Lately, I’ve been asked this question a lot – how do we survive in this environment rife with uncertainty at every turn? The “we” here refers to both an organization and individual. As the frequency of this question increased, I thought it warranted a mention here.

I belong to the generation that grew up in the relatively stable economic environment of the eighties and nineties. In those days, all you needed to be successful was probably hardwork. If you had a great idea and you worked hard also, you became super successful with financial stability for at least one or two of your next generations. If you took up a conventional job in the public or private sector, you managed to provide a decent education and a simple, stable life to your family, most often with a house thrown in. You could retire in this house after settling your children in their respective careers and families. In general, you never had to worry about losing a job or shutting down a business in your lifetime

Unfortunately, this scenario no longer exists. The pandemic has redefined the way the world operates and it’s still evolving rapidly, aka there’s uncertainty in every facet of life.  

If you were born in the nineties or later, you are no stranger to the uncertainties of today’s professional and economic worlds. Your career or business started in a VUCA (volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous) environment. As a result, you are geared up for survival as the basic human instinct, be it in a job or running your own business/startup. You are not burdened by the past status quo.

But the situation reverses if you were born between 60s and 80s. You are most likely in the wee end of your career and don’t know what hit you. You live in the constant fear of losing your job to the younger generation and to a very uncertain world. Or you are already out of job and finding it difficult to land another due to the age barrier and/or redundant skillset. You are most probably scrambling to set up a consultancy of your own and taking up all kinds of online courses for skill upgrade.

If you are a business owner, you are either not able to sustain the business anymore amidst digital transformation, or you have already shut it down. You are finding it difficult to reinvent a business you ran successfully for the past 20-30 years.

Either way, you are a prickly thorn in your family’s back, holding everyone else responsible for your professional and financial woes.

This would not end, unless you decide to embrace uncertainty. Unless you accept that the world has changed. That it won’t be going back to the old way anytime soon, or maybe never. And that it’s not happening only with you, it’s true for everyone.

Acceptance brings peace and changes your outlook. It gives you the inner strength to deal with the present.

From VUCA, we have moved to EVUCA, where E stands for Exponential, Extreme, etc. Living under such high uncertainties, it’s pointless to worry about the future. The world is at a threshold where the old order is giving way to new. We don’t know what will emerge at the end, but we are part of the change.

Don’t wait for it to stabilize as that may take years.

Don’t wait for the old order to come back as it may never. 

Be in motion and walk with small steps.

Pause every now and then and change direction as frequently as required.

Embracing uncertainty is the only way to survive today.

The world has changed and we have to change with it too – whether you are an individual or an organization, the survival rules are same for all.

–Taru works as a management consultant, helping organizations optimize performance and efficiency, and create a growth mindset in this VUCA world.