Dealing with type II uncertainty

There are, broadly, 2 kinds of uncertainty. While type I uncertainty is the kind you choose, type II is what you face for reasons beyond your control.

So, choosing to quit your job and start a new business is type I. On the other hand, facing an uphill task trying to get a job because of nationality, religion, race, sexual orientation, or gender is a classic type II uncertainty. Now, some might say that logic is flawed. After all, you choose to apply to that job and face that uphill battle. And, while it is an interesting argument, it tends to fall on the wrong side of history.

The biggest challenge with dealing with type II uncertainty is that it feels unfair. But, dealing with unfairness is a rite of passage if you are a minority, a woman, gay or an immigrant.

It is only once we embrace the inherent unfairness can we get to the two things that help – focusing ruthlessly on things we can influence and being grateful for what you have. This is so much easier said than done. Try telling a Muslim in America that she shouldn’t worry about what the President is doing or saying. Or, try telling the many hard working international students who took on huge amounts of debt that they shouldn’t worry about trying to get a job.

But, it is the only way.

Focus ruthlessly on what you can influence. And, while you are it, develop an attitude that refuses to settle on anything but gratitude. There will always be things to complain about. And, there will be less in your control than you’d like.

But, on the bright side, developing the ability to focus and to maintain a positive attitude despite uncertainty and strife is entirely within our control.

It is how we get made.

Work worries

It’s the weekend. And, there’s a lot of room for worrying about work. There’s probably some office politics. Maybe even some uncertainty about what your manager things about you. Or, perhaps, you’d like that long overdue big raise.

Here’s the issue – nearly everything we tend to worry about is stuff that we don’t really control.

There are 3 things we do control –

1. Investing in ourselves

2. Seeking out growth and learning in our work. (This is the start of a beautiful cycle. We love work that enables us to learn and grow. And, when we love our work, we do great work.)

3. Being conscious in our interactions with ourselves and others.

When was the last time we spent time worrying about these things?


Abuse is a pattern of behavior used to gain and maintain power and control. And, it is more prevalent than we think. In fact, the likelihood that you have either been mildly abused or engaged in mild abuse is high.

If that sounds shocking to you, go back to when you were a kid or teenager. Is there a chance you engaged in a pattern of behavior to mess with another kid? That’s an example of mild abuse. And, the chances are high that you were that other kid at some point in your life.

Abuse is prevalent wherever there is plenty of insecurity (hence, the teenager example). The higher the insecurity, the greater the chance people display bully behavior. And, when they display bully behavior frequently, they become bullies for the long term. We’re naturally wired to think of physical or sexual abuse when we think of abuse. However, there are plenty of other means – digital, emotional, and mental. And, it isn’t easy to realize you are being abused in these forms. It is like the story of the frog in boiling water. You start with mild abuse and the pattern of behavior escalates.

It isn’t easy to spot this. And, it is hard to end it because you fear for your happiness and well being. The longer you’ve been in the pattern, the harder it is. It is also confusing because it always uses love or care as a front – “I know best.”

But, know this – if you are in a relationship where you walk out of most interactions feeling worse about yourself, it is time to walk away. And, if you find yourself feeling helpless because of another human being, again, time to walk away. Most abuse is disguised as love. But, remember, love means respect – in action, not just in words.

And, if you’ve identified yourself to be in such a situation, get help – either find a therapist or find places online that offer professional help.

Mind control

Professor Charles Xavier in the X Men has a powerful ability – mind control. There are multiple other cartoons and comics where controlling others’ minds is a superpower. And, I wouldn’t blame you if you thought this post was about that.

It isn’t, though.

This is about our minds. As we grow up, we spend a lot of time in school studying topics like Math, Science and Language. Then, in college, it could be Engineering, the Arts or whatever else. All of this is important brain food. And, yet, the single most important topic, Psychology, is completely optional. All those other things we studied can help us become extrinsically successful. But, they do little else and they definitely don’t help us understand our mind.

You could be in one of the most beautiful places on earth. But, you could be intensely unhappy inside. You could be living in a gorgeous home with everything a human being might want. But, you might be living in self created hell and be unable to notice it. On the flip side, you could have little compared to everyone around and, yet, be happy.

This isn’t an easy problem to solve. It takes time. Like all difficult problems, it first begins with awareness. It, then, needs us to learn and know better. We live in a time when an education in human psychology is a click away. Use it (if in doubt, start with the “7 Habits”).

All the other stuff we read will help us build a living. Understanding how to work with our minds will help us build a life.

Influence and concern

Great books gift us with frameworks that give us ways to make sense of the world. Stephen Covey’s book, the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, attained legendary status because he managed to weave in a collection of great frameworks to help us think about productivity and life.

(Source: ExperienceLifeFully)

Great frameworks are beautiful in their simplicity. And, there are few simpler than the idea that we all have a circle of influence and a circle of concern. The circle of influence is simply a collection of everything we influence (e.g. our response to situations) vs. the circle of concern which is a collection of everything we don’t influence. And, the way of those who are proactive is to spend time within their circle of influence.

I’ve found an interesting truth in dealing with the circle of influence idea – the more time you spend within it, the more it expands. And, the more it expands, the more you realize that you can have a go at most problems you care about by just focusing on what you can do about them. You also realize very quickly as to where your effort is best spent depending on how much of the action feels within your control.

This is what the smartest people and companies do. As a growing company, for instance, there are many many things outside your control – competition and regulation are two simple examples. It can get overwhelming thinking about all the things you don’t control. So, focus fully on what you control. It is similar in our personal lives – there’s no point focusing on all the external stimuli that make up our day. It has to start with us – our actions and our responses.

Simple idea. Powerful implications.