Gabriel Mizrahi (@GabeMizrahi) takes a deep dive with us into one of life’s scariest constants: instability. We’ll discuss why it’s crucial for personal growth and how to embrace what it has to offer rather than trying to outrun its transient discomforts.
“Instability isn’t just a thing we need to deal with in life — it is life.” -Gabriel Mizrahi
What We Discuss in This Deep Dive:
- No matter how stable life might seem at any given moment, we should always count on one constant: instability. Change — whether big or small — is inevitable.
- Rather than trying to avoid or expel the uncertainty we experience in moments of instability, we should be taking notes and learning from it.
- At its core, uncertainty is really a function of how much information we have versus how much information we want.
- Uncertainty makes unpleasant events more unpleasant, but it also makes pleasant events more pleasant.
- Why you should trust that uncertainty exists to serve you.
- And much more…
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“If I knew then what I know now” is one of the most common things we say when we think back on times in our lives that didn’t go according to plan. With the clarity of hindsight, we bemoan the missteps of our past selves and wish we could spare them whatever unpleasantness they’re about to endure along the path that leads to us. But the real lesson we should take from this is that instability — while momentarily uncomfortable and disorienting — is crucial in order for us to grow.
Longtime friend and sagely screenwriter Gabriel Mizrahi joins us for this deep dive on The Jordan Harbinger Show to explain how we can embrace and learn from the instability that life inevitably throws our way rather than trying to hide from or banish it in favor of a more comfortable, predictable, and — let’s face it — stagnant existence. Listen, learn, and enjoy!
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More About This Show
Life is full of surprises.
Longtime listeners of the podcast Jordan did for 11 years are slowly making their way over to this one as they learn about its existence. Subscribed to the old podcast, they were left wondering what happened when a show that had been running like clockwork for over a decade suddenly stopped without warning.
In fact, the abrupt migration was one of life’s aforementioned surprises not only to the audience, but to Jordan himself.
And while countless friends and colleagues insist that he’s going to look back on this time as “the best thing that ever happened” to him as he builds this podcast from the ground up, Jordan acknowledges he’s going through a lot of uncertainty while dealing with the instability of the situation.
“In my brain, and I know in the brains of anyone listening who’s ever been through a scary situation — whether it’s a health scare or a business scare — it doesn’t make you feel any better, damn it!” says Jordan.
But just because instability doesn’t always feel great while it’s happening, trying to extricate ourselves from the discomfort isn’t only ill-advised — it’s likely impossible.
The question we ask ourselves during times like this shouldn’t be “How do I get rid of or reduce instability?” Better: “What can I do with the uncertainty this instability presents?” or “How do I become better at dealing with the instability?”
What Is Instability?
The economist Frank H. Knight defined instability in terms of information — the uncertainty we feel when confronted with instability comes about because we don’t have enough information about the situation at hand.
“It’s really a function of how much information we get to have at this moment versus how much information we wish we had to make the decisions we want to make,” says Gabriel. “The gap between those two is where instability and the feelings of instability actually arise.”
If we think of information as food that our brain craves and consumes, it makes sense that we feel uncomfortable when we’re not getting enough information to chew on. So if we can resist being assaulted by the emotions that accompany such deprivation and recognize that what we’re feeling is a function of how much information we have versus how much information we want, we have a place to begin managing our response to instability.
The Uncertainty Intensification Hypothesis
The uncertainty we feel in response to instability stresses us out. But how does the anticipation we feel in response to something we view as a more benign instability — like going on a vacation or getting married — make us feel?
It turns out there’s a scientific explanation. Yoav Bar-Anan, Timothy D. Wilson, and Daniel T. Gilbert proposed the uncertainty intensification hypothesis in a 2009 paper based on studies suggesting that while uncertainty makes unpleasant events more unpleasant, it also makes pleasant events more pleasant.
In other words, uncertainty isn’t itself a problem — it merely amplifies our current circumstances, good or bad.
When you’re feeling uncertain in a situation of instability, try this exercise (with a journal if possible).
First, realize that this uncertainty is born because your information-hungry brain wants all the data. But since you can’t get all the data, your brain is just doing what it’s evolved to do. Accept the uncertainty.
Second, while accepting that you’re probably not going to get all the information your brain craves, evaluate the frame of your current circumstance. The uncertainty is amplifying certain feelings about the circumstance, but it’s not the circumstance itself.
What We Learned About Coping with Instability and Uncertainty
Here’s a recap of what we learned in this conversation. If you want some helpful reminders of what you can do to cope with instability and uncertainty, jot these down in a journal or print out this page and stick it to your fridge with a magnet.
- Believing that we’re above uncertainty or that we’ve evolved past it is the first mistake. So realize that instability isn’t just a thing we need to deal with in life — it is life.
- Recognize uncertainty as a function of the information gap that happens when the brain wants more information than it can actually get. Remember that the brain doesn’t care if that information is additive or correct or necessary for what we need to do right now — it just craves information for information’s sake.
- It’s not uncertainty itself that’s bad — it’s the conditions uncertainty creates that amplify the good or the bad.
- The journey we’re on isn’t necessarily one of recreating past times of stability, but adapting to the current instability in a way that creates a life we might not have even imagined.
“We might as well embrace it and come along for the ride.” says Gabriel. “Because at the end of the day, the biggest mental shift we can make…is this idea that we can call it uncertainty or instability — or we can think of it as possibility.
“Most of us are trying to chase after happiness because we think happiness is stability, but I think what we’re really after…is meaning and significance. That is a lot more interesting in the long run.”
THANKS, GABRIEL MIZRAHI!
If you enjoyed this deep dive with Gabriel Mizrahi, let him know by clicking on the link below and sending him a quick shout out at Twitter:
And if you want us to answer your questions on one of our upcoming weekly Feedback Friday episodes, drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Resources from This Episode:
- Risk, Uncertainty, and Profit by Frank H. Knight
- The Feeling of Uncertainty Intensifies Affective Reactions (The Uncertainty Intensification Hypothesis) by Yoav Bar-Anan, Timothy D. Wilson, and Daniel T. Gilbert
- Frighteningly Ambitious Startup Ideas by Paul Graham