The Power of Certainty – The Winner’s Edge

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“If you develop the absolute sense of certainty that powerful beliefs provide, then you can get yourself to accomplish virtually anything, including those things that other people are certain are impossible.” – William Lyon Phelps

Certainty is a double edge sword. It can propel someone to incredible heights as it can stifle knowledge and enlightenment. The sense of certainty is necessary when daring is essential and the bar is raised to the limit. But that same sense of certainty will also close the mind to what could be important and vital input.

Like any power tool, certainty, used at the right time and for the right purpose, can be extremely effective. However, when overused or misused it can do a lot more harm than good.

The best metaphor to represent how certainty should be used can be found in the Olympic diver. First, the athlete will stand on the board and reflect on every aspect of the dive that he is about to perform. Once that it is done, all doubts are put aside, complete certainty sets in and the dive is executed with perfect confidence.

It could be said that there are two types of certainty. There would be certainty in action and certainty in conviction. Certainty in action is the type of certainty that is needed when the planning and reflection has been done and the time for execution has come. That is the certainty that has been called, “The Winner’s Edge.”

On the other hand, certainty in conviction is anathema to the open mind attitude. Certainty in conviction transforms a belief into a dogma. That is, into something that stands on faith alone and is not subject to investigation.

To learn, develop and grow, we need to question everything. Robert Persig said, “Some scientific truths seem to last for centuries, others for les than a year. Scientific truth is not dogma, good for eternity, but a temporal quantitative entity that can be studied like anything else.”

Self-actualization requires an open mind attitude about everything. The instant that certitude about anything steps in, further learning relative to that subject automatically stops. In the thinking process, an inquisitive doubt is always superior to a naive certitude.

On the other hand, when action time has struck, boldness is the order of the day. No more time for doubts and misgivings. Those should already have been taken care off during the planning process. Once the mind is made-up, there is no space or time for hesitation or uncertainty. It’s time to act.

There may be certainty on intent and objective but not necessarily on ways and means. In other words, certainty may applies to the confidence in reaching an objective but not necessarily in the course of action that will be taken to reach that objective. A General may be absolutely certain and confident that he will win the war but he many not be certain what tactics will have to be employed to do it.

Certainty, though not often seen as such, is actually an emotion. An emotion that can provide untold energy when properly harnessed. That energy in many cases can spell the difference between success and failure. Today’s battles are not won by country miles but by split inches. That is why every resource available must be used and exploited; and that includes certainty.

In the Art of War, Sun Tzu says, “The good fighters of old first put themselves beyond the possibility of defeat, and then waited for an opportunity of defeating the enemy.” That, in a nutshell, is what certainty is all about.

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