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Letting go of fear and making uncertainty your best friend

with Wilfred Emmanuel-Jones MBE

 

Starting your own business comes with unavoidable uncertainty, but it’s in learning to embrace this and let go of fear that success lies. We spoke to Wilfred Emmanuel-Jones, founder of The Black Farmer and author of Jeopardy: The Danger of Playing it Safe on the Path to Success, to find out why and how we must make friends with this uncomfortable feeling.

Wilfred arrived in Birmingham from Jamaica at the age of three. From a young age, he was inspired by his Dad’s allotment and decided that, one day, he would have his very own farm. Many decades later, with enormous determination and drive, and by embracing uncertainty, he realised that dream – founding a multi-million pound, award-winning business and becoming a best-selling author along the way too!

With a career that spans the army, catering, politics and TV, before pursuing his childhood dream, plus a life changing battle with Acute Myeloid Leukaemia, Wilfred is no stranger to uncertainty. In fact he says he ‘loves change – change is where opportunity lies.’ So, how does he embrace this feeling that we’re so used to shying away from and how can doing so benefit you as a small business?

‘In my book, I talk about how the biggest problem that most people have in life is that they’re addicted to certainty. And in this day and age, where certainty tends to rule the way that we operate, it is causing the greatest damage to people. They are so fixated on certainty and control that they forget that uncertainty is something you’ve actually got to get used to.’

‘And those of us who run businesses all know that to actually get the best out of things, you have to make a friend of uncertainty. Because if you make a friend of it, it will open up things that are beyond your wildest imaginings.’

This is often true for those who run, or want to start, their own business. Anyone who’s left the security of a reliable salary will likely tell you that the most common reaction they got from colleagues, even friends and family, was along the lines of them being ‘brave’ or asking ‘are they sure?’. Whether a natural instinct or one society has ingrained within us, fear of the unknown, of leaving the norm behind, can hold us back.

‘It is the one thing that stops people from actually doing what they want to do, and if they could get rid of that fear, it will then open up the world. That is what entrepreneurs have to do. They’re in control of fear rather than fear being in control of them.’

You might not feel in control of your fear all the time, but just by having the courage to pave your own way, you’ve given yourself the power to change everything. And Wilfred explains that it is only by embracing uncertainty, becoming best friends with it, that change can happen.

‘You have to decide whether you want to be, or belong. Belong-ers need to operate by the rules of the community. Be-ers are the people who will take the risk that, by being, it will piss off the people who want to belong. All the fear mongers, all of our systems, it’s all about trying to get people to belong. But every entrepreneur has said, no, I’m not going to belong. I’m going to change the path, change the world as it is. And everything that you see and every progress we have made as a human race is because somebody said… no, I think we should do it a different way.’ 

If you’re following your passion, doing what you love, you’re not doing it to do things the way they’ve always been done. You’re doing it to build your own “Good Life”. To have creative freedom and do things the way you think is right. As Wilfred says, just by being an entrepreneur you’re ‘challenging the perceived order and have to have faith and belief that what you believe is right and everybody else is wrong.’

You need the ability to trust your gut and instincts above all else, because you are simultaneously writing and telling your personal story. And Wilfred reminds us ‘your personal story is what is unique to you and, the more people can actually tap into themselves and the uniqueness of themselves, and then sell that, the more they won’t get clouded by the way bigger companies would do it. The biggest mistake that most people make when they’re starting up is to think, well, I worked in corporate life and that’s how they do it there, so that’s how I should do it. Wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong. It doesn’t work like that.’

Whether you’re on this journey for you personally, your family or the wider community, Wilfred explains that ‘the most important thing about bringing about change is having the courage to dream. It may seem like a very simple thing, but it’s a very Americanised way of being – the British are very cynical when you start thinking that you could dream beyond your own circumstances – but you have to have the courage to say, right, this is what I want.’

'The biggest problem that most people have in life is that they’re addicted to certainty. And in this day and age, where certainty tends to rule the way that we operate, it is causing the greatest damage to people. They are so fixated on certainty and control that they forget that uncertainty is something you’ve actually got to get used to.’

Having the right mental attitude and being alert to recognise uncertainty will mean you’re far more prepared when it comes your way, and therefore able to avoid the danger of following certainty and taking the well trodden path over following your gut.

‘And those of us who run businesses all know that to actually get the best out of things, you have to make a friend of uncertainty. Because if you make a friend of it, it will open up things that are beyond your wildest imaginings.’

Key takeaways:

1. Embrace the uncertainty of…uncertainty: If you try to control the impossible, you’ll get caught in a battle you can’t win and it will hold you back.

2. Do things differently: isn’t that the whole point of starting your own business? Stay true to you.

3. Be, don’t belong: Don’t worry about pissing people off. It’s the be-ers that change the world!

Hear more from Wilfred Emmanuel-Jones

To learn more of incredible story from not conforming and being proud to stand out, to how recently overcoming leukaemia, gave him the strength to finally tell his story through his new book, Jeopardy.

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