The Certainty Addiction: Breaking Free

How many times have you been told or have you tried to comfort someone by saying, “don’t worry, it will all work out.” Well, that might be true, some of the time. Those words however are becoming increasingly misleading. “It will work out” for some people infers that they don’t need to worry. It will be easy. We, as humans have become addicted to certainty, and threats of uncertainty literally make us less capable. And therein lies the problem for millions of people.



Navigating the Uncharted Waters of Our VUCA World


Our VUCA world, one that is more Volatile, Uncertain, Complex and Ambiguous, will be anything but easy. Each of us will need to muster up every ounce of courage, confidence, and hope we need to not just cope with change, but to thrive and flourish in spite of it.

It’s not our fault that change is so threatening. Over the years, our brains evolved to comply with the rules, processes, and systems that were laid down throughout the last 100 years. We were made to believe that the government, employers, educators, and business leaders had it all figured out.

The more we played by their rules, the more secure we would feel. We became addicted to certainty. The pandemic changed everything. The supply of certainty was abruptly cut off from billions of people. We were forced to break our addiction cold-turkey. Our brains were simply not wired to grow and flourish in uncertainty, resulting in anxiety, stress, depression, and burnout. Telling people it will all work out creates an unrealistic optimism because too many people associate working out with just standby, it will pass. We’ll get back to normal soon.


The End of ‘Normal’


No, we won’t. Normal died in 2020. Many of us are still mourning and grieving over Normal’s passing. The pandemic wasn’t just a blip on our radar, a once in 100 years or 1000 years event.  We are now living under the 10-year rule and entering an era of Never-Normal. Translation: we’re doubling the paradigm shift rate every ten years. In other words, if you are 40 years old today, by the time you’re 60, you’ll experience the effect of 2020-life-change every three months. And by the time you’re 80, well, that roller coaster we rode for twelve months will return for a round trip every eleven days.

For most people, that’s simply terrifying. The good news is that from decades of studying human brains and human behavior, we know quite a bit about how to take the experience of threat and uncertainty from something overwhelming to something manageable. So how could we do that?


The Water Principle: From Overwhelmed to Overcoming


I was recently introduced to the quote by the late martial artist and philosopher Bruce Lee. “Be water, my friend.” It’s genius. Think about it. Picture six different glass containers on your kitchen counter. One of them is a drinking glass. Another, maybe a Martini glass. Another might be a wine glass, a juice glass, a wine bottle, a flower vase. You pour water into each of these containers and the water takes the shape of the container. If one of the glasses break, the water pours out and takes a new shape or just flows wherever it wants.

Growing, thriving, and flourishing in a VUCA world will require each of us to be just like water. Our container in 2020 was the pandemic in 2021, the container was a valiant attempt to find new normalcy. Moving forward, we will be forced to choose between many containers.

Sometimes those choices will be made for us. It’s our job to learn how to be water, to adapt, and thrive, no matter which container life throws at us. How can you learn to be like water?


Building Skills for Tomorrow


Start here. Ask yourself, what skills do you wish you had over the last twelve months that could have made your life more productive, less stressful, more rewarding. Take that first step, then a second, then a third. Start today. With each step, you’ll become more confident. With confidence comes hope and with hope, uncertainty will seem much less threatening, less scary, less intimidating.

Thanks for listening. I hope you’ll reach out to me. You can find me very easily on LinkedIn and YouTube, or subscribe to my podcast Geeks Geezers and Googlization, and join my growing community, Googlization Nation. Stay safe everyone and remember, don’t let the SHIFT hit your plans.

We just left the world a little bit better. Now go do something with it.


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First things first: what does grit even mean? You’ve probably heard the advice “when the going gets tough, the tough get going” attributed to coach Kunte Rockne. That quote captures the essence of grit.  The character trait of grit often refers to passion, the consistency of interest, and perseverance, the ability to endure tough times.

For instance, we’ve all experienced setbacks. They could range from struggling to learn a new skill, recovering from an injury, losing a job, or even bankruptcy.

What Does Grit Look Like?

People with high levels of Grit are confident in achieving long-term goals. They are often described as ‘determined’ and ‘hard workers’. No-pain-no-gain might be the grit motto. Gritty people tend to keep going until the work is done. They take pride in finishing what they start. Their mental focus and emotional stamina are very high. They don’t let short-term gains, negative feedback, or hectic schedules deter them. People with high grit are not discouraged easily; they see setbacks and obstacles as challenges that can be overcome with commitment and hard work. Grit, however, is not always a good thing. Gritty people are often so focused on their goals that they get blinded-sided by outside influences and have blind spots when it comes to alternative ideas. 

People with low levels of grit give up quickly. Setbacks and obstacles easily discourage them. When change happens they can find it difficult to stay on course with long-term goals. They flee at the first sign of trouble and often blame others. They start a lot of projects but get discouraged easily. 

How Grit Can Help Your Business

Why is grit something you need to look for when hiring and developing employees? The future of work is full of opportunity but the journey will be anything but certain. Perseverance and passion will be needed in abundance. These are some scenarios where employees with grit become a beneficial trait for your company.

They Understand That Good Things Take Time

Millennials have often been criticized for their need for instant gratification. While it might be true for some of them, grit had to be part of this generation’s makeup. Now in their 30s and 40s, they have endured school shootings, 9/11 terrorism, and the Great Recession…and they are now growing and thriving. It’s only human to get frustrated when we don’t see the instant rewards from our work. Contributing to a project day in and day out, and not getting recognition or confronting bureaucratic idiocy, is disheartening. Many employees may be tempted to just quit.

If your employee has grit, however, they know good things take time. Setbacks are not failures, but part of the journey.  When personal interests align with goals, it’s easier to persevere and feel that your efforts will be rewarded. People with grit stay and push through.