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For over a decade, David Tian, Ph.D., has helped hundreds of thousands of people from over 87 countries find happiness, success, and fulfilment in their social, professional, and love lives. His presentations – whether keynotes, seminars, or workshops – leave clients with insights into their behaviour, psychology, and keys to their empowerment. His training methodologies are the result of over a decade of coaching and education of thousands of students around the world. Join him on the “DTPHD Podcast” as he explores deep questions of meaning, success, truth, love, and the good life. Subscribe now.
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HENRY CHONG is our special guest speaker on this episode. Henry is Director of Fusang Capital, a fund management company that manages the assets of multi-family offices. He is also a Director at the Portcullis Group, Asia’s biggest independent group of trust companies, providing comprehensive wealth administration to high-net-worth individuals, providing a one-stop shop for corporate, trustee, and fund administration services to individuals, family offices, philanthropies, private banks, and investment managers. Henry is a graduate of Oxford University with a B.A. (Hons) in Philosophy Politics & Economics and is a founder of the Oxford Economics Society. He also holds a M.Sc. in Behavioral Science from the London School of Economics and is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts (FRSC). He will be sharing with us from his deep insights in behavioral economics, finance, health, and psychology.
Connect with Henry here: http://henrychong.com/
DTPHD Podcast Episode 30 Show Notes:
2:24 How to define our needs for certainty and uncertainty in our lives
7:09 Why people are afraid of uncertainty
8:35 Understanding certainty and uncertainty through Campbell’s Jungian framework of the Hero’s Journey
11:49 What are the opportunities in this period of uncertainty?
17:49 How your life success is related to your threshold of uncertainty
22:16 The importance of setting limits amidst these opportunities
How to Find Certainty in Uncertain Times
David Tian Ph.D. and Henry Chong define what certainty and uncertainty is to people.
David Tian Ph.D. and Henry Chong explain why people are always seeking certainty in their lives.
There are still opportunities amidst uncertainty, David Tian Ph.D. and Henry Chong discuss what they are.
In this podcast episode, Dr. Tian and Henry Chong reveal how our threshold of uncertainty affects our pursuit of success.
Truth, love, and the good. Here we go.
David Tian Ph.D.: Welcome to the DTPHD Podcast. I’m David Tian, your host. And I’m joined by my very good friend and co-host Henry Chong. Henry, how are you?
Henry Chong: Hello, hello. I’m doing pretty good in Hong Kong now. We’re all hunkered down, I guess, wherever we are doing lots and lots of Zoom calls like this.
David Tian Ph.D.: Yes, right. And so, I’m in Taiwan across the street from Henry in Hong Kong. And actually, we’re just talking about how, as of today, the filming of this is March 27th, life is going on pretty much as usual outside our apartments, in the city or country itself, but of course, the borders are closed. So, there’s no in or out unless you’re a diplomat or something. But we’re very fortunate that these countries have stayed on top of things and we’re still doing Zoom. So, lots of Zooms because I have a lot of clients all over the world. And what we wanted to talk about today was uncertainty.
But before I do that, just in case you don’t know who we are, obviously my name is David Tian. For the past 13 years, I’ve been helping hundreds of thousands of people in over 87 countries attain success, happiness, and fulfillment in life and love as a coach and therapist. And Henry Chong, how about you tell them a little bit about yourself?
Henry Chong: Hi. Well, I am Henry Chong and I am the CEO of the Fusang Group. Fusang builds financial infrastructure for digital assets, and we today run Asia’s first fully digital stock exchange so that we can enable what I call “stakeholder capitalism.”
David Tian Ph.D.: We’re going to dive into the topic of uncertainty and certainty in this particularly uncertain times. How do we deal with all this uncertainty, and maintain our health, and happiness, mental health. And let’s dive in. We talked a lot over the years about our needs, about our universal human needs, our unmet needs driving our lives. And our motivations, just our thoughts and beliefs, and our feelings. So, very high among those needs are certainty, the needs for certainty, and uncertainties.
These are both universal human needs. And right now, in this time, because our usual way of life, or how we think about our lives has been thrown off kilter. So, many people are now thrown out of their normal routines of commuting to work and so on. And they’re wondering whether they all have work to return to. A lot of uncertainty swirling around. How do we deal with that? Henry, why don’t you start us off?
