Tuning Out: Minding Your Own Business
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I got to chat with Backstage Capital founder Arlan Hamilton at the 2019 Sharjah Entrepreneurship Festival, and one of the things that stuck with me following that conversation was in how the celebrated venture capitalist described responding to the critiques she gets for her work. It’s a scenario that should be familiar to all of you entrepreneurs out there- it can often seem that just about everyone (and their mothers) have a dozen thoughts about what you’re doing with your life and/or business, and not just that, they are usually very eager to share their mostly unsolicited ideas on how you should be going about things as well.
For Hamilton, she’s been subject to comments that essentially tell her how she should be going about running her business, even though most of the people saying these things are basing their suggestions on what they think is, or should be, happening at the enterprise. But when these kind of remarks come her way, Hamilton has a decidedly focused approach to dealing with them. “The most important thing is not what people think is happening at Backstage, not what people think we should be doing- it’s none of that,” she said. “It is knowing the North Star, knowing what’s the path forward, in my view, and getting us there… I'm doing what I feel is right in the moment for the company, and for the founders that we serve. I do not serve the masters of opinion.”
I think Hamilton’s words struck a chord with me because of my propensity to take any kind of criticism a bit too much to heart- I focus so much on the apparent errors in what I did that I forget that there is often a purposeful reason for why I did something a particular way. This is not to say that I don’t get things wrong, of course, but if Hamilton’s words are any indication, then I need to keep in mind that my critics aren’t necessarily right all the time either- and this applies for entrepreneurs too. While keeping yourself open to reactions and feedback is always good, at the end of the day, only you should be deciding what you should be doing with your business, your career, and even your life, for that matter.
Hamilton’s strategy to deal with cynics thus seems worth adding to one’s arsenal- I know I’m certainly going to make use of it in 2020.