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How To Train Your Mind for Uncertainty

Madonna vs. Lawrence of Arabia

In This Issue:

How To Train Your Mind for Uncertainty

Madonna vs. Lawrence of Arabia

Tools and Talismans

  • How to Look More Confident

  • The Power of Faiure

  • Tolerance of Uncertainty

How To Train Your Mind for Uncertainty

At the peak of her fame in the 1980s and 90s, Madonna would only sleep for three hours a night when she was on tour.

Not because of her demanding schedule, hours of preparation and hard work, or even the desire to give her dancers and backup vocalists emotional support.

Although all of those things took a toll, it really came down to anxiety.

According to the biography by her brother, Christoper Ciccone, being an icon just comes with a lot of stress.

Every concert day required checking in with each of the dozens of people who supported her performance.

Then the lights had to be set just right. The costumes made ready. Props set down exactly where Madonna planned to pick them up. Water bottles strategically placed out of site yet easily reachable.

There was no room for uncertainty in Madonna’s world.

And that’s the problem, isn’t it?

Let’s look at a different approach to uncertainty.

Madonna vs. Lawrence of Arabia

Informed that the enemy would arrive in 40 minutes, T.E. Lawrence (better known as “Lawrence of Arabia”) would lay down for a 30-minute nap and be snoring within seconds.

It’s easy to list a hundred differences between Lawrence of Arabia and Madonna, but the most striking difference is in their attitude towards things that could go wrong.

Lawrence fully expected a strict enforcement of Murphy’s Law. He assumed all kinds of problems would ensue, and he seemed to relish the fact.

His own biography is filled with self-deprecating humor about his errors and mistakes. He recited a poem about falling off a camel during a charge into battle. He joked about bad weather and poisoned wells.

In one of his more serious moments, he wrote he would rather completely botch a task than fail by never attempting it.

His sloppy approach not only led to failed missions, it also cost human lives. He could have learned a thing or two from Madonna’s meticulous preparation. Not one person in a million could do what Madonna does.

But still, there’s no arguing who slept better.

Positive Uncertainty

Lawrence and Madonna each had their own attitude towards uncertainty. But their actions conditioned this attitude further. Let’s see how this works.

Research on cold exposure shows that taking an ice cold shower for the first time is a horrific experience.

But keep on doing it, and soon you’ll be relaxing under the cold water for half an hour. You might move on to ice baths.

You’re probably familiar with this phenomenon. Your mind and body quickly adapt, and something that used to be a stressor becomes normal.

What if you regularly exposed yourself to uncertainty? Eventually this would become “normal,” and you would be able to tolerate more uncertainty in the future.

You might not choose uncertainty, but you could handle it.

By having more adventure, novelty, and uncertainty in your life, you would be less susceptible to stress and anxiety. That’s valuable.

There are situations that demand close attention to the details. Airline flights. Space walks. Maybe even concerts.

But I often wonder if there are any successful musicians who deliberately give their shows more free rein, in the spirit of Lawrence of Arabia.

I imagine instrumentalists who improvise and serve up concerts full of surprise, serendipity, and unexpected magic.

What would happen if you lived more of your life like that?

Tools and Talismans