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Jan 9, 2024
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The Upside of Uncertainty (Replay)

The Upside of Uncertainty (Replay)
In this replay of Human Capital's episode, Jeff explores the topic of uncertainty with guests Susannah and Nathan Furr, authors of "The Upside of Uncertainty." Nathan is a professor of strategy at NSEAD University in Paris, and Susannah formerly owned an apparel company. Together they explore the difference between risk and uncertainty, how creativity and uncertainty are interwoven, and how reframing, preparing, doing, and sustaining can lead us to the upside of uncertainty. Susannah and Nathan share with Jeff about what uncertainty balancers are, and how to better navigate the emotions that come with uncertainty to produce positive outcomes.



Intro: Duration: (01:08)

Opening music jingle & sound effects

Jeff Hunt:

Happy New Year, listeners. This is Jeff Hunt, and I'm thrilled to welcome you to listen to a special replay episode of Human Capital. While I take a break, I chose to replay this episode because standing on the cusp of a new year is a perfect time to reflect on the incredible possibilities that lie ahead.

In this episode, I had the pleasure of delving into the fascinating topic of uncertainty with two remarkable guests, Susannah and Nathan Furr, authors of "The Upside of Uncertainty". Nathan and Susannah each brought their unique perspectives to our discussion, including how they each navigate uncertainty differently.

Together we explored the nuanced differences between risk and uncertainty, unraveled how creativity and uncertainty are intricately interwoven. We dove into the strategies from their book on reframing, preparing, doing, and sustaining. And we talked about how these approaches can guide us toward the upside of uncertainty.

Susannah and Nathan generously shared their insights about how to navigate the emotional roller coaster that often accompanies uncertainty, but all in pursuit of positive outcomes. As you listen to this episode, I invite you to kick off the new year with a renewed sense of purpose and a clear vision for the personal and work goals that await you.

I hope you enjoy.

Jeff Hunt:

I'm Jeff Hunt, CEO of GoalSpan, and this is Human Capital where we uncover the deeply human aspect of work. When you hear the word uncertainty, what comes up for you? Is it fear, anxiety, maybe even panic, or is it opportunity and upside? Uncertainty is the one thing we can count on in our lives, but what if we could leverage the upside of uncertainty, treating it as a gift and an opportunity in both our work and personal lives.

If we don't embrace the upside of uncertainty, it could look like a stagnant career or relationship, but learning to embrace it could lead to a much more fulfilling life. Today, my two guests wrote the book on the Upside of Uncertainty. Nathan and Susannah Fur are married and co-authored the book, the Upside of Uncertainty, A Guide to Finding Possibility in the Unknown.

Nathan is a professor of strategy at NSEAD University in Paris, and Susannah's former career was owning an apparel company. Welcome to the podcast you two!

Susannah Furr:

Thanks for having us.

Nathan Furr:

Yeah, great to be here.

Topic 1. Who or what inspired you the most, early in your career? (01:09)

Jeff Hunt:

I'd like to actually start our conversation by learning from each of you who or what inspired you most early in your careers, and Susannah, let's start with you.

Susannah Furr:

Wow, that's a tricky one. I would say, but I guess I would've to say actually my mother, made life so cozy and awesome, but she always tried to do things on the side. And so that was something that I knew when I started doing my company that it was okay. And I even just launched it a little further than her because she had eight kids.

I had four, so maybe that was what made me able to do it. But just believing in human beings being really valuable. I knew what I was doing as a mom was hugely important, but also, I needed to be able to have fulfill. You know, outside of that, and so that has been something that still continues to this day where I wanna have uncertainty actually, because I wanna push for cool stuff to happen and not get bored.

Jeff Hunt:

So, Nathan, who or what inspired you most?

Nathan Furr:

Actually a poet by the name of William Stafford, who was this very generous human being, really incredible. And I think what was so influential about him is if we abstracted away from what he does, it's that he just saw a young teenage kid who admired his work.

And took the time to talk to me to write letters is back in the day when you wrote letters and write a letter to me, and that kind of valuing another human being was so impactful on my life.

Topic 2. How did your backgrounds come together in writing this book? (02:40)

Jeff Hunt:

I'd like to just talk briefly about your book and how this came together. In looking at your backgrounds, you're both researchers, writers, you're entrepreneurs, Nathan, your focus is more on technology and strategy.

If I understand that, Susannah, you've got a background in art, history and fashion and you are keen to mindfulness and so I'm curious about how your backgrounds complemented each other, how they do complement each other with regard to this whole concept of finding possibility in the unknown.

