East Berlin, Madonna, and the New Age of Uncertainty

Welcome to East Berlin, 1989. November 10th was the day after the Wall came down. A day filled with justifiable euphoria. But along with the excitement came an emotion that was very much unfamiliar in East Berlin.


Life in East Berlin had a great deal of certainty. Oppressive political regimes always do a “great” job of clearly defining responsibilities and expectations for their citizens. But with the collapse of the Wall, the responsibilities and expectations in place for 28 years collapsed as well. The rules suddenly changed and no one knew what the new rules were.


Fast forward to now…the Free World, 2011. So where did all the rules go? You know, the rules of how life was supposed to work. The so-called “social contract” that laid out for us what we’d get in return for what we gave. The social contract that we built our lives and expectations on.

Welcome to the New Age of Uncertainty.

I’m not sure how we got here, but here we are. In life it really doesn’t matter where you are, it matters where you’re going. The New Age of Uncertainty presents us with two options. We can choose to not accept the new uncertainty, hoping that the world will come to its collective senses and go back to how things were. Or we can choose to accept the reality of uncertainty and best prepare ourselves to work and live in such an environment.

I don’t see the world going back in time. Do you?

The problem with uncertainty is it’s so uncertain. Life no longer happens on our terms. Uncertainty forces us to realize that we are no longer in complete control. We never were, but the relative predictability of life gave us the false sense that we were in control.

That being said, there is something reassuring about uncertainty. Life’s unpredictability becomes predictable. Change does become the constant. We can’t define the new rules, perhaps because the only rule may be that there are no rules. Some are waiting for what is broken to be repaired. After all, that’s how it’s always worked. It just doesn’t work that way anymore.

Accepting the certainty of uncertainty is the first crucial step of navigating these suddenly uncharted waters of life.

The good news is that we are all fully equipped to thrive in the New Age of Uncertainty. We just may have to act like Madonna.

Madonna is know as the Queen of Reinvention. Throughout her career she has been able to remain relevant by adapting to the ever-changing environment of pop culture. Madonna circa 1982 is not the same Madonna we see today. She has evolved and changed as the world has changed around her. For us, too, the lesson is to embrace our own evolution, to reinvent and to retool, especially when it comes to attitude and expectations.

Change, even if cleverly disguised as evolution, is often accompanied by doubt. At times we question our own capacity to evolve. But when we look back upon our lives, all we’ve ever done is evolve.

Our journey, from our embryonic beginnings to where we are today, has been filled with physical, emotional, and intellectual changes. Change is really nothing new for us. Our lives provide all the evidence needed to prove our capacity to evolve, giving us no reason to doubt our ability to meet the new and at times difficult challenges of the New Age of Uncertainty.

The uncertainty that surrounds us is no match for the certainty within us.

The certainty that comes when we embrace our inherently evolutionary nature.

It’s a great day to be you!

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