I can confidently say I rarely feel “ready” when I make a decision to do something. And this really became prevalent in my adulthood.
My theory is that it’s easy to be ready to make a decision to do something when you’re a kid. And as a teenager. Perhaps even in your early twenties. Partly because there are many cases in which you don’t have much of a choice – study for your exams; eat all your greens. For the most part, there are paths that are well trodden and there are certain milestones that you’re expected to meet, like getting your first part-time job and graduating from high school. Everyone around you is experienced and able to guide you in just about every aspect of your decision making and answer your questions about the options you have at your fingertips at that stage.
Then adulthood comes along and that’s when things start to change. When you become an adult, you have more paths to explore and so many more options to choose from. More and more often, you find yourself venturing into uncharted territory and others around you don’t always have the experience to guide you.
I suspect that while this was the case for previous generations, it’s even more so today because of the volume of options we have available to us. In my experience, previous generations strived to build a world with more choices than they had. They expanded our access to geographies and information in unprecedented ways. They could never have foreseen how well they would achieve their goal, much less the challenges it would create.
When my co-founders and I launched Shoes of Prey in 2009, we were building a business with an entirely new model with absolutely no roadmap or guidance – in fact, none of us even had any experience in shoemaking! It’s daunting enough to start a business, but even more so when you have no clue where to begin. We quickly had to get comfortable with making decisions without full certainty, otherwise our business would not have gotten off the ground.
I remember one specific scene from a movie called Touching the Void, which is about two young climbers who set out to be the first to reach the summit of the Siula Grande in the Peruvian Andes. In the scene, one of the climbers has abseiled into a crack in the glacier, and has found the end of his rope before finding the ground or even being able to see the ground. His options are to try and climb back up the rope into the storm, let go of the rope and fall, or freeze to death by not doing anything.
There’s no roadmap. No tenets of best practice that readily apply, and no guarantee about the way any decision will turn out. The reason this scene resonates so much with me is that the only option to progress is to make a choice and see what happens.
I’ve hung at the end of that rope many times and as I write this piece, I am hanging on it right now, both with decisions at hand in our business and in my personal life.
An element I can see playing its part (and this is less relevant if you’re all about climbing glaciers) is the fear of failure. It’s a really potent emotion that often pushes people to the extremes – highly conservative or highly risky approach to shifting the fear.
The truth of the matter is that I should be kicking myself off the end of that rope as soon as possible – because while I hang there, absolutely nothing is moving forward. I’m not even trying one of the paths to collect the data I need to make my next decision. I’m just wasting time.
All of this is just an exploration of the emotions and processes I face in decision making. My overarching theory is that at the heart of it, you’re probably never going to be ready. And that’s OK. The most important thing is that you make a decision, and keep moving forward. Back yourself. Lean into the uncertainty. Maybe even enjoy it. Stay aware, not reckless. And just see what happens.
This is why I live by my mantra, “do everything before you’re ready”. I truly believe it’s better to jump in, understand where your strengths are and where you need to improve, rather than draw out the process by trying to be perfect in every area. You learn more about your capabilities and your options just by doing.