We’re told that uncertainty is the enemy. The market hates uncertainty and yet as investor/philanthropist George Soros contends, ”money is made by discounting the obvious and betting on the unexpected” (Soros, 2021) I don’t think it would be a stretch to suggest that humanity has not gone through a period of uncertainty quite like it has in the past 20 months. However one of the upsides of this is that we have had to become friends with uncertainty.
I live in the province of Alberta, Canada, by some measures, the worst jurisdiction in the world in terms of Covid 19 case counts per capita and pandemic management. As I write this in late September 2021, my employer, the Southern Alberta Institute of Technology has dutifully attempted to follow the yo-yo pattern of regulations set out by the Government of Alberta, with regards to Covid 19 response. Which is to say…a pattern of uncertainty.
But while faculty, such as myself, has been grumbling about the uncertainty of it all, guess who seems totally comfortable with it? Students. Yes those students. The same Gen Z’s, the snowflakes we have ridiculed since they began gracing our classrooms over the past 10 years. Those whose resilience we questioned, whose creativity we doubted and who’s character we called into question, When I shared the news over a virtual class, that we would be returning to in-person classes after only 2 days online, I could feel the enthusiasm through the screens which separated us. By contrast, earlier in the day, as a participant in a virtual town hall hosted by my department’s dean, the tone struck there was one of dread, doom and fear. I should know. I was a vocal participant.
I am neither ashamed nor proud of the position I took in voicing my concerns over what I still believe is a somewhat premature about-face to face-to-face. I thought we would have given ourselves a little more time to consider some of the implications of making vaccination verification mandatory for entry on to campus. I’m still not entirely certain that I will not be given a QR code reader to scan phone screens of students as they enter my classroom. But I have to say I am buoyed by the majority of students I’ve encountered who have adopted a "damn the torpedoes" attitude, when it comes to the uncertainty of the situation. Just when we had them pegged as dispassionate, unengaged, iPhone-gazing “kids these days”, they have demonstrated a character trait to which we should all aspire. Uncertainty is the reality. Uncertainty is the norm. Run with it, or be paralyzed by it.
I’ll close with an excerpt from a threaded conversation between myself and a SAIT student on Linkedin. She had posted about the sacrifice she had made to uproot her family from the Phillipines to study at SAIT, and had shared her unbridled joy at the opportunity to learn in person on our magnificent campus. The day after her post, SAIT announced it would be closing in compliance with our government’s mandate. Following the shut-down directive I wrote a response to her post, celebrating her initiative, resilience and character, and encouraging her to keep the faith. This was her response to my comment.
"I understand that the health and safety of the community is paramount, so I can just be thankful to have experienced attending classes on campus for the past two weeks. It may not be clear which direction we will take moving forward due to the unpredictable provincial guidelines but I know that we will all remain hopeful that we can all safely go back to campus again."
The student’s name is Grace, fittingly enough. Talk about living your brand.
Character is what I call the “power of choice” competency among the 8 pillar competencies I evangelize in my book, “The Daily Undoing: Being Better at Being Human”. It is neither a skill, nor an attitude. It is both, along with a lifetime’s accumulation of knowledge. We all have character. How do we choose to use it? If you’re like me, and find yourself from time to time, humbled by the character of someone younger than yourself, you are forgiven. Keep practicing. Here’s one of my favorite activities to practice character from the book.
Best Wishes at Being Better
Soros, G. (2021, September 18). Brainy Quote. Retrieved from Brainy Quote: https://www.brainyquote.com/topics/uncertainty-quotes