Whenever you see a successful business, someone once made a courageous decision.” – Peter Drucker
I despise ambiguity.
Every time it shows its stinking, snarling face, I have to use all my strength to face it head on and avoid curling up into a ball in the corner. Luckily, since starting Feast I’ve been able to count a great deal on my cofounder which makes life a lot easier.
It’s easy to make decisions based on morality or when there’s a clear choice. It’s when there isn’t a clear choice that the darkness creeps in and you stop dead in your tracks.
Ambiguity will paralyze you. You can’t make a logical decision about something that doesn’t have a clear right answer, right?
“Nothing is more difficult, and therefore more precious, than to be able to decide. ” –Napoleon Bonaparte
Not making a decision is infinitely worse than making the wrong decision.
The alternative to making no decision is just guessing. It’s taking a shot in the dark. But if you’re like me, guessing isn’t something you’re really wired to do. I like making decisions based on gut feelings or data, and that’s it.
The worst news is that ambiguity is inevitable for an entrepreneur. You will run into crossroads with no signs. I promise.
The ability to make decisions during these times of ambiguity is vital. If you don’t, you die. It’s probably the most important learning I’ve had in my career as an entrepreneur.
“Once you make a decision, the universe conspires to make it happen.” –Ralph Waldo Emerson
It’s Not About Fear
If you’re an entrepreneur, you’ve already overcome huge battles with fear.
You probably have no problem trying crazy new things and you might even embrace failure. But ambiguity presents a different battle. Your lack of movement isn’t a result of fear. It’s a result of choice.
Sometimes you just have to make the choice to close your eyes and swing.
Don’t strike out looking. You have to keep moving, whether right or the wrong, YOU HAVE TO KEEP MOVING.
There’s no such thing as the wrong direction.
The only way to figure out the right answer is to act. If you’re right, then great keep doing that. If you’re wrong, now you know that and you can adapt.
“It doesn’t matter which side of the fence you get off on sometimes. What matters most is getting off. You cannot make progress without making decisions.” -Jim Rohn
It’s taken me a long time to be able to face ambiguity in my career. It’s something I battle with every single day.
A few tips I’ve picked up for battling ambiguity:
1. Ask others.
Asking other people can help, sometimes. They may be able to provide a perspective that you hadn’t thought.
Ask your cofounders. Ask your team. Ask your mentors. Sometimes the answer can reveal itself by talking to random people with fresh perspectives.
2. Look to examples of success.
Can’t figure an answer out for yourself? Look at what others have done before you. There’s a reason they chose that route. It might just work for you too.
3. Get into the habit of testing.
If you’re planning to test everything you do, then it becomes less of an issue which way you choose because you know you’ll find the answer out quickly.
Even if you think you’re making the right decision, always test. Compare. Challenge your assumptions. You can only learn from your mistakes if you’re able to identify them as mistakes.
I think part of the reason we avoid making decisions is because we’re afraid that it will take a long time to learn whether we were right or wrong. Which gets to the next point…
4. Realize that nothing is permanent.
At Feast, we’ve changed our product and business model at least 6 times in 6 months. We’re learning at such a rapid pace that individual decisions at this point aren’t actually that important. What’s important is that we’re making them, and learning.
5. Acknowledge your ambiguity.
The scariest thing about ambiguity is it doesn’t feel tangible. It’s this dark abyss. It’s a vague status quo that consumes you, causing you to procrastinate without really knowing why. You might blame it on not being motivated. But it’s not motivation that’s your problem. It’s the discomfort of indecision that we naturally try to avoid.
Acknowledge your ambiguity when it happens. Call it out and then beat it.
When you have to make a choice and you don’t make it, that itself is a choice. – William James
What have you done to overcome ambiguity? Please share your experience, because it’s something I think we all face regularly.