Susannah Furr:

I wanna take this. This is one thing we like to do, we kind of joust and kind of like, and people so far are kind of like, you know, we kind of like that cuz that's weird that's different. So I will just say really quickly, we both love research, so like you said, we both love going around an angle and really wrestling ideas, but I tend to like fly high.

We actually sometimes refer to our Native American totems. I'm the snow goose and Nathan's the woodpecker. So, I'll bring in all these things cuz I'm soaring high being like, we should put this in the book. And he'll be like, wait, what? And then he's like, yes, I see it. And so he'll take kind of my abstract, wonky thing and he situates it there.

So, we love ideas, but we do come at them from different angles, and then we have personalities that I love uncertainty more, but you know what? He used to say, I hate it. I don't want it. And he's finding actually with the tools, I'm starting to like it more, I'm starting to avoid it less, but just from the, like waking up in the morning, I kind of love a challenge and he kind of wants to get right into his day and not have things go wrong.

Nathan Furr:

Yeah. You know, I'm gonna say the same thing, but in a very different way. So listen to the connection. And that is where this started for me, is I've been interviewing innovators for the last 20 years, and what I noticed is that we celebrate the new things that they do, the ways they change the world.

But the story we never tell is that they always had to take a big risk. They had to step into the unknown, they had to navigate uncertainty to get to that thing. So, we spent all this time in universities and work talking about how do you have new ideas? How do you test ideas? And all the kind of the possibility side of the thing, but never talking through. How do we navigate the uncertainty side of that? that two sides of the same coin, and so for me that was what fascinated me, cuz I struggled with that. And then what Susannah brought into it, cuz we just talked about every interview I do, we talk about it, debate it, was this broader perspective when she said, For example, guess what? It's not just innovators who struggle or have to face uncertainty.

It's creators, it's designers, and we could go on, you know, it's paramedics, and it's all human beings. And then the other big kind of aha, the breadth that came in is, this is kind of embarrassing. This is not a pandemic book. We started this long ago, but the pandemic did hit while we were working on it. And as somebody who struggles with uncertainty, I was freaking out and Susannah's like, Hey, wait a minute, buddy, if you can't apply this to help yourself, you can't write this book, I won't let you do that.

And so, what she was doing, right, there was two things. One, she was highlighting uncertainty isn't just planned. It's not just what we choose. Uncertainty happens to us. We don't choose it. And number two, for me, it got a lot more skin in the game for me in a way that changed how, at least I approached writing that book.

Jeff Hunt:

That's such a, a great lesson for our listeners because what it speaks to is it doesn't really matter where you're coming from or your perspective.

You can lean into the possibility, the upside of uncertainty, and maybe you'll approach it from a different place, but you can still have really positive outcomes regardless of where you're coming from.

Susannah Furr:

Absolutely. Yep, we really, we really believe that all of the tools will land on people differently and some will resonate more, but that no matter what version of uncertainty you either like or don't like, you can improve, you can create kind of this ability to face it well, to navigate it well, and actually the best way to do it is practice. So every time we have something show up that we're not thrilled about, think, that's one reframe, which I'm sure we'll talk about, but think, oh good, I'm gonna get better because right now I'm gonna go into this and do it. And on the other side I'll have learnings, takeaways.

Topic 3. The difference between uncertainty and risk (07:21)

Jeff Hunt:

Exactly. And, I've read the book listeners. it's a great book. There's actually, I think, 30 different tools in there for helping people navigate uncertainty. Let's go back to talking about the difference between uncertainty and risk. So sometimes people confuse these two, talk about the difference.

Nathan Furr:

Well, I think it's an important difference in a couple ways.

Number one, what is it? You know? So the way I think one kind of foundational, resource to think about is there's this very famous economist named Frank Knight who spent his career on this, and he said, risk is where, you know, the variables involved. And you even probably know the probability distribution.

You just don't know, what's gonna happen? What's the value you're gonna get? So, think about rolling two dice. You know, you're gonna get between two and 12 and you even know the likelihood of getting a six or a seven. Just don't know which number you're gonna get and what he said is uncertainty.

Is where we don't know the variables, we don't know the probability distribution and even more ambiguity is maybe where we don’t even have a mental model to make sense of it, I would put all of those together, but it's, it's kind of deep sense of not knowing, and he said it's so important.

To think about that differently, that it's requires different tools, different approaches. He didn't give us those tools and approaches, but I'm glad you asked that because, I don't wanna devalue topics like risk management in organizations. Like, I don't want a factory floor where we're saying, oh, let's the upside of uncertainty and people are getting hurt.

