When we’re just starting out, we’re thirsty for advice. How else can we be sure we’re making the right decisions?
It’s in our best interest to seek out advice -- lots of it. But there comes a time when you have to start relying on yourself for guidance. The problem is, there will always be another book you could benefit from reading. There will always be another helpful article online for you to discover. There will always be another person you could reach out to.
You may find that you’re relying on the same source to help make your decisions for you. Early on in my career, I developed products for many different industries. When it came to marketing, I consulted my wife, who has a marketing degree from Northwestern University and an undergraduate degree from Stanford. She had worked at numerous consumer-product companies and became vice president of marketing at E. & J. Gallo Winery. All of which is to say -- she had much more experience than I did.
Whenever I struggled to make a marketing decision, I’d ask her for help, and then defer to her advice. She was my crutch. I was leaning on her too much. It was easy to blame her when, in reality, the buck stopped with me. I needed to have total confidence in my own decision-making ability to move forward. I realized that I had to make my own decisions. So I did. And, to my delight, my decisions were good ones! As a result, I grew not only as an entrepreneur, but as a person.
For those that are paralyzed with fear and desperately seeking someone to lean on, listen up. At some point -- sooner than later -- you’re going to have to start making your own decisions as an entrepreneur. Here’s how to make the best ones:
1. Read as much as you can, and then stop reading. I’ve met many entrepreneurs who use books as a crutch. They’re always looking for the next book to read. I love reading self-help books too, but there’s just so much information out there. It can easily become paralyzing. Don’t overdo it. You learn by doing.
2. Make a point of seeking out different perspectives. When we talk to the same people -- and in particular, people who are our friends or care about us -- we draw from a limited point of view. If you’re really interested in learning from others, deliberately seek out those with a different perspective. It’s easy (and boring) to listen to people that share your point of view. But you’ll make better decisions if you force yourself to think about new aspects of the same issues. No decision is ever black and white, and your thinking shouldn’t be either.
3. Be flexible. The only way to keep making good decisions as an entrepreneur is to be open-minded and easygoing. It’s a fact that something isn’t going to go according to plan. Plans change, and being an entrepreneur means being willing to take on risk. If you’re still hung up on something that went “wrong” or holding on to the belief that your original plan will work out, you may end up failing to pursue a different, exciting (and maybe even better) option for yourself and your business. You should have a game plan. But that game plan is more likely to end up looking like a zigzag than a straight line.
4. Own your decisions. They are yours and yours alone. If something goes wrong, don’t blame anyone but yourself. How can you learn from the experience if you abdicate responsibility?
Part of what I enjoy about being an entrepreneur is the fact that I get to make my own decisions. At the end of the day, whether they’re good or bad, they’re all mine. If you’re like me, that reality is frightening, wonderful and totally rewarding.