Navigating uncertainty and breaking the rules is one way to experience an incredibly rich life, and is also a great tool for observation and creativity that will add value to your everyday experiences.
Whether you are coming into a corporate space or exploring ideas for a new business venture, uncertainty is part of the deal. In a culture that likes to live at the edge of minimized risk, uncertainty can be scary and feel like a problem that needs to be solved.
Ambra Sultzbaugh, the brilliant Community Coordinator with Impact Theory, joined me recently for a Between the Highlights interview and explored the non-linear path her career has taken. She has found that embracing uncertainty has not only served her well, but has given her room to be free and break the rules to live an incredibly rich life, "all the highs and all the lows."
Here we are going to dive deeper on how you can embrace uncertainty in your professional or entrepreneurial journey. We will also look at how breaking the rules can liberate the creative in all of us.
Embrace the Uncertainty
I don't believe uncertainty is avoidable. I have yet to see anyone with the power to control everything and everyone to create absolute certainty in terms of life or business. So how you respond to uncertainty is of great importance, and how uncertainty makes you feel will determine how you respond.
Ambra has been on a colorful journey living internationally and much of her experiences have been lived through levels of uncertainty. While many people cling to safety and the need for reassurance and certainty, Ambra has embraced the freedom of letting go and exploring life as it unfolds.
"uncertainty is not your enemy, […] you can't be sure of every step you take, cause even if you are, you're probably wrong sometimes anyway. So just get comfortable with uncertainty" -Ambra Sultzbaugh
In the TEDx talk, Uncertainty, Aithan Shapira describes the anxiety of uncertainty resulting from the acceleration of technology, competition, perspectives, choices and information. This anxiety moves us into a space of collecting more data which in turn leads to further uncertainty. However, in uncertainty creativity thrives and the creative instinct to adapt to change with speed and conviction gives way to confidence. If we were to define confidence in relation to uncertainty it would be knowing what to do when you don't know what to do.
For excellence in your profession, in your new business or in your wonderfully chaotic life, "know what to do with your expertise when everything is changing." (Aithan Shapiro). Uncertainty is about shifting confidence from what you think is true and having confidence in your ability to innovate and adapt when what you thought was true is no longer the case.
Rather than feelings of anxiety over the unknown, the unpredictable, or sudden hiccups that come along with life and business (such as covid-19), lean into inspiration, freedom to evolve and resurface, an opportunity to see and listen differently. Shifting your feelings around uncertainty will dramatically improve your response and ability to innovate and execute when others panic, freeze and avoid reality altogether.
With every launch, with every experiment, with every decision the uncertainty that is present is another chance for innovation, greatness and your personal flavor of creativity.
Liberated Breaking the Rules
Ambra started her journey embracing her creative side and took that creativity to the corporate world where she arrived without self-limitations. She felt empowered transitioning from a creative career to a corporate role having found her value and knowing what she brings to the table because she was confident in her ability to put ideas together and create.
"By breaking away from prescribed roles, rebels gain respect, and the relationships they develop with others are tighter as a result," says Francesca Gino, in her article, Why It Pays to Break the Rules at Work. Ambra found success early in her corporate career doing exactly this.
As an entrepreneur starting your next business venture or going hard on your existing business, in what ways can you step into or reassess the space you are in so that you can show up without self-limitations? How are you able to impact the industry you serve best by breaking away from the "prescribed roles"?
Jenny Fleiss started both Rent the Runway and Jetblack without business plans. She told Entrepreneur Staff that to explain the profit model she had a 15 slide PowerPoint that was "a living, breathing process." Payal Kadakia launched her business ClassPass before developing the technology to manage bookings, which led to manually booking 20,000 reservations to learn her customers' behaviors and build precisely what they needed. Both of these women found high levels of success and revenue breaking the "rules" of business.
Ambra further adds that rules are relative to you. Asking yourself "what is this rule really about" allows you to observe rules within context. She observes that when it comes to rules (morning routines for example) many people are "too anxious to slap that on to their own life without contextualizing it and really personalizing it."
Adaptability has been a superpower for Ambra and can serve any professional or entrepreneur very well. When breaking away from the norms, adaptability allows you to flow through uncertainty with greater creativity. Because you have contextualized what role the rules potentially play in your own journey your assessment and application are personalized to best serve your needs. Ambra also recognizes that adaptability is a superpower to be controlled. It works best when you understand how to hold yourself to a path and are able and willing to change when ready and pivot with intention.
"the world now is changing on a yearly basis so quickly that the rules you are following don't even exist anymore, in many cases" -Ambra Sultzbaugh
Earlier we looked at uncertainty and its path to creativity and confidence. Breaking the rules and tearing away from the traditional paths or expectations requires creativity and confidence. Therefore, I believe uncertainty is the perfect climate for rule breaking. Ambra and Lady Cosmoshine are the perfect representation of what thriving in uncertainty can be when you have the emotional intelligence and intuition to know when to break the rules and when to operate within self-defined parameters through adaptability. The result is success, which by Ambra says is defined by her own terms.
"I want the light coming out to be easy, versus the shadows of the regular world" -Lady Cosmoshine
Ambra Sultzbaugh is part of the Impact Theory University Team with such a dynamic creative side. She has worked in four countries and has had a wide range of experiences from being the Designer and Production Manager to being the Communications and Culture Strategist and many in between. She was also a TEDx Speaker, where she discussed developing a strategic mind through language. Her alter ego, Lady Cosmoshine is a reincarnation of beauty birthed from ashes by surviving the personal apocalypses life tossed her way. Ambra is inspiring badassery, not the box checker.