Like, that's not what we're talking about. We're talking about something different than those kind of more familiar risk environments.

Jeff Hunt:

Are there issues when people tend to bundle? Risk and uncertainty together, like what do you see that the problems associated with that?

Nathan Furr:

Well, a couple things. One is big organizations especially tend to view risk as something that we should eliminate and that it's actually almost like ethical or virtuous or good management to eliminate risk. Like, let's crush it, let's reduce it. And that makes sense again, if it's like a factory floor where people get hurt, but what we forget is, we actually in doing so, eliminate the chance of something new.

So where this hurts companies and people is they say they want innovation. They say they want change, they say want transformation, but as they try to eliminate all the uncertainty, they eliminate the possibility of getting those things. And this is actually empirical support for this. So, one of my colleagues in her research at Harvard showed that companies that introduced ISO 9,000 standards, of quality production.

They succeeded in improving their quality, but they eliminated their ability to innovate. And so, it's this duality, this is why I feel like it's so important, is that we have to make room. And I'm always challenging leaders you want growth, you want innovation, but you don't want any uncertainty, guess what? Uncertainty is the moat that protects the opportunity.

Jeff Hunt:

Suzanne, I want you to speak to this question, but it seems like it's easier for many people to assess risk from their head instead of their heart, and I guess I would say, what's your advice for making sure that we are actually listening to our heart? Listening to our gut when evaluating risk?

Susannah Furr:

You know, I love thinking about it that way because I think one of the best ways, especially for people who do a logical outlook when they're facing risk or uncertainty, actually you can start with a tool we call regret minimization, because that starts very logically where you can kind of extrapolate forward into the future and even we sometimes say, go to your 80-year-old self and imagine, will you regret the choice?

There are some risks that you would regret because you would say, oh my gosh, I actually am willing to take the risk that this fails to have the possibility. But there are also times when you look at it and think, oh my gosh, a lot could go wrong here. You know what, I'm not gonna regret it.

In fact, I would really regret trying and failing. And so then, you know, but that regret minimization tool actually kind of ushers a head thinker into their heart. Because a lot of times when we go forward into our future we can kind of go into more of that imaginative, soulful, hopefully place, because it can't just stay in your mind.

You have to envision, okay, what do I really care about? What do I want in my life? And hopefully that will bring people more into their heart space.

Nathan Furr:

I just gotta emphasize what Susannah said is so important. Often people and organizations conflate the low-risk decision as the right decision, and that is sometimes true, but often not true.

Being able to look at instead, not just what's low risk, but what will I regret, which is a heart-oriented choice. I've seen this in big companies almost about to make the wrong decision for all that they hope in terms of their strategy, because it's the low-risk decision. And we do that as people too.

We kind of trade off what our heart wants because in the moment it feels low.

Jeff Hunt:

It almost feels like you're saying the opportunity cost, it comes from the heart side of things, not the head side. So, when you evaluate the opportunity cost of not taking that risk, maybe you're not paying close enough attention to that.

It makes me think of a book that I just finished reading called The Five Regrets of the Dying, have you heard of this book? It's about this woman who's a caregiver and cares for people in their end days, develops deep relationships with them and they share their regrets, and she essentially determines, there's common theme she's hearing from everyone.

What I'm hearing you say is that if we lean into the heart side of uncertainty and we really cast the vision for ourselves personally, in addition to our organizations that we lead, we're gonna end up in a much better place without regret and with more fulfillment, right?

Susannah Furr:

So true, absolutely.

Nathan Furr:

Yeah. One of the top regrets people have, is not taking more risks.

As you were asking this, I was wrestling with why that is, and I'm thinking back to a decision we to make. I'm obviously a professor at this university in Paris, and at the time we got the offer, you know, people outside of the business environment may not know nci, but it's really one of the top, top schools in the world.

So when I got the offer, it was like a dream both to go to a great school, but also because we'd visited France visiting professorship thing for a couple times. It was also a dream of where we wanted to live. But the problem was we had a really, really good situation at home. We were at a great university that we liked and people, respected us.

I was gonna have the job for life. We lived a few doors down from Susannah's parents. Our kids were comfortable in school. In fact, our oldest was 16 and in high school, like that's like when you don't move them right? It was really hard to make that decision from like a risk based, head-based perspective because all I could see were the benefits of what we had, and I can only compare that to the unknown, the risks of what we might choose.

