Just go for it? Really? Yes, really. Sometimes you need to downplay cautions, history, probabilities, and all the other excuses standing in your way. There will always be reasons to hesitate on any decision, but the bottom line is: You can prepare all you want, but you’ll never be 100% prepared.
While observing organizations, I consistently find that while skills, finance resources, competition, marketing, and operations are critical, it’s actually the intangibles that often make the difference. For example, culture, expectations, and excellence greatly affect success more than we acknowledge.
The world is and will always be ever-changing. So, we should accept more uncertainty and take more chances. Jobs, Bezos, Gates, Zuckerberg, etc. all took incredible risk in order to succeed. Should you go for it? Consider this example of alternatives:
Accepting a $100,000/year job with reasonable certainty of continuity versus embarking on an entrepreneurial venture with the potential of being a multi-millionaire and achieving your dream career. If you’re considering the practical probabilities, risks, and potential of these choices, you’ve ignored the argument to go with your intuition, gut, and passion. And so many of us ignore these things naturally because we were taught to analyze excessively and rely heavily on numbers and statistics. But, in many cases, knowing and calculating an expected value actually has more traps than virtue. For instance, you limit yourself by relying on a projected number and, therefore, may disregard solutions and strategies that could have even greater potential.
It is my belief that we don’t choose passion enough. However, there are several factors that actually make the entrepreneurial path more desirable: 1) you can take a job any time 2) you’ll gain great experience from the entrepreneurial endeavor 3) you’ll probably suffer fewer losses than expected. For example, most young people will experience several jobs changes before they’re 30 anyway… So, why not take some risk pursuing a dream? Go for it!
Passion also acts as an important incentive, which can result in success. Don’t underestimate it! Many experts argue that we achieve only a small portion of our potential because we’re stuck in boring, unsatisfying, and dead-end positions. I have many colleagues who remain in dying industries (like retail) and have suffered for years. They’re stuck in declining companies that have failed to adapt to emerging trends like E-commerce, logistics, and operations. But, what could we achieve if we were able to escape those soul-sucking jobs? As Sheryl Sandberg said, “Consider what you would do if you weren’t afraid.”
So, you’ve decided to “Go For It.” Now what?
- Establish successful parameters. We frequently underestimate our denial and overestimate perceived barriers. For example, the pandemic is clearly changing parameters and we need to adapt rather than wait for things to return to the way they were. The entertainment industry, energy companies, work at home options, and urban real estate are all areas that are undergoing dramatic change and will permanently alter the economy as well as our lifestyles. Additionally, technology, E-commerce, productivity improvements, and Zoom are opening the door for more opportunities. Use these changes to your advantage.
- Consider social factors. Income inequality, partisanship, racial equality, and diversity are among the social topics that are changing our culture, practices, and awareness. Similarly, the aging and minority populations in our country are creating dramatic shifts in our society. We simply spend too much time on partisan arguments about these issues rather than developing solutions and maximizing opportunities.
- Encourage positive change. For example, women are fighting for equal opportunities and treatment. This requires some much-needed cultural adjustments as well as some operational changes like creating proportional bathrooms in sports stadiums. Additionally, working from home is enabling many parents to fill both work and parent duties. An important and needed change is actively recognizing that women have been held back and working to maximize their potential.
- Accept failure. (But, don’t quit!) Mistakes are inevitable. Edison may have said it best, “Many of life’s failures are people who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up.”
- Look for the positive and be the positive. We’ve all felt what it’s like to work with/around negative people—their energy sucks everyone else down to their level. We feed off of those around us. Create an atmosphere where everyone lifts one another up. When a problem arises, work together to find a solution. When mistakes happen, look for the lesson to be learned and grow. Everyone will be better for it. A structure that focuses on learning from mistakes will always be more equipped to deal with them when they arise.
- Support risk taking. If we know we have support, we are more likely to take (appropriate) risks, which can lead to innovation. When people are afraid, they can’t perform to their full potential. Fear is one of the leading factors that holds us back and prevents us from trying new things.
- Focus on collaboration. Make sure the organization has the resources it needs to succeed. That may mean providing additional training, one-on-one feedback, updated equipment/software, or extending deadlines. Understand your organization’s needs and let employees know that they can rely on you to back them up.
- Treat people equally and individually. This might sound contradictory, but it simply means that, while everyone should be treated fairly and equally, each person’s individual needs must also be taken into consideration. Some might require more supervision or verbal encouragement while others thrive being left with complete autonomy on a project.
“Going for it” does require a different perspective—you must look to the future and not the past. Here are three different examples that illustrate this idea: 1) Wayne Gretzky was a great hockey player who revolutionized the game. One of his contributions was Gretzky’s rule, which states that you skate to where the puck is about to go, rather than where it’s been. 2) Xerox developed the personal computer in the 1970s, but dropped it when they didn’t see any future. Steve Jobs, who bought the technology for almost nothing, toured the facility in 1979 and presumably hopped around and yelled, “What is going on here? You’re sitting on a gold mine! Why aren’t you doing something with this technology? You could change the world!” 3) Prior to Jobs’ revelation, Moore’s Law was created, which states that operating circuits could double their performance every year. That forecast (which was true for decades) allowed the computer industry to shrink all its components and increase performance annually to plan for new developments on the basis of that expectation.
Think about this: What’s the point of a band covering a song if they don’t change it up and put their own spin on it? So, I suggest: Look at what is, but find a way to see beyond that and run with it. Robert Kennedy’s paraphrasing of a George Bernard Shaw quote is quite fitting: “There are those that look at things the way they are, and ask why? I dream of things that never were, and ask why not?” And I ask: Which will you be?
Related: How to Get More Reward from Risk