You need to have realism, scepticism and self-criticism as a business owner to survive.
This is something I call ‘healthy paranoia’ (not to be confused with the manic, ‘monster in the closet’ kind).
The reason I call it healthy is that the alternative is blind optimism, and that will have you eaten alive by the market. You will not survive if you think everything always turns out butterflies and rainbows.
But the downside to this paranoia has you at risk of falling into a pattern and narrative that sounds something like this:
: “I don’t know what I’m doing.”
“I’m constantly making mistakes.”
“I don’t know if I’ll make it out of this.”
Any variation of “You’re stupid, you ain’t any good, and you suck at this business thing.”
I say that because I’ve caught myself in this destructive pattern of dialogue. And once you’re stuck in it, the only way out of it is with perspective.
And if I’m honest, I’ve had to ‘perspective my way out of it’ more than I’d care to admit.
And that’s because I’m human, and I’ve made some mistakes in the last six months that, in hindsight, I shouldn’t have made. And with hindsight, they were pretty darn obvious too. I’ll be able to talk more about them all soon (and when I can, I definitely will).
But given it’s Monday and you have the whole week ahead of you, I wanted to remind you of a couple of decisions that people way smarter than you or me made, which seem ‘dumb and stupid’ in hindsight.
1. After founding Google, Sergei Brin and Larry Page offered to sell their start-up to Yahoo! for one million bucks (dumb). Yahoo declined (even dumber). A few years later, Yahoo offered three billion (yes, billion). Larry and Sergei would only sell for five. Yahoo declined (even dumber-er). Google is now worth 1.36 trillion. I don’t know how many millions go into a trillion, but there is a shit tonne of millions in a trillion, and I think we’d all agree that the folks running Yahoo aren’t dumb. Yet, not buying Google for 1 million seems, well… yeah, yikes.
2. Kodak invented the digital camera (smart) but then dropped it because they thought it would cannibalise their own market of film cameras (dumb). Now, the whole world is their market, and they aren’t selling a single digital camera to anyone.
3. Xerox’s engineers were some of the best in the world, inventing things like the screen and mouse that allowed users of the first computers to interface intuitively (smart). But, their own directors, not knowing what they could do with it, just gave it away (to Steve Jobs, interestingly enough), and now Apple is on top of the world, and Xerox is stuck sending faxes to people who already have made the switch to email (dumb).
And then there is Blockbuster, the #1 video-hiring retailer in the world…
Yeah, you’ve probably made some dumb decisions. So have I.
But do you know who else makes dumb decisions?
The goddamn brightest, most talented minds in the world.
You’re human, so are they, and it will all be OK.
– Karl Goodman