Make Uncertainty Your Best Friend in 2022
When you plan for the journey, instead of the destination, you can’t fail
Is it just me, or do we keep thinking things will “go back to normal” and then…they don’t? The last two years have been a wild ride, which has led many to see the pervasiveness of uncertainty in our lives and the world.
The thing is, life has always been uncertain and unpredictable; we fool ourselves into thinking that it isn’t. One of the ways we do that is by making long-term plans, BIG goals, and new year’s resolutions to control the future.
How’s that working out?
When is the last time a long-term plan, BIG goal, or new year’s resolution actually panned out the way you thought it would?
I thought so.
How did it make you feel when you “failed”?
I’m here to tell you that feeling is bullshit.
When you set goals and make plans to control an inevitably uncertain future, you set yourself up for failure. You are also pegging your happiness on tomorrow instead of today.
If the last two years have taught us something, it is that we need to live life RIGHT NOW.
Now, I’m not saying you shouldn’t set goals, make plans, and look ahead—I’m a project manager, my whole M.O. is planning ahead—I’m telling you to plan in a way that makes you antifragile by betting on the uncertain and turning it to your advantage.
“Antifragility is beyond resilience or robustness. The resilient resists shocks and stay the same; the antifragile gets better.”
- Nassim Nicholas Taleb, Antifragile: Things That Gain From Disorder
Now that we’re all coming to terms with the fact that life is unpredictable, it’s time to harness that unpredictability and make it work for us, not against us.
It’s time to make uncertainty your best friend.
“Wind extinguishes a candle and energizes fire. Likewise with randomness, uncertainty, chaos: you want to use them, not hide from them. You want to be the fire and wish for the wind….”
- Nassim Nicholas Taleb
Hustlers are naturally more antifragile than the average 9-5 employee because we’ve built flexible, decentralized business models that mean we never rely on income from just one source; we have decreased our dependence on the opinions and control of others. So if you work for yourself, pat yourself on the back—you’re already ahead of the curve. (If not, here’s how to get started.)
Now it’s time to apply that same hustler logic to everything. Whether I’m planning for my business, life, or clients, I follow some basic rules to make life antifragile.
Quality Over Quantity
Usually, we don’t know exactly what we want to strive for until we go through the process of defining it. When you think about what you want, describe it in terms of quality instead of quantity – don’t focus on the numbers; focus on what it will look like and feel like when you achieve the goal.
Using qualitative goals allows you to have something to aim for while honoring the fact that you’re not going to be the same person or business next month or next year.
Here are some examples:
If you make $18K in a month and work 35 hours, does that mean you failed? If you launch one new product and take on four new clients, did that also diversify your income? Have you achieved your goal if you lose 50 lbs. but still feel like crap?
When you define your life in terms of numbers, you narrow your definition of success, which makes it much harder to achieve—you invite “failure” when you don’t meet those numeric goals. Give yourself the flexibility to aim higher but not be confined by numbers for the sake of numbers.
You know the saying, don’t put all of your eggs in one basket. And yet, society wants us to believe that getting all of our income from one source is somehow “secure.” Spread out your risk and dependence however you can—more clients, more income streams, more investments, more people to rely on – when one fails (and it will), you’ll have others waiting in the wings.
This rule goes so much farther than money and material goods. You also want to diversify your ideas and not get stuck in one definition of what’s true, right, or possible. Give yourself the freedom of an open mind—diversify your sources of information, explore divergent opinions, have real-life conversations with people who don’t “think like you.”
Never Plan Further Than Six Months in Advance
A year ago, would you have predicted where you are today? Do you believe the same things? Do you have the same goals, the same problems? Do you spend your time with the same people?
I’m not saying don’t save for retirement, put money in your kid’s college fund, or take out a 30-year mortgage; I’m saying make the majority of your plans shorter-term to balance out the inherent instability of long-term strategies.
Planning in shorter cycles will make your plans more effective because you’ll be able to adjust as you go with new information you didn’t have before. Instead of saying you’ll publish a book in five years, decide to start writing a chapter each month. Maybe those chapters will turn into a blog or a podcast. Maybe you’ll decide that you don’t want to write a book. Maybe you’ll end up writing about something completely different. Maybe you hate writing and don’t realize that until you start doing it.
This goes back to qualitative vs. quantitative goals. Don’t decide you’re going to “write a book,” decide you’re going to synthesize your ideas and get them out in the world. Then, if it turns into a blog or a podcast, you don’t fail, you succeed in a different way.
The person making that five-year plan today is not the same person who will be living that plan in five years. Plan your life and goals in short cycles so you can do what you want to do now and not marry yourself to some theoretical definition of success in the future.
Try, Fail, and Adjust Constantly
When you employ all of the strategies above, you build in the ability to test new things and fail in small ways all the time. Spread out your risk, create flexible definitions of success, make a short-term plan – then DO IT. The key here is to try a lot of things in a small way and then learn and adjust before you risk more on each individual strategy. These small failures are the kind you want, which give you information about what to try next. When you embrace uncertainty, you assume that you don’t know what will work until you try it and give yourself permission to fail in small ways constantly.
Here, a good analogy is planting multiple seeds and then thinning them out and letting the more robust ones grow. If you only plant one seed, it might live or it might not, but you only have one chance to try. Planting multiple seeds allows you to see which ones thrive, kill off the ones that don’t, and put your resources towards those that do.
The key here is not to assume that the seeds that worked last year will work this year. Something incredibly successful can always fail later, which goes back to why diversity is so important. There’s a natural tendency to see something succeed and then put everything into that one thing. You need to embrace your successes the same way you embrace your failures – know that they too are uncertain and plan accordingly.
Becoming antifragile is a vital attribute of a hustler. Hustling often means pushing toward something that may never come to fruition—seeing the horizon and moving toward it until you find the destination shifting under your feet and adjusting accordingly. Movement being always preferable to stagnation, even if that movement turns out to have just been running in place. You keep moving while you figure out what’s next.
As systems and structures around us are failing under the pressure of uncertainty, we can build antifragile structures for our own lives, laying the foundation for the new structures that need to be built in society.
Top-down solutions, rarely successful to begin with, are no longer serving us. The complexity of the problems surrounding us has to be addressed from the bottom up; by those of us who have skin in the game have everything to lose. It’s the hustlers who will find solutions, not because they have money or power, but because they have no other choice.
“Difficulty is what wakes up the genius.”
― Nassim Nicholas Taleb
Be brave. Keep moving. Show hustle. Make yourself antifragile in 2022 and beyond.
© Sarah Duran 2022
Find out more about me and my company, Fruition Initiatives here.
Image by beauty_and_objects from iStock
The Obvious Disclaimers…
This information is for educational and informational purposes only. It is not intended as, and shall not be understood or construed as, professional advice. What you decide to do with this information is up to you and all repercussions are on you.