Agents of Uncertainty

Photo by Jake Ingle on Unsplash

Out of all the novel experiences that 2020 has given me a chance to encounter, the one that fairly stands out for me is how this year has taught me to hug the large fluffy pillow of ‘uncertainty’ , squeeze the life out of it and possibly some of it into me. Surprisingly, and contrary to a most inherent of my personality traits, I think I’m gradually learning to embrace its elusiveness, to give into its elaborate tease, to dive into its murky waters and not feel the urge to open my eyes and see the monsters lurking below.

We all love the comfort of certainty. A secure job, an assured and stable source(s) of income, a rock-solid partner we can always count on, a prestigious university program at the end of which that lucrative job or internship undoubtedly awaits, a certain sense of clarity on where your life is headed.

As human beings we attach a primordial affinity towards certainty and this I think is perfectly natural. Our primitive selves survived over the years due to these basic feelings of fear and an aversion to uncertainty which could then have possibly resulted in death (getting eaten by a wild animal, attacked by enemy tribes, squashed under a large boulder?). Hence if our ancestors had not preferred safe and secure environments where they were certain of their survival, I naturally wouldn’t be writing this and you wouldn’t be reading it.

As much as the certainty of certainty seems alluring, it also, according to my humble opinion, hampers creativity, imagination and innovation.

I believe that value in its most greatest of forms are produced when one dances with uncertainty and manages to do so with at least a sliver of their sanity intact.

An instance where this holds for me is when I make my investment decisions. The certainty that accompanies safe assets are almost always characterized by humble returns. On the other hand risky investment vehicles (and hence it’s incredible levels of uncertainty) can produce substantial results. One of the many challenges in these situations has been to strike equilibrium and to embrace the uncertainty by deciphering what is certain about the uncertainty itself (if such is the case for a low key investor such as myself, I cannot begin to imagine the levels of pressure that a Chamath Palihapitiya or a Warren Buffet must be under).

Nothing of incredible value to the humankind was ever created by someone choosing to remain in the realms of their comfort and certainty. Nobody ever came to realize what they are entirely capable of without having ventured into the uncertain.

This feels like the section where I am supposed to introduce a remarkable story to drive my point home. Instead I would like to say this: if you ever find yourself seeking clarity, for certainty, for the solid ground beneath your feet, then rid yourself of such desires because certainty is overrated, and if you ever find yourself in a ‘position of certainty’ with a choice to explore a certain world of uncertainty wherein you know something better awaits you, then you should always choose the latter over the former. It is in that very world of uncertainty that massive repositories of value and potential remains to be tapped into.

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