Arment Dietrich

Teach Yourself to Work in Uncertainty

By: Arment Dietrich | April 6, 2011 | 

Its 7:30 am and my blog post should have been queued up and scheduled to go by now. As I edited and finalized it, it suddenly dawned on me, for reasons I won’t go into here, that I can’t use it. I was suddenly scrambling for a solution. I need something quick. So I started clicking around frantically, looking for inspiration (which by the way, is not a good mental state for finding inspiration).

Which got me to thinking about inspiration. And needing it in times of uncertainty. And my new blog post began to roll out.

I’ve been in Chicago now for three months, possibly the darkest months of the year. And we’re all emerging from the cave. Yesterday, my road bike arrived from her journey from Idaho. And as I hopped on last night and pedaled away, WOW all this mental garbage flew off me – it’s awesome – you could have seen it if you were there!

All the little stuff fell away. And I made room for the big ideas, the Inspiration.

And I thought about Marlo Scott, who quit her corporate job to start Sweet Revenge in New York City – a grown-up, hip version of the cupcake shop, paired with cocktails. All my favorite words in one sentence. She inspired me.

I think what I love most about Marlo’s story is, (believe it or not), not so much the cupcakes, the wine and the hip bar in lower Manhattan. It’s the fact that she planned her business for three years, finally opening in 2008, in the midst of a recession for which her three years of planning had not planned. She actually stood out on the street in front of her store and couldn’t even give away her cupcakes.

She had done extensive research, some serious differentiation, and had a very clear vision for her business.

I’m pretty sure standing out on the sidewalk trying to give away cupcakes as she wondered how she was going to make payroll next month was not part of that vision.

Today she is the Entrepreneur Magazine cover girl. And while her life may seem enviable, I am quite sure she has a whole new set of challenges she is dealing with. I haven’t met her.  Yet.

One thing is certain, there will always be uncertainty. My point in bringing it up, is that I’d love to hear from you, and how you deal with uncertainty and where you find your inspiration, you know, on those days when that barista position that came available at your coffee shop sounds appealing.

  • Outlet – What is your outlet for clearing your head? – a hobby, a sport, a form of exercise. My bike, my skis, my yoga class.
  • Commiseration – Misery does love company.  I love reading about others’ challenges and how they’ve succeeded.
  • Inspiration: Who are your role models?
  • Keep it in perspective: For gods’ sake, it could be worse!
  • Pull it off!: I have a good friend who was an executive at Microsoft. She is strong, self-confident and assertive and I love turning to her for advice. We had a great discussion about uncertainty. She said it’s all in how you pull it off.  “I worked at Microsoft for YEARS and I couldn’t believe all these people were turning to me for advice.”  It made an impression on me, because I was surprised to hear that from her of all people.

Are we all just pulling it off? Can anyone be certain about things?

Thanks to Mulatto Diaries for the image and beautiful quote.

  • Love this post, Lisa! Good for you for finding your inspiration for this post amidst uncertainty. That’s when we find our greatest stuff, IMHO.

    I like your bulleted list and mirror lots of them. Yoga has become my go to outlet; I adore reading about other folks and how they got from a to b in their careers; I have some fantastic role models (My mom is #1 and the list keeps growing daily – ginidietrich included naturally ;-)); I am the first to echo my Mom when she says “Ten years from now, does it really matter?”; and how true…just ‘pull it off’ – it’s the attitude that counts!

    Thanks, Lisa and good on ya for making this one come together so quickly and so well.

  • VanessaWilliams

    Thanks for this post Lisa. I struggled with this very same issue last year when last year first my husband was laid off, then me. Talk about uncertainty! We both got jobs – only two weeks apart in July of last year. Fast forward to now, my husband was laid off yet again a few weeks ago, and quickly hired elsewhere inside of a week. These are crazy times we live in. There is no rule book.

