My name is Alexandra Daignault. I’m currently enrolled in my final year of studies at Mount Royal University, where I’m a Bachelor of Arts student. I was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to work with the Trico Foundation over the summer, assisting them with their A.S.E.S.S. program while working on my own venture!
I have a wall of fear quotes in my office. Questions people have asked me, statements people have given me, things I have read that have fundamentally shaken me and my assumptions. I keep these words in a place where I can see them; because I do not ever want to forget to challenge my own intentions. Some of these quotes include:
“Do not be distracted by the illusion of progress”
“What if I’m wrong?”
“Hope for the best, prepare for the worst.”
I use these quotes to remind me that despite my best intentions, if I don’t think through or anticipate the potential ramifications of my actions, I am leaving myself, and more importantly my communities, vulnerable.
Generally, I think that most people have good intentions. No one wakes up in the morning and thinks, “I am just going to be really rash and unthinking today.” However, I think the percentage of people who wake up and think “how am I going to show up in the world today?” or “what are my intentions?” is very, very small. I think that the average person wallows in the middle, thinking deeply about some things and others not at all – going with the flow, so to speak. The problem with this philosophy is that by failing to set our intentions, and shaping our actions around these intentions, we are setting ourselves on autopilot. In effect, we are creating a space where every whim, every emotion can shape our “self,” our decisions, and our actions. We become an uncurated Instagram feed, littered with colours, abstractions, and things that just don’t quite fit.
One of the things I have to constantly ask myself is: am I on brand? As an entrepreneur, I have a business that has its own identity. It has a colour scheme, fonts, and core values (Thank you Trout + Taylor,) functioning as a means of creating some consistency for our customers. But, I myself also have a brand – curated only by me, based on my own values and identity. How I choose to show up in the world is very much shaped by my actions and intentions. For me, this does not mean I have specified fonts or a colour scheme; it means that I am actively striving for consistency in my actions and reactions. I use my intentions, and my personal brand, as a sort of measuring stick. I fail all the time; but, I try, to the best of my abilities, to learn from my shortcomings and continue onwards.
Now, the thing I am learning, very quickly, is that this entire premise hinges on assumptions.
- I can see how I am showing up in the world, clearly and with limited distortion.
- I know the right questions to be asking myself, and can hold myself accountable.
Both of these assumptions beg the question: is it possible to see my own blindspot? The answer is no. No, I most certainly can’t.
With a business, you can, to a certain extent, see past your own blind spots – by way of customer and beneficiary feedback. When you are a building your brand, especially in a community focused social enterprise, the community around you will hold you accountable for your actions. This is how it should be. However, sometimes being held accountable is a gentle conversation and sometimes it is a wrathful social media roar. As a social entrepreneur, then, it becomes very important to analyze the potential impacts of each facet of your brand and business. You are accountable to community, and as such you need to be both mindful and responsible when crafting how your business shows up in the world.
For those of you who are going through the A.S.E.S.S. program here at Trico, I think that this specific program is one of the best for interrogating both your actions and intentions in your enterprise. In the past two months, I have spent many, many hours writing on the whiteboard wall, mapping out the intentions of my business. Often, Dan or Brittni (two of my phenomenal coaches) will ask me questions about the decisions I have made, pulling apart the different ways these decisions will show up in the fabric of my brand. Whether it is the words I’m using, or a strategic decision regarding pricing, it is important that all aspects of the brand weave together. You cannot be on autopilot – that, to me, is an important aspect of the entrepreneurial mindset. To be an entrepreneurial thinker means actively engaging in a conversation with the world around you, whether you are building your own venture or using your capabilities elsewhere.
In his article “Risk, uncertainty and prophet: The psychological insights of Frank H. Knight,” Tim Rakow summarizes the work of renowned economist Frank Knight, noting the perceived difference between “risk” and “uncertainty.” Risk is defined as “known chance, or measurable probability” (Rakow 1); uncertainty is defined as “unmeasurable probability, or indeterminable chance” (Rakow 1).
One of the key elements seems to be contemplation. In Getting Beyond Better, the authors view themselves as “reflective practitioners” who “think in action; that is, they practice while reflecting mindfully on their actions, in order to continuously improve both their theories and practices” (Schon qtd in Martin & Osberg 6). I like this concept, and think that perhaps, as entrepreneurs, when we are uncertain it means that we do not fully understand the consequences that may stem from our intentions and subsequent actions. Risk on the other hand seems to predicate a conversation on consequence, and the steps undertaken to mitigate such consequences.
So there you have it, I keep my fear quotes on my wall because they help me stay mindful of the consequences of my actions, as an entrepreneur and as a person in general. At first, it can feel like standing waist deep in a pool of your own anxieties. The prospect of all that could go wrong is overwhelming. Yet, as we begin to think through the possibilities and ramifications, we become intentional in how we respond to and solve problems. It is by way of this understanding that we move through the murky waters of uncertainty, towards consistent methods of risk management and brand development.