An Entrepreneur’s Most Powerful Teacher: The Truth

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The truth can be very difficult to embrace.  We tell ourselves stories all the time to avoid the truth:

  • My job isn’t that bad (when we are really living in quiet desperation);
  • I’m doing my best (when we know that we have way more to give);
  • It’s not my fault (when we know deep down inside that we should take more self-responsibilty);
  • This is good enough (when we really yearn for more);
  • Nothing is working (when we know that we haven’t really tried “everything”, we’ve only tried a few strategies);
  • I don’t have the knowledge, money or skill set to get this venture going (when we know that other people, with less knowledge, money and skill have succeeded);
  • The job market, and economy is no good.  It’s not a good time to change careers or start this business (when we know that this is just an excuse that allows us to hide behind our fears);
  • I don’t have enough time to start a business (when we know that we waste tons of time each week watching TV or surfing the net);
  • I’m entitled to this (when we know that we are entitled to nothing)

The list goes on and on. We all lie to ourselves in some way or another. I definitely have.  You have too.

Why do we lie to ourselves? Why do we avoid the truth?  Why do we tell ourselves stories?

  • It is easier.  We don’t have to accept responsibility.  Being a victim is much easier than being responsible;
  • It allows us to avoid taking action. This is important since most of the action that we really “should” take is scary, and way outside of our comfort zone;
  • We’ve been socialized to think that if we go to school, get degrees and be “good people” that success is our right and it should come to us.  Unless we are fortunate to have “tough love” mentors in our lives, or unless we came from nothing (and feel entitled to nothing) we can live in the entitlement mindset for much of our lives;
  • You need very strong internal self-esteem, and an internal locus of control, to be able to objectively handle the truth – to objectify “failure” without becoming emotionally attached.  Many of us simply don’t have that self-esteem.  Our sense of self-esteem is not independent from our accomplishments – it is “accomplishment generated”.  When your self-esteem is “accomplishment generated” you don’t want to feel that you messed up, or took the wrong path, or failed because it impacts your sense of self-worth.  You have a motivation to pass the blame on to someone else – to avoid the truth – so that you can preserve your self-image.

Embracing the truth is one of the most powerful things that an entrepreneur can do.

When you embrace the truth you see the establishment of your business as an “objective feedback loop” unattached to your sense of self worth.

  • You take an action;
  • You get a response;
  • If it’s a response that you want, then you judge the action to be good;
  • If it’s a response that you don’t want then you just take different action.

There is no emotional attachment.  No sadness.  No failure.  You collected a data point, and used that data point to your advantage.

The truth is your data point.  In fact, it is the only data point that exists in an entrepreneur’s life. 

What you think about your business, what your friends and family think about your business, and what you hope for in your business really means nothing.

What matters is the data that you get.  Data presents the facts, and the facts are your most important asset.

  • If you’re having a hard time selling your product or service, this is just a data point telling you that either your product or service hasn’t created value to customers, or your sales process (ie. how you are going about selling it) is not sufficiently communicating that value;
  • If 20% of your actions in marketing are yielding you 80% of your results – this is a data point telling you that on the next marketing phase you need to do more of the marketing actions that yield you the results and less of the actions that don’t.
  • Even if the business fails all together (which we hope that it doesn’t).  This doesn’t mean that you should just resign yourself to your job that you hate.  It doesn’t mean that you “don’t have what it takes” to be an entrepreneur.  It just means that something didn’t work right. Either your product or service didn’t have good value, or you couldn’t connect with your target market, or you ran out of (or mismanaged) your money, or you were missing a very important skill set in your executive team.  The list could go on and on.

It is all just data.  It is all education.  If you have an empowering mindset then you can take it all in, you can learn from it, and on your next go round you can avoid those mistakes. 

That is why entrepreneurs talk so much about the “journey being so rewarding”.  When you are an entrepreneur you are in a never ending educational feedback loop.  If you intrinsically enjoy education and learning (which I think everyone does) then you are set up to enjoy your entire life.

Embrace the data.  Embrace the truth.  Don’t hide or shy from it.  Strip yourself bare.  Expose your insecurities.  Allow all your failures to be felt and seen. This honesty will allow you to get the most from the data.  The truth can be your biggest asset as an entrepreneur.

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