I recently met a man with an MBA who quit his job at the spur of the moment because he had earned a new certification, sure that he would be able to secure immediate new - and better - employment. Sadly, he is still awaiting a job offer, 18 months on. Then there was that lady who started the pizzaria in a matured landed estate... she had the best pizza I had ever tasted. But in 9 months, she was flat broke, closed the business and was looking for a corporate job. She is currently still looking for one. I can recount many other such tales but I will spare you the heartache. They were all the result of misplaced optimism and bad judgement. And if you are going to avoid that, then here are 6 things you must bear in mind...
(1) Look before you leap
Before you go headlong into your ideas, make sure you know you will land on solid ground. Don't do something foolhardy like quitting your job before you have secured a new one. Look around you and understand just what you are getting yourself into and make sure that you come up on top. Never, ever leap before you look!
(2) Test your assumptions
So you think you can make the best pizza? But would people patronise your stall? Do you have a good delivery system? Do you have good margin at the right price? And so what if you have an MBA? Do companies value you? You may think so, but do you KNOW so? Many a times, people act on assumptions that are not true, and they throw all their weight on an unsubstantiated idea. This sometimes causes them to take unnecessary risks that otherwise less "gungho" people would avoid. So what should you do? Test your assumptions; put down every assumption you think you might have or not, and weigh them against the facts. Create a range of outcomes called bracketing that will allow you to understand the full extent of the variablility of your assumptions and if it is too great, then you must find an alternative. If you don't, you will end up like the two people in the introduction, and for no good reason.
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(3) Hope for the best, expect the worst
Even if you have assessed the variability of your decision, you should always plan for the worst, while you optimistically hope for the best. If your worst requires that you put in place certain contingencies, expending certain resources, then do it. It is better to err on the side of caution than to expect the best while the worst is unfolding.
(4) Never, ever, put all your eggs in one basket
Each of the examples earlier - the man quitting in expectation of something better, the lady throwing her whole weight on that one sure win - is foolhardy. I know what the motivation speakers say, and I know what it means to be single-mindedly focused on your vison, but if you put all your eggs in one basket, and if you single-source your success, you might end up with nothing. It is always wise to spread your bets.
(5) Get a second, third, or even fourth opinion
Most of the time, our opinion is never good. We are so full of limiting assumptions that we will need a second, third or even fourth opinion from people who are not invested in your idea. But when you ask for them, don't reveal the true nature of the question, and set it up as a hypothetical. If more of them say it is a bad idea, it probably is. They are not vested in the decision, and are therefore more balanced and logical. Heed their advice, no matter how difficult it may be for you. In the long run, you will see the wisdom of their counsel and thank them for stopping you doing something foolish.
(6) Learn to start over
Finally, and this may be the hardest to learn, but perhaps the most important, learn to recover from setbacks and start over. If you know how to start over, if you know how to manage untoward outcomes, if you know how to cut your losses, then you would be more confident to venture into the "unknown". You must learn resilience, and you must learn to start over. And if starting over means finding a job, then you might need to think through this harder. You need to have a valid alternative response, or you might just have to grin and bear it.