Academy for Wayward Authors: Embracing Chaos and Uncertain Outcomes in Your Author Journey

We like to think in polar opposites:

  • good versus evil,
  • easy versus hard,
  • order versus chaos.

It’s this last one I would like to dig into.

Because we assume that order is good and chaos is bad.

Order versus chaos

Our DMN is looking for order and predictability, so it has an aversion to chaos.

What is order?

The status quo, the known, and the familiar.

Even if the situation is sub-optimal, our DMN cherishes the state and wants to keep it predictable.

There is this thing called loss aversion.

Researchers Amos Tversky and Daniel Kahneman demonstrated that you care much more about losing something you have than getting something new.

Their experiments led them to win a Nobel Prize.

In most cases, their work is used to explain why we are willing to pay for insurance or how we irrationally value things.

We experience loss aversion for the known status quo, even when it’s a miserable one.

Let’s take an obvious example.

pexels pixabay 247899

Why are we so prepared to accept the way the publishing industry is now?

Is it truly the best manifestation of the reader-writer relationship?

In a reader’s (or writer’s) perfect dream, is the best experience what they get today?

“It’s okay,” most of us say. It’s the status quo and better than past iterations, but it is not the perfect solution for readers and writers to connect and do business.

Nor is there a perfect solution for everyone.

But we know it, and we get a loss aversion for what is familiar.

Yet on the other side of chaos could be a much better future.

We hate the idea of being out alone in the chaos. It exposes us to that which our brain reviles: unpredictability.

Unpredictability is the reality of the market. The very nature of a popularity market is the uncertainty of outcome and inequality of results. Yet we minimize the fact that the status quo is pretty uncertain.

How does your mindset need to change to embrace chaos?

I’ve got a few ideas.

You have to become acclimated to chaos so it doesn’t induce stress.

Stress is the killer, not chaos.

When you embrace chaos, you understand that “chaos” and “stability” are manifestations of your interpretation of the circumstances.

Your default mode network produces feelings and stress responses to get you to stay in a place of predictability. It’s loss aversion written into your synapses.

Here’s the problem. If you want to go someplace new, there must be a change.

Inherent in that change are chaos and unpredictability.

Want to become a full-time writer?

There is massive change required with multiple decisions that, more likely than not, won’t go how you plan.

The DMN won’t like that.

Are you looking to shift your business to 5x your business?

By design, you’re looking to 5x the uncertainty of outcome, and within that broad range of outcomes are ones that you will find favorable and some you won’t.

Again, this is not a place your current DMN will rush into with joy.

This is beyond that “rah-rah” mindset stuff you hear from time to time.

It’s easy for someone to say, “You need to think like a businessperson,” but do they ever explain what that means or how to put it into practice?

Chaos as a catalyst

I’ll give you a tool.

As you plan your business for the coming year, think through all possible outcomes for your plan.

pexels judit peter 1766604

Make a list of good and bad outcomes.

When you make this list, make sure that for every “bad” outcome, you think of two positive ones and keep going until you’ve exhausted all your ideas.

Next, for every outcome, think through if that happens, then… what else happens?

Are the second-order outcomes positive or negative?

Next, go through the list and assign a probability.

Don’t overthink. Just assign a number between 0% and 100% to the item.

Add up the totals to determine whether they come to more or less than 100%.

If it’s less, then maybe there are even more outcomes to the project.

Is it more? Then for some of these outcomes, you are assigning too high a probability.

Next, look over the list of adverse outcomes and identify the ones that truly concern you.

List the steps you could take to reduce the probability of that outcome.

Charlie Munger has a line: “All I want to know is where I’m going to die, so I’ll never go there.”

These specters of doom can be avoided, or at least, the probability of them occurring greatly reduced. This process also relieves you of that stress.

The opposite of this is saying, “Well, I’ll do nothing. I’ll stay in the status quo to avoid the things I fear.”

You still have made a choice and bear the responsibility of not taking the chance to cross chaos to a better place.

The idea is to improve your tolerance of change and uncertainty and reprogram your DMN using this process. You can see that many of the outcomes are highly remote or could actually lead to a second-order positive outcome.

Your initial reaction may be “why?”

Simple: What we perceive as chaos, defined as complete disorder and confusion, is where creative destruction and rebirth happen. It is the uncomfortable space of change where we find opportunity and are challenged to grow.

It is in that unfamiliar, uncharted territory that your dreams and success reside. The only thing holding you back is that pesky default mode network that must be re-engineered for operation in uncertainty, not the status quo.

Are you ready to join me in the chaos?

Read: Rethinking Success Narratives in the Publishing Industry