    I have learned to not plan more than 6 months out – a tough thing for me who usually had the 3 year plan etc. I focus on now, and the next step and nothing after that. I have learned that plan B, or even plan C can be just as good as plan A, and to get just as excited about it. I know that even in my moments of complete stress and frustration there are people much worse off than me. We never were at risk of losing our home, for example. I focus on things I can change – like my attitude – rather than the things I can’t. I really do think we are just all flying by the seat of our pants. Honestly, I have found that making certain lifestyle choices have pointed me in the right direction, and I let the universe do the rest. You can’t control everything – even if you do everything right.

    I clear my head by doing yoga, and belly dancing. If I’m really down I make sure I surround myself with positive people and get out and do something. I have many role models and go to many of them for sage advice (life, career or otherwise) when I need to.

  • Lisa,

    i can relate to the early-morning-doubt and throwing out a post dilemma- yikes! Sometimes clarity comes with a good nights sleep and for me, edits always await my waking moments!

    I think you said it, we ARE all just pulling it off! LOL As for how, for me personally, I vote for commiseration which gives me perspective (one of my best friends is a psychologist – yay!) and inspiration, the latter coming largely from reading blog posts like this one!

    For an outlet I like going outside and breathing in the fresh air. This helps and house-cleaning does too. I know that sounds lame but when my outer environment is clean its as if I can think more clearly. If that doesn’t work, I watch a sit com and laugh it out. Good thing there are so many options!

    Great post-pulled -from-a-hat Lisa!


  • FrankDickinson


    Great piece!

    My Outlet: Anything that doesn’t involves sitting behind a desk. The longer I sit, the more muddled I get. I move outside. I breathe in deep. I walk. I talk to people. I move outside the comfortable.

    Usually I find it very clearing – and even find moments of new inspiration.

  • Lisa Gerber

    Thank you!! @FrankDickinson and that’s great, i love it!! It works, doesn’t it? If something is bothering me, i leave and go for a run. can’t believe how it works itself out!

  • ginidietrich

    A few things: Love how quickly you pulled this together! You’re way better at that than you give yourself credit! When I need blogging inspiration, I always go to the HBR blogs first. You seem to really like the NY Times Bits blogs. You could go there next time (not that you needed it here). I always write blog posts in my head when I’m riding or walking Jack Bauer. But I have the BEST ideas in the shower. Almost daily. I don’t know why…maybe because I’m not thinking at all.

  • Lisa Gerber

    thank you, @Lori I love that you houseclean as an outlet! I wish I did!!

  • Lisa Gerber

    @VanessaWilliams thanks for taking the time to write such thoughtful comment! the bellydancing, I’m SURE shakes out the stress that we store in the gut! what a great idea.

  • Lisa Gerber

    @EricaAllison ginidietrich I agree, I think my favorite is reading about others as well. That’s why i loved the story about the CUPCAKES!

  • jelenawoehr

    @ginidietrich I have my best ideas while brushing my teeth. Seriously. I will zone out for like an hour just going off mentally in a thousand different directions. I think it’s because when I first started writing and doing social media professionally I was living in a 520 square foot apartment with three other people and a puppy and some pet rats, so I learned to lock myself in the bathroom to think.

  • Lisa Gerber

    @jelenawoehr @ginidietrich WOW!! your teeth must be SUPER WHITE.

  • jelenawoehr

    @Lisa Gerber @ginidietrich You’d think that, wouldn’t you? But half the time I don’t even get to the actual brushing! I’ll put the paste on the brush and then I’ll be halfway around the world before I remember to actually brush my teeth… back to earth an hour later, I realize it’s waaaay past my bedtime and my teeth are STILL dirty. Augh! Then I get annoyed and forget to write the ideas down 🙂 I’ve got to put a little journal in my bathroom medicine cabinet!

  • Yep we are all just pulling it off, some with more grace than others. You Lisa managed to land on your feet beautifully with this one. Bravo, bien jouer. Tres impressionnant.

