Reducing uncertainty or seeking perfection?

Our educational system grades students on a scale of 0 to 100. If you know everything and do everything well, you can get a score of 100. And that’s a perfect score.

Operating in this paradigm, intelligent and motivated students seek perfection. Perfection is attainable and the path to reaching it is clear. There is a certain right answer to each problem, and you just have to provide it for each problem on the test. You train your mind to pursue certainty because you know that if you discover certainty repeatedly, you’ll reach perfection. And since perfection is attainable, if you don’t reach it, you’ll be left behind someone else who does.

This paradigm doesn’t extend to life or business. In life and business, there is no certainty. There are only probabilities of particular outcomes which you can influence by taking particular actions. Taking actions to change these probabilities leads to the reduction of uncertainty, not its removal. Uncertainty is always there, and perfection is therefore not attainable.

The move from education to life and business represents a big paradigm shift. It requires changing your mindset from one that accepts certainty as default and therefore seeks perfection to one that accepts uncertainty as default and attempts to gradually reduce this uncertainty.

Because of the different paradigms which govern the education world and the life and business worlds, success in one doesn’t necessarily translate into success in the other. Knowing which paradigm you’re operating under and whether it’s the right one for what you’re doing is the first step to achieving success, and the resulting happiness, in what you’re doing.

Also published on Medium.