In the last month, I’ve had several conversations with clients about the negative impact ambiguity is having on their careers or the careers of their direct reports. Likewise, it is THE thing that paralyzes me in my business. I’d argue that the ability to navigate ambiguity is what separates success from failure.
I was a good student in school (usually). School taught me to look for the answer and to be able to cough it up on tests, even during class “discussions.” I am always looking for the right answer. It’s not fair to blame it on our education system; I’m just telling you my orientation to problem solving: my default perspective is to believe there’s a right answer. Certainly this approach limits my thinking and the actions I take. My bank account has certainly reflected the challenge with this approach.
I don’t want ambiguity. It makes me uncomfortable. I want an answer. I want to know that the effort I’m putting into a particular strategy will work. It’s what I love—and sometimes hate—about writing. It can be a process of discovery. Or an endless rabbit hole with no light in sight.
This is largely what modern medicine is: in the face of illness, it is a process of ruling things out using a variety of tests. And sometimes the scariest words to hear from your doctor aren’t the diagnosis; they are the words: “I don’t know.” When we know the answer, we can develop a strategy to get there.
The problem with ambiguity is that there might be a good answer. Or there might not be. But the more likely scenario is that there might be many, many answers. In fact, too many for me to wrap my brain around.
What if success were dependent on just one thing: an ability to deal with ambiguity?
Consider that all the challenges in your business can be traced back to some level of “I don’t know.”
If this is the case, then the solution is simple: Just start somewhere.
This whole time I’ve been trying to get my business off the ground, I’ve been looking for the right answer: the right set of marketing strategies, the right niche, the right sales approach. I’ve been fighting how much ambiguity exists, believing I have to figure it all out in order to make the right decision.
Instead, it seems the opposite is true. The answer IS embracing ambiguity. Jump down the rabbit hole.