Suspend Your Certainty – Your Way Isn’t The Only Way…and Yet…

October 2, 2023

I have been lucky enough to spend time recently in a travel medicine clinic. I say lucky, as since COVID, I am now again heading back on the road internationally to do work abroad. Last month I was working with four schools in Singapore. This month I attend the AISA Conference in Nairobi at the International School of Kenya. I am really excited to head back to the region, even when the travel medicine doc needs to talk to me about the Zika virus, Dengue Fever, Rabies, etc. I am happy to get a typhoid shot. Strange but true.

I find my ‘getting out’ to be an essential part of living my best life and a life that has an increased awareness of others. Suspending my certainty that I have the right way to live or the best country in which to do so is a stretch at my learning edges.

My brother doesn’t like traveling in airplanes. My aunt worries about me going away. Some of my friends find it too taxing to travel or they express concerns about the locations I might be going to – as a woman traveling alone or because of their impressions of the places I visit. The messages that we receive in the USA can make the rest of the world seem scary.

What I am also finding interesting is the travel warnings that other countries are now alerting their citizens to about traveling TO the USA. Such as:

Canada issues travel advisory warning over U.S. states’ LGBTQ+ Laws.

What travel warnings do other nations give their citizens about US violence?

And as an aside, Germany, along with their warnings about gun violence, also does caution their citizens to remember the USA is not as open to the free body culture vibe as their home country. No skinny dipping allowed in most parts of the USA in public pools, for example.

I am headed to Miami to do a workshop for international schools coming to my country from around the Caribbean, and Central and South America. I find myself issuing my own travel advisory about wearing masks during conference sessions as I am heading abroad right after the conference with a boyfriend who is immune-compromised and with a wish to stay healthy for my next excursion. Yet I cannot count on COVID not rearing its head in that state, even more so than my own.

In Stretching Your Learning Edges: Growing (Up) at Work, I write about the need in our field to suspend certainty. To remain open to multiple possibilities and multiple points of view. To not rush to judgment. Suspending certainty requires acknowledging that you could be wrong. You begin to recognize that your judgments, beliefs, ideas, and behaviors are grounded in your world view and it is just that, a world view, not the only one.

Yet suspending certainty doesn’t mean that you must entirely let go of your knowledge on a given subject. Nor does suspending certainty or being intellectually humble require you to be okay with intolerance or expressions or acts of violence, or to racism, homophobia, or any other unacceptable action which goes against our collective social contract.

Yes, we need to grow our mental muscles to mentally rotate opinions and perspectives to view them from more than one angle; to prod and push against them to determine whether they are solid and have merit. Those here in the USA need to see our country from many other perspectives and we need to know our way of living isn’t always the right way. And others should do the same. Up to a point.

Stretching your mind isn’t easy. Yet being overly defensive isn’t productive. Most importantly, separate your ideas from your identity (and your ego) from new information and your intellectual development. Not easy, but worth the stretch. See you on the road!

If you have any questions, comments, or suggestions please feel free to email me at I look forward to hearing from you.

Cool Resources

Compassionate Leadership by Rasmus Hougaard and Jacqueline Carter et al. “A global pandemic, economic volatility, natural disasters, civil and political unrest. From New York to Barcelona to Hong Kong, it can feel as if the world as we know it is coming apart. Through it all, our human spirit is being tested. Now more than ever, it’s imperative for leaders to demonstrate compassion.

But in hard times like these, leaders need to make hard decisions—deliver negative feedback, make difficult choices that disappoint people, and in some cases lay people off. How do you do the hard things that come with the responsibility of leadership while remaining a good human being and bringing out the best in others? Most people think we have to make a binary choice between being a good human being and being a tough, effective leader. But this is a false dichotomy. Being human and doing what needs to be done are not mutually exclusive. In truth, doing hard things and making difficult decisions is often the most compassionate thing to do.

As founder and CEO of Potential Project, Rasmus Hougaard and his longtime coauthor, Jacqueline Carter, show in this powerful, practical book, you must always balance caring for your people with leadership wisdom and effectiveness.”

Never Enough: When Achievement Culture Becomes Toxic -And What We Can Do About It by Jennifer Breheny Wallace. “In the ever more competitive race to secure the best possible future, today’s students face unprecedented pressure to succeed. They jam-pack their schedules with AP classes, fill every waking hour with resume-padding activities, and even sabotage relationships with friends to “get ahead.” Family incomes and schedules are stretched to the breaking point by tutoring fees and athletic schedules. Yet this drive to optimize performance has only resulted in skyrocketing rates of anxiety, depression, and even self-harm in America’s highest achieving schools. Parents, educators, and community leaders are facing the same quandary: how can we teach our kids to strive towards excellence without crushing them?

In Never Enough, award-winning reporter Jennifer Breheny Wallace investigates the deep roots of toxic achievement culture, and finds out what we must do to fight back.”