innovation Group (