“In these unprecedented times, we would like to assure you…” Yes, I can feel some of you already rolling your eyes. No. This is not one of those cliché statements at the beginning or end of every virtual call or e-mail that you engage in this, for the lack of a better word, new normal. Your employer, school, bank, creditors, colleagues, friends, must have sent you those e-mails assuring you that they recognize the unprecedented challenges and changes that you might be facing. Your bank might have even sent you a well-crafted e-mail loaded with another cliché, “We are in this together…” while reminding you of the penalty for breaking your mortgage, or the consequences of defaulting on that business loan that you were going to clear in 2020. Then COVID-19 happened. Did you know that the unprecedented use of the word unprecedented last year made it the People’s Choice 2020 Word of the Year? If these unprecedented times have affected you positively, or negatively, then you certainly understand uncertainty. And you can choose to think of uncertainty as an inconvenience, or a gift. Well, or whatever you like. Life is full of choices. I like to think of it as a gift.
You might be consciously aware or not of the uncertainty that looms around everything. Think about it abstractly. Are you sure of the outcome of anything that you do in life? Are you sure that your foot will land when trying to make the next step? Are you sure that your car’s engine is going to start? I mean you are in a rush to get to work, aren’t you? Are you even sure that you still have your job? Or that the building you work in is still intact? Or that the company you work for is still in operation? I mean, we’ve seen multi-billion dollar companies collapse in a split second. Are you certain that you will close that deal that you are rushing to meet the client over? Are you sure that the demand or supply forecast that you made is bang on? I mean, COVID-19 affected these forecasts. Are you sure that your shipment will arrive on time? The Ever Given got stuck at the Suez Canal, blocking the passage affecting over 300 vessels for six days. Do you know what six days mean to global trade; to global shipping; to global supply chains; to insurers? Good, you do. Anyway… are you sure that you will graduate? Are you sure that that album whose songs you can faithfully rap is going to be a hit? Are you sure that millennials will not cancel your work because your statement does not align with their woke belief of the day? I mean, you are making a Monday-like statement on a Saturday. Are you sure that that frozen strawberry daiquiri cocktail is going to be as intoxicating as it was at Sheri’s bar when you eventually try it at home? Are you sure that that vegetable smoothie that you religiously drink before bed is going to marvelously work as your nutritionist told you it would? Okay, I’m getting carried away. Catch my drift now?
Uncertainty sits at the core foundation of human existence. We never know for sure what will happen or not; what will work or not. We will take life covers, insure property, and secure mortgages to ensure that our families have homes, take insurance for that mortgage, insurance companies will reinsure themselves. We will glamorize speculation with terms such as uncertainty formulas, growth and strategy plans, projections, and BCPs [Business Continuity Plans]; to mitigate the effects of uncertainty. We will design statistics-backed projections; we will implement loud marketing strategies; create controversy to remind our fans/ voters of our existence, they might vote for us then… The unsettling thing about life is that no one is immune to uncertainty.
Imagine if you knew beforehand how everything in your life will turn out? Would you be excited to live the next minute? Would you prepare for your exams? Would you be inspired to market your product or service if you knew that your target consumers will love it? Would you be inspired to learn and perfect a new skill if you already knew that you will excel at it? Would you be scared or excited to buy those stocks of a promising company? What’s the point of practicing archery if you know that you are going to hit the bull’s eye every time? In my opinion, if everything was all laid out in advance, it would take away the enthusiasm, the dangerous thrill, the curiosity, the creativity, the little experiments that bear the greatest of inventions and innovative works, and the little pleasant surprises that make life scary and fun.
Uncertainty drives us to explore enthusiasm; to feel enthusiastic about life. For example, when COVID-19 broke out, most people were not sure how anything would turn out. But look, working from home exposed the chef in you [you finally know what thyme and oregano are]. You explored the pâtissier side of you. You are the people responsible for the misleading demand for vanilla essence and extract holding other factors constant. And because it was such a coronacoaster of a year, it also exposed the mixologist in you [even if you drink nothing but gin and tonic and occasionally throw in cucumbers from your leftover cucumber facemask recipe]. We chase the thrill that is associated with the unknown outcome of events. We will want to make a pitch to that client because it brings some level of joy to finally find out how it turns out. Did we seal the deal? Did we lose to a competitor? See that curiosity; imagine if you knew what the outcome of your pitch would be in advance?
