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Embrace Uncertainty to Be More Certain

  • March 10, 2017
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Embrace Uncertainty to Be More Certain

Sometimes moments of clarity strike with little notice.

I was listening to an interview that discussed how we are most comfortable when a decision comes down to one or the other. Yes or no, black or white, good or bad. These are the decisions we prefer as opposed to the much more common gray, subtle, hmmm.

You’re not going to find a lot in this world that is a one-dimensional choice. Life is complicated. There are different angles to consider, a plethora of factors. Because this requires a little effort, it becomes easier to dismiss the other side outright.

The Lazy Binary

The guy on the radio referred to the practice of quickly dismissing the value in subtlety as the ‘Lazy Binary.‘ (Just in case you don’t know, binary is the series of 0’s and 1’s which provides the basis for digital communication.)  This idea is brilliant, I thought. It’s applicable to pretty much anything, and it really resonates every day in the real estate industry:

  • “I could NEVER live in _______ (The Museum District or Shockoe Bottom or Carytown)”
  • “The Zestimate says $300,000, so I’m not paying a dime more.”
  • “All city schools are bad.”
  • “I heard this isn’t a good place to live.”
  • “I will only get a 30-year mortgage.”
  • “Condos are too risky.”
  • “I would never pay mortgage insurance”

I hear these statements or something like them day in and day out. And every time, I think “this is a person who is going to pay for being so closed-minded.”

We Have All Done It

Seriously, even I can point to myself in this regard. We all do it. Every day. From technology to techniques to trends, we are presented with an obscene amount of decisions we must make each and every day.  When something different comes down the pike, uncertainty comes with it. And we’re not comfortable with that. So we avoid it.

By doing this, we miss out on the chance to learn something new, do something better. We deny ourselves a new skill. This is what we mean by the Lazy Binary.

How to Break the Cycle

As a Realtor, there is both good and bad to having a client come in with conviction (I want 3 bedrooms in the Fan with a garage and that’s it). The good is often outweighed by the bad.

A true search forces one to think about the forces behind initial preferences. A narrowly defined search tends to introduce doubt. I think there’s a better way. In fact, I know it. Setting broad parameters and being open to possibility generally leads to some surprise and very often a fantastic result. A smart but open search gets all the info out in the open. It removes the uncertainty that decision makers have when they’re too convinced that they know exactly what they want…because what if they’re wrong.

A good search eliminates that nagging little voice of uncertainty. A great search might still lead a client to where he or she thought she was going, but they gets there with confidence.


Here’s the deal: be careful with the “Lazy Binary.” Especially when it pertains to some kind of real estate search, and more so in its early stages. Give everything the opportunity to be true.

So much is changing, and at incredible speed. With this change comes new construction techniques, evolving neighborhood values, new financing products. Home buying is so different now from where it was even five years ago. That’s why every buyer should stay open to all the options. It’s okay to have some biases and assumptions, but make sure you haven’t tattooed them on your arm. Be open and you’ll make better decisions, I promise.

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