What is that that will prevent you from pursuing an opportunity that you know for sure is worth pursuing? What is that stumbling block that prevents you from getting started on your dream project seriously?
I chose the word seriously with care. When you are serious, you put something of value at stake; typically, it's money but it could be anything: time, energy, mindshare and the opportunity cost of engaging in the project. These are all common sacrifices. But money, of course, is most simple to track and, therefore, most obvious when lost. You don’t have your friends ridicule you for investing your energy and mindshare in something—but if you lose money on a stupid project, you might get some flak for that.
So what is that stumbling block that will prevent you from making a big push to invest your resources (like money) in the project that you want to pursue?
It is the elusive search for certainty.
You want to be sure of the results, just sure enough that you have a pretty good chance of making it. And that pretty good chance should be close to 100 percent. Once you have this safety net, you will be willing to up your stakes. Until you get that certainty, you won’t take the next step.
The search for certainty is a trap, however. Nobody can have absolute certainty. You can increase your odds of winning but you can never get that 100 percent guarantee.
In the introduction to the book Clint: A Retrospective by Richard Schickel, Clint Eastwood shares this:
"Looking back, I suppose I’ve made a few pictures I probably shouldn’t have. But you don’t know that going in. I’ve always said that I have no idea whether a movie is going to be a success. My criteria when committing to a picture are simple: Is it something that I’d like to work on or I’d like to see? So far, that’s worked out very well. I’ve been able to work a very long time at something I love doing and see no reason to stop."
So, following Eastwood's lead, I present you with three ways to escape the trap of uncertainty. (Warning: You can’t make any of this happen in the short-term.)
1. Start becoming comfortable with uncertainty, rather than trying to be certain. That way you are not stopping at step one and mentally charting your way to reach your goal.
2. Get good help. Your ability to execute is more important than your ability to generate new ideas. Execution is where the rubber meets the road. The chance of executing well is directly proportional to the amount of good help that you have at your disposal. Challenge yourself to find the people who are willing to take a leap of faith with you.
3. Start providing good help. You've heard it before: What comes around goes around. People respond to generosity. If you can focus on providing good help to others who are pursuing their ideas, one day you might see that same kind of help in return. After all, the best way to change your world is to help enough people change theirs, isn’t it?
I will leave you with this: Remember that 100 percent certainty would be simply boring. What's fun and interesting is the mystery of not knowing. So, enjoy the uncertainty!