When we are learning something new there are usually some guardrails in place.

We’re learning how to DJ in the safety of our bedroom, not headlining Barclays Center.

We’re committing our code into a test environment, not straight into the App Store.

Our Spanish conversation practice is with a peer in the local coffee shop, not a televised interview with Alfonso Cuaron.

Sure, things can go wrong, but we can fall back onto the patterns and techniques we already know, refer to the guidebook, or ask our teacher.

It’s the Ladder of Certainty.

On the ladder, it’s possible to get stuck, stumble, face an embarrassing climb back down to earth, or even fall off the top step.

This can hurt, but it’s unlikely we’ll cause ourselves too much damage. Besides, if we’re really unsure about our balance or have a fear of heights we can always ask someone to hold the ladder for us.

We can learn a lot from climbing the ladder. But not enough.

Eventually, we have to go out to sea.

The sea is unforgiving, tempestuous, uncertain. We can only move up and down a few steps on the ladder, yet at sea we have full a 360-degree view, expanses of open ocean to navigate, and the very real dangers of drowning, sinking, being cast adrift, or running ashore.

Despite our fears and uncertainties, the sea is where the most exciting new discoveries are to be found. If we care, we have to go there.

Make no mistake: going straight out into the choppiest, most unforgiving waters is rash. But start with calmer tides and we can build the skills we need to set sail wherever we want to go.

First climb the ladder, then head out to sea.

Note: I first saw this image at the Teach the 1k seminar here in NYC. Thanks to Gary & Christina for providing the inspiration for this post (and several others!)

Navigating Uncertainty: Climbing the Ladder, Going out to Sea

There's something wrong. Great! Check your inbox and click the link to confirm your subscription.