Trusting ourselves and each other is the most fundamental prerequisite for navigating successfully in a real-time world.

We can all agree that trust is always important. Together we can always create more than we can separately if we genuinely trust each other. But trust is something that most of the time we take for granted—at least until we have something significant at stake or a breakdown occurs. When there’s a lot at stake, the possibility of a breakdown appears. Whenever there is a breakdown, one of the first things that usually happens is that our relationship with someone or something is called into question. We begin questioning what might happen in the future. We wonder whether we can trust ourselves, others or the situation to have the future turn out in the way we want.

This connects up with our desire to minimize risk and to control what happens. This way of thinking about trust is—quite literally—a function of our experience and our judgments about the reliability and predictability of our commitments or the commitments of other people. Take, for example, the idea of flying from one city to another. Flying is another form of navigating through a sea of commitments. Will our traffic laws will keep us safe? Are the systems well-designed and the people competent we are relying on to deliver air transportation services? Can we count on circumstances to allow us to get where we need to go in time? All these are based on our trust in circumstances and the commitments of others.

Trust itself is different from our analysis as to whether another person or circumstance can be trusted. Trust is a commitment to giving up control, putting oneself at risk, and counting on someone or something outside ourselves to deliver on a promise. True trust evokes a mood of confidence. True trust opens possibilities and allows for us to take risks—not avoid them. With true trust comes respect and a kind of generosity that generally encourages us to do our best.

In the past, we had time in which to test and grow trust, either through association, collaboration or friendship. In a real-time world, we cannot count on having that luxury of time. We need to understand trust as a skill and develop the conversational competencies to consistently generate clarity of commitments, assess the competence and sincerity of others, and articulate consequences for failure or a breach of trust. Most importantly, we must be 100% responsible for our own commitments and trust ourselves to deal with breakdowns when they occur.