Embrace the Edge of the Unknown

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For some people, living on the edge of the unknown is a familiar feeling and I’m convinced they have more tolerance for it than most. Having said this, it’s not always a comfortable place and yet it’s where innovation and competency are honed and where progress, excellence, and success have the greatest likelihood to flourish.

“Life is either a daring adventure or nothing. To keep our faces toward change and behave like free spirits in the presence of fate is strength undefeatable.” 

Helen Keller

It’s a truism that in order to get a new result, we have to do new things. Sounds simple, right? But like many simple things, it’s not necessarily easy for the vast majority of people. In order to do something different, we have to engage in experiences previously unknown. I can’t tell you how many people I work with who desperately want a new result yet they don’t want to go through anything even slightly unfamiliar in their experience to get there. When sufficiently motivated to make real change, here are a few things to remember:

Don’t put a premium on comfort.

I’m not advocating for martyrdom. I’m saying that to be fully alive, we must be willing to seek full aliveness, not just live to avoid discomfort. As business owners, sometimes we have to weigh our options and take reasonable risks, put in the long hours, days and weeks, have tough conversations with employees, clients, vendors and prospects, to name just a few challenges we face. And even though these are not comfortable, in reality, without a heroic journey and the aches and pains of challenges and growth, our work (and we) become dull and stagnant which lowers our creativity.

Get ok with making mistakes and failing.

Operating on the edge of the unknown triggers our fear of failure. Some may be willing to fail once or twice, but beyond that, most people resist any possibility of it like the plague. Great entrepreneurs fail repeatedly and experience disappointments. And… they don’t quit. They don’t let their mistakes or failures keep them from believing they are worthy to have their dreams come true nor do they let them dull their conviction that the adventure of the unknown is likely to net a better outcome than playing it safe and getting predictable, mediocre and unsatisfying results.

Get excited about the magic of operating in flow.

To live in flow is to open to the unknown. It means to refrain from taking action from fear, stress, even niggling doubt; really anything less than conviction. It requires being present to what inspires you and taking action on what bubbles up from joy or enthusiasm only. This also requires noticing when a door opens or you get that clear intuitive hit about what to do next and you do it. To do otherwise is to be out of flow, living from the past or future. Life becomes defined by “I should,” “I ought to,” “I need to,” “I have to,” or “I can’t.” Avoiding the unknown robs business owners of opportunities to tap into something much greater than ever imagined. Don’t accept the cheap substitute of control, perfectionism, ego, and a need for approval at the cost of your inspired path.

Run your business with faith you can handle the unknown.

One of my favorite quotes is by Goethe and in it he says, “The moment one definitely commits oneself, then Providence moves, too. All sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occurred. A whole stream of events, issues from the decision, raising in one’s favor all manner of unforeseen incidents and meetings and material assistance, which no man could have dreamed would have come his way. Whatever you can do, or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power and magic in it.”

The unforeseen assistance Goethe describes is only possible when we venture out onto the edge of the unknown, committing ourselves and having faith in fulfilling possibilities. You were bold, powerful, magical and genius when you began your business. You still are!

This article was published in the column The Extraordinary Workplace in the St. Louis Small Business Monthly, August 2015

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