So that was already an unfair comparison. I should have compared the benefits of what we had to the potential benefits of the new thing. But our intuition, our evolutionary wiring, makes us compare the safe space to the uncertain thing that's out there. So, number one, if I had advice, I'd be like, compare opportunity to opportunity

But number two was this heart moment where I was sought advice from people. It's this regret minimization in different words. I remember speaking to my grandmother and she just said, parents teach their kids to live their dreams when the parents live their dreams, that allowed me to tap into what will I regret.

And I knew I will regret not trying, cuz this is a dream and we can come back. By the way, turns out we live in a modern world where you can sometimes reverse decisions. Oh my gosh, this is a reversible decision. This is a dream. This is what I regret. And anyway, so that was, Part of making a better decision in that case.

Jeff Hunt:

I love that you said that and shared that, Nathan, because what I'm also thinking of too is that often we get stuck in thinking that our decisions are terminal or unchangeable. So, if I do something, if I do take a risk, if I lean into uncertainty, I can never go back and that's not the case, right?

Susannah Furr:

No, in that same tool discussion of regret minimization, we talk about set up the, the uncertainty as a two-way door. So, one of those, like ones that goes both ways. So go in and come right back on out. That's not a, you know, that's not a failure. That's what didn't work and then you won't have the regret cuz you're like, I did it, I tried it.

Nathan Furr:

Yeah and to be fair, a lot, sometimes people learn I didn't want that thing, and we don't give enough credit for the value of learning what we don't want.

Topic 4. The four steps of uncertainty (16:48)

Jeff Hunt:

So, in your book, you talk about moving through these steps of uncertainty. Reframe, et cetera. Can you share about these four steps of uncertainty?

Susannah Furr:

Sure, like you mentioned, there are 30 more than 30 tools actually, we decided, okay, we need to break them down into categories that people can remember. So, there are four categories and we put those around a first aid cross for uncertainty. So, envision like a red cross, and the top one is that reframe, so that north star, that compass moment when you reframe uncertainty as just the portal to possibility, like Nathan mentioned in the beginning.

Anything we champion, celebrate, revere, as just certain and like, oh yeah, that is so cool we love this breakthrough. It started as an unknown, it started as an uncertainty, and that is the moment, that reframe moment is how we can get motivated to even go for it. To go against this wiring we have that uncertainty means loss and disaster.

So, reframe tools are gonna all be tools that help you do that reframing. Prime tools are on the left side of the cross and they're really about preparing in a really helpful way so that when you're ready to take action, you are prepared and, they really have to tend to do with preparing yourself. One we share a lot is the one called uncertainty balancers, and that's where.

You kind of shore up this moment of uncertainty you're about to face or that you already are facing by creating a way of certainty by creating rituals and comforting habits can be food, it can be people, it can be routines, it can be automating things like what you wear so that you have coziness. And comfort and certainty in some places doing is, so we call it do, but the due step is really navigable well when we go in different ways than we might think.

So, breaking it down into small steps and tools like that. And then the sustain is that final lower set of tools and it's really about just encouraging people to hey, let yourself be sustained because things are gonna go wrong, they're gonna go differently than you planned, and you need to really take that category of tools seriously.

We can't just keep doing uncertainty after uncertainty we will burn out. We will flop and fizzle. So how do you sustain yourself? There's actually three little mini categories within that that we can talk about later maybe.

Jeff Hunt:

I wanna highlight too, the prepare one, because isn't it true that people assume that these hyper successful people that have taken risks and they've created the unicorn and that they just love every aspect and they live every aspect of their lives and uncertainty and risk, but that's not true, is it?

Nathan Furr:

So that's what Suzanne was hinting at. To be fair, there's a little nuance to this One nuance is they've kind of learned the secret, and this is why I say you can get better at uncertainty and this is how I'm getting better at uncertainty. The secret is if you want possibilities, which I think most of us do, it's that you have to go through the uncertainty and they've kind of learned that through experience.

So that's part of why it looks like they love the uncertainties because they've realized, oh my gosh, it looks scary, but it actually on the other side is something good. So, having experienced that, a lot of times they've built up their uncertainty ability, as we call it. So yeah, you get better at it, guess what?

Turns out you get more interesting life, new things happen to you. It's, and you learn, so it's all these great things, but there is a little bit of a false front there. And that's, Susannah was hinting it when we interview these folks. They would say things like uncertainty is fuel for me, or I love uncertainty.

I love this one woman who said, she literally said, I eat uncertainty for breakfast I was like, not me, Holy smokes. Like, I don't. But when we dig in and being good quality of researchers, we really dug doug, doug, doug. What we found is that's what they say on the front stage of their life, but on the backstage it's a very different story and they've done what Susannah was talking about.

