9. Uncertainty

Letters to Students and Parents

In this letter to students, I have expressed my thoughts on the approach a students should have towards the outcome of an exam. I have tried to reason the equation { Outcome = Decision + Uncertainty }

Dear Students,

Are you worried about your results and your career?  If yes, then It's fine, It's normal, until the worry has started disturbing your studies and affecting your lifestyle. If worrying is degrading the quality of your life, then I want you to understand the following equation.

Outcome = Decision + Uncertainty.

To understand this equation you will need to understand and few background terms and concepts. Have a look at the following diagram, while I give you an overview of concepts depicted in it.


Although several books have been written about Values and Value Systems, I would like you to view Value as "What We Like".Religion, Society, Companies, Schools, Colleges, Traditions and Cultures all teach us what we must like and what we must dislike. There are rewards and punishments to corroborate values. Value System is thus a framework of predefined likes and dislikes mandated by some accepted authority. However, irrespective of what the whole world says, our very own Value System is ultimately the result of What We Like. 

If someone likes to be Rich and Flamboyant, then spiritual concepts like worldly detachment won't motivate him. He may agree to the concept and even appreciate it , but will not make it a part of his value system. At the end of the day, no matter what we endorse and publicly accept, our value system is defined by What We Like.

Objectives & Goals

From Values come Objectives. You like realisation of your desires. These desires emanating from your value system, create your Objectives. For instance, you are interested in money, and think of being rich, then Being Rich is your Objective. When an Objective becomes measurable it becomes a Goal. So, if your target is to earn one million dollars in the forth coming year, then that's your Goal

As a student, passing with good marks becomes your Objective, but making this objective measurable by planning for 80% marks and preparing for it in the coming 6 months becomes your Goal.


Goals are met only if appropriate resources are allocated to achieve it. These resources include time, money, efforts etc. Decision is about allocating these resources to achieve the Goal. If resource allocation is not done the decision is not assumed to be taken.


Even though decisions are taken to achieve desire Goals, the real final result we get is called Outcome. Outcome may be same as desired Goal or may be different. A Successful Outcome is measured by how close it is to the desired Goal. However, only good and great decisions don't assure a successful Outcome. Ask any manager in the world and he will tell you that even the best of the decisions can lead to a failed Outcome and even poor decisions can lead to a successful Outcome. How can we explain it? 

The element that affects the outcome is Uncertainty. Hence we say { Outcome = Decision + Uncertainty }.


  • Value What we Like

  • Objective Desires emanating from Values

  • Decision Decision is about allocating resources to achieve a desired Goal.

  • Outcome The final result obtained after taking decisions and applying the resources towards a Goal
  • Options Options define the various ways in which resources can be allocated.

  • Risk Risk is the undesirable outcome and every Option has its own set of risks.

  • Strategy Strategy is a set of complex decisions wherein same set of resources are to be used to achieve multiple Goals.

Managing Uncertainty

No matter how hard you try, or how sincere you effort is, you can't assure successful Outcome. Outcome is influenced by Uncertainty. Can we do something about this force called Uncertainty?

There are several ancient and modern approaches people use to tame this force. Most of these approaches try to convert uncertainty to certainty and hence make uncertainty manageable. Once the conversion occurs Outcome is predictable.

Few possible approaches are listed below
  • Some use Probability Models

  • Some go to Astrologers

  • Some believe in GOD

  • Some don't accept Uncertainty, they say that Uncertainty is due to ignorance. They try to push the envelope by doing Research and Development and convert Uncertainty to Certainty using Scientific approach.

I believe in God. However, in theory I am not endorsing or refuting any of the approaches, nor am I evaluating or judging them. What I am trying to convey is the realisation that the a successful Outcome is not totally in our hands. If you have worked hard and smart then you have done your duty. You have taken care of one component of the equation. You don't control the second component, and it is not productive to worry about it. You can't really control what questions will come in the mind of your Viva Examiner. However, you can prepare, practice and study for your exams.

Don't feel bad if someone judges you on the basis of your Outcome. Explain them the above mentioned equation. Mature parents and teachers don't judge students merely on the basis of outcome. You must be judged based on sincerity of your efforts. If one fail because of lack of efforts then guilt is justified. However, if one fails even after best of the efforts then retrospection, seeking guidance and reorientation of efforts is justified but not guilt. You can't control how Universe will react to your action. However, you can tell yourself that there are certain Outcomes that don't deserve you.

If something is to be judged then judge decisions as they come from Goals. And judge Goals as they come from Objectives. And judge Objectives as they come from Values. So ultimately one has to be judged on the basis of his Value system and not his successful outcomes. Real education is one that leads to refinement of Value System. If Value System is right other things eventually fall in place.

In Geeta, Lord Krishna says,

कर्मण्ये वाधिकारस्ते माँ फलेषु कदाचन

माँ कर्म फला हेतुर भुर्मतेया संगोस्त्व अकर्मणि

You have to perform your duty, and if you have done that sincerely you have completed you part of the responsibility . Outcome , is beyond your control.

{ Outcome = Decision + Uncertainty }


Don't keep your confusion to yourself. Parents are our best friends. Talk to them , Talk to you teachers , let them help you take your decisions. Take advice from experienced people, your friends may have good intentions but they may not have the right experience, maturity and competence to guide you. Cultivate Sportsman spirit. Its not about winning or losing it about performing to our best and leaving the rest to GOD.


Yours lovingly,
Rajesh Patkar