The Pain of Uncertainty

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I recently read an article that discussed people being motivated by pain and pleasure. What was noteworthy was how the author discovered that uncertainty feels like pain. He gave the example of the frustration felt by those who lost power during Hurricane Sandy. The cognitive overload of trying to imagine and prepare for the various possible future scenarios was exhausting.

I thought of when my wife was being tested for breast cancer. It was maddening not knowing what to expect. Once the diagnosis came back, even though it confirmed cancer, we were relieved: now we could focus on our next steps.

This would also explain why most people prefer to work a job rather than striking out as an entrepreneur. The risks are higher as an entrepreneur. There are a number of uncertainties: getting work, keeping work, collecting for work done, finding new work, managing customer relationships and expectations, managing employees, and many more. As an employee, you just have to worry about getting the work done, pleasing your boss, and getting along with coworkers.

The paycheck as an entrepreneur is anything but certain. The paycheck for an employee rarely has surprises. It’s dependable and rarely changes.

The weekly schedule for an entrepreneur is never certain. An employee usually has weeks of known work planned out.

So does this mean that entrepreneurs have a greater capacity for pain? Perhaps, but the bigger takeaway for me is that once someone gets comfortable as an employee, it will take some effort to accept the pain of uncertainty to move into the world of entrepreneurship. Like working out after a years of sitting at a desk,a new entrepreneur will have to work through the pain before it becomes pleasurable.