Confident Uncertainty

There is a difference between confidence and certainty.

Certainty is when we have 100% confidence – we are utterly convinced that we are right. We’ve done all the research, and all our information is completely correct and undeniable … this 100% confidence shuts down conversation. Certainty closes doors – it stops people disagreeing with you. And it closes you to other – possibly better – options.

Confidence is important, otherwise we can just end up procrastinating … but if we want the people around us to be at their best, then we have to give them space to voice their opinions. We all have to be open to the possibility that while we might be confident, we might also be wrong.

In her interview with Shane Parrish, professional poker player Annie Duke suggests putting a number on your level of confidence – saying something like “I’m about 70% confident on this”. This lets the other person know that yes, I think I’m heading in the right direction here – but I’m open to other ideas and opinions, too. It can also help us to voice ideas we are less confident about – “Look, I’m only about a 3/10 on it, but what about if we try this?”

As well as giving us a way to measure our confidence in relation to other people, being more specific like this forces us to think more deeply about our opinions and where they came from. Have we really thought them through, or is this actually a bit of a guess?

I’m not sure it’s possible to be 100% about anything – the only thing I’m certain of, is that I’m not certain of anything! [The Socratic Paradox – I know that I know nothing]. There are no ideas I can think of that are universally accepted by every single person on the planet, which probably means we should be cautious of the moments when we feel 100% confident in our beliefs, ideas and opinions.

I’m about 80% on this. What about you?!