Public Affairs, Communications & Sustainable Development

The Art of Uncertainty

April 17, 2014 at 2:30 PM

By Caitlin Moriarty, Contributing Writer

“Uncertainty is the only certainty there is, and knowing how to live with insecurity is the only security.” - John Allen Paulos

When it comes to uncertainty, do you feel excitement at the prospect of the unknown or cringe at the lack of the absolute?

Successful entrepreneurs are especially good at “living in the question” and have found a way to live with uncertainty better than most people. When I began my first venture four years ago, I can admit that I was definitely anti-uncertainty. In an attempt to avoid risk, I spent more time planning than executing, I was slow to adapt and ultimately, the venture failed. 



So I found myself thinking, am I just stuck with this fear of uncertainty? Does this mean that I have to give up my desire to be an entrepreneur? Obviously not. Instead, what did I learn from this? First, that being comfortable with uncertainty is a skill set that you can develop and improve upon. Second, that I had to do this in order to be a better entrepreneur.

I  recommend picking up a copy of  Uncertainty: Turning Fear and Doubt into Fuel for Brilliance by Jonathan Fields. The concept that really stuck with me from this book was the idea of creating “certainty anchors." By creating structure via a daily ritual or a means to a consistent paycheck, these anchors allow for mental rest. This rest allows for you to be able to utilize your mental capacity for innovation and strategy instead of worry. You do not have to risk your life savings, dedicate every waking hour to you start-up, and constantly worry where your next paycheck will come from to be considered an entrepreneur.

Another good read is a Forbes article titled How Entrepreneurs Cope With Uncertainty that gave some simple but important advice. I have summarized the key takeaways below:

  1. Understand that when you are compelled to create, whether the intention is a painting or venture, that this higher calling comes with challenges that you simply much face to realize the vision. The passion is what gets you through and it feels like there is no other option but to overcome.
  2. Truly believe in your vision and maintain a positive outlook. You may not know the details of the outcome but maintain faith that they will be positive.
  3. Enjoy and take notes along the way. Entrepreneurship is a journey and too often we fail to appreciate everything on route to our destination. You will inevitably be using the skills and lessons you pick up in other areas of your life.
  4. Work hard and be resilient. Don’t set some unrealistic ideal or timeline of success. Be pragmatic and know that it will take time and hard work before you get to where you’re going. Just keep moving forward. 
  5. Create a strong team. Find the people who complement your strengths and who can help you and your business grow. 

Moral of the story, when you are called to create as an entrepreneur, artist, or otherwise, know you are fighting your own brain’s biological wiring to avoid uncertainty. Those who succeed are able to push past fear, are patient with the process, constantly seek to improve their relationship with uncertainty, maintain faith in their vision, surround themselves with the right people and ultimately deliver excellence. Go be that person.

In the words of Mark Batterson: "Embrace relational uncertainty. It's called romance. Embrace spiritual uncertainty. It's called mystery. Embrace occupational uncertainty. It's called destiny. Embrace emotional uncertainty. It's called joy. Embrace intellectual uncertainty. It's called revelation."

What are the major uncertainties you have faced as an entrepreneur or in your career and how have you dealt with these uncertainties? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.


Caitlin Moriarty, Contributing Writer

Caitlin Moriarty is president and co-founder of the Janklow Arts Leadership Alumni Network at Syracuse University. She received her M.A. in Arts Leadership Administration at Syracuse University while serving as a Kauffman Foundation Entrepreneurship Engagement Fellow. Caitlin’s interests involve creative place making and arts based entrepreneurship as they relate to community and economic development. To connect with Caitlin Moriarty, check out her website, follow her on Pinterest and Twitter, or connect with her on LinkedIn.


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