They create these uncertainty balancers, or what we call them, or these islands of certainty that give them comfort, give them something to rely on that then they can thereby be more comfortable in choosing other uncertainties. So for example, Sam Yagan, who is the serial entrepreneur, he was. CEO of match.com, when they self-disrupted with Tinder successfully disrupted themselves.

But that's a highly uncertain time. He was one who said, uncertainty is fuel for me. But when we dug down, he said, well, yeah, it's true that I did marry my high school sweetheart and all my friends are from junior high. And it's true that I want very little drama in my personal life given how much uncertainty I traffic in at work.

Or that woman who said I eat uncertainty for breakfast, guess what? She actually carried with her a little bag of granola, so she could have the exact same breakfast wherever she would, so she was actually eating the same breakfast for breakfast.

Susannah Furr:

That was a certain breakfast.

Nathan Furr:

It was a very certain breakfast. Or people did things like they, when they traveled, they had these routines. They'd stay in the same hotel, they'd stay in the same room, they wore the same outfit. They join these communities of people who they could relax with. They create routines at work. So this idea is that even if we can build up our certainty, ability, uncertainty, ability.

None of us have like an infinit capacity. And so balance it out and imagine there are folks listening to this who you have life circumstances, you have way too much right now. And I would be like, absolutely, bring in some uncertainty balancers, treat yourself well so that you can handle the uncertainties that really matter with more composure, more courage, more wisdom.

Topic 5. Uncertainty balancers and mindfulness (22:45)

Jeff Hunt:

It seems like an uncertainty balancer could be improved by mindfulness, maybe incorporation of certain activities like meditation, allowing yourself to become more present and grounded, wouldn't you say that's the case?

Susannah Furr:

Yes, for sure. In fact, we kind of have different genres or categories of uncertainty balancers, and some people wanna do the automating ones.

I'm gonna always wear the same thing, I'm gonna have the same food. Cuz they just wanna not have to stress about those things. And for other people that would be their nightmare cuz they love the difference. So, they would do, you know, maybe more of these spiritual meditative kind of like, I need to be in nature every day.

I'm gonna figure out a way where I can just take 20 minutes and I think what's important is to just let everybody have their own version of uncertainty balancer. We have a daughter who confided in when she learned about this tool, she's like, well, I'll tell you what my uncertainty balancer was when we moved to France.

I ate one of those whole chocolate bars every day in my bed, like after I brushed my teeth and tucked her. And I'm like, oh, you know what? Sometimes there's, there's certain ones where you're like, ah, if you do that for two years straight, not gonna work. But you know, cozy comforts things that feel good, that make us feel safe.

And for a lot of us, I think meditation and mindfulness could be something really important for everybody.

Nathan Furr:

I love that, I'm sorry, I just really remembered an embarrassing one and that was when I was finishing my dissertation at Stanford and like the data wasn't working out as I had hoped, and we had already taken a job.

So there was all this time pressure was a financial crisis. If I didn't finish in time, I wouldn't have a job. Everything depended on it, and I remember embarrassingly, we watched that, I don't wanna say stupid television show lost, but like, you know, it had like a million seasons and every season prompt, every episode promised to like reveal the secret in the next episode.

But like they did that for like 500 episodes. It was so frustrating.

Susannah Furr:

And we were way behind. So that's why there were a ton, but we could just watch one and I think it just got outta his brain. So, it can be a show I mean there are some better.

Nathan Furr:

But I love how you said what works for you, and I think the meditative things you mentioned are richer and deeper, but I just wanna say sometimes it is a chocolate bar but don't eat it for two years and some, it's a dumb TV show, but don't let it take over your life.

Topic 6. Uncertainty tools applied to leadership (24:58)

Jeff Hunt:

Exactly. So, thinking of these four categories, reframe, prepare, do, and sustain.

If we zoom in on the context of leadership, what are your thoughts on how leaders can apply these four to difficult conversations they may need to have, uh, with their employees or their teams?

Susannah Furr:

I love that question. I actually, we've been sharing this story a lot, but it's perfect for this because during the pandemic, Airbnb lost 80% of their business in eight weeks.

And Brian Chesky, the founder and CEO, he really has written some beautiful, almost like journal entries, but he's done a lot of interviews talking about that moment and what he was up. And ultimately he really nailed all of those categories just in a intuitively first, he reframed that moment of, oh my gosh, like he could have said this is, well, it was the worst thing that had happened to them, but he framed it in terms of the possibility that they were looking at.

