Michelle Micalizzi, Artist
(All Rights Reserved)

Dealing with Ambiguity Defined:

Can effectively cope with change; can shift gears comfortably; can decide and act without having the total picture; can comfortably handle risk and uncertainty.

One of the reasons that some people stay behind the protective curtain of the 9-5 employee life is the inability to deal with ambiguity and not knowing what your income will be. The fear of the unknown and how unforeseen changes affect one’s bottom line is more disconcerting to many people than choosing to explore a vocation independently. Entrepreneurs will opt for what some might consider is risky ambiguity over what they feel to be mortifying and dehumanizing captivity every day of the week. Several of the entrepreneurs that I interviewed during the Art of Fearlessly Doing Business series, said that failing and being an employee was scarier to them than the risk of self-employment. This is true for me as well. After so many years of being self-supporting, the idea of giving up my freedom for something as minor as money seems absurd. However, even I am not immune to the fear of the unknown. This is why I set my goals and strive for them with the help of a mastermind support network of trusted individuals. The heroes in my life are the ones that remind me what my dreams and goals are when the whole word is one big unpredictable glorious mess.

Neurosis is the inability to tolerate ambiguity.
~Sigmund Freud

I believe that most entrepreneurs can deal with ambiguity well because they inherently hate to follow directions. They prefer to defiantly solve problems their own creative dang way. This is the core reason I believe many entrepreneurs appear to be so fearless. It is because they know there is always a solution, if not several, to every problem. After all, that is what ambiguity is! Wikipedia states, “Ambiguity is a type of uncertainty of meaning in which several interpretations are plausible.” The definition goes on to speak of the difference between ambiguity and vagueness in a way that makes me belly laugh. “In ambiguity, specific and distinct interpretations are permitted (although some may not be immediately obvious), whereas with information that is vague, it is difficult to form any interpretation at the desired level of specificity.” Vagueness is a different story. Vagueness is freaking scary and extremely annoying for most anyone. It is my opinion that it is actually vagueness that 9-5ers fear! No one can make a good decision when the entire playing field is vague. Ambiguity is not vague, although it may be a crapshoot based on uncertainty. Ambiguity is the fork in the road that Robert Frost writes about; the road we sometimes take, if it makes sense, the road less traveled. It is not aimlessly throwing spaghetti on the wall with no information and praying it will stick either. It is looking at all the choices and choosing what we feel may be the best one in that moment. Uncertainty is not totally blind; it does provide a clue. Uncertainty is a small flashlight in the middle of a dark forest where decisions are not made completely in the dark. They are just made with a more limited scope than some feel comfortable with. It’s like playing poker where you “read a tell” and boldly play your hand accordingly based on your perception of your fellow players mannerisms and the cards on the table. Ambiguity is a game or a wild adventure for entrepreneurs!

Ambiguity is something that I really respond to. I like the complexity of it.
~Robert Redford

As many of you know, I am a biker:I ride a motorcycle. For those of us who ride, one of the best things ever, is to be on a twisty turning road where you can’t see miles ahead, which then requires you to respond to the road as it is revealed. Traversing this kind of road is living life in the moment. I imagine race car drivers feel similarly when they are in a pack going 200+mph. Ambiguity is the Kangamangus Highway, in New Hampshire, on a sometimes unpredictable New England summer day,or it’s Route 89A up Mount Mingus on your way to Jerome from Prescott, when it can sometimes be a bit too “Sunny Arizona.” Ambiguity is not Route I94 in North Dakota which is 352.6 miles of straight brain numbingly predictable highway with hardly any turns amid perfect weather. That is boredom and it is called a J-O-B for entrepreneurs. Ambiguity is also not the feeling you get when you’re driving in a thick fog and you can not see the road due to the rain while you’re freezing your ass off at night. That is insane and the feeling is panic! If you are ever in that situation, heed this advice from a seasoned wanderer – pull over, park, get a cup of coffee at the diner and wait the dang storm out.

