Uncertainty is where things happen. It is where the opportunities – for success, for happiness, for really living are waiting.
Everyone shells out the same advice on how to start a business, write a business plan, write a book or start a new project. If the general advice is so powerful how come 90% of new businesses fail the first year and almost all books never get published. I think it is time for some opposite the experts advice. I researched this. I use it in my own life as an entrepreneur and author and I frankly feel it is spot on. Don’t be a Sheepeople and do what everyone else does…unless you really want to be like everyone else ?
Counterintuitive advice on – Starting a new Business, book or project
- Embrace Uncertainty versus requiring certainty.
- Set a non-precise endpoint versus a rigid endpoint.
- Create loose open and flexible non detailed business plan.
- Non comprehensive marketing plan.
- Embrace an improvisational flexible approach to learning vs. vision, passion, steadfast, destroy every barrier style.
- Change the destination based on learning and feedback.
- Start with your present means…materials, skills, education, money, and knowledge.
- Envision new uses for what you already possess.
In considering what it might mean to lean into uncertainty and embrace it, consider the work of psychologist Saras Sarasvathy, who studied the essential qualities that successful entrepreneurs share. In her extensive interviews with forty-five such people, who all fulfilled the same criteria for “success” – a minimum of fifteen years’ experience in launching businesses and at least one company they had taken public – she found a profound disconnect between the cultural trope of the innovator as a goal-oriented go-getter who brings her concrete vision to market and the reality of what these successful entrepreneurs did have in common. Burkeman writes:
We tend to imagine that the special skill of an entrepreneur lies in having a powerfully original idea and then fighting to turn that vision into reality. But the outlook of Sarasvathy’s interviewees rarely bore this out. Their precise endpoint was often mysterious to them, and their means of proceeding reflected this. Overwhelmingly, they scoffed at the goals-first doctrine of [management theorists Edwin] Locke and [Gary] Latham. Almost none of them suggested creating a detailed business plan or doing comprehensive market research to hone the details of the product they were aiming to release.
Instead, at the heart of the entrepreneurial spirit lies something else entirely: The most valuable skill of a successful entrepreneur … isn’t “vision” or “passion” or a steadfast insistence on destroying every barrier between yourself and some prize you’re obsessed with. Rather, it’s the ability to adopt an unconventional approach to learning: an improvisational flexibility not merely about which route to take towards some predetermined objective, but also a willingness to change the destination itself. This is a flexibility that might be squelched by rigid focus on any one goal.
Sarasvathy has come up with a set of principles that underpin her anti-goal approach, which she calls “effectuation.” Her model distinguishes between “causally-minded” people, who take a specific goal and apply to it all available tools in order to achieve it. “Effectually-minded” people, on the other hand, consider the tools and materials at their disposal, but use them as a springboard for envisioning what new directions might be possible. Burkeman offers some examples:
The effectualists include the cook who scours the fridge for leftover ingredients; the chemist who figured out that the insufficiently sticky glue he had developed could be used to create the Post-it note; or the unhappy lawyer who realizes that her spare-time photography hobby, for which she already possesses the skills and the equipment, could be turned into a job.
One foundation of effectuation is the “bird in hand” principle: “Start with your means. Don’t wait for the perfect opportunity. Start taking action, based on what you have readily available: what you are, what you know and who you know.”
A second is the “principle of affordable loss”: Don’t be guided by thoughts of how wonderful the rewards might be if you were spectacularly successful at any given next step. Instead – and there are distinct echoes, here, of the Stoic focus on the worst-case scenario – ask how big the loss would be if you failed. So long as it would be tolerable, that’s all you need to know. Take that next step, and see what happens.
If you got the confidence and guts to be different and succeed where others fail try this approach….I dare you 🙂