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on November 11, 2011
If we dare to create, fear and uncertainty become bedfellows. So how can we work through those emotions and thrive? In this book, 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):


"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.


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."


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.


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.
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on April 12, 2017
What most courses on entrepreneurship miss is the similarity between the entrepreneurial endeavour and the process of creating art. In both cases there is an inner struggle going on that all too often has the would-be creator abandoning the endeavour.
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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on February 17, 2012
I am a creative dreamer living in the corporate world and I've long desired to break out and start my own business and live my ideal life. For the past 10 years I have known that I'm ready to make the jump. I've tried multiple times to nail down that perfect business idea and build into something that allows me to do just that. But I couldn't make it happen, and I didn't understand why. I saw an interview with Jonathan Fields, went to the book website, and played the video. I immediately downloaded the book on my Kindle. And by the time I got a few pages in I had my answer. It's fear. Paralyzing fear that stops me from pushing through and living up to my full potential. It wasn't overt. I didn't know that I was hanging back, but in reading this book I realized it was true.

The entire book is valuable, but two things about this book specifically resonated with me:

1) Fields descriptions of how it felt to be paralyzed by fear. I started to understand that while I didn't THINK fear was stopping me, it was impacting me every second and every thought.

2) His research into how serial entrepreneurs and creatives handled fear. They were afraid too, but they lean into the fear rather than pulling back. They create structure in other areas of their lives so that they can be in a state of flux with their careers.

I now understand what was blocking me, and I've learned how to lean into the fear and move forward in spite of it. My application of the concepts in this book has removed my last obstacle. In just a few short months I have made incredible progress, to the point that the people I need to partner with and the resources I need to help me on my way are almost jumping out of the woodwork at me. It's not an overstatement to say that this book has changed my life, and the lives of several people that I've recommended it to. If you are in the space I used to be in, buy this book.
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on August 27, 2012
This book is extremely very hard to read and understand. I would read a passage and wonder, did i get it right, did I understand it right? Then I would reread it again and again to try to rid my dilemma and still wonder what did the author meant by writing those words... Then when I was confused and confused again to the end of the introduction, I would wonder what was the meaning writing this? How did this have to do with turning uncertainty into fuel? Then I would go on and start a first chapter and same thing again, confusing passages, one after another, hard to get an idea of what the author is trying to convey..... Ok I thought, maybe I am too dumb or something for this kind of book and writing... Then I finished reading the first chapter and I thought, this is it? How is this information answers the topic of the chapter? I didn't get anything useful. Ok then i went to 2nd chapter and same thing, nothing useful or pertaining to the topic of the chapter or the book.. Only one thing I got, confusion, and frustration and wasted time.... I read the 3rd chapter in hope find at least something I could use to turn my uncertainty into fuel, but sadly same thing again and again, confusion, unrelated examples which are confusing themselves and provide confusing lesson...leaving me confused did I get it right? I skimmed through the 4th chapter, and then I gave up on this gibberish.....

This book doesnt deserve even 1 star... negative 5 stars for wasted time reading it

For those interested in the topic and would like something helpful and inspiring, I suggest to get Feel The Fear And Do It Anyway
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on September 29, 2011
Uncertainty isn't your enemy. Embraced, it's an armored ally, forever by your side. How often have you said... "What if people think I'm stupid?" or "What if I end up all alone?" or "What if I get rejected?" or "What if I'm wrong?"

What if I fail?

What ifs are useless; a bog of self-doubt that will swallow you whole if you stop demanding your best future long enough to let it. Don't. Fear, when expressed as uncertainty, is your friend; fuel for brilliance. You'll never stop it, so embrace the unavoidable and dodge the anxiety, pain and suffering that comes from treating it with silence.

Too many would-be artists spend their time on the craft and not enough time training their minds with the tools to mine their deepest creativity, then act on it, even if they have no idea whether or not they can pull it off, or if the end product will be good enough, or how their adventure will ultimately end. But they go forward...

Even if people think they're stupid.
Even if they end up all alone.
Even if they get rejected.
Even if they're wrong.
Even if they fail.

I can't say enough nice things about Uncertainty. I'll be buying this book in bulk come Christmas time. I know a lot of people who have creativity hiding inside them. They're just a little... Uncertain.
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on December 27, 2012
(note: I was sent a copy of this book, signed by the author - thanks, Jonathan! - in exchange for an honest review. It was also the January selection for 12 Books - a reading group on Goodreads)

I first ran across Jonathan Fields on his blog and was impressed by his giving heart and generous spirit. So I was interested to read his take on overcoming the fear we all have when beginning something new.

To his credit, the book is not just a collection of blog posts cobbled together to make a few bucks. Yet, after the Introduction and first few chapters my mind began to wander.

