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Lessons from Seth Godin on Embracing Uncertainty

Why getting comfortable with failure is part of the entrepreneurial struggle.
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If you're an entrepreneur you understand what is sometimes referred to as "the struggle." You know what I mean, right? The struggle is that state you're in right now trying to make things happen. You're hustling, building relationships, and you understand that after it all things might not work out.

Maybe you've got a great idea but you don't have the right team yet. Maybe you got your A-round of funding but you're burning through money way too fast--and need to explain and answer to an impatient investor group why you need more cash.

Those who can stomach the risks and rewards of "the struggle" have probably come to terms and become comfortable with uncertainty and possible failure.

Bestselling author and marketing guru, Seth Godin, takes embracing uncertainty and failure to the next level. In my 2011 interview with him, Godin said, "If I fail more than you, I win. Because built into that notion is you get to keep playing. If you get to keep playing that means that you get to keep failing. And sooner or later you will figure it out. The people who lose are the ones who either are afraid to fail and get stuck or they fail so big that they never recover to play again." 

Related: Seth Godin on Taking Risks and Entrepreneurship

This concept isn't entirely new and may conjure up things your grandpa use to say like, "If at first you don't succeed, try, try again." Or maybe you think of inventor Thomas Edison and the fabled 9,000 or more failed attempts to perfect the light bulb before getting it right.

For a more recent example we can look at Godin's (now legendary) Kickstarter campaign. After a run of hits books like The Dip (Portfolio 2007 ) Tribes (Portfolio 2008) Linchpin (Portfolio 2010) Godin took to Kickstarter to ask his readers to help him prove to his publisher that fans were clamoring for his next work of art. His goal was $40,000 goal to justify writing his next book, but 30 later he had raised over a quarter million dollars.

While you might not be able to raise that kind of money that quickly, Crowdfuning platforms like Kickstarter and Indiegogo are a great way to leverage your fan base or contact list. Godin said it best when he explained what crowdfunding is good for:

“This project on Kickstarter is my way to organize the tribe, to send a signal to risk-averse publishers and booksellers (who have limited shelf space and limited paper). We can let them know loud and clear that this is a book that's going to get talked about. Kickstarter coordinates and it amplifies.”

Related: Marketing Wizard Seth Godin on Success and Inspiration

Seth took a (reasonable) risk by putting it out there publicly to succeed or fail. Do you have a project that's paralyzing you because you're afraid it might fail? Are you loosing sleep, not because your passion drives you into the wee hours of the night, but because you feel the pain that can overwhelm you because of stress over stuff that might not work?

Take comfort in knowing that it's all part of "the struggle." The magic often happens when we embrace uncertainty and lean into the curveballs. Godin leaves us with these sage words: "I don’t think Yoda was right when he said 'Do or do not, there is no try.' There IS a try. Try is the opposite of hiding."