The Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle and a Nerd Joke to Boot!

Nerd joke:

Heisenberg is pulled over for speeding.  The cop asks him “Do you know how fast you were going?”  Heisenberg replies, “No, but I know where I am.” (insert laugh)

The Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle: that we may not know the position and momentum of a particle at the same time.  It’s true of lots of things in our lives, our careers, our businesses.  It was true today, this afternoon, sitting in a client’s office following a training seminar.  The company is 44 years old.  The current owner purchased it in 2008.  It’s nearly doubled its revenue year after year since 2008.  They’re doing very well.  A vendor sent the owner to South Africa for a vacation.  He showed me pictures.

Sitting in a deep leather chair, staring at his growing collection of articles and awards, I asked him: “You look like things are going great and your forecast for this year as well as a super strong first quarter are all lining up…why do you need someone like me?”  (Note: Never ask that question unless  you have at least a couple really credible answers).

The gentleman closed a slide show filled with pictures of great white sharks he saw off the coast of Cape Town and gave me a direct answer: “We know we can’t stay like this forever, and we’re smart enough to know that there’s a lot out there we don’t know.  That’s why we invited you in this week.”  Position and momentum.  It’s impossible to understand both simultaneously.  Simply impossible.  “Plus, we don’t necessarily follow a fixed plan.  We know what’s working now but we also know that’s changing too.”

It strikes me that a new small business model (and maybe a big business model too) is defined by an unknown future with a variety of alternatives.  Positional thinking, staying put, preserving “what works,” is a rigid way to cling on to a safety net or tradition that doesn’t exist like it used to exist.  Respect, sir, for your acceptance that you cannot stay in one place and move forward at the same time.

Extend it further.  To our lives, our aspirations, our complacencies, our dreams.  Maybe the dreams are an attempt to stay on one place and move forward at the same time.  To carry the present, in its best form, in to an aspired future.  To have the best of both worlds.  It never works.  It can’t.  This moment is decayed the instant these words are typed and finished.  Instead, embrace momentum and accept velocity and learn to love uncertainty rather than avoid it.  As my client illustrated, it works out in a damn fine manner.


5 responses

  1. Even though it’s implausible to want to simultaneously stay in one place and strike for a new future, it’s still ingrained in us. We want to be safe. We want to reach new heights. We want it all. But as you state, that’s not impossible. So embrace it. Got it.

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