It seems Fields is writing to an audience that wouldn't normally pick up a personal development/self-help type book. The title itself is a bit hyperbolic. Surely, most people would be happy with outcomes less than "brilliant". This continues into the body of the book where he writes about "creators" and their "creations" in the same way most people might think of producers and products. After all, since marketability is a goal isn't most of what we "create" really a product. Surely, even a product of our imagination doesn't have to be couched in such lofty terms.

Jonathan is a good writer but the language makes the book a little inaccessible, at least to me.

His case studies also seemed a little inaccessible. Most of them are what some people refer to as Renaissance Men (or Women). It's not enough that they are clearly successful in one field, they also seem to excel in several others and, of course, they all have the epiphany that there must be something more. They feel unchallenged, unfulfilled. So they go out and start (create) something new. It helps that the success they've enjoyed before starting over has probable given them plenty of money to take chances without worrying too much about paying the bills.

Finally, some of the advice in this book is eons old wrapped in the language of the Web 2.0 twenty or 30 something trying to find themselves. Routine and ritual become certainty anchors, surrounding yourself with positive, like minded people becomes finding mentors, heroes and champions. Even Jonathan's interesting visions of co-creation through feedback loops or co-working environments might be considered as developing a mastermind group. Oh, and focus? You get that through Attention Training (AT) aka meditation.

As I progressed through the book, I began to like it more and more. It does have some interesting ideas and the author has obviously done his research. So if you'd like a book that provides a path on your journey to bringing your creation to market, this is a good place to start.
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on December 2, 2011
This is a fantastic book. The truth is that there is no magic formula for greatness, and that every amazing act is generated out of a place where nothing is for certain. We've learned to fear uncertainty because -- go figure -- we never know what's going to happen. So we avoid it, and then nothing great does happen.

Jonathan Fields finally said it: Uncertainty is THE WAY. Uncertainty is the fertile ground for amazing things. Without uncertainty, there is no greatness. Finally, someone admitted the truth instead of telling the world what it wants to hear: that there's a paint-by-number blueprint for success.

In other words, if you're uncertain, you're on the right path and you're in good company.

Only once you see that and embrace it can you achieve what you want to achieve. And Jonathan shows you exactly how to do it without undue pain, without undue angst.
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on April 6, 2012
Before reading this book I had already read Making Ideas Happen (Belsky), The Lean Startup (Ries), Crossing the Chasm (Moore), and browsed through Do More Faster (Feld, Cohen).

I found Uncertainty leaning a little heavy on ideas, and examples, from the above books. I'm not implying plagarism, just unoriginality. Credit is given where due, but more for the purposes of a survey than as acknowledging the basis for synthesis.

However, parts of the book still made it a worthwhile purchase for me; Chapter 4, "Certainty Anchors," chapter 7, "Train Your Brain," and chapter 8, " See The Forest," served to reinforce the value of certain behaviors I have already semi-incorporated into my life. So for sparking the resolve to fully incorporate those behaviors the value of the book has been realized for me.

Where the previously mentioned books contain real business methods, which were of substantially more value to me, this book takes a general self-help psychology approach. Finally, the veiled disclaimer on page 190 from the, attorney, author felt uncomfortable.

To sum up, because I was able to synthesize I found value in the book and give it three stars. As a stand-alone read it probably would get 2 or 2.5.
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on December 4, 2011
Although I am not an artist, I used to re-read the great book "Art & Fear" every once in a while for support in my creative endeavors. I will now be re-reading "Uncertainty: Turning Fear and Doubt into Fuel for Brilliance". I am so turned on by this book, it has prompted me to write this, my first Amazon review.

As someone who has an on/off meditation practice and a gym membership that is too frequently unused, the examples that the author, Jonathan Fields, includes of how these things can directly benefit one are compelling. I plan to begin both practices again without delay.

I, for one, am not put off by what others call the repetitive nature of the book. The construction of the book will be very helpful on subsequent readings. The chapter introductions act as executive summaries, and the last chapter will be great for future review. I am launching my own business soon and this book is a perfect addition to my support system. I have already recommended it to others.
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on September 26, 2012
I purchased this book with the intent of facing up to aspects of my uncertainty and fear however, I found this very difficult to finish. The content relates mostly to entrepreneurs and their experiences in facing fear to start up their businesses. This aspect does make the book easy to relate to however, it starts to become tiresome. I found myself putting the book down repeatedly or wondering what would be the benefits of continuing. There are many useful pieces of information about handling fear and doubt yet it only really applies if you are starting a business. The highlight of this was to read about the various forms of meditation, one of which was of great benefit.
I don't want to deter people from reading this book as I found that this book just wasn't for me. As someone who has given up a career in teaching and full time work to pursue something more meaningful, this book was lacking.
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