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Thread: Uncertainty vs. Failure

  1. #1

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    Uncertainty vs. Failure

    Ran across this in an Inc. magazine article quoting Robin Camarote, an executive coach

    "Counter to common thinking, we avoid taking action not because we're afraid of failure but because we don't know how to manage uncertainty. Once we understand and acknowledge that failure is not truly dangerous, it's preferable to uncertainty. Because when you fail, it means you followed through and tried something. From there, it's just a learning experience. We have a definite answer and new information on where to go from there."

    I found this thought provoking because I struggle with spending too much time preparing equipment, testing processes, buying gear - all in an effort to "be able" to produce good images, but not enough time just doing it. There was more in the article regarding how to get past that, you can google the phrase and get the rest of the article.

    I thought of this as I was perusing yet another forum string about 'this developer vs that' and thought "I need to just get off the computer and make a picture", but why do I struggle with inertia in doing that?

    For background, I am not nor ever have been a professional photographer, but I made my first darkroom prints 40 years ago and have had a darkroom off and on for many years. I have developed a reasonable level of proficiency with medium format, 4x5 and 8x10 film and printing, but you would never know it by looking around my home, I have a few prints up, but not near as many as I should. Of course I have 'good' excuses for my limited output, busy with family, volunteer work, etc., but maybe uncertainty is my issue

    That needs to change, and I found the article helpful toward moving in that direction.

    BW

  2. #2
    Alan Klein's Avatar
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    Re: Uncertainty vs. Failure

    Fear of failure and fear of uncertainty seem to be cousins. Both cause me to procrastinate too often. I miss out on a lot of accomplishments I could have obtained if not for those things.

    What's the expression? We're only responsible for the effort, not the result.

  3. #3

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    Re: Uncertainty vs. Failure

    Quote Originally Posted by Alan Klein View Post
    What's the expression? We're only responsible for the effort, not the result.
    The Bhagavad Gita said that a long time ago.
    Chapter 2, Verse 47:

    karmanye vadhikaraste ma phaleshu kadachana
    ma karmaphalaheturbhurma te sangostvakarmani

    You have the right to work only but never to its fruits.
    Let not the fruits of action be your motive, nor let your attachment be to inaction.

    Kumar

  4. #4

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    Re: Uncertainty vs. Failure

    Interesting indeed, and insightful.

    In other words, we don't really require certainty to proceed. (Though, we may think that we do.) As a statistician during my career, I know that we "manage" uncertainty by thinking in terms of likelyhoods and probabilities. Thinking in this manner was helpful for my wife and I in making our way through the pandemic, where certainty wasn't possible.

    But while I know all about likelyhoods and probabilities, I do indeed like certainty when it's attainable. Consequently, I'm adamant about doing my Zone System testing, I'm a fiend when it comes to darkroom consistency, and I use large format cameras.

    I'm similar in that I probably also don't have a particularly large output. I like producing photographs. But, a big part of this hobby for me has doing all of the above. It brings together art, science, and mathematics in a way that I thoroughly enjoy.

  5. #5

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    Re: Uncertainty vs. Failure

    I was thinking of procrastinating today, but I wasn't sure how that would turn out, so I think I'll get to it tomorrow.

    I have experienced the same challenge with my own work in recent years, trying to clarify an approach to the new portraiture I decided to begin. Too much time preparing and studying, though proper caution with Covid certainly extended the process.

    On the positive, speaking as one who has been obliged to live daily with various personal and much broader uncertainties over decades, my view is that I can deal with most anything if I have a perspective. That may sound counter-intuitive at first. For example, one of your children becomes afflicted with a series of symptoms that no one seems able to trace, or with a disease for which raging diagnosis and treatment controversies leave you with little but question marks on how to proceed and what the long-term future holds. You develop a perspective by charting a course, even if it is short-term to get you to the next point of decision. It allows you, and others, to act rather than be paralyzed by the uncertainty.

    I have put this to use innumerable times, both for myself and others involved. It doesn't pretend to be the solution to every problem; it's simply a means to move forward.
    Philip Ulanowsky

    Sine scientia ars nihil est. (Without science/knowledge, art is nothing.)
    https://www.flickr.com/photos/156933346@N07/

  6. #6
    Vaughn's Avatar
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    Re: Uncertainty vs. Failure

    Uncertainty vs. Failure

    Both are useful tools.
    Uncertainty provides the motivation, and the failures find the means.
    "Landscapes exist in the material world yet soar in the realms of the spirit..." Tsung Ping, 5th Century China

  7. #7

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    Re: Uncertainty vs. Failure

    Certainty is never obtainable. Are you certain your roof won't collapse in the next five minutes?

    There's a difference between the need for certainty and procrastination. Some people have a fear of failure, even when it is unlikely -- so they don't act. Others have a fear of success, even when it's almost certain -- so they don't act.

    Different mindset, same outcome.

  8. #8
    (Shrek)
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    Re: Uncertainty vs. Failure

    As I get older, I find I'm losing all my fears. Fear of failure, fear of embarrassment and humiliation, fear of not accomplishing my goals, fear of disease and death... Whatever happens happens, and fear just takes up space in my head rent-free. I'm not afraid of trying things anymore just because I'm not 100% certain I will succeed.

  9. #9
    Alan Klein's Avatar
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    Re: Uncertainty vs. Failure

    Quote Originally Posted by Jody_S View Post
    As I get older, I find I'm losing all my fears. Fear of failure, fear of embarrassment and humiliation, fear of not accomplishing my goals, fear of disease and death... Whatever happens happens, and fear just takes up space in my head rent-free. I'm not afraid of trying things anymore just because I'm not 100% certain I will succeed.
    That's great. Wouldn't it be better if this happened when we were younger? The other expression is why do we get wise when we're older when we could have used that wisdom when we were younger so we wouldn;t screw up so much? It seems like God set it up backward. But then again, we need youth and recklessness to try things when we're younger. So maybe it all works out in the end?

  10. #10

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    Re: Uncertainty vs. Failure

    There have always been too many young people that don't have enough fear of failure, and they end up dead or in a wheelchair for life. Fear is a good thing if it's realistic, but it can often grow into paranoia, unfortunately. There seems to be a lot of that going around lately, and like COVID, it's highly contagious.

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