Making the Unknowns Known
Authors Panos A Panay and R Michael Hendrix in their book “Two Steps Ahead” wrote some interesting lines about collaboration. They start with a question – Have you ever found yourself in a project, unsure of exactly where you are going or how to get there, but in good company?
They add further – That’s how a collaboration should feel. You start with an idea that is so ambitious, so new or so different from what you have done before that you are acutely aware that you can’t succeed on your own. Other people’s skill sets, and talents are needed to pull it off. There is a sense of fumbling forward in the dark but also that there’s strength in numbers.
Anil Swaminathan, a mutual fund distributor from Tamil Nadu and a fine gentleman, went through the above motions. At least, this is what I believe. He had set some ambitious goals to take his firm to the next level. He knew he couldn’t do it alone and needed the guidance as well as the strong support of a partner who had done this before (and who was willing to get into the trenches with him). He was super excited about the conversations our team had with him. He told me on one of the calls how he appreciated my blog posts and considered me his guru. I could see a genuine partner looking to collaborate with us. He was all set to go ahead. We were equally excited and looking forward to working with him.
Then something happened.
Blogger Jack Raines of Young Money shares some powerful thoughts that brilliantly captures the essence behind the something that happened.
He writes, “Initially the idea of change is thrilling, freeing. However, as we move closer to making these ideas realities, we freeze. Our dreams of adventure and new beginnings become clouded with disaster scenarios of “what if?”
What if what I have right now is as good as it gets, and I give it all away? What if this change ruins everything?
Suddenly all the initial excitement seems like an accident waiting to happen.
Because of the anxiety associated with change, most people would rather live in the misery that they know than deal with the discomfort of the unknown.
You won’t be surprised by your current situation. It might suck, but at least you know what’s coming tomorrow morning….and the next day…and the next day…
At least you know the reality of your current suck. An unknown future represents infinite possibilities of suck that you can’t imagine.”
As you all know, this unknown is nothing but risk.
We all have been in such situations and faced some form of unknowns. Anil is therefore not the first person or the last to face the unknown.
Here is what I do when I am faced with unknowns. The idea behind it is to make your unknown known.
I try to answer this question – “What’s the worst thing that could happen?”
Rather I write it down.
Let’s answer this from the perspective of Anil – what’s the worst thing that could happen?
The collaboration does not work. He would have invested time, energy and money that would have gone down the drain.
That’s bad. So, what next?
Anil is back to his Current Reality or Existence.
Jack is spot on when he writes, “Suddenly the unknown is known. When you realize your worst possible outcome is your current reality, that leap of faith becomes less intimidating. In fact, not making the change begins to look outrageous.”
After I have answered the worst thing that could happen, I answer this one.
What’s the best thing that can happen?
Again, I will write it down. Writing is KEY.
Let’s write this answer in the context of Anil.
He has made some great friends and partners. He now has a solid team who can help him build the firm of the future. He has a world class CTO, COO, CFO, CMO, and many other team members. He has learnt some new amazing things. He can now compete with banks and large financial institutions. He now has a world class client experience. Some new ways of doing things and avoiding costly mistakes. He has learnt how to overcome growth barriers. He has time now to work ON the business as well as IN the business.
The above ones are just a few. There is 100+ other things besides invaluable things such as peace of mind, joy, friendship, support, care and love.
As you can see, Anil’s worst-case scenario is his current situation. Everything else is potential upside.
Jack adds, “Once you make your unknowns known, you will see that nine times out of time, you are already living your worst-case scenario. Making that change is an asymmetrical bet on improving your life. Real Alpha is achieved by leaning into your fears.”
Just like Anil, we all (just to be clear including me) have changes in our lives (professional as well as personal) that we worry about taking sometimes. Because change seems difficult. But a change for the better won’t happen by itself. We need to make it happen.
The question is “Are you ready? I hope Anil is.