Gradually, then suddenly

A framework for max uncertainty

I wanted to share a little mental framework I’ve been leaning on during this season where change is coming fast and the stakes feel high.

It’s been calming and grounding for me, I hope you find something helpful in it for you, too.

A framework for max uncertainty

Our brains yearn for certainty. And, in times of low volatility — when things are steady and every chart drifts up and to the right — our ability to make accurate predictions about the near future is relatively high. Life and good decisions seems to come easier.

When things break away exponentially and volatility sky rockets (like we’re seeing in the world and economy right now), it’s impossible to be certain. In times of exponential change, the probability sphere expands like a nuclear explosion in all directions making it almost impossible to find a bearing.

It’s hard to make decisions when you’re caught in an exponential swell. In these extreme moments, our natural pattern-recognition instincts that undergird our sense of certainty fail us and trigger shock waves of disorientation, stress, fear, and panic. 

If the initial shock isn’t dizzying enough, the outward expansion exhausts and the range of possible outcomes begins to contract (like gravity pulling all the bits back to earth) as the universe begins working just as quickly in reverse to collapse the probability curve onto specific outcomes. Often ones we’re not prepared for.

In order to stay calm, open, and (hopefully) effective in moments of peak uncertainty, flip two default mental settings:

  1. Flip Measurement Mode from “Precision” to “Probabilities”
    Weighing possibilities in terms of probabilities allows you consider the entire possibility sphere, more fluidly adapt to new information or circumstances, and avoid the danger of selection bias (once we make a decision, we’re biased to only seek info that supports our choice).
  2. Flip Game Mode from “Find the Answer” to “Process of Elimination”
    Instead of looking for the single, ultimate outcome, it’s often easier to identify what’s most likely NOT going to happen. By focusing on reducing the range of probable outcomes, you progressively back yourself into increased preparedness for the ultimate outcomes without ever actually having to know what they are going to be in advance (in other words, if you shrink the haystack, the needle finds itself).

🤝 Stay in touch

I send an email several times a year with a handful of the most interesting things I’ve written or uncovered at home, abroad, and on the web.

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