Sometimes people ask me what my favourite type of uncertainty is. Just kidding; they don’t. But if they did, I would say “unplanned” uncertainties. This is a new stance for me since I have always been busy planning uncertainties into my world, on my terms, that unplanned ones felt irritating, zapping the energy I wanted to spend on other things.
I fear our book, published one year ago, mistakenly did some dirt to unplanned uncertainty…because we describe them in a negative slant—bad diagnoses, bad luck, sad setbacks, tragic endings. We promise, rightfully, that the tools will help you overcome those scenarios and help you come out stronger on the other end. But in addition to navigating them well, the reality is there are tons of interesting and worthwhile unplanned uncertainties that still remain the stuff you wouldn’t necessarily choose, that you weren’t going after, the stuff that shoots out of nowhere and forces you to pay attention or decide not to. The stuff you didn’t imagine before it walked up and said, “Hi, I’m here. What do you want to do about it?”
Planned uncertainties remain the normal flavour to like—planned geographic or career moves, planned trips, planned life choices like moving in with someone or starting a family, even hard, planned ruptures to things or people that don’t help your world anymore. My new like of this unplanned state isn’t due to any special personality trait or wizard status. It’s like the Malcom Gladwell hours in thing—my life is so riveted to conversations about uncertainty that I get to think and practice it waaaaayyyyyy much. Not too much though. Talking about and practicing the 42 tools in The Upside of Uncertainty this past year has taught me that I can and want to do super hard things and life is way more interesting now that I do that hard stuff with less drama, trauma and trepidation. I naturally have less judgment, fear, and cynicism because I reframe everything from the minute I meet it as possibility-in-waiting.
Last week, after an absence of five days from my biodynamic garden beds perfectly in happy good health, I arrived to an infestation of buzzing jumping bugs that were covering every leaf of almost every single thing. It was gross and devastating. It was a dumb unplanned uncertainty: what to do? was everything ruined? I emailed my trusty and kind teacher Matt Drewno of Victory Gardens For Peace in Mendocino, California and he calmed my fears and gave me ideas of where to look for info and what to do. My kale did bite the dust but everything else survived and now I know about flea beetles and the way they can descend “when you turn your head for a second”. It endeared me to my project of soil regeneration in my garden, to my friend and teacher, to the hose water that doused the bugs and sent them flying to some other turned-head gardener, and it strangely linked me to the stories of past generations suffering pestilences and famines and depletions of this kind that meant way more to them than my experimental patch. It boosted my curiosity about how healthy natural ecosystems have so much to teach us humans about creating healthy ecosystems of work and life balance and how quickly things go out of alignment.
I would love to help you find a similar stance about uncertainty: the planned and unplanned! So, I’m inviting you to practice uncertainty more often and more diligently than you are doing now. For some of you it might mean, checking the book out of your library or buying or borrowing a copy. The 42 tools are discussed in quick and easy chapters and meant to be practiced right away before knowing what’s coming next. For others of you, you might want to sign up for our asynch course (check out our insta for giveaway details), or listen to some of our podcast interviews to get a feel for the ways uncertainty has an upside.
**For the record, I remain sick about many tragic and existential threats (war, climate, mental health, inequality, starvation) whose solutions feel impossibly uncertain and not soon enough. So I’m not saying I love that kind of uncertainty. But I think these hardest sorts of questions are going to be solved by people willing to be uncomfortable with uncertainty until they realise they are kind of comfortable in that place of not knowing…willing to experiment with the way that we probably need to unplan many of the certainties so we can live into more beautiful and fair certainties for all citizens of this planet.