    To reboot, I hit the hills, the aren’t the big mountains of Idaho but they are right behind where I live and they give me enough perspective to come back to my desk with a fresh mind.

    Some people are certain about things, I tend to stay away from them.

  • Lisa Gerber

    @johnfalchettoi bet those hills are AMAAAAAAAAAAAAzing. great last line. good advice for all of us! 🙂

  • Lisa Gerber

    @ginidietrichinteresting that you have your best ideas in the shower. The thing I’m noticing is, NO ONE has said, oh, i get my best ideas at my desk at work. LOL!

  • Sousa7

    @Lisa Gerber @EricaAllison ginidietrich

  • Sousa7

    @Lisa Gerber @EricaAllison ginidietrich Inspiration, for me, comes from music, history, children, sometimes a great glass of wine, but mostly from conversations with the “every-day” man. A few weeks ago a good friend of mine, Michael Smith, shared with me the relative chaos he had been experiencing in his life and how a health scare dramatically impacted his outlook and priorities. Michael, like many, put himself “out there”, left corporate life and struck out on his own. Financial pressures, long hours and the anxiety of all the uncertainty in his life, landed him squarely in the back of an ambulance with a nitroglycerin pill under his tongue (he’s fine now). This and other experiences were the catalysts for him to, in his words, “intentionally choose contentment” as his life’s mission. Moreover, as I shared in his profile on 5minutelegacy (wordpress), contentment is the legacy he hoped to create for and impart to his children. To be truly content amidst great uncertainty — what a wonderfully inspiring example of strength and hope that each one of us can choose to embrace and share.

    Lisa, thanks for your honesty and courage to share the challenges you face.

  • melcoach

    Love it Ginnie! I’ve been writing about this alot lately on my blog too….especially the “how do I recharge myself.”

    My routine is to take my dog for a hike or to (big gulp) take a day, weekend or week away from the business. I find the more time I take off the faster I grow because I make better, more aligned decisions.

    As a leader it’s tempting to want to stay on top of it all, every day, so our baby doesn’t blow up. But I find that we have to take time away to take care of ourselves. Even a quick walk will clear out the cob webs.

    If all else fails, a super-charged espresso does wonders to clear out the brain fog. LOL.

    Great post, thanks Ginnie.


  • melcoach

    Love it Ginnie! I’ve been writing about this alot lately on my blog too….especially the “how do I recharge myself.”

    My routine is to take my dog for a hike or to (big gulp) take a day, weekend or week away from the business. I find the more time I take off the faster I grow because I make better, more aligned decisions.

    As a leader it’s tempting to want to stay on top of it all, every day, so our baby doesn’t blow up. But I find that we have to take time away to take care of ourselves. Even a quick walk will clear out the cob webs.

    If all else fails, a super-charged espresso does wonders to clear out the brain fog. LOL.

    Great post, thanks Ginnie.


  • I do think we’re all just pulling it off, Lisa, and I love how you wrote this. I think those who make it look effortless have a particular characteristic in common, in that they’re not willing to give up. Conversely, they know when to walk away. I don’t know that anyone can teach you that.

    My outlet is my deck, garden (hammock, to be precise!) and kitchen… all with dogs around. Literally the minute I step out on my deck, which I’ll do often as the weather gets better, just to get up from my desk, I’m flooded with ideas. I have to find a way to capture them. Cooking (as @ginidietrich knows!) is a great release as well, and so is dancing, but I don’t do the latter nearly as much as I’d like to – something I need to fix.

    The way I try to deal with the dark periods is to completely tune them out – focus on something different. Because the more I worry about something, the further away it gets. The minute I forget about it – really, truly stop paying attention to it – bingo, it works out, or something better comes along. I have to do better at being able to tune out, though.

  • MARLdblE

    Hi Lisa!

