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Embrace Certainty When Facing A Freezing Uncertainty


The myth of certainty and stability is strongly imprinted in many minds. We claim to embrace innovation while resisting it. In today’s business world, people often demand – ‘show me something I haven’t seen before’ and their response to an innovative project is – ‘How can I know it will work? No one else has done it before.’


We are afraid to lose that illusive certainty and tend to ignore the fact that life itself is uncertain whilst demanding certainty at every instance.


In my research shared in the book ‘The Fisherman’s Path to Leadership’, I looked at what defines a leadership mindset that embraces change and how to look beyond challenges and uncertainty.


We all tend to lose our balance and fall. In normal life, this happens very seldom, yet we all know this unpleasant feeling.


In salmon fly fishing, falling into the water happens a couple of times or more every season. You can step on a slippery stone, or a strong current will wash you away when crossing a river and swiftly roll you downstream. Yes, that has happened. It’s like being loaded into a huge washing machine, with cold water and no washing detergent. If your kids were naughty putting a cat into a washing machine, just imagine me as the cat.


‘Lucky’ me – I’ve had the experience of falling twice into cold water on one day and all my gear got soaking wet. Having no spare dry clothing left, I promptly made a campfire and danced in my underpants around it waiting for my clothing to dry. Midges had the best feast for years and bears and foxes are probably still laughing about it.


I pushed my ‘luck’ even further by falling through the ice a couple of times. Ice in the Arctic is so thick that it can hold a fully loaded heavy truck. However, fishermen believe that fishing is very good at the time of the first thin ice and at the back end of the winter season when the first cracks appear. Realistically, nothing could happen with the ice still being relatively thick, about fifteen centimeters, which is enough to hold my weight.


Suddenly, my eyes became huge, my breath was lost, and my brain managed to produce only one thought – ‘What?’


I leaned on the ice in the direction I came from, used my knife to anchor myself, and slowly crawled to firm land, otherwise, I wouldn’t be writing these lines. 


I learned a great lesson. Later, one of my clients from a nice, warm country that usually has rain instead of snow at Christmas, asked me how to fight uncertainty. My response was, ‘Imagine yourself falling through ice into the water, on a very frosty winter day. What would you do?’


He said, ‘Oh! This is shocking! I would fight the cold!’


‘You can’t fight cold, it is too huge, it is everywhere, it is uncertain, and not in your control. You will drain all your energy fighting it and will be dead in a matter of minutes. The only way to survive is to find a solution to get to the shore by ignoring the cold. Uncertainty pushes you to find the best possible solution.’ 


How do you shift your thinking from uncertainty to certainty?


First of all, this is about understanding the nature of uncertainty. Most uncertainty is generated by people themselves. Their doubts, worries, and resistance to change feed uncertainty. Those newcomers bring more doubts into the team and the average level of enthusiasm falls. Instead of focusing on recruiting people who share the vision, the focus is only on qualifications, people who eventually create their own silos. 


These people don’t see anything in it for themselves. This happens with leaders of all ranks as well as shareholders, partners, and employees. They are not prepared to leave their comfort zone even under threat of being run over by change. A lot of resistance comes from office silos at all levels. They have a clear understanding that they wouldn’t survive in case of serious change. They are passengers or joyriders.


The second factor is believing in yourself. If you don’t believe in yourself, then who will believe in you? If you are not enthusiastic about your endeavors, then who else will be? A leader is a dealer of confidence. Leaders are always in demand as people need them and their unique qualities to complement and develop their own. People don’t need leaders who feed their stress.


A leader must be a rock and ensure the vision of the prospective future is much greater than any problems. Confidence in inevitable success brings calmness and effectiveness in achieving goals. If a leader is not confident in what he or she is doing, then employees will be even less so. If a leader is confident and calm, employees are calm and confident as well.


Helping people out of their doubts and comfort zones is critical. A leader must be like that confident tightrope walker for people to believe that they can take that chance as well.


The third and most critical element is vision. Your vision for the future must be greater than the problems and challenges of the present. The great thing about a vision is that it gives you an opportunity to look beyond the uncertainty. Vision is only a certainty within an uncertain life.


Vision is a solution that allows you to escape uncertainty. Thus, you need to have a strong vision that is valuable, pragmatic, and realistic.


When the future is uncertain, find a solution that will be certain. As soon as you realize that nothing around you is certain, you will change your perception and your mind will start creating that certain solution.


Lessons learned:


-  Don’t wait until the moment when life will force you to fall through the ice. Create a vision for life that will be a certainty. Noah knew about the uncertainty of life and the certainty of the coming challenges and built the ark. The rest believed in the certainty of life and uncertainty of possibly coming changes. You know the rest of this story.


- When in trouble, don’t waste your energy fighting something that is out of your control. This will only make your trouble greater and make you weaker. Do something real that can get you to the solution you envisioned.


- Most uncertainty is generated by people themselves. Their doubts, worries, and resistance to change feed uncertainty.


- Focus on growth, don’t focus on uncertainty. If you feed uncertainty, it will only grow. If you nurture your growth, it will happen. Think pragmatically - all these difficulties and challenges that you are facing are opportunities for growth.


- If a visionary leader uses momentum and sees a point of certainty only as a trampoline for the next achievement, the vision grows beyond observable reality. A visionary leader goes up against uncertainty, again and again, growing the vision beyond even its original aspirations.

 

Dr. Oleg Konovalov, author of The Fisherman’s Path to Leadership: 224 Lessons From The Wisdom Of Nature is a global thought leader, author, business educator, consultant, and C-suite coach. He is among the top eight global experts in leadership and shortlisted for the Distinguished Award in Leadership by Thinkers50 and has been named one of the Global 100 Inspirational Leaders 2022, along with Bill Gates, Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos, and Oprah Winfrey. Having been named ‘the da Vinci of Visionary Leadership’ by many leading authorities of our time, Konovalov is considered #1 in the world in the field of vision and visionary leadership. He is also the author of The Fisherman’s Path to Leadership The Vision Code, Leaderology, and other books. For more information visit www.olegkonovalov.com.

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