“The greatest test of courage on earth is to bear defeat without losing heart.” —Robert Green Ingersoll

In my corporate career, I remember how big changes rocked my world. Maybe I was lulled to sleep by the security and comfort of steady employment. Maybe I gripped my job description a little too hard, like a toddler holding a blanket. Because just like that—I’d open my inbox and some announcement would rattle me; uncertainty ensued.

Our personal lives can be like that, too. I remember driving to the gym on a snowy Saturday afternoon in 2008. The roads were fairly empty, and I was probably going faster than I should. With the way the sun was reflecting off the snow and ice, my vision was impaired, and I ran into the back of a car sitting at a red light. I didn’t see the car; I didn’t see the light. My airbag deployed, burning my lower arms and breaking my hand. I remember sitting there wondering, “What just happened?”

Launching a company is a lot like driving on snowy roads with the sun glaring in your face. However, instead of experiencing the rare accident every 7 years, you feel the stress of daily fender-benders. And unlike the corporate world of big announcements hitting your inbox and rattling your confidence, startup life is more defined by messages you DON’T receive. This silence could mean there is a lack of interest, someone doesn’t want to tell you “No” directly or that your work is at the bottom of someone’s priority list.

Are you experiencing uncertainty now? How does it make you feel? Is your confidence shaken? What are you doing about it?

Here’s what I’ve learned in my corporate and (short) startup career: uncertainty breeds courage.

In the moment, it of course doesn't feel that way. In fact, it usually feels like watching lightning in the distance and counting the number of seconds before hearing the thunder. However, if you carefully recount the details of your own uncertain moments, you can probably see how it made you stronger and more resilient.

Kristine and I got some really good advice early in the process of building our company. It helps with uncertainty and is applicable personally and professionally. Are you ready? “Get to NO—faster!” Yes, "No" stings. Yes, "No" usually means rejection. "No" is never easy. However, if you kick the can down the road (of life) too long only to get to “No,” you’ve wasted a lot of time!

Think about wasted time in romantic relationships. You might have known it was doomed from the beginning, but the uncertainty of going through life alone delayed action. Then, one day you (finally) woke up and, “No” was in your face! Lots of time was wasted. Maybe the same type of thing happened at work. You put in a lot of extra time and effort and hoped your boss would notice. One day, you walked into the office and “No” showed up with your morning coffee.

It’s okay—I promise you, it’s okay! You will build courage and courage is needed to do things you never imagined possible.

So, take control of the situation and get to NO faster. Make this the week you put uncertainty in your rearview mirror. Don’t waste time wondering what might happen in the future. Rather, simply ask “the other person” a “Yes” or “No” question. If the answer is "No," celebrate the fact you’re wasting less time. By the way, if the answer is "Yes" ...just think about it!


Chris Laping is Co-Founder & CEO of People Before Things, LLC, a boutique consultancy that helps executive and project leaders prepare people for technology change. He has also written a bestselling book, People Before Things: Change Isn’t an End-User Problem, which explores the role leaders play to pave success in change and transformation. To join the conversation, follow @CIOChris and @pplb4things on Twitter.