He said, great companies are forged in times of. And so he reframed it for the people that were surrounding him, that he was leading through that, both the people that worked at Airbnb, but then all of those hosts around the world reframing it for all of them and saying, we're gonna do this. We're going to be really thoughtful about how to navigate this.

And so in the Prime, I would say he took it really seriously when they went to look at. And so Prime and Due are kind of this action phase. You know, reframe and sustain are more cognitive. But he really set that company up for an amazing transition because they did have to lay off 1900 people. And he talks about how that was such a hard moment.

And when you talk about difficult conversations, he actually shares that he wrote a letter to all of those people, and he even said, I said the L word. I said, I love you, but he meant it. He really meant, thank you for helping me build this company. He said, I did more than what was expected. He gave them their laptops, he extended their healthcare for a year.

He turned the recruiting arm of Airbnb into job placement. So, he stood behind that sentiment of love and he said, I knew it could be cheesy, but I really wanted to show that I was taking it seriously and so that was beautiful action. And then I would say sustaining companies, like when people are having to do, whether it's layoffs or you're saying, Hey guys, we're gonna be in this altogether.

How do we go forward? There are ways to do that with just being that leader who has already realized I don't have to be a perfect stoic, like, act like nothing's happening. It's not a naive sense or a fakey thing. You can be authentic with people and say I don't know what this is gonna look like, but I know that we can do this and we're going, we're up to the challenge and we're gonna do it with our full hearts, our full minds, like you said, it's, it's a human thing.

Like the, the name of your podcast. Leaders who are Human, who really help first navigate it for themself and then see the value of their teams. It can be a brilliant, even if it's hard, a brilliant outcome.

Jeff Hunt:

And that's really the definition of strong leader. Say a little bit about how money can get in the way of our realizing the upside of uncertainty.

If money takes on too large of an element in our decision-making and our evaluation, is that problematic?

Nathan Furr:

I love that you asked that, and I was really thinking as you two were discussing that last question, but I was thinking about there's a real dilemma here for us, especially, you know, if you've been raised in the west and the whole mantra around setting goals and achieving goals and all those kind of things.

One of the really surprising, counterintuitive things about going to uncertainty is this dilemma around money and around goals and around values. And one of the things I guess the puzzle I would pose. Is it possible to go in uncertainty and into uncertainty and not fail it? Probably not because by definition you don't know something you don't know.

The chances you guess it right are gonna are almost zero. So you know that it's gonna be different than you expected, but it's actually possible. I'm gonna propose it's possible to go in and not fail. And here's how to focus on as you go into the uncertainty on your values rather than your goals. And, and here's why.

It's really powerful, and I remember the interview we did with. Very famous entrepreneur, David Hun Meyer Hunts, who did Ruby on Rails and Base Camp. He said it really well. He said, when you go into the unknown, let's say you create a startup, you don't hit 30 million in revenue because you made a goal for 30 million revenue.

He says, it's total bs. You're just extrapolating numbers into an unknown, an unknown situation, an unknown future. If you focus on that and obsess about that, you're gonna feel tons of anxiety. Unless you get lucky and you just happen to fall into some great, jackpot of opportunity, you know, but you're gonna feel a lot of anxiety, have a lot of stress, and you'll be taking action towards this abstract thing that like really doesn't motivate people.

In the end, he said instead, if you focus on your values, you can be sure of achieving those values and it makes you much healthier. Much less stressed and leads to better action. So he says in his company, for him his values are, write great software, treat my employees well, and act ethically with the marketplace.

He said, I know even if I spend a couple years and a couple million developing a product and that product is a flop, it can still be a personal and a company-wide success so he can succeed in the face of uncertainty. And now here's where it gets interesting. It can lead to surprising outcomes when you focus on your values rather than your goals.

Remember my story of Fineman at the beginning? Ultimately, what Fineman was doing was focusing on the value, curiosity about what's really going on in the world, not the goal of winning a Nobel Prize, doing research, but he did better research when he did that. And you know, I would say the same thing with David Hamar Hanson, when they launched this new product, actually Apple came in and threatened to squash them because it was competitive with what Apple did.

And he said, if I had been going after a goal of money, I probably would've lean over and take it and said, how do I play with this big giant, just make peace with the situation and you know, so I can make money? But he said, no, I was going for my value, which was act ethically with the marketplace. So I fought back.

And he said that resonated so much with other entrepreneurs that our story got picked up. He said 50 million of paid publicity couldn't have given us a better launch than sticking to our values. And I'll just say, even in writing this book, you know, it was so stressful when the pandemic hit, because I'd been working on this a long time.

