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Warren Macdonald On Uncertainty

Warren Macdonald On Uncertainty

Warren Macdonald has climbed over obstacles most people cannot imagine. Having lost both of his legs from a freak accident while he was backpacking off the coast of Australia, Warren not only decided that his injuries wouldn’t slow him down―he decided they would propel him to new heights. Just ten months after the incident, Warren climbed Tasmania’s Cradle Mountain and later summited both Mount Kilimanjaro and El Capitan. Inspiring audiences to turn challenge into change, Warren’s talks foster the desire to seek opportunities and overcome obstacles. Below, Warren writes on uncertainty, and how shifting your perspective can change everything:

All of us feel stuck at some point in our lives, and it’s no wonder. The scientific community suggests that the average adult makes approximately 35,000 decisions each day…

Most of those decisions happen unconsciously, but often, bigger decisions have the capability to consume us; to overwhelm us.

So, what can we do about it?
How do we get unstuck?

We can start by asking “why?”.

  • Why do I want this to happen, or not?
  • What’s in it for me?
  • How does this situation affect myself and others?
  • What will happen if I say “no”?

Remember, perception is key. We need to see as complete a picture as possible when answering these questions and that often means looking through a different lens that the one we’ve been trained to look through.

Part of what causes our concern when faced with a difficult decision is the uncertainty that comes with it. You can go along way toward alleviating that uncertainty by digging deep into what it might look like if things don’t go the way you want them to.

What will it look like if this doesn’t work?
Imagine what it will feel like.

You might decide the downside is too great, that it’s not with the risk versus the reward, and if that’s the case, make your decision and move on. Remember, you’ve got another 34,999 decisions coming your way, and that’s just today..

Here’s a real life example for you.

In 1998, after climbing Cradle Mountain, a friend Gary Caganoff suggested I climb Federation Peak. I thought he was nuts, in the beginning… Over time I realised it was worth a shot, and began putting a plan together.

At the time I was working in an indoor rock climbing gym and my manager John, upon hearing of my plan said to me: “I think that’s a really bad idea.”

That’s not very supportive, I thought.
He continued:

“There’s an area up on the range called the Four Peaks. It’s a saw toothed section of range with absolutely no camping options. You won’t be able to get through there in one day, so I think it’s just a really bad idea. I think you’re biting off more than you can chew.”

Over the following days I considered John’s words carefully, then decided we we’re going anyway.
Here’s why.

I knew it would take me a couple of weeks to reach the Four Peaks.
By the time we reached the peaks, I would have learnt to navigate terrain unimaginable until encountered. I would be fortified by the experience of facing hardship with each and every step away from the comfort of home we take for granted.

I would be a different person by the time we reached the Four Peaks…

As expected, it did indeed take just over two weeks to reach the Four Peaks.
As expected, the terrain did indeed resemble a saw tooth.
When we weren’t climbing, we were descending.
There was almost no flat ground, definitely nowhere big enough to put up a tent; as John had relayed.

John knew the trail well, having been in there a dozen or more times.
And each time he saw through the same lens.
Do you think that lens included being on the lookout for a tiny piece of flat ground; a piece of ground just big enough for a guy who’s now 3’ 11” to lie down and sleep?


We can only see what we can see.

We can however change how we see.
If we’re prepared to look through a different lens, we can see through a new set of eyes.
We can see opportunity where others don’t.

If that opportunity passes the “why” test, we make our decision, and we go.

Warren Macdonald/May, 2016