Monday, June 6, 2011

What is “a tolerance for ambiguity?"


In sports, the time clock creates urgency.  The clock also creates winners and losers when it ticks its way to “zero.”  At the end of every game, the people and teams who were playing go home with a “W” or an “L” associated with their name.  And when the score is close and there are only seconds remaining on the clock, the energy and intensity of the situation rise to a level that only talent can respond to.  In times like this, talent wants the ball.  Talent lives for the opportunity to win when losing seems just as likely an outcome.  While talent doesn’t win every game, talent always wins over time.  Most importantly, talent always takes the shot and enjoys the feeling of victory or learns from the frustration of defeat.

I recently read that the single most important attribute that is shared by the most successful entrepreneurs is “a tolerance for ambiguity.”  Bryon Ellington with Keller Williams Realty International shared this educational piece with me.  It went on to say that it’s possible for a tolerance for ambiguity to be learned, but most often it is not.  Regardless of whether a tolerance for ambiguity is a natural or a learned behavior, it is rare, despite how important it seems to be.

“A tolerance for ambiguity.”  What does that mean?  It means that that you must move forward and take action without knowing the final outcome.  It means that you hope for the best and plan for the worst.  It means that you value the process more than the destination.  It means that one’s quest for the thrill of victory will never be held hostage by the fear of the thought that he might lose.  It means that putting everything you’ve got on the line is the only way to know what you are capable of, and is therefore, the only way to learn and grow.  Stretching, finding our discomfort zone, and facing, fighting and learning from adversity are key components to discovering the power of our potential.  A tolerance for ambiguity implies that we actually have to watch the movie in order to know and appreciate how it ends.

Whether it’s watching the Superbowl, the Final Four, the Stanley Cup series, the Indy 500, or the Masters, it’s the unexpected thrills and shifts in momentum that draws us to the drama of competition and success.  Not knowing the outcome is the most exciting part.  And without the journey, without the fight, without the experience of chasing victory that is achieved or not, any outcome would be meaningless.

All of us know people who worked their way from nothing to achieve great success and wealth.  We also know people who were born into it.  Those who had to work for every dollar they ever earned have a different respect for their capital, what it takes to make it and what it takes to keep it, as compared to those who have always had it in their life.  Most people agree that the self made men and women of life have learned lessons and developed the confidence in themselves that only their journeys can create.

Regardless of our journey towards success, significance or wealth, perhaps it is our own tolerance for ambiguity that will determine our level of effort towards our destination.  The great Wayne Gretzky said, “I miss 100% of the shots I never take.”  Few people realize that Babe Ruth, the legendary king of hitting home runs, was also the king of strike outs.  All or nothing.  It’s the only way to play and achieve the greatness we are capable of.

Trying our very best guarantees that anything is possible.  Yet, the slightest withholding of effort will only insure regret.  If developing, or re-discovering, our tolerance for ambiguity can help us become the very best version of ourselves, then might I suggest we do it?  If looking at the games being played in stadiums, courts, tracks and on television excite us, then why not look at our own careers and lives with the same sense of excitement, knowing that winners are developed by giving their all, both physically and emotionally?

I’ve often described the professionals of the real estate industry as “financial daredevils” because we get up and go to work without any assurance that we are going to be paid.  Our assurance comes from our confidence in ourselves; it comes from our passion for serving others; it comes from knowing that productive energy produces positive results; it comes from being a part of a team that gives us every chance of success by supporting us, educating us and holding us accountable to the all-star performances we are capable of.  I’m convinced that it’s the uncertainty - the ambiguity - that creates greatness and brings out the greatness in all of us.  We must not wish for certain outcomes.  Rather, we must wish for the strength and the courage to play at the level that can only insure those outcomes.

I love Keller Williams Realty for many reasons.  One of the many is that this company continues to find ways to help every associate enhance their tolerance for ambiguity by providing us with the best leadership, training, tools and technology to help us build careers worth having, businesses worth owning and lives worth living.

Want the ball.  Take the shot, no matter the outcome.  “It’s not whether you win or lose, it’s how you play the game.”

Your #1 Fan…


Shaun Rawls
Operating Partner – Keller Williams Realty – The Rawls Group – Atlanta, Ga.Lisa Ekanger Your Hometown Realtor!

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