Uncertainty will push you to plan and work smart to create a captivating pitch; to run businesses in an efficient manner that allows you to meet those quarterly projections. If it was obvious that you would make your shareholders happy at the end of the day, would you prepare? That intense satisfying feeling that you derive from an accomplishment would never be realized the same way. Uncertainty will instill discipline and teach you consistency. You will get the right materials that will ensure that you create that powerful pitch that will land you that client. A business will streamline all its systems and processes. Marketing and finance departments will collaborate to make sure that that target consumer is aware of the company’s products. Wait, that beef that exists between marketing and finance guys…
Uncertainty will push you to invent; to innovate; it will create opportunities. Who knew companies would mass-produce sanitizers and disinfectants as opposed to detergents. It is unlikely that these companies had the right infrastructural and human capital in place before COVID-19 to meet the booming demand? Very few people used to disinfect their homes and sanitize regularly before COVID-19. Who knew that these products would make the most sales in any given year for the consumer good companies? See that BCP that your company had, why was it difficult to activate and implement when COVID-19 disrupted the world? Wait, did your company even have one? Did that BCP ever factor employees having to work from home for over a year?
Who would imagine that your employer would let you carry your work laptop home, let alone work from home [read: from the comfort of your bed]? I mean, you might disclose trade secrets and client lists to your friends. As if that was such an impossible thing pre-COVID. Who knew that you would be telling your boss that you have to jump on another call? Or that you would see the polite side of your boss as he/she asks, “Hello, can you hear me?” And you are there wondering who introduced your boss to Adele’s music. No way will their YouTube algorithm jump from Madilu System and Franco to Adele. Wait, where was I? Yes. An unforeseen event is likely to push you to improvise just as the desire to stay ahead of competition will. Who knew traditional brick-and-mortar restaurants would embrace online food delivery and eventually integrate it as part of their business model? And while companies innovate, did you imagine that losing your job would make you give to what you termed as your side hustle 100% of your attention? Of course, after wallowing and drinking enough gin that you almost started growing your juniper berries… yes, I can see you searching what juniper berries are.
Imagine you are camping at Mt. Kenya and planning for a hike to the mountain top. You are certain that you will make it to the peak. No pain, no dehydration, no trips, no bruises, no fatigue, no altitude sickness, no animals to scare you… no danger. And Voila! You are at the mountain peak. Does it feel heroic? Do you feel the adventure? Do you feel any sense of accomplishment as you plant that flag or etch, “I was here,” on a rock? Do you feel surprised and wowed at your abilities? Would you marvel at the peak the same way on your way down? I do not think so. It would be another meh boring experience.
The state of uncertainty feels nurturing. Embrace it. Carve out your path that is seemingly beyond your wildest dreams. Flounder for a minute, then pick up because uncertainty is a gift. But you know what uncertainty is not, baking avocados and expecting them to taste delightful. It is an atrocious act. Baked avocados are not an acquired taste. They are not anything. Egg-baked avocados with a sprig of basil, avocado fries, avocado cake and muffins, and any other twisted recipe that involves exposing that rich and delicate fruit to cooking should be considered a heinous crime against food. I am becoming those people that describe food using abstract words such as delicate, robust, and rubbery. I’d rather you throw avocado in gin. The world is not risking global warming while burning fossil fuels and draining dams for you to waste gas and electricity because your favorite online-certified wannabe nutritionist boldly misled you saying that one cup of pureed avocado is the equivalent of one cup of butter thus will make your cake calorie-friendly. Abeg, uncertainty is a gift. Eat butter. Deal with the consequences later. Disclaimer: The above advice, “eat butter” was provided by a wannabe connoisseur and is not endorsed by any health and/ or nutrition body. Please watch your calorie consumption.