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Big Ideas

Accept The Burden of Uncertainty

Whether we like it our not, uncertainty is part of our working lives. Embrace it — don't run from it — and gain the confidence needed to deal with what lies ahead.

The wonderful thing about math is certainty. Every math problem has an answer. But entrepreneurship is different. There are no laws that bind the problem set. There are infinite paths to contemplate when creating something new. Even worse, the paths keep changing.  

The most difficult part of starting something new is the processing power you must allocate to compute the onslaught of issues you’ll face that have no answer. Every solution is indefinite. Every way forward is liable to become obstructed by some unforeseen impediment. As such, the leader’s greatest fight is against uncertainty. You can compartmentalize just about everything, but you can’t unplug from uncertainty. 

And know what? Uncertainty is a bitch. It plagues every plan you hatch, and it eats away at any attempt for peace of mind. For me personally, uncertainty caused the greatest amount of interference as I attempted to live my life while starting Behance.

I remember many occasions when I valiantly fought to disconnect – Christmas, the week of my wedding, my honeymoon, and even the birth of my daughter. And while I was “there” for all of these moments, 20 percent of my mind’s processing power was preoccupied. It wasn’t any specific deal or issue that stuck with me. On the contrary, it was the stuff I didn’t know, the “unknown unknowns.” There was no map for the voyage ahead, so I felt the need to live and sleep with an eye on the compass.

The best among us learn to master the art of parallel processing and learn to delegate. While some on your team can compartmentalize, as a leader, you cannot. 

Start by letting go of concerns for things you already know. Over the years, I have tried to reduce my time spent “checking” things that don’t move the ball forward or can be delegated to others. Daily sales, website traffic, what people are saying on Twitter, analytics for our customers, team progress on projects, and the list goes on. To create what will be, you must remove yourself from the constant concern for what already is. 

To create what will be, you must remove yourself from the constant concern for what already is. 

As for the uncertainty, accept the fact that it will weigh on you. Accept the burden of continuous processing. There’s no shortcut to deep-thinking and crunching through scenarios in the basement of your brain. It is perhaps the most important personal investment (and sacrifice) we make. Chalk it up as a burden of leadership.  

No matter what your creative endeavor is, uncertainty will be lingering around every corner. Embrace it and channel it, and you’ll gain the confidence to lead your team down a foggy path that always changes.

More Posts by Scott Belsky

Scott Belsky is the Chief Product Officer at Adobe and is the co-founder of 99U and Behance. He has been called one of the “100 Most Creative People in Business” by Fast Company, and is the author of The Messy Middle and the bestselling book, Making Ideas Happen.

Comments (9)
  • Ryan Biddulph

    Hugging uncertainty helps you become the person you were born to be. Spot on advice Scott! I see what I want, dwell on my dream and do what it takes to get there, trusting when I feel doubt, and letting go when I need to let go.

    Torturing yourself by trying to control circumstances only leads to sickness, misery, anger, attachment and ultimately, failure. Take breaks. Relax. This ride should be fun. Not every second, but most of the time and if you stop having fun you are trying to control what cannot be controlled; that being LIFE lol…..ease up, do what you can where you are, make an impact and detach from outcomes so you can enjoy and not obsess over controlling the ride.

    Thanks for sharing Scott!


  • Daniel Molina

    Amen, Scott. Having the courage to embrace uncertainty is something we should all look for in leaders. I recently wrote a post in the same vein:

  • PaulBaarn

    Thanks, good read. The advice I use for myself and also give to others is: Know what you don’t know. I find that if you write down whatever is uncertain and risky, it helps to put things in perspective. You deal with what’s in your control and stop worrying about what’s outside of your control, like you said.

    What I see too often, though, is people ignoring the unknown or even hiding from it. And I see the money that’s lost because of that. I hope your message reaches a lot of people.

    • Scott Belsky

      It’s a great point Paul, the unknown should be embraced rather than hidden.

  • Aaron Morton

    when you are striving to be an entrepreneur it is imperative you have a coping mechanism in place for uncertainty, else its going to be a very stressful time for you!

    The Confidence Lounge

    • Scott Belsky


  • os

    Always a good read.

  • Dra Miriam Hasson

    Please writte something for my page…Terapia Emocional…am i too naive? maybe …but i wanted to ask any way

  • Monique Dixon

    Thank you. Uncertainty is certainly a bitch. Having recently left my full-time job to launch a book, platform and define what I want out of life, I am grappling with this beast called uncertainty. And like Aaron has said, the key is to find a coping mechanism to deal with the formidable feeling, which I am yet to find, however this article is a good starting point. Thanks again Scott.

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