On uncertainty

by Andrew Wien


Posted on November 24, 2020


On uncertainty
On uncertainty:

I am on a road trip with my wife and 3 month old son. We drove from Colorado to New York to introduce him to family, and we are now in Chicago making the drive back.

​The timing of this trip has not been ideal. We entered New York the day after visitors were required to quarantine for 14 days. We drove through Pennsylvania shortly before elections. We have been in Chicago this week as the votes are counted.


This trip comes with a lot of uncertainty. What if COVID becomes so bad that states close their borders, and we can’t get home? What if the violence after the election is so bad that we are trapped in Chicago?

While these scenarios were theoretically possible, they were extremely unlikely. It is easy to say that now, retrospectively. It was not easy before. We replayed these scenarios over and over in our minds until we felt like they might actually happen. It was exhausting and unhelpful.

What unlikely scenario are you replaying over and over and over again in your mind?

Remember that there is a wide range of possibilities, some good, and some bad. Rather than focusing exclusively on the worst-case outcomes, can you hold them all in your mind?

If you like math, then best to hold the “expected value” of all possible outcomes in your head 😊.

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