Sunél's Blog | How do you wait in uncertainty

Sunél Veldtman, | 07 June 2024

With the local elections over, and the ruling party having lost the majority, we are now waiting for the outcome of negotiations within the ANC and among potential coalition parties. The outcome of these discussions is critical. We stand at a crossroads, facing two stark choices that will lead to vastly different outcomes over the next few years: a coalition to the right will be seen as investor-friendly, and a coalition to the left, a scenario for capital destruction.

Now we wait. We don’t like waiting.  I find myself eagerly scrolling through news sites looking for direction. I check my inbox for research from political analysts. I look for clues about what’s to come.  I sit, sardine-like, at an industry presentation by a prominent political analyst, hoping to be relieved of the discomfort of waiting.

Waiting is not something that fits with our human design and need for certainty. Our brains are so uncomfortable with uncertainty and waiting, that we will even create certainty where there is none. We will seek out opinions that sound certain. We tell ourselves that there is only one potential scenario. We make important decisions hastily, just to avoid waiting any further.

As we’ve seen with South African politics over many decades, we can’t predict what will happen. The most reasonable outcome from investors’ viewpoint isn’t always aligned with the most popular or desired outcomes of opposing interests. We can hope for a ‘rational’ outcome, give it a high probability, or even declare it the only possible outcome, yet it may not transpire. We are again, reliant on a few politicians negotiating behind closed doors, each with personal interests and a desire to survive, shaping our future.

We have also often stood at the edge of the abyss, looking down at certain destruction, only to be saved at the last minute by common sense or goodwill.

Waiting is never easy. Even after leaving the mentioned industry presentation, I have no better idea of what is likely to happen. Still, I feel better because I have a better understanding of the potential outcomes.  It’s how I deal with waiting generally. I gather information. Yet, I know that beyond a certain point, information is just a crutch to help me deal with uncertainty. We all have mechanisms to deal with waiting. Some people jump to action before it’s opportune. Others engage in spiralling speculation.

It’s important that we recognise our own coping mechanisms because dealing with uncertainty and waiting is one of the most important skills for the future when uncertainty will double down to test us.

What have you been doing while we’re waiting? What is your crutch? And how has it served you?

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Kind regards,