Dealing with Uncertainty? Embrace It.

Yasuhiro Yamakawa

On a Wednesday afternoon, Yasuhiro Yamakawa walks about the hallways of Babson’s Arthur M. Blank Center for Entrepreneurship a bit slowly and gingerly. Yamakawa is a lifelong hockey fan, and three times a week he makes time to lace up his skates for a lunchtime game with entrepreneurs, investors, and executives.

The associate professor of entrepreneurship considers the other players family and values their off-the-ice conversations, but occasionally, mishaps can happen. The last game ended for Yamakawa with a back injury. “I’ve gone through a lot of injuries,” says Yamakawa. “It comes with the game.”

The injury was a rare instance when Yamakawa wasn’t in his constant state of motion. Known affectionately by Babson students as “Dr. Failure” because he preaches the power of learning from business setbacks, Yamakawa lives a chock-full life that is humming and brimming with activity. He teaches, he travels, and he assists with 16 business ventures as an investor, advisor, or board member.

Such a full schedule makes for days that are hectic and cluttered. “I always like the chaos,” says Yamakawa, who has taught at Babson for a decade. “I am always flying all around.”

Enjoy the Process

In fact, when he’s involved with a startup or a corporate entrepreneurial venture, Yamakawa admits that he becomes disinterested when the enterprise finds its footing and begins to flourish.

“When it becomes stable, I feel like I’ve accomplished my mission. It’s time to let go and let someone else take over,” he says. “I like to create something from scratch. I’m comfortable with uncertainty. I thrive on chaos.”

This ability to handle and even embrace chaos is essential for any entrepreneur, says Yamakawa. The entrepreneurial process, after all, isn’t always pretty. “It’s a messy road,” he says. “There is no short cut. So enjoy the means getting to the ends. Enjoy the process getting there.”

Fun. That’s what Dr. Failure prescribes, not just for entrepreneurs dealing with uncertainty, but for everyone dealing with an uncertain world. “It’s a way of looking at things,” he says. “If you have a positive approach, it will be contagious. It spreads out. It goes from one person to another. If you have fun, it permeates. Fun changes the world.”

Read more about Yamakawa in the article “Man in Motion,” which discusses the professor’s frequent trips to Japan, where he regularly speaks to colleges and companies about failure. The article appeared in the summer 2019 issue of Babson Magazine.

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