I would say, the idea of having more than one solution to a problem has been a concept that has captivated our imaginations since the beginning of time. In cognitive psychology, perception of a situation causes a person to choose the outcome, which they feel, is more favorable. What we perceive and the decisions we make are based upon memory. Entrepreneurs have many memories to call upon to find solutions to problems. Which is why I found in my series, the Art of Fearlessly Doing Business, that “fear” ceases to be a word that entrepreneurs resonate with. It is because they remember their successes and their failures. Every ambiguous situation is filtered through the lens of their past experiences. They remember failing and surviving as well as winning and thriving. In their world, ambiguity is not the enemy, it is actually entertainment. Entrepreneurs know that no matter what the outcome of every decision or change – win or lose – they will be just fine and eventually prosper .

Why are entrepreneurs good with ambiguity? It is my belief that entrepreneurs thrive on the exhilaration of the roller coaster ride of possibility. We, as Robert Redford says, like the complexity of it. This is what makes life and business fun and not boring. It is like falling in love or playing the game “Clue” – there is mystery in both. We love to guess that it was the Professor who killed the heiress with a candlestick in the library when it could have been the Colonel who killed her in the kitchen with a revolver. We love the excitement of discovery and not knowing exactly what will happen next! We just love a great love story and we insist upon a happy ending!

The Illustration’s Story

First, I must say again that in the age of the Internet, it is amazing that we can Google an idea and get inspired as opposed to spending hours in the library or bookstores like I used to.

When I searched the word ambiguity, all sorts of images came up where artists have been playing with this idea of ambiguity for years. I was reminded of the drawings I have seen many times in my college psychology classes that could be interpreted as one thing (my wife / a duck) or another (my Mother-in-Law / a rabbit). I did not know that in the book, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland , Sir John Tenniel’s illustration of the caterpillar is actually a drawing that can be seen in two ways: a man with a pointy nose and chin, or a caterpillar with two viable front legs. This kind of optical illusion is called multistable perception; the effect when an image is able to provide multiple, although stable, perceptions.

My husband and I were talking this weekend about this concept on the way to get our boat out of the water. I was sharing with him my thoughts for this series of images and the blog. I asked him, as a business owner, what he thought. With his business owner cap on, Michael said it is like a picture of prison bars: Is the person in captivity looking out or are they freely looking in? We both laughed because we knew I had found the bones to this week’s illustration when he said that. In marriage/love or business, the idea of being trapped in a bad one or choosing to be in a great one is interesting and based upon choice. There are always many answers to the problem. Which one do we choose? We both agree not only as business people but also as partners in life that we choose to be fearless entrepreneurs in a great marriage, happily on the outside of the bars looking in. After all, the role we play in business, life, love, and poker is based upon our chosen perception and how we choose to play the cards we have been dealt.

The illustration today is a play on the idea of being free or being held in captivity. Is the viewer (the hands on the bars), as an employee free of the anxiety of ambiguity with a more predictable perhaps safer life? Or as an entrepreneur, is the subject free of limitations of any kind, and able to achieve anything he/she sets her mind to?

Michelle Micalizzi is a Business Executor & Visual Journalist, Her company Fearlessly Deliver, LLC helps business owners to execute projects so that they can FEAR LESS & DO MORE! Michelle uses her ability as a Visual Journalist to tell the story of Entrepreneurship. | 480.526.2609 | michelle@fearlesslydeliver.com 

Hidden in the Hills – Studio Tour
All Fearless Art will be available for sale at the Micalizzi Studio during the Sonoran Arts League’s 2016 Hidden in the Hills Studio Tour on Nov. 18-20 & 24-26, 2016. 

The Gallery at el Pedregal
Select Paintings from the 2015 & 2016 Art of Fearlessly Doing Business Projects are also for sale at the El Pedregal Gallery through October 2016.  Pop Up Wednesday – Michelle Micalizzi Featured Artist: Sept 14 4-6PM | Presentation – Business is Art & Art is Business: Oct 24th 4-6PM.

Back to Top