Everything Is Not Under Control: That's a Good Thing.

Do you even find yourself looking forward to that mythical time when your life is finally under control? Be careful what you wish for.
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Do you even find yourself looking forward to that mythical time when your life is finally under control?

Be careful what you wish for.

Famed racecar driver Mario Andretti once said, "If everything seems under control, you're not going fast enough."

It's tempting to want life to be more predictable, but keeping things under control, rarely creates greatness.

I've always been someone who wants to push things through quickly, often to the chagrin of my more methodical colleagues. For years, I thought this was a personal failing on my part. But Andretti's quote has now freed me of the need to try to keep everything control.

As Andretti alludes to, the winners are the people who push the envelope.

The beauty of being business is that you don't have to risk your life to go fast. A racecar driver might slam into the wall, but a business failure is not going to kill you.

It's true that some things are good when you slow them down. Slow food, slow dancing, and slow conversations with your kids are all more satisfying than rushing. But if you want to succeed in a fast-paced world, you need to be able to move quickly. Here are three tips to help you get comfortable with less than full control:

1. Operate on incomplete information

My father once said to me, leadership is about making decisions with incomplete information. If you're doing brain surgery, read the X-rays thoroughly. But when you're making a business decision, if you have 80% of the information, you probably have enough to go on.

2. Expect a 20% failure rate

You're going to make bad decisions. Get over it. You're going to choose poor suppliers, you're going to go into bad markets, you're going to have product flops. None of these are fatal. Shake it off, and get yourself ready for the next lap.

3. Ignore sunk costs

When you make a bad decision, don't hold onto it for too long. People are afraid to let go of something they've invested time and money. The faster you admit failure, and write off your investment, the faster you'll be able to do something better. Don't throw good money after bad just because you can't bear to lose your investment.

4. Embrace uncertainty

Successful ventures always have some level of chaos. If you don't have a certain degree of uncertainty it means you're stagnant. This is hard for people to accept. But as someone who has worked with many wildly successful organizations (Google, Microsoft, Hootsuite) I observe time and again, top teams are comfortable with uncertainty. They don't just wing it. But they know things change fast, and you have to be able to respond live time. That means, it's always going to feel a little bit crazy.

My grandmother used to run the nursing team at a large hospital. When she was very elderly, she went into a nursing home. She said, "The people here are nice, but it's the same thing every day."

If you want predictability, become a monk. If you want everything to be "under control" you might as well resign yourself to mediocrity.

You don't have to take on everything. But if you want to do the big cool things, embrace the idea that you're always going to feel a little bit out of control.

Lisa McLeod is the creator of the popular business concept Noble Purpose and author of the bestseller, Selling with Noble Purpose. She is a sales leadership consultant and keynote speaker. Organizations like Genentech, Google, and Kaiser hire her to help them grow revenue.


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