Henry Chong: I think it’s interesting first to define our terms and talk about what we mean by certainty and uncertainty. Because I think to a lot of people, that will sound like a contradiction. Tony Robbins likes to talk about variety in terms of uncertainty, right? We all have a need to have a sense of stability in our lives. We all have a need to feel safe and secure, to know what’s going on. But at the same time, we always have a need for variety. We want, you know, variety is the spice of life, and we don’t want every day to feel like the last. And you know, Tony Robbins always makes this joke about how we all say that we want variety, but not really. We all want the variety that we want. We want the things that we want and and enter the variety that comes that we don’t want, we call problems.
I think that’s what’s going on right now. There’s a huge amount of uncertainty in the world. And to most people, it is genuinely very scary in many dimensions. In terms of the economy, in terms of how healthcare systems are responding, in terms of how our governments are responding. And I think fair enough, that’s causing a lot of people to just feel, as we say, completely thrown off. You know, I think a lot of us are used to going about our lives, a lot of times, almost on autopilot. We just kind of go with the flow.
And certainly, once you get out of school and you start working, a lot of people just kind of fall into a routine, where that’s just what you do every day. You don’t really question it and you don’t really step back to really ask fundamental things like, “Hey, what do I really want out of life in the first place?” And so, when something like this that comes along, that unavoidably jaws you out of that usual life circumstances, I think a lot of people find that scary. And they’re not sure of what to do.
David Tian Ph.D.: Right now, thinking in terms of: How do you get more certainty back? So we got variety in the sense of – it’s uncertain in the way that we don’t want. And another way to think about it is, you’ve got too much variety. When your need for certainty is met, you might have too much certainty and then you start to act out, because now you need some variety. Now, we’ve got too much variety and we’re going back down to the more basic need of just basic security and certainty.
The thing is, something you mentioned before we started recording, Henry, is that, actually, many people’s lives aren’t that disrupted. It’s just that they have to now work from home. In fact, many people were already working from home like myself. And if you have a computer, and an internet connection, and you have UberEats, you’re already pretty much set. And it’s not so much that their daily routines are thrown off, or that their actual lives are now impacted, like right now, it’s that the future – in terms of preparing for the future, they don’t know how to prepare because they don’t know what is in store for the future.
Whereas before, it was relatively predictable. At three months in, maybe I’ll go up for a promotion, so I’m preparing for that, or I’m going to be at this event, or I’m looking forward to this vacation I booked. And you have an idea of what’s coming up, so you can get yourself ready for it. And now, we don’t know what’s coming up. And in fact, some people still – or maybe they’ve forgotten and maybe have never learned, exponential growth, or math. And so, they have trouble predicting mathematical outcomes, and growth curves, and just understanding those.
They’re surprised every week when it doesn’t just double, it will go by quadruple because it seems to double every two to three days. And it’s just they’re taken by surprise at this every time. And they’re having trouble predicting the future because they are not sure of what the trends are or how to extrapolate from there. And despite all of that – learn your math, but also, there are things right now that you have a lot of control over and can lead to your happiness, well-being, sense of stability, and give you that security, and help you meet your need for certainty right now, despite the uncertain future of not knowing how long your lockdown or your quarantine will be, perhaps, for your city or your country.
And having conflicting information from politicians, and policymakers, and doctors, and so on. Well, they’re conflicting each other, generally speaking. The medical community is pretty united against this. And what do you do about that? So, I have some ideas, but I’m going to throw it back to Henry first before we dive into these practical how tos.
Henry Chong: I’m going to leave the practical how tos to you and just pick up on something you said earlier about how… prospect theory, for example, shows us that humans are really bad at estimating low-probability, high-impact scenarios. We struggle to deal with that. We struggle to deal with exponential math. It’s just hard for human brains to grasp what exponential curves even look like. And that’s part of the reason why I think people are so afraid right now, they’re jarred. But honestly, I also think a lot of people are just afraid because real uncertainty – and uncertainty, if you talk to let’s say an economist doesn’t mean a risk curve.
It’s not I have two outcomes, it’s 50-50, so I don’t know which one is going to happen. Uncertainty is: I don’t even know what the range of outcomes is. And when that happens, especially when you’re in these new scenarios, that’s scary. Also because humans – the one thing that we fear above all else are things that we don’t quite understand or things that we can’t really see. In the army, the thing that people are most afraid of is never big rockets falling from the sky or explosions. It’s always snipers. It’s the idea that you’re walking in a forest and suddenly boom, you’re just dead, right? It’s kind of out of the blue.
