Don't Let Caution Turn to Cowardice. Leave Doubt Behind.
Every decision you make as an entrepreneur or business owner is fraught with peril. Doubt gnaws at you, creeping in at every turn. It will eat you alive if you let it. Inside of us all, there's a never-ending battle between two voices: our gut instincts and our rational thought. One voice says, "Leap!" while the other begs the question, "But what's at the bottom?"
You've got to decide which voice is going to rule your world if you want to survive as an entrepreneur, because they're both valuable. As I’ve said before, fear can be your best friend if you let it. But I believe that it's through harnessing those gut feelings and showing true conviction -- picking a direction and holding to it -- that we accomplish meaningful things.
I like to think of it like this:
Be right. Be wrong. But never be in doubt.
I don't fear being wrong anymore. I fear missing the chance to be wrong because I let doubt dictate my actions. If you want to survive in the startup game, you've got to be willing to take risks. And you've got to be able to convince others -- namely investors -- to do the same. And you can't do either of these things if you let yourself be ruled by doubt.
I've been around enough investors throughout my years to know an undeniable truth: They can smell fear from a mile away. They need to see that conviction in you if you're going to persuade them to put skin in the game.
You’re never going to be right 100 percent of the time. No one is. And quite frankly, it’s not about being right all the time -- it’s about making choices. Allow yourself the freedom to be wrong by shedding the doubt of the unknown, picking a direction and running in it.
Caution vs. cowardice
I can already sense some of you tensing up while reading this. This isn't you -- you're more cautious, considered and careful with your decision-making. And there's nothing wrong with that. Let me clear on a point -- there's definitely a line between confidence and overconfidence that can be difficult to spot, much less avoid crossing. There's also a difference between second-guessing yourself and plotting a course, so to speak, so that you're more comfortable taking those leaps when the time comes.
By all means, be educated about the potential outcomes of your decisions to the best of your ability, if that's what your style dictates. A large part of business acumen is having a level of comfort predicting the outcomes of any move you plan to make, and I'm not at all suggesting you abandon this in favor of a gunslinger mentality -- unless you already fancy yourself a gunslinger.
But when the moment of truth presents itself, you better be prepared to fling that door open with the rest of us. You can't let yourself be paralyzed by your own need to be as informed as possible lest you risk missing out on a key opportunity to grow your business, land a new partner, close a big deal or whatever milestone your doubt wants to keep you from achieving.
You can’t let caution turn into cowardice. Regardless of your own personal business style -- be it reckless abandon or relentless planning -- you have to learn to leave doubt behind to unlock your true potential.