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Uncertainty: Turning Fear and Doubt into Fuel for Brilliance Paperback – November 6, 2012
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"Let's face it-the leap of faith required to follow a dream is usually accompanied by gut-wrenching, knee-quaking, soul-shaking fear. Jonathan Fields knows this-but instead of offering an empty pep talk, he delivers daily practices that can help you transform fear and uncertainty into confidence and creativity." — Daniel H. Pink, author of Drive and A Whole New Mind
"Uncertainty; risk; exposure to criticism. How do you conquer this fearsome triad, so it doesn't block your path-even better, how do you harness its power to help you achieve your goals? Jonathan Fields uses perceptive analysis, fascinating case studies, and a series of exercises to illuminate how uncertainty can be used as an engine to power both innovation and creation." — Gretchen Rubin, author of The Happiness Project
"Keats called it Negative Capability-the skill 'of being in uncertainties, Mysteries, doubts.' Tom Thibodeaux, coach of the Chicago Bulls, says, 'You gotta learn to be comfortable being uncomfortable.' But nobody has nailed this faculty like Jonathan Fields, showing us how to turn the fog of self- doubt, fear and internal paralysis into the clear sailing of focus, concentration and results." — Steven Pressfield, author of The War of Art and Do The Work
"Jonathan Fields' new book is brilliant and subversive. Through sharp insights and practical exercises, he reframes doubt, hesitation, and ambiguity as gateways to our own natural brilliance. It's a handbook for fearless creativity and its offshoots: meaning, authenticity, and true success." — Susan Piver, author of The Wisdom of a Broken Heart and How Not to
"Fields is a breezy, engaging writer who demystifies creativity with a whole new bag of user friendly tricks and practices-crux moves, circuit breakers, certainty anchors and attentional training. Hugely practical. Lean into Uncertainty!" — Tony Schwartz, author of Be Excellent at Anything
"With a blend of old and new wisdom, Uncertainty equips you with tools needed to take consistent action in the name of great work. Great read!" — Tony Hsieh, author of Delivering Happiness and CEO of Zappos.com, Inc.
"Too many of us sit on the sidelines of fear and doubt unable to contribute. This masterful book will put you back in the game." — Chris Guillebeau, author of The Art of Nonconformity
"Fear keeps scores of people stuck in careers and lives they hate. Fields gives crystal clear guidance on how to engage with uncertainty so that it fuels creativity and action. Your productivity, happiness, and pocketbook will be massively improved by reading this book." — Pamela Slim, author of Escape From Cubicle Nation
About the Author
Jonathan Fields is an author, entrepreneur and speaker on a mission to help individuals and organizations cultivate the personal practices, workflow adaptations and environmental/cultural shifts needed to become more agile, creative and innovative and embrace action in the face of uncertainty with a greater sense of ease. A former NYC mega-firm/SEC lawyer turned serial-entrepreneur, Fields founded two cutting-edge boutique lifestyle/fitness facilities - Sedona Private Fitness and Sonic Yoga - the latter in the shadow of 9-11 in Hell's Kitchen, NY. He quickly grew both into industry-leading businesses, generating international media-attention and raising the bar for business, marketing and programming trends. He eventually sold both companies to focus on writing, training and speaking...and being a strongly present dad and husband. Now an author, innovation catalyst and speaker, Fields writes AdAge Power 150 blog JonathanFields.com, and contributes to PsychologyToday.com, Amex OPENForum and a number of other top-100 blogs.
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FIND YOUR CERTAINTY ANCHORS
"Certainty Anchor" is Jonathan's catch-phrase for a ritual or schedule. 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 iteration.
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: exercise, meditation, visualization, specifically process visualization: "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?
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.
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 individual stories, helps 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 good read.
The author, Jonathan Fields, himself a serial entrepreneur, writer, painter and musician surfaces this creative challenge and provides some practical advice on how to respond.
The similarity between the act of entrepreneurship and the act of creative writing or painting lies in the reality that visionary innovation and creativity cannot happen with every variable, every outcome, every permutation known, tested and validated in advance. If everything is known and certain, it is because it has been done before. Creativity is not about repetition. Creativity always starts with a question, not an answer.
The problem this causes is best encapsulated in the experiments known as the Ellsberg Paradox. Asked to draw a white ball from one of two urns, where one urn has an equal number of each colour and where the other urn has an unknown ratio, people opt for the urn with the known colour split. Mathematically and logically, there is no reason to choose the 50-50 urn over the other, so why do we do it? Magnetic resonance imaging studies of subjects undergoing the Ellsburg Paradox trials showed that the aversion to uncertainty is hardwired into most people and the one urn, erroneously, appears more certain.
Additionally, the more you move into uncertainty and the greater the risk you take to create something that doesn't currently exist, the greater will be potential to be judged and criticised. In studies that eliminated possibility of evaluation by others, the uncertainty aversion disappears entirely! When a set of great works of art by 23 painters was studied by experts those that were commissioned, in other words would be criticised by others from the beginning, were judged to be inferior to those that were not commissioned. Uncertainty attached to the risk of loss and attached to criticism leads to inferior creative work at best, or abandonment at worst. It is as true in the creative act of building a new business as it is in painting or composing a piece of music.
With our natural tendency to eliminate things that cause us pain and discomfort Fields recommends a set of practices that will make it easier to lean into uncertainty, to actively pursue uncertainty, where valuable creativity resides. A 2008 study led by Prof Franck Zenasni revealed a tolerance for ambiguity significantly and positively correlates to creativity.
Rock climbers talk of the “crux move,” the hardest move on a route. In the creative process this is the negative feedback that is so necessary to the production of a great result. Nothing new is ever linear, it always involves false steps that need correction, large corrections at first and then ever smaller ones until a great product emerges. Each of these corrections is a crux move, a judgement on the creators’ ability and the creative needs reframe this from “judgement” to “necessary feedback.”
A great boon to the entrepreneur is having context that facilitates creativity, what Fields calls a “hive” and ditto for artists. Many such incubators are springing up in South Africa as elsewhere, but they are also available in virtual form on the internet for those not fortunate to have access to the physical version.
Google produces the same effect internally. It doesn’t allow, it expects employees to spend 20% of their time on projects that interest them. Paul Buchheit, Google employee # 23, worked on a program to scan emails and serve up ads relevant to content – clearly a crazy idea, but one that grew into Google’s biggest success. Innovation requires that people are able to work on ideas that are unapproved and generally thought to be stupid.
Like the mediaeval alchemist who secrets could turn base metals into gold, creatives need to transform uncertainty, fear, and doubt into fuel for creation. A technique Fields recommends is to have daily rituals which have the psychological effects of providing an anchor in the day amidst the uncertainty. But daily rituals also helps train one to sit down when what we most want to do is stand. Fields also recommends slipping away from the work and doing things that calm mental chatter.
This is a useful book that parallels many similar works on the inner life of the creative artist. It is Fields’ understanding of business that will make this book particularly appealing to entrepreneurs.
Readability Light --+-- Serious
Insights High -+--- Low
Practical High +---- Low
Ian Mann of Gateways consults internationally on leadership and strategy
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