I think that’s why viruses are so inherently scary. They are these things you can’t see. You don’t fully understand, and one day you just get sick. And to a lot of people, that’s very jarring. But maybe before we go in and talk about practical outcomes, I just want to talk about this idea of the hero’s journey. This is a very common concept in a lot of writing and storytelling about how there is a monomyth. There is this idea that a lot of stories and legends cycle or progress in a very similar way.
And you know, I think we can – maybe as a topic for another time, but the very start, the first step of the hero’s journey is always this dividing line between, they call “the ordinary world” and “the extraordinary world.” And the ordinary world is always this world in which everything just continues kind of how it always is. It’s the shire that the hobbits lived in in Lord of the Rings. It’s Harry Potter in his closet. It’s just how things were. And inevitably, something happens that jars the hero out of that ordinary world and into the extraordinary world, and sets them off on that path.
And the extraordinary world doesn’t always mean nice or fun. It’s usually filled with challenges, and obstacles, and things that the hero could never have imagined while living in the ordinary world. But there is always that call to action. There’s that threshold, that point in which he needs to decide whether or not he embarks on that journey. And the difference, the fundamental difference between the ordinary and the extraordinary world is that the hero decides to take agency over his whole life, his own life.
He no longer believes that his fate is something that just kind of happens to him, and he decides to instead impose his own will upon his life, and his destiny, and his outcome. And I find that really interesting because I personally believe that this period can be a very exciting period if you view it as opportunity. When things are just progressing along, when things are business as usual, nothing changes, right? There are no new opportunities. You just kind of continue with what is.
And certainly for us in our business, we see massive opportunities right now precisely because in this turmoil, and quite frankly in this chaos, there is the room for bold and dramatic moves if you are willing to take them. And I just thought of that in the sense of – just like with the hero, the call to action comes when you are not ready. It’s not like you’ve been preparing all your life, and when they decide to embark on an adventure, inevitably it was always forced upon people. It happens out of the blue and it’s entirely up to the hero to decide whether or not he accepts it. And usually, they always reject it at first. Always, before they finally seize their destiny and say, “You know what? This has happened. It is up to me to decide to step out of my comfort zone and embark on this whole new world.”
And the world, and life, will never look the same again. But of course, that journey of radical transformation all begins with that first step of deciding to take agency over your whole life.
David Tian Ph.D.: That’s amazing. Man, I don’t want to get into the how tos now after you brought it to the hero’s journey and Lord of the Rings. Okay, so what is an example of an opportunity that people – that somebody out there could see, from this period of uncertainty?
Henry Chong: There are radical transformations that will inevitably happen in terms of how we work because of this. You’ve already mentioned, digitization hopefully will be no surprise to anybody on this call. If you are listening to this on YouTube or wherever, the world has changed because of digitization. And before, a lot of people, remote work has become a way of life. For a lot of us, our entertainment comes on Netflix and half of our food comes from Deliveroo or what have you.
That world has just begun, and this virus I think has really emphasized that, hey, if you are not a digital business, for example, you better think long and hard about what that means. I think both of us run businesses that are fortunate enough that we are inherently digital by design. And so, while not great, this has not impacted our everyday operations and lives. I also see a lot of businesses where it’s effectively just been downed tools and everyone has just stopped because they literally can’t do anything.
And so, I think that, for one, this will dramatically accelerate this digitization process. But just more broadly, I think that the way in which people think holistically about work is going to start shifting as well. I mean, it’s been shifting for a long time. Right? No secret, and that will only accelerate. Us right here doing this Zoom call is a great example of that. And if you are willing and bold enough to just sit down and think about, “What could this mean? What opportunities could this period bring?” I think there will be many.
David Tian Ph.D.: Yes. One thing that’s been pretty exciting is as soon as the travel was restricted, certain art and cultural institutions started putting their collections online in a way that was more than just 2D, like looking through photos of precious paintings, but actually giving you a 360 VR type of experience even without a VR headset, like they do with Google location stuff. You can just look around and just… And actually, Google sent their technology in to scan the whole of the British Museum and places like this, and it’s amazing.
So, my family has been able to be ahead of the curve a bit, obviously from my own work, a lot of it is virtual, even my coaching and therapy practice. But even my eldest sister in Toronto, because my nephew is autistic, they’ve been homeschooling, and they’re way ahead of the curve. She actually was able to take his credits and graduations even faster than normal because of all of the different new opportunities that were listed online.