Suzanne had been, we'd been talking about this forever. Suddenly what happens with the pandemic, every guru and thought leader out there who has a bigger trumpet than me is grounded with nothing to do. Thinking about what uncertainty, you know, so I got like all anxious and we gotta do this, we gotta move fast.

And Susannah's like, whoa, whoa, whoa, go back to your values. That's what will make you unique. That's how you make a contribution, and that contribution is really what has value in the world. That's what people respond to. And so maybe it's another way of saying values over goals is go back to your contribution.

That's really where the essence of success is. It's not in the money, it's not in the goal.

Jeff Hunt:

Really what I'm hearing you say is pursuing your values is the regret minimization tool, right?

Susannah Furr:

It's connected for sure. I think what's sad when, when we go for money too, is it's just ultimately you either are gonna get the money, but are you gonna feel satisfied or are you just gonna kind of create a higher ceiling for the next goal?

Or you're not going to, and then you won't have had, or you'll do stupid things that you regret because you maybe weren't ethical in the marketplace, or you treated people poorly, so it's scary. It's scary to go for things that don't have real substance because it, it's not a sure thing. And values are.

I just loved when he taught that to us because, you know, he was like, oh no, it could be a flop after millions and two years, because he also did say, let's face it, it wouldn't be for waste. We would've learned all so many things and we would just carry it forward and we'd feel really good about how we did it.

Nathan Furr:

It's one of these counterintuitive things. I mean, listen, I get the pressure that we all face. In organizations, I work with senior executives nonstop, and it's always about growth and about numbers and all this kind of thing. But you know, I remember another interview we did with David Hyatt and who created, you know, a couple very successful startups and, and he advises entrepreneurs and he says, if you have a sales problem, it’s probably not a sales problem.

It's probably a problem in terms of what are you really about? What is a company about? Why should somebody care? You know, it's true sometimes we buy stuff just because we need it, we buy, you know, coffee. But, but then why do people spend a lot of money for really good coffee?

Because there's something that they're doing. They're roasting that being with great care. They're preparing it with great care and you taste that. And so people will pay double, triple the price for that. So we live in a world, I think, you know, where it, I think people are responding to that.

And we shouldn't, we shouldn't just discount it because we say, oh, numbers are all that matter.

Topic 7. Lighting round questions (34:37)

Jeff Hunt:

Yeah. Right. Yeah. Undergirding our decisions with our core values, we're never gonna regret. Okay. As we wrap up, I'm going to switch us into the lightning round. Susannah will start with you. What are you most grateful for?

Susannah Furr:

My family, Nathan and our kids, for sure, easily.

Jeff Hunt:

How about you, Nathan? Susanna teed that up for you.

Nathan Furr:

But I would say the love affair with Susanna has always been the most important thing to me because it's such a rich and rewarding source of energy and fulfillment, and that exploration with somebody for a lifetime is, a beautiful thing, and not everybody has that opportunity, and I don't mean that to, for those who don't have it, but to share your life with somebody is, uh, and so if you don't have like a committed relationship or something, ask yourself, how could you share your life with somebody who matters?

Because there are people, you know, we have friends who have had such an influence on us. Like William Stafford, who I talked about at the beginning. He shared his life with me in a way that fundamentally shaped me. So it doesn't have to just be a committed relationship, but remember, Share your life with somebody.

Jeff Hunt:

Very meaningful, yeah. Okay. To each of you, what is the most difficult leadership lesson you've learned over your careers or your lifetime?

Nathan Furr:

Arrogance. It's hard, you know, when you get successful, as you get more successful, you start to think you have answers and it makes you feel good. And I am trying to learn how much power there is in always being humble, not thinking you're special and it's, it's super powerful.

Susannah Furr:

I'm really new in this, in this kind of leadership, uh, platform place, when I was doing my company, I didn't have a lot of employees or anything, so it was really just me, I think I would say like taking the time to really value myself and be brave because I'm shy and so for a lot of times I will hold back.

And so learning to stand up and speak my truth and be really ready to be bold. So that's been fun to step into.

Jeff Hunt:

I love that. Who is one person each of you would interview if you could living or not?

Susannah Furr:

Well, when you say living or not then, but living I love Krista Tippet She's like a real important mentor for me.

I wouldn't even need to interview. I just would wanna like, do something with her, like hang out.

Jeff Hunt:

A coffee with her. Yeah. How about you, Nathan?

