Understanding Uncertainty is Vital to an Entrepreneur

Pop quiz: what relationship factor is the single most common trait in the successful entrepreneur?

My answer: the relationship with uncertainty.


First let me say that I’m not sure. Second, that I might change my mind tomorrow. (Irony intended.) Third, that I know there are seemingly endless lists of traits of the entrepreneur, and I’m guilty of producing several (including my own top 10 list, which is the most popular post on this blog).

Today I’m thinking that the single most important trait of the true entrepreneur is establishing a good, healthy long-term relationship with uncertainty. As an entrepreneur, you don’t know for sure, but you act. You program, you contract, you create, you hire, you borrow, you spend, and you act, all like the explorer setting forth into unknown territory.

Planning helps. Research helps. But you have to be able to live with the educated guess.

(Image: dny3d/Shutterstock)

7 thoughts on “Understanding Uncertainty is Vital to an Entrepreneur

  1. Tim,
    Great post and I could not agree more. The reality is that we live and work in complex adaptive systems that we cannot control but we can influence. This is an entirely different paradigm and one that requires a unique skill set that will take active development.
    Again, really loved the thought.

  2. I don’t feel that planning and research can be relegated to a merely helpful undertaking. I feel that my “educated guesses” come directly from the planning and research. The shadow of uncertainty is always there, but the planning and research, even though there may be no direct related memory of relevant information derived from the research, together with planning, which is an integral partner to research, makes the uncertainty an exciting challenge to be overcome. There is something very heady and fulfilling about facing the uncertainties of business situations and seeing your plan become a successful reality. The journey from uncertainty to success is exciting, and a challenging adventure that can be a very gratifying experience. Is this the good, healthy long term relationship you refer to? Without the research and planning business decisions become lucky guesses.

  3. Great post!

    I also agree with the previous comments. Uncertainty becomes so much more bearable if I can have my trusty Excel-sheet with me. Robust (lots of room for change) and pliable (lots of conditional options) planning and ability to change parameters according to the day-today situation has helped me survive the frequent appearances of Lady Uncertainty.