    I love this article, and I agree with you whole-heartedly. I’ve found that the only thing you can count on in life is change! So instead of fighting it, being shocked by it, or letting it throw you off your game I think you have to embrace it and look for the opportunities that may arise. Plus, I think it’s uncertainty that breeds confidence. The more you step out to do the things you are uncertain (and experience success) the more confidence you’ll have to do greater things!

  • RickCaffeinated

    “How do I deal with uncertainty?” – first, thanks for the post and your own inspirations. I’m going to steal – I mean, borrow! – it for my blog as well. But my take is that uncertainty is, for me, inspiring enough on its own. I’m not a big fan of certainty anymore, would rather look for continued surprise and mystery around the choices we make and the way our days unfold. I do make plans that don’t always/often work out, but to me that’s part of the beauty. 🙂 – thanks again!

  • Lisa Gerber

    @Shonali @ginidietrich I love this, and your deck sounds wonderful. and I especially appreciated your last paragraph, because it just so happens totally unrelated to anything in this blog post, that I’m dealing with something else on a personal matter that is really bumming me out, and I’m going to try your tactic on it: release it and let it work itself out. i’ll let you know how that works out for me!! 🙂

  • Lisa Gerber

    @melcoach Thanks Melanie, (I actually wrote this), I’m so glad you enjoyed it!! I know, taking a WHOLE DAY OFF? the horror, but it’s amazing how much more productive you are afterwards. I’m a dog person too and I love taking my dogs in the woods. Nothing beats it.

    Thanks again.


    Spin Sucks CCO

  • Lisa Gerber

    @MARLdblEthank you, Marlee!! what a great concept – that uncertainty breeds confidence!! now that I think about it, I totally agree.

  • ginidietrich

    @Lisa Gerber @Shonali I wish I had a hammock. Funny…I don’t do a great deal of thinking when I cook, but it’s a HUGE stress release.

  • ginidietrich

    @jelenawoehr @Lisa Gerber While I was brushing my teeth this morning, Jelena, I thought of you. But I’m too busy thinking, “Has it been two minutes yet” to do any other thinking.

  • ginidietrich

    @Lisa Gerber Oh I have my best ideas at my desk.


  • janbeery

    Hi Lisa,

    Good discussion topics!

    Outlet: I exercise, I spin, bike when the weather is nice, get together with friends and laugh out loud! I enjoy my dogs and love that I can bring them to my office and get a good cuddle when I need one. My golden is great for big hugs! Ramona the pug is great for all out belly laughs!

    For my Commiseration and Inspiration: Just this morning, I was thinking about how I check in with my favorite “twitter board of directors.” It helps me to see how we all are dealing with various challenges and triumphs, successes and failures, lessons learned and information that will help us grow. This powerful group is great to check in with and feel not alone in all the uncertainty there is in life.

    Keep it in perspective: It always could be worse. Sometimes, I take myself to the worse case scenario and work backwards. Typically, it isn’t as bad and I’ll get through it.

    Pulling it off: I’m a great one for leading with a “can do” attitude! I’m confident in moving forward even if I’m bluffing ahem, I mean uncertain.

    We can never be fully certain about anything. Pulling it off? Not really, we’re doing what we should do, taking risks, trying without the fear of failing, and enjoying what it is we do every day.


  • @ginidietrich I think it’s all that stirring and shaking. :p @Lisa Gerber Yes – please do!

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  • I was considering how I examine in with my preferred “twitter panel of administrators.” It allows me to see how we all are interacting with various difficulties and triumphs, achievements and breakdowns, training discovered and details that will help us develop. This highly effective team is excellent to examine in with and experience not alone in all the concern there is in lifestyle. I really like this content, and I acknowledge with you whole-heartedly. I’ve discovered that the only factor you can depend on in lifestyle is change! So instead of battling it, being stunned by it, or allowing it toss you off your activity I think you have to accept it and look for the possibilities that may occur. Plus, I think it’s concern that types assurance. The more you phase out to do the factors you are not sure (and encounter success) the more assurance you’ll have to do higher things!

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