And F&B, for those restaurants that got savvy to a delivery-only style model of business, they’re way ahead of the curve on this now. There’s just so many interesting things that will happen as a result of this tragedy. And so many people are losing their lives in such sad, tragic ways, and just looking for any possible good that could come of it no matter what.
Henry Chong: Not just in terms of like refocusing of things. I actually think that if you use this as an opportunity to rethink how this could make things even better, there are a lot of opportunities. Even in our own business, I found that actually, holding meetings has become dramatically more efficient. I know for a fact that literally everyone is sitting at home. It’s not a question of just [INAUDIBLE 00:15:02]. When I happen to be in this city, I’ll try and meet with these people. I now need to ask myself, “If I could meet with anybody, who would I want to meet with? What is the absolute best and most productive use of my time?” Things like that.
And I’ve found that actually, it’s become a lot quicker in many cases, getting meetings with people, and pushing projects along precisely because now, you know that everyone’s free and in a click of a button, I can talk to you. I don’t have to wait for scheduling as much. And to bring it back briefly to the hero’s journey, as I said, at the beginning, the hero never wants to cross the threshold and leave the ordinary world, and always fights very hard to just keep things to go back to the way they were right: get rid of the problem so I can just go back to living my life in the status quo.
And it’s only when they cross the threshold, and they embark on that journey, and they realize that they have to leave the ordinary world behind, and that life will never be the same, that they go out and they find who they were always meant to be. And of course, the irony is, at the end of the hero’s journey, they almost always return home to where they began into that same original environment, but of course, with a changed person, right?
They’ve grown. They’ve acquired all these new skills. And so, even though they’re back to where they started, he said, “Life will never be the same again.” I’ll give an example from my own life. I mean, six months ago, we were trying to build out our stock exchange. It’s a huge project. We were talking to a lot of people who said, “Nah. We don’t really need digital. The ones we have work fine.” As long as everything continues, who cares? Everything’s going great now, the stock markets are roaring. Why do we need all this block chain technology nonsense?
And then six months later, it’s like well, a lot of stock exchanges have suspended operations temporarily. You can’t go to floors anymore. A lot of people don’t realize just how paper-based so many things in our world and our financial markets are until something like this happens that irrevocably jars people out of that mode. And they suddenly say, “Oh, okay. I guess we do need a purely digital mode of doing things.”
That’s why, quite frankly, we’re so excited about this period. We think that if we are willing to take bold and committed action in this time… It is a time of unparalleled opportunity, because there is so much disruption unlike previous market cycles. This is not just a regular boom-and-bust demand cycle. This is more like a very short-term shock, but the shock has happened to just fundamentally how people are working and living. And I really think that this will reshape the fabric of our society in a way that previous cycles have not.
And like I said, if you are willing to grab onto this opportunity with both hands, I really think that when the dust settles in, I don’t think it’ll be Easter, it could be a lot longer than that. I think that actually there’ll be some amazing opportunities for people.
David Tian Ph.D.: Yeah, so there’s a great opportunity to take this time now to not just Netflix and chill and bore yourself to death, but to take advantage of the internet and all the learning that can happen, and to just retool, and skill up, and level up. Henry and I both benefited from training by the Tony Robbins Research Corporation or whatever they’re called, Tony Robbins training.
And one of the things that I’ve taken away from that is that your, I think Tony Robbins said this that your success in business is proportional to how wide your threshold of uncertainty is, how much uncertainty you can put up with, and in fact even enjoy, is going to directly impact your success not just in business, but in life in general, in terms of just success, how much you win. And since that time, I heard that a few years ago, I’ve been trying to actively increase my own threshold for uncertainty, which compared to my entrepreneur friends, is pretty narrow.
And over the years, I’ve gotten more and more. But part of the way to deal with that is – and let’s get into a few how to practical things to leave with people, is to establish a bedrock of certainty. So, you’ve got – financially, you have some tucked-away emergency funds. You have some reserves, and then you also then – you’ve done the math to figure out how much that should be for you and your family. And then you also have some daily routine. So, one of the things about people who are dealing with a lot of uncertainty, is that in their day-to-day lives, they have a relatively regimented schedule, or that there are things that they hit as waypoints in their day that would just sort of ground them and bring them back into the zone.
And right now, people are thrown off because maybe their schedule gave them lots of excuses not to go to the gym or not to meditate, because they’re rushing to work, and have to do that 20 or 40-minute commute to work. Now, they don’t have to and now they’re faced with all this extra time. And they think it’s driving them crazy. So, I’ve heard that too, “I can’t sit still.” Well, use this time not being able to sit still to do something. Do other activities that don’t require you to leave the house.
