Unpredictability in Business Can Be Good

jay newkirk a goal isnt a journey layered image copyWho knew that unpredictability in business could be a good thing? Apparently Jason Feifer, editor-in-chief of Entrepreneur Magazine, does. When I saw the headline for his “Editor’s Note” on the cover of this month’s edition, it stopped me in my tracks. It read, “The Truth about 2022: It’ll Be Unpredictable, But That’s Good For You!” This was a thought I hadn’t considered, and I was compelled to find out what he was going to say.

His suggestion that unpredictability is good for business stopped me because I’d never had that thought. My counseling has always been to anticipate what the future holds and set goals to address those things successfully. I’ve advised that we should be flexible and open to new ideas, but I hadn’t translated that into rethinking changing the annual goals and objectives. 

Entrepreneurs are often guilty of constantly setting goals and doing whatever it takes to meet them. In so doing we may miss the opportunity to respond positively to something unexpected that arises. I thought Feifer’s statement was so poignant and, to some degree, counterintuitive that I had to drop everything and read his Editor’s Note, entitled “Make Room for the Unexpected.” 

The Unexpected Note

Feifer discusses what entrepreneurs and business owners might expect in the new year as a result of the pandemic. He shares that this year will be different and advises us to be open to the unexpected. He goes on to say that setting goals for the new year is critical, but in 2022 it will be particularly important to not be so focused on the initial goals set for the year that we’re not open to possibility rethinking them.

He then shared a story of an individual who took goal setting to an extreme and set a goal to work for a particular company, no matter what. After years of hoping and working toward this objective, he finally got a job there only to discover that it wasn’t a good fit. To say that he hated it may be a little strong, but we get the idea. After years of working to obtain this goal, the person in the anecdote didn’t stay there very long. Feifer’s point was that he should have been more open to other options and not have built up his goal of working for that company to such an extreme that he couldn’t focus on anything else. Feifer goes on to talk about his own personal journey, which was wide open, moving from opportunity to opportunity with no real expectations. 

The Takeaway 

Feifer closed with this advice: “This year, as you set goals, I encourage you to hold them loosely.” He suggested that “A goal can light our path forward, and that’s useful for a while. But a goal is not a map. It cannot define your whole journey.”

Feifer’s point that “a goal is not a map” is profound. In my counseling I have advised setting annual goals and objectives, revisiting them frequently, and adhering to them no matter what. This thought that a goal is not a path requires a different mindset. I’m rethinking my advice now and have concluded that we should, on an ongoing basis, assess our annual goals and objectives and consider what government contracting environmental changes are taking place and reassess what we saw at the beginning of the year. I am now suggesting that we should revisit the annual goals and objectives at one of the weekly staff meetings every month, which could lead to resetting the year-end goals and objectives and, possibly, identifying what our new ones should be leading to adjusting how we will get there.

I hope you will consider leaving any questions or comments on this blog in the space below. I’m interested in your thoughts on this year’s approaches to success.