What’s Wrong With It?

 Genuine ignorance is profitable because it leads to

humility, curiosity, and open-mindedness. John Dewey

I think uncertainty is like ignorance. The dictionary defines ignorance as the lack of knowledge; and defines uncertainty as not having sure knowledge. It seems that ignorance and uncertainty are the absence of sure knowledge. Ignorance and uncertainty aren’t popular; intelligence and certainty are . To paraphrase John Dewey’s quote above, if I could demonstrate that “genuine uncertainty” is profitable, it might become popular. In America, being profitable is probably more popular than being intelligent or certain. All I have to do is to show that uncertainty leads to humility, curiosity, and open-mindedness. Of course this is what I have been trying to do since introducing “positive uncertainty”.

The human brain doesn’t like uncertainty; human beings don’t like uncertainty. The American public doesn’t want its leaders to be uncertain. Personal uncertainty is usually avoided or ignored or denied. Certainty feels so good because it eliminates uncertainty. I believe uncertainty is getting a bad rap. But my promoting uncertainty is a hard sell. Do you buy it?

I believe what is wrong with uncertainty is the human belief system. People don’t like uncertainty because it is provisional, tentative, indecisive, and unsure. But life is uncertain; the future is uncertain. It is well known that people want to believe what they want to be true. Being sure is comforting; being unsure is not. If uncertainty, not having sure knowledge, leads to humility, curiosity, and open-mindedness and is profitable, my positive uncertainty might sell. Being profitable cures many ills.

But I believe being open-minded is the biggest cure. To be certain is to be closed-minded, which doesn’t let in new knowledge or let out old knowledge. It isn’t receptive to new or different ideas. It doesn’t lead to curiosity. To me, the synonyms of profitable apply to positive uncertainty: advantageous, beneficial, useful, helpful, gainful, valuable, and worthwhile. And it is hard to feel humble while being certain.

Keeping the mind open in the face of uncertainty is the single most powerful

secret of unleashing your creative potential.   Michael Gelb



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