Henry Chong: But exponential math looks both ways.
David Tian Ph.D.: Establish those daily routines and then you establish a home fitness routine.
Henry Chong: Exponential math looks both ways. They don’t have to be crazy leaps. I think too many people focus on that. “I need this one-time bold action.” It’s much more about the daily increase or the daily decrease. I think we’ve talked about this in the past, right? All you need to do is make that 1% shift. Just do something that pushes you a little bit outside your comfort zone today, that gives you a little bit of uncertainty. If you compound that over time, small 1% changes really add up. If you make a 1% improvement every day for 365 days, you will be 38 times different or better than you were today. I mean, again…
Exponential math works both ways and people don’t quite understand that. The tiniest of shifts compounded over time really, really add up.
David Tian Ph.D.: Yes, positive exponential growth. Yeah, everyone should be hitting some way to take care of their fitness, and their health, and body. So, get that physical routine in there. Get your meditation or mindfulness routine in there and double down on it. Now, you have the luxury of maybe another 10 minutes. And then of course, learning online. I do lots of courses online. I do them myself, and I also offer them. So, go check out our website davidtianphd.com for that. But also, limiting time on those things that will suck you in.
For instance, learning about – or just keeping track of all the ever-changing stats on coronavirus cases and deaths from all around the world and reading all the tragic stories. I know for about two weeks, I totally didn’t expect Italy and Spain to go the way they did, and it was just so tragic. I was just floored for two weeks just reading about this and just even thinking. You see these numbers creeping up, and you know that this is somebody’s grandfather or grandmother, something like that.
And then hearing about how then the doctors had to choose between who to give the respirator to, just these things that you would think are just horrific, that would be a wartime decision. And you’re like, “We have that here in Asia and it didn’t get to these. How did this happen?” Anyways, I got sucked into that. I was spending three or four hours probably a day, not even realizing it. Now, I’ve discovered since – about a week ago, but definitely during quarantine here, that I really have to say, it’s one of those things when I first discovered the power of social media.
And I’ve got over thousands of friends now, and you can scroll endlessly through the news feed, that you’ve got to just put a stop to this. We also have needs for limits. This is a universal and human need, the need for limits. And you give yourself bounded time. Like, you know you want to check in on the news, but check in on this amount of time only. So, you give yourself that, and then you got to get on with your day, and do your thing, and then come back and check on it maybe later.
And it’s just one of those things that I notice a lot of people are getting sucked into pointless online debates on Twitter or whatever. And these are people who have absolutely no power to influence anything, and they’re just upsetting themselves for no reason. So, just putting limits on the things that are not going to do well for you, or do you well, and then to invest time in those things that will compound over the long term, and do very good things in your life, and get you closer to your goals. Any last thoughts, Henry, as we wrap up here?
Henry Chong: No, maybe just to echo two things I’ve been talking about that as scary as it is, sometimes crossing that threshold from the ordinary world to the extraordinary world, and just taking that first step is all you need. And understanding the power of compounding overtime, right? The difference between 1% increase and 1% decrease every single day is phenomenal. And maybe just one final thing is that nothing in life is ever static. We like to pretend often that it is, but it never is. You’re always growing or you’re dying: things are progressing or not. You are always going in a positive or a negative direction every aspect of your life, and I think it’s worth being very conscious of that.
And looking at the different aspects of your life and saying, “Well, which ones are trending up and which ones are trending down? What can I do to just push it and just that 1% so it’s going in the right direction?” And if I can sustain that effort over time, which requires often a lot more courage I think than people realize, you will end up in a year’s time in a radically different place, in a radically different world than we live in now.
David Tian Ph.D.: Yeah, that’s great man. And I’ll leave you with one thought: The threshold of uncertainty, as you can expand your threshold of uncertainty and your comfort there, you can find more opportunities in the midst of crisis. So, look out for that. And thanks so much for listening, and for joining us, for watching. We will look forward to meeting you again in the next episode. Henry, how do they get a hold of you?
Henry Chong: You can look for me at my personal website at henrychong.com or find out more about our company, fusang.co. Look for us on social media at TeamFusang.
David Tian Ph.D.: Excellent, and you can find out more about me at davidtianphd.com. Look forward to connecting with you, and thanks so much for listening and watching. Until next time, signing out, thank you so much, Henry.
Henry Chong: Take care.
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