One of my favourite stories mentors ever told me was from Gil Penchina. Paraphrasing it super shortly, when I told him about how I’m unsure if hunting investors is the best way to go for Drungli, because I really don’t like being told what to do, he told me what happens when your whole board of directors agree about something you really don’t see is necessary. Apparently, nothing. Provided things are lookin’ up and mainly go into a positive direction, you can say no. (Or say yes and just don’t do it, which I’m not sure will work unless you are the vice president and general manager of eBay or have a real genuine who gives a flying fuck attitude, but you know, worth a shot.)
In a more general sense, being too concerned about what others think about you, your business and your decisions is something far too common in the eastern half of Europe and it will hurt you in several ways.
Being afraid of judgement, especially from established industry players and the media will hold you back from experimentation. In the worst case, from doing anything at all. It will stop you from initiating conversations, ask for advice and gain better knowledge for the important battles you will have to fight.
Without trust in your own abilities and values that guide your decisions it is impossible to make real use of mentoring sessions and the huge amount of advice you get. We all have our own angle and priorities and not all great advice will work in your own case.
And, if your worst nightmare is people judging you and laughing into your face when you fail, you’ll be held back from action.
I heard another interesting thing from Gil: you can’t be a good CEO without loving the stage. And you can’t go into the arena being vulnerable by empowering everyone with judgement. You need to make a shortlist, know who’s opinion matters, and stick to that.
Our fear of judgement is probably directly connected to our obsession with perfection and total lack of acceptance for failure. Educational systems that are geared towards punishment instead of development, teaching lexical facts instead of consequences and connections do a lot of damage. So as of course periods of recent history where one stray step can alter your life significantly in a very bad way. Less dramatically, a traditionally respected career path, where one works for the same company for 30+ years until he retires can be easily held back or ruined by one mistake.
It is interesting to see how a widening of opportunities contribute to a higher tolerance for mistakes and bad decisions. In a flexible environment, where changes happen in a dizzying pace and having multiple careers is natural, you have no other choice than learn by trial and error.
I don’t buy into the popular there is no failure narrative. Denying real failure and the heart wrenching feelings it causes doesn’t help you to learn or close down a zombie business. It is one step too far to the other direction.
What I’d like to achieve is acceptance failure without the familiar warm wash of shame. To built on it, and not being dragged down by.
What I’m suggesting is not being pessimistic or wielding these issues as excuses. I believe learning through entrepreneurship is a great way to understand how opportunities come up and changes can be your aid. Consequently, it is also possible to pick upon guidelines, understand the basic principles and come up with novel creative and ethical solutions, melded to a shape that is most comfortable for our personal or wider, regional personalities.