“I am the wisest man alive, for I know one thing, and that is that I know nothing.” - Socrates (attributed)
“Pride comes before destruction, and an arrogant spirit before a fall.” - Proverbs 16:18
“Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the mouth.” - Mike Tyson
Reality is uncertain. Life is uncertain. It always was and always will be. So why do people yearn to have the delusion of certainty? I never understood what was so wrong with being uncertain in the first place. The greatest moments in history come from uncertainty. The ugliest ones come from certainty. People who cling to certainty destroy themselves and others. Just be adaptable. You don’t need to pretend like you have it figured out. You don’t have it figured out. And that’s okay. That’s actually preferable.
When we don’t know and we admit that we don’t know, isn’t that the only time we actually can learn? Wisdom is understanding and acknowledging that you don’t know, that you’re okay and secure in the uncertainty, and that you have the patience to wade through unclear times without pretending to have the answer.
Some 12 years ago, Stephen Colbert did a brilliant satire on how people will “know” a “truth” by looking it up in their gut: https://youtu.be/OBRKPoAPXEQ . We can see this every day. People are increasingly convinced of a “fact” without reading a single book, without interviewing a single expert, without conducting a single experiment. They just “know the truth” in their guts; and then maybe they add some “research” to back up their guts, by reading Internet forum posts on hoax websites and YouTube channels. It’s a curious coping mechanism for stress: latching onto make-believe certainty in order to avoid actually learning from a time of uncertainty.
Uncertainty is the only place where one can discover. How are you going to learn if you already know the answer? Study the scientists who worked to uncover the electromagnetic spectrum: https://imagine.gsfc.nasa.gov/science/toolbox/history_multiwavelength1.html . Not one of them pretended to know about the totality of the electromagnetic spectrum EVEN AFTER STUDYING IT INTENSELY FOR YEARS. Yet you know the underpinnings of the entire global economies and political structures from a meme and a 10 minute conspiracy theory video? Ok.
Real researchers attain real breakthroughs by toiling for an entire life time in their blind spots, by confronting the unknown for decades, so that we might arrive at the current state of affairs with phones and computers and x-rays and MRIs and ultrasounds and sonar and lasers and barcodes. The list is endless. We take it for granted. Our lives are measurably better in many ways due to exploration in the uncertainty. They didn’t “figure it all out”, and certainly not in a few minutes of paranoid incoherent meanderings.
In health and fitness, I encounter this constantly. People want answers. Final answers. Certainty. They want a diagnosis, a prescription, and a guarantee. Those people flounder. They fail. They just want the answer. But there is no answer. Success is found in the struggle, in the battle, in wrestling with what “doesn’t make sense.” The truth is found is trudging through what’s difficult. You don’t sweat, bleed, claw, and pay for it? You don’t deserve it. No one cares that you “used to eat whatever I wanted and never got fat.” That’s not how things ARE. The past passed. Will you adapt to reality or will you cling to make-believe?
If you are in love with uncertainty, you are unbreakable. Every time the ground shifts, you’re underwhelmed. Every time there’s a zig where others expect a zag, you’re unflappable. Every time the landscape moves, you’re unimpressed. Fall in love with uncertainty, because there is where we become strongest. Be unsure. Be uncertain. Be ready to learn from one mess so that you are prepared for the next.