what does uncertainty look like – observations #2

I’ve never raised a ten year old girl before, but I’ve just jumped in to the deep end.

When I wrote this post last month, Emily had just turned ten, the big 1-0. Double digits is a major milestone for her and for us, her parents.

As I already stated, I don’t know how to raise a ten year old girl–because I’ve never done it. There’s a lot of uncertainty about the way ahead, the path forward. But if you have any notion of what vision is, you probably realize that some degree of uncertainty always accompanies vision.

Sometimes uncertainty looks like too many options.
There are million books about parenting, about girls, about pop psychology. There are websites, blogs, podcasts, and tweets about the subject. There are even resources that exist solely to motivate me, to get me pumped up enough to tackle the job. You could get lost, literally, in a bookstore that contained all this content.

Sometimes uncertainty is just the opposite.
The absence of any alternative defines some uncertain scenarios–like being in the middle of a forest with no path on any side. This situation might lead us to ask:  Where do we go from here?

I have a strategy for dealing with both–a parenting technique I’ve adapted from my aviation toolkit.

I have three specific questions that I ask myself, constantly, to make sure we don’t get lost in the wilderness.

1) Where are we going?
2) Where are we now?
3) What are the waypoints?

I’ve discussed these questions before, but I want to highlight the characteristics of uncertainty in this particular application.

1. Where are we going?
What does the destination look like? We’ve never been there. How far away is the finish line? We’ve never made this trip before.

I’ve shared with Emily–with each member of our family–what I think winning looks like and where I think we ought to end up on this journey. I’ve painted a mental image of the vision I have for her life.

Even though we’ve never been there, we know what it looks like. The details might be blurry, but that’s expected–you can’t see the leaves on the trees on Pike’s Peak, from NC, for example.

2. Where are we now?
That’s a hard question to answer sometimes. It forces me to sharpen my powers of observation, to tune all of my senses. Am I listening? Seeing? Do I smell trouble? (You get the idea.) These are all questions that help me determine where we are. Two points make a straight line, but in this journey, I don’t think a straight line is going to get us there.  We’ll set off in that general direction, but we might encounter valleys, roadblocks, and mountains along the way. I’m not sure what we will face, but knowing where we are going and where we are will always help us answer the question “are we on course?”

3. What are the waypoints?
How we mark the waypoints varies. Sometimes its a visible landmark. Other times, it might be more like dead reckoning–maintain a particular heading 255 for an indiscriminate amount of time. If we stick to the plan, and the plan was crafted carefully, then we have to trust that it will work out–we have to keep pressing forward on that heading.

There’s a lot of unknowns in the days, months, and years ahead. That’s the point of this post–to remind you that we can still find our way when we’ve never been there, when we’re uncertain of what lies on our path, and when there’s no landmarks on parts of the journey to mark our progress.

Life is a journey. And these are observations from ours.


You’ve just read observations, a monthly column that illustrates in my personal life and leadership the technical concepts found in ATOMs. Some people may not want the technical content that appears elsewhere on this website–if you only want to follow these more personal updates, I set up a special subscription for that option here: by Email or RSS.

Previous | Next

Tags: ,