Nathan Furr:

I would love to interview John Steinbeck. I think he was such an interesting character. He had, he wrote some of the greatest, uh, American novels and had so much self-doubt in the process just beating himself up saying, I'm not a writer, I'm no good.

And yeah, he did this immense work and, and work of immense compassion and empathy. And I really think his novel East of Eden, which is long and hard to get through, is actually. So profound about human nature. I mean, to summarize it in a line, he really just says it's okay that we're not perfect, and that's part of what makes us great.

Jeff Hunt:

What's the best piece of advice you've received?

Nathan Furr:

Parents teach their children to live their dreams by living their dreams, for sure. Or maybe that regret minimization, you know, what will you regret when you're age 80? It's really led me to say yes to things I wouldn't say, you know, it's inconvenient.

You know, I went down to the south of France. Kind of sick, I was just wanting to relax and I found out a friend was there, an old friend. He's like, Hey, do you wanna go spear fishing? And I was like, no, it's December. It's freezing, and I'm sick. But I was like, you know what though? How often you get invited to go spear fishing in the French Riviera?

And it was an adventure. I'm glad you know, so I'm saying yes. So much more to, to things like that's, great.

Susannah Furr:

I'll take mine from a poem that we've been talking about a lot. Um, a David White poem, it's called Coleman's Bed, and it's really long, it's kind of epic, but at the end of it, he says, he's talking about the moment when you make a hard choice or you do something bold as this moment, he says, and then in, surprised by.

Become the blessed saint of your future happiness. So it's this cool moment where he's basically saying, do the thing that 10 or even one year from now, but maybe 10 or 20 years from now you'll look back and say, that person, that version of me then is like this shallowed saint to the happiness that I'm now feeling.

So I love that, every day we should be like, how can I be kind of living into this future happiness by being bold. And it’s cool to think of ourselves as saints. We think of other people are revered, but you know, we do cool stuff. We need to celebrate the, the hard things we've done.

Jeff Hunt:

No question. I really love that. So we're just, you know, scratching the surface on your book and I'd love to spend another two hours and we can't do that. But if you had to summarize our talk into what the most important takeaways would be, what would you say?

Susannah Furr:

I would say that uncertainty, we're wired to fear it.

It feels hard and yucky and maybe like not worthwhile, but that truly uncertainty comes with every possibility. And so, I know, one of the questions we were gonna talk about was, how do you make a home there? How do you realize, you know, what, uncertainty's here to stay? And then in that kind of comfort with the fact that it's gonna be uncertain, get excited about all the possibility that you can muster and that will come to you when you team up with uncertainty.

There is an upside even in the hard uncertainties. The possibilities you live into will be based on how you navigate it, and there are tools to help.

Nathan Furr:

I think at the heart of the upside of uncertainty is a very simple idea we call resilience. So resilience is, we like it, it's good, but it's a little bit more, we interpret it as a kind of taking a punch and staying standing, which is a good thing.

But transilience is an old word from the technology strategy literature, which is about phase. Like the moment that like water that's boiling becomes steam or an iron lingot becomes molten or, and I like that image because what we're really trying to help people do is make this to touch this transient moment where uncertainty that was scary and frightening and disabling and anxiety producing becomes.

An opportunity, a possibility, it energizes us. This happen all the time in big and small ways. Since writing this book, we're able to do it more, in fact, we had this long journey we had to go on where we did some book talks and I'd been traveling already and I was feeling kind of like, oh my gosh, like I'm away from home so much and I'm really tired and exhausted and I can't get those to-do lists done.

And Susannah did this brilliant reframing that created this trasilient moment where she said, wait, didn't you want to have a life where you got to speak about ideas and travel and experience new things? And it was like, it was a total transilient moment where it was like, boom. In an instant. I was like Oh, I'm ready for this uncertainty.

And I'm excited for it, and so another way of saying that would be a more mundane way of saying that would be uncertainty is not going away. And it happens to us. How do we let that make us stronger? How do we let it transform us? That's what I'm super curious about.

Jeff Hunt:

Thank you both so much for coming on the show and sharing your wisdom today.

Susannah Furr:

Thank you for joining us. You have great questions and great thoughts. Yeah, great insights.

Nathan Furr:

Such, such great questions. So thank you so much for taking the time.


Closing music jingle/sound effects

Jeff Hunt:

Thanks for listening to Human Capital. If you like this show please tell your friends and also go rate and review us. Human capital is a production of GoalSpan your integrated source of performance management. Now go out and be the inspiration to other humans and thank you for being human kind.

Human Capital — The Upside of Uncertainty (Replay)
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