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5 Ways to Learn to Trust Your Instincts

Posted by Nadia Goodman | December 18, 2012
URL: http://www.entrepreneur.com/blog/225304

As a business leader, you constantly need to come up with new ideas. You're creating a vision for tomorrow -- a world that doesn’t exist yet -- and your greatest resource for getting it right is your instincts.

Mike Germano, co-founder of Carrot Creative, one of the first social media marketing agencies, has succeeded because of his instincts. "[My instincts have] allowed me to capitalize on opportunities and made me very confident in taking risks that other people didn’t see," he says.

In 2005, Germano ran for political office in Connecticut, using social media to drive his campaign. Everyone thought he was crazy -- until he won. The same year, he founded Carrot Creative, launching a social media agency when no one thought social media would amount to much of anything. Eight years later, his clients include Jaguar, Target, Disney, and a host of other top brands.

Related: 7 Steps to Become an Authority in Your Industry

"A lot of people said we were crazy, and if we had listened to any of them, we wouldn’t be where we are," he says.

Here are five tips to help you trust your instincts and build a successful business.

1. Follow your interest. When you can’t get an idea out of your head, your gut is telling you it has merit. "If I couldn’t sleep at night because I just wanted to do this, then I knew it was something I was supposed to do," Germano says. 

That instinct fuels your drive and work ethic. "Instinct is really just passion disguised as an idea," Germano says. When you act on ideas you truly care about, you are more likely to be right and more likely to work hard enough to succeed.

2. Commit yourself fully. Every good instinct has to be supported by a lot of dedicated work. "I always knew, no matter what, that I would work harder than anyone else," Germano says. That faith helped him trust his instincts because he knew he’d find a way to follow through.

To give that kind of commitment, live in the moment and focus on doing the best you can today. "If, for a second, I start getting afraid, we're going to be in trouble," he says. "Fear makes you question yourself and then you don't give 100 percent."

3. Immerse yourself in the world around your idea. We aren't born with business instincts -- we learn them over time. When you become immersed in a subject or group, your mind draws on all of that knowledge with very little effort. Your instincts become informed choices made in the blink of an eye.

Germano says his instincts come from deep knowledge of the industry -- a connection that comes from getting your hands dirty and knowing every aspect of your business.

4. Ignore the rules. "All the rules are made by someone else who had an instinct five years or fifty years before you," Germano says. The leaders who trust their instincts will be the ones who set the new rules -- the ones who anticipate and solve tomorrow's problems.

When you're bucking the trend, you could very likely fail. If you do, use it as an opportunity to hone your instincts by noticing what mistakes you made that ultimately killed the idea. "It'll just make you sharper," he says.

Related: How Successful Leaders Balance Skepticism and Openness

5. Allow your idea to change. When acting on instinct, be flexible about the implementation. "What you start out to do is going to completely change," Germano says. The basic instinct stays the same, but the idea changes and evolves.

As you grow your business, watch how people respond and modify your idea accordingly. "I listen to what makes people excited," he says. You will have an easier time trusting your instincts when you give yourself the freedom to adapt.

How have you learned to trust your instincts? Tell us in the comments.