Tolerating Ambiguity for National Entrepreneurship Week

snowshoeing with friends

This week is National Entrepreneurship Week and one of these 20 questions for entrepreneurial literacy is “What is ‘tolerance of ambiguity’ and why is it important to an entrepreneur?”

I admit I wasn’t sure what was meant by tolerance of ambiguity so I researched the phrase herehere, and here. Basically, as entrepreneurs we must be Walt Whitman-ish enough to go “conquering, holding, daring, venturing, as we go, the unknown ways.”

Kind of like my friends and me when we snowshoe. Or not.

Okay, so you can see by our tracks, we trudge these trails quite regularly. We’re routine walking partners and we know exactly where we’re going. This may be the antithesis of ambiguity, but if you bear with me, I’ll eventually get to my point (which, my friends, is a tolerance of ambiguity).

mouse trail in the snow

My so-called exercise regiment reminds me of ten years ago when I contemplated the leap into self-employment. I specifically remember lunching with a veteran freelancer and asking her to describe a typical day in her life of self-employment.

Typical? Really, was I that naive?

Google “day in the life of a freelancer” and you’ll come up with hundreds of entrepreneurs sharing their day in hour-by-hour increments (mine isn’t that exciting, I’ll spare you). Let’s just say that generally an entrepreneur’s day is a lot like this path voles left in the snow. Unpredictable. Atypical. Seemingly without direction. There may be an element of routine, but more often than not something unexpected causes a deviation.

My pinch of routine comes early in the morning: Walking (or these days, snowshoeing), yoga or swimming. The woman above on the right? That’s Deb. She picks me up at 6:15 and we persevere into town to swim laps (our hair freezes afterward while we walk to the car). The woman on the left? Chris. She’s like a Bible concordance as we encourage one another in our faith.

And then there are my yoga peeps: Authentic, caring, energetic, with a positive zest for life. They have inquisitive minds and are receptive to new ideas. They’re physically strong, not by a stroke of luck, but because they take care of themselves. Together we share healthy food recipes and a confidence in our growing abilities.

So what do these people of my routine have to do with a tolerance of ambiguity?

Attitude, that’s what.

Go back to the words I use to describe my friends: Persevering, encouraging, energetic, positive, inquisitive, receptive, healthy, strong, confident, growing. These are qualities that enable us to deal with the daily unpredictable, to go forth in the great unknown, to tolerate the ambiguity.

These are qualities we especially need for the ambiguity of entrepreneurship.

Have a great National Entrepreneurship Week!

Meadow mouse trail in snow



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