How Much Time Do You Spend Pursuing ‘uncertainty’?


How Much Time Do You Spend Pursuing ‘uncertainty’?

If you’re a ‘science-y’ nerd like me, you may have heard of Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle.

It has to do with the measurement of subatomic particles. An object’s position and velocity cannot both be measured exactly, at the same time. For example, measuring an electron’s velocity knocks it around so unpredictably, that a simultaneous measurement of its position is not possible.

That’s astounding (and lends itself to lots of esoteric discussions), but I’m not talking about ‘that’ uncertainty principle. I’ve got a slightly different take on the phrase. I’m referring to the portrait process – visually portraying another human in a valid, flattering, meaningful (and hopefully, uplifting) way.

Looking back to my early days of photography, I distinctly remember the very first time I told a potential client that I could produce a visual outcome for them … in exchange for money. It felt like jumping off a cliff with a parachute on my back, only having seen how to use one in movies. That dissolved over time.

But the point is, I understand the terrifying level of uncertainty most people experience stepping ‘in front of’ the camera. And managing ‘that’ is the key to an exceptional outcome.

These days I find that same uncertainty exhilarating. Interestingly, it’s almost identical to my previous career as an outdoor educator and wilderness guide. My subjects and I go on a little adventure together. Every single time we set off from a known point and venture out into a wilderness of possible combinations of light, gesture, expression, position, projection, vulnerability, peaks and valleys, wrong turns and dead ends.

In the wilderness, I’m a navigation pro; using a map and compass, reading the land and teaching the group to do it themselves. In the beginning, I thought ‘navigating well’ meant we would all get to a destination, which equals success.

But I gradually realised that, because they were totally dependant on me for safely getting to a said destination, managing their ‘expectations and risk’ was a far greater determinant of the group’s overall success and enjoyment.

Fast forward to now. It’s the same with portraits. Photography isn’t the craft. Managing uncertainty in the most captivating, compelling way possible … That’s the craft. That’s the ‘magic’. That’s what portraiture is to me. That’s why my images are so powerfully revealing.

I think most of us spend an overwhelming majority of our time performing tasks that are generally in the pursuit of ‘certainty’.

Think about that for a minute … What aspects of your life are spent in pursuit of ‘uncertainty’?

Not many, I’m guessing. Watching a movie is a pleasant ‘uncertainty’. We don’t know how it will end. Spending time in nature can be ‘uncertainty’. Picking up the phone and making a cold call can be ‘uncertainty’.  And, there are more obvious things like skydiving and white-water rafting.

What does all that have in common?

It helps you grow. You become more resilient. You become bolder. Braver. You strengthen the muscle that allows you to deal with uncertainty and your comfort zone expands.

Maybe it’s time to start behaving like a subatomic particle. Where are those problematic instances of ‘uncertainty’ in your business that can wreak havoc (on the sale… on the outcome… on the experience) if not managed well?

And where can you find a little bit of positive uncertainty in your own life to help you expand?

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