Living with Uncertainty

“I have devoted my life to uncertainty. Certainty is the death of wisdom, thought, creativity.”
Shekhar Kapur

Both life and death are journeys into the unknown. We put faith in all-knowing gods and gurus, attempting to fully eliminate uncertainty, creating rigid rules that kill wisdom, thought, and creativity.

Throughout history, civilizations have built seemingly impenetrable walls, fortresses, and great armies to gain a sense of certain security. Religions have developed seemingly perfect rules, rituals, and deities to gain a sense of certain salvation.

No matter how seemingly impenetrable or perfect, history teaches us that the greatest civilizations have fallen and the greatest religious have been involved in some of the most abhorrent practices. Being human, we are stuck in this liminal space between birth and death, without answers.

Living with purpose in an uncertain world means accepting that we don’t have answers to life’s most fundamental questions. It means acting in ways meaningful to us, despite the risk of failure; it means taking action toward meaningful goals despite the ever-present feeling of unpreparedness; it means trusting you will figure things out along the way rather than needing to know everything beforehand.

Analysis paralysis stimulates thought but stifles creativity and blocks wisdom. Passion is an art, not a science. It is discovered through vital engagement with the world, amidst life’s uncertainties. Art is a form of expression, uncovered through the artist’s engagement with the work.

More than ever, we are called to become artists of our lives. We can use templates, learn from convention, or replicate the classics, but when this becomes unfulfilling, we need to develop our own voice, despite fear. As Steven Pressfield tells us in The War of Art, “Fear doesn’t go away. The warrior and the artist live by the same code of necessity, which dictates that the battle must be fought anew every day.”

Uncertainty reminds us to never take a day for granted. Never knowing which day might be our last ignites a sense of urgency, spurring us along our paths to become what we are capable of becoming. Passions are built when you persevere, kindle the spark of your potential, shed light onto your own journey into the unknown. It is through our passion and perseverance that we will find our way.

If you are interested in reading more on this topic, my kindle book is available here: The Art of Fulfillment: Living with Passion in an Uncertain World

If you don’t have a kindle reader, click here to get a free reader for your laptop of tablet, in order to access the book.

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  1. Steve, have you changed fields–from battlefield psych 101 to philosopher? There are some great constants in your post.

    For instance, early in my working career–financial securities–I realized that things change. The markets, new securities and how they are accessed, the regulatory environment, etc. According, I had to constantly be re-inventing myself to an extent. And that does make things interesting.

    Also, just like in the Art of War, Uncertainty is the one element that investors–big and small, experienced or novice–always have to deal with, unknowingly. And from my perspective, the markets seem to handle bad news better than uncertainty. That’s because the various investors can adjust to bad news, each in their own way; but, they can never adjust to uncertainty, and be sure.

    A great post that can make the serious reader think.

  2. Taking a focus only on art is another form of limitation in life. Science is also driven by uncertainty and passion, otherwise nobody would start discovering the cosmos surrounding our earth! In former times, art / science / philosophy would mean no contradiction but were puzzle pieces of a spiritual unity which were then separated latest with the industrial era. Bringing this together again is quite a challenge for our common curiosity.

    1. I agree. Science is very much driven by passionate individuals whose tasks are not based on scientific method along. There is a great deal of art and creativity involved in the messiness of science. The practice of science is for sure distinct from the ideal of the scientific method.

  3. This is the first time I’m stopping by. First post I read, and now I’m hooked on your blog. Good topic. Expectations are painful. People tend to forget that life everything, and everyone in it is uncertain. We forget to go with the flow. Your post shed a lot of light in respect to that.

  4. “Passions are built when you persevere, kindle the spark of your potential, shed light onto your own journey into the unknown. It is through our passion and perseverance that we will find our way.”
    ~ So true and well said. Thanks.

  5. Steve, I’ve read portions of your book already. I like the fact that you outline what passion is and what it isn’t and how we can get into that which truly represents us in life. I would add that every situation in life, whether certain or uncertain, is a chance to find out who we really are. We can make these decisions in many ways from the head, heart, or gut. I find once we get to the spirit though, we are well on our way to fulfilling our passion as we make all those choices.

    1. “Do not make yourself into anything.
      Do not be a meditator
      Do not become enlightened
      When you sit, let it be.
      When you walk, let it be.
      Grasp nothing
      Resist nothing”
      Ajahn Chah

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