In one of Hollywood’s most heart-pounding scenes, US Marine sniper Mike Stevens finds himself all alone with one foot stuck at a particular spot in the desert following a botched assassination attempt. Well technically not all alone, as the lifeless body of his colleague, Tommy lies just across him with his legs blown to pieces. Rewind three minutes earlier and this is what happened:
Mike has 52 hours until support comes! In those crunching 52 hours are 187200secs in which he has to keep his foot static or risk activating the landmine. To make matters worse, he’s in the part of the desert where the heat is extreme! Mike has two options: Wait for help(52 hours at least) or take another step forward(and risk having his legs exploding to shreds). Overwhelming fear grips him.
If you missed biology classes, I bet you are thinking- how long can a human survive without water?
SURVIVAL: THE RULES OF THREE
Now 3 days(without water) is not a given. It doesn’t account for the weight of the person, age, health status and level of activity and oh, extreme conditions. In extreme heat, your body loses water faster. In prolonged severe dehydration, your veins won’t bleed even if you get cut. Your kidneys eventually shut down, and booya, multiple organ failure isn’t a long shot.
In summary, Mike was fucked! But he had an option: take a step. Was taking a step easy? No! Why? There was so much uncertainty!
OUR OBSESSION WITH CERTAINTY
What is at the core of our humanity? A simple truth – a thirsting desire to be 100% damn sure of the consequences of our actions. We hate taking risks and embrace only certainty. A closer look at our lives and it’s bizarrely evident. We buy from the same brands we know. Invest in businesses, only if and when there is a 100% surety of making profit or breaking even. Take the dating scene and you will find typically, most guys will ask a girl out, only if they were sure “she will say yes”. People take five or six years courting to be damn sure they are picking the right partner for marriage. Look around you and fill in the gaps.
How did we arrive here, fellow Homosapien?
A JOURNEY BACK IN TIME: BACK TO THE PAST
The clue lies in a deeply wired survival behaviour passed on from past generations of humans. Millions of years ago, wild creatures roamed the surface of the Earth and they had an outrageous appetite for mankind. Playing it safe to enhance survival was a no-brainer for our ancestors. Taking risks was like crushing your testicles against a brick wall. Terrible idea!
Good news is: In the 21st century, Godzilla isn’t roaming the streets of Alabama. Neither is Monster 0 tearing down cities in Accra. Our generation isn’t going to be wiped out by gonorrhoea. Bigfoot is yet to give an acceptance speech to join a local museum near you. You aren’t going to suddenly die of terminal shame asking a girl out. Neither are you going to be shot for applying for a job you aren’t fit for. In short, the world is a relatively safer place than it was 10000s of years ago.
The truth no one is telling us is- our aversion to taking risks which was once of utmost importance to our survival, no longer is! The very thing that kept us alive in times past is the very thing that can be detrimental to our life’s journey of growth and fulfilment!
Uncertainty is where beauty lies!
THE BEAUTY OF UNCERTAINTY
Just like Mike, there are countless moments in our lives where we find ourselves stuck on a mental land mine, waiting to explode if we took a step(took a risk pursuing an action). We tend to play the “perfect time” waiting game which seems an endless time-loop.
Think about it, how do you get the love you need when you don’t give your needs a voice? How do you make new friends or fall in love if you never leave your four walled-cubicle? You won’t get a raise if you never ask for one! What all these require, is taking risk and stepping into uncertainty(where failure, disappointment and success are possibilities).
Uncertainty is the environment where personal growth happens. The zone where endless opportunities abound. All the things you are comfortable with now are things you were once scared of. You can drive now? Great! Think back to the very day you started. You dreaded having multiple accidents in your head. It took your hands on the steering wheel, a pounding heart and a step on the accelerator to move your first distances. That was uncertainty right there. Your dreaded mental happenings were a possibility, yet all it took was a step! And here we are!
A STEP INTO UNCERTAINTY
“In any moment of decision, the best thing you can do is the right thing, the next best thing is the wrong thing, and the worst thing you can do is nothing”Theodore Roosevelt
This is one of my top three quotes of all time! Reflect on this quote! The problem isn’t guessing wrong the right thing to do in every moment but rather inaction aka not taking a shot!
Maybe you love writing and started a blog. Kudos! But err… pretty much struggling to get people to read or check out all the beautiful cerebral juice you’ve jizzed on there. You happen to be surfing around and stumble on some random guy called DrC’s blog. You see the views per post and thinking holy cow! Does this guy clock averagely, 1000 views per post? Whaaaat! I wish I was this was so me. Well, hold your orgasm right there Monsieur.
If you never got the starting script, I spent 3 months on a mental landmine after several people told me to stop wasting my time when I was starting this blog. “Ghanaians don’t read“. Blah blah blah bullshit. I fell for it. Stuck at that spot just like Mike.
Then something beautiful happened, I took the risk and posted my first post which didn’t do well. Then another followed which pretty much sucked ass. I began to doubt myself so many times. Is this even worth it? Why am I wasting my time? Soon my internal dialogue sounded like this: “They were right, Ghanaians don’t read. People never share.” No tripping.
If the relative success of my blog is anything to go by, let no one kid you! I do believe the most successful people in the world have had moments like I’ve had where they kept praying in their closet and asking God, the magical question “will this ever work?”.
They probably had doubted themselves countless times but eventually, they succeeded because they didn’t let uncertainty stop them!
WILL YOU TAKE A STEP?
49 hours in, and a severely dehydrated and exhausted Mike had barely survived the night fighting off hungry wolves. Then the hour came when his body gave up sending him crashing to the ground only to be saved by a local man just in time before his leg lifts off the landmine.
“You’ve got to keep moving on. You’ve got to keep moving on”. It keeps ringing in Mike’s head. Lo and behold, Mike does the very one thing he was scared of doing… Taking a step into uncertainty!
And there was Mike. Beyond his wildest dreams, a free man. All the beautiful things that laid wait on the other side needed just one step. One step into uncertainty. Maybe he would have lost his legs, maybe maybe maybe maybe, so many maybes. He took a risk and moved that crucial one step into freedom.
This isn’t a fairytale where all ends well, but then you will never know! Stop trying to predict a future you haven’t seen. How many times have you judged people from afar, only to realize they aren’t what you thought? See, you can’t even predict your own thoughts 80% of the time, yet you try to predict a chaotic unpredictable universe?
Are you lost thinking- “will my current relationship turn out like the last”? Maybe it will, maybe it won’t. I am that local man in the movie Mine, telling you to take a step into uncertainty. I am singing in your mind’s eye “You’ve got to keep moving on”.
Go ahead, say it, embrace it: “I embrace the uncertainty”GARY J. BISHOP