“In reality, we may not be as hardwired to avoid uncertainty as we are hardwired to avoid wanting to be judged for taking the less mainstream path.” ~Jonathan Fields
If we dare to create, fear and uncertainty become bedfellows. It doesn’t get easier as we get older. How does a late bloomer (or anyone) work through those emotions and thrive?
In Uncertainty: Turning Fear and Doubt into Fuel for Brilliance, Jonathan Fields uses stories and research to chart an answer. His suggestions don’t break new ground, but he assembles them in a useful and inspiring format.
Here’s the gist (headings correspond to chapters):
Find Your Certainty Anchors
“Certainty Anchor” is Jonathan’s catch-phrase for a ritual or schedule.
Over time, ritual has a funny side-effect. It creates momentum. It becomes a habit that builds its own head of steam, one capable of overriding the call of Twitter, Facebook, Green & Black’s 85% chocolate and whether the rumors about Apple’s next product are true.
One example: Work (create, practice, write) in bursts and pauses. Go for no more than 45 to 90 minutes. Exercise, meditate, nap. Work again.
Build Your Hive
They’re not just cheerleaders, they give honest (but gentle) feedback. Specifically, your Hive can help you:
- shift your focus to learning and away from traffic, sales or profits, and
- explore a minimum viable product (MVP) that you can release and gather feedback to fold into the next edition (I did this recently with the “Later Bloomers” ebook).
The most important thing about a hive: “One person’s success isn’t necessarily another person’s loss. There is no zero-sum game.”
Train Your Brain
Engage in what Fields’ calls attentional training: meditation, visualization and exercise. Use process visualization, which research has proven much more powerful than outcome visualization (the kind endorsed by The Secret). For instance,
If you’re a writer, visualize yourself putting your notebook or pad in your bag, walking to your favorite café, choosing your table, ordering your favorite beverage, spending a few minutes reviewing handwritten notes, then opening your current creation and writing X words or for X minutes or hours.
Not surprisingly, exercise mitigates uncertainty because it changes the brain, tamping down the amygdala’s fear and anxiety signals.
Own The Storyline
To overcome fear and uncertainty about your path, ask yourself three questions:
1. What if I go to zero? What would happen if you failed completely? As late bloomers, many of us have started over several times, so this question may not motivate.
2. What If I Do Nothing? Fields maintains “there is no way to move sideways in life. Not in relationships, not in business, not in spiritual growth, not in the quest to build something brilliant from nothing. There’s only up or down.”
He points out that if any of the following are left unaddressed over time:
- Nagging pain becomes chronic.
- Unrewarding work becomes soulless.
- Your currently “passable” life becomes increasingly painful as you enter the long, slow slide toward death.
That was enough to get me going.
3. What If I Succeed? Create your own storyline of success.
Does Fields say anything we haven’t heard before? Isn’t a Certainty Anchor just a ritual or schedule? A Hive another name for network? Meditation and exercise obvious ways to overcome fear and anxiety?
It’s not new information. But Fields connects the dots with stories (several about late bloomers), helps you analyze what’s holding you back, and inspires you to do something about it.
His portrait of “What if I do nothing?” is chilling. He includes chapter summaries, something I wish all nonfiction books would do. Plus, I just like the word Hive. All and all, a highly recommended book.