Opinions expressed by australiabusinessblog.com contributors are their own.
As we approach 2023, there is a ringing sound of uncertainty, amplified by ominous headlines warning us of an impending recession, or, as one article described, “a big reset”, — a term used to describe widespread layoffs in the technology sector. The latest report from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics only adds to the collective discourse that we are, well, doomed by stating that 263,000 new jobs have been added to the workforce – more than expected – but the hiring economy remains extremely tight.
The reality is that uncertainty hasn’t really increased – it’s always been there. What actually rises is our fear of uncertainty. And we, as business leaders, try to do everything we can to soften it, analyze it, and wish it away. But the truth is that there will always be uncertainty. We can strengthen our supply chain, reduce inflation and vaccinate ourselves against Covid-19, but another health crisis may arise, a war may break out or a natural disaster may strike.
At the beginning of 2023, entrepreneurs have the opportunity to build a relationship with uncertainty and become more comfortable with its existence. In fact, according to the Kauffman Foundation, a whopping 57% of Fortune 500 companies started during a recession, so despite the fear of what’s to come, there may be a path to success. Here are seven ways to exploit the unknown and find opportunity within that uncertainty:
1. Identify what you can and cannot control
No matter how much we plan, research and analyze, there will always be forces beyond our control. Instead of obsessing over ridding ourselves of these conditions, we should analyze our challenges and categorize them based on what we can and cannot control. For those we can’t control, we should be aware of them, but we should also not get hung up on trying to predict their outcomes. No one could foresee the effect a pandemic would have on their individual business. However, we can now reflect on the lessons learned, appreciate the innovation that has taken place and think about how we can operate more nimbly in the future.
2. Reframe your uncertainty
Our tendency, as entrepreneurs, is to correlate uncertainty with a negative outcome. We don’t know if we’ll raise the amount of capital we need, we don’t know if our product will be right for the market after launch, we don’t know if our business will survive. The truth is that we also don’t know if we are beyond our wildest dreams, if an event beyond our reach will open a new door, or if an unidentified need for our product or service will arise. As Steve Jobs once said, “You can’t connect the dots when you look forward; you can only connect them when you look backward. So you have to trust that the dots in your future will somehow will be connected.” Uncertainty can be your biggest asset.
Related: How to protect and maintain control of your business
3. Listen to what your sense of insecurity is telling you
Often as entrepreneurs, we feel a strong sense of uncertainty or anxiety about areas that affect us personally – meaning we are particularly sensitive to those topics that generate a sense of fear-based bias as a result of our own life experiences. For example, if you once had a bad experience in another city, state, or country, and years later have the opportunity to expand there, chances are your uncertainty bias is affecting you. Perhaps at some point in your career you had raised money with a venture capital firm and that situation did not end well. You may be skeptical the second time around, which may hinder any chance of a constructive investment relationship.
4. Detach from your desired outcome
There’s an old Yiddish proverb, “We plan. God laughs.” Many entrepreneurs start their venture with their own definition of success in mind, and they marry it. Any deviation is a failure. However, to properly navigate the reality that our future is uncertain, we need to break free from our own definitions of success — remove the ego from the outcome — and be open to what may reveal itself along the way. The uncertainty of that is also the joy.
5. Understand the bigger picture of life
There is a bigger world and it is important that we have perspective. Take a walk in nature and realize that the things we obsess over are things in our own little universe. Uncertainty is inevitable, and it is foolish of us to believe that we have the power to control so much that happens. Your life will not depend on the success of your business. Today is a moment in time and we are just dots in a vast universe. Perspective is absolutely necessary.
7. Recognize your survival instinct
The human brain has been formed over millions of years. We have an innate survival instinct that stems from the early days of cavemen/women. For example, scientists have postulated that our need to be accepted by others stems from the previous reality that if the group kicked us out, we would be away from the fire and susceptible to attack by predators. This level of uncertainty had an entirely different scope at the time. But today our brains are still wired with the same survival-based fight-or-flight framework.
Related: Many people are weighed down by fear. Here’s how I embrace it.
8. Approach with a beginner’s mind
Our lives are all made up of unique experiences that are personal to us. These experiences form the lens through which we look at the world. A toddler will not be afraid of a stock market crash. However, he/she may be afraid of being alone or without food. As entrepreneurs, we must dispel our prejudices and retrain our minds to approach our ventures with the wisdom of past experience, but also with a sense of youthful naivete.
At the start of 2023, we as entrepreneurs have the opportunity to redefine our relationship with uncertainty. There is an opportunity to cooperate with the feeling of insecurity by acknowledging its existence, asking what it is trying to tell us, and being comfortable setting our own boundaries with its partner: fear. Uncertainty can serve as the pavement for our future path to success. We have to become friends first.