This weekend I flew out to London to participate London Real’s Business Accelerator graduation weekend. The Accelerator is an eight week online course that runs every quarter where we take students through the process of starting their own businesses from start to finish. It’s a very intense process and, having been an instructor for the past two quarters and a student in the very first class, I’ve seen what this course can do for people. Students have come in without a clue, never having sold a thing in their lives, and they’ve come out with fully functioning businesses generating revenue and changing their lives forever. But I’ve also seen people crack and not get a thing done in the entire eight weeks. Many of the students who cracked had experience, with some coming from the top echelons of the business world.
This is why I love instructing this course. It gives me serious insight as to the characteristics that make people successful, and it fires me up to see someone who no one ever expected to be successful come out on top. But what decides whether they succeed or crack?
If I had to pick one thing, it would be this: the unsuccessful students, those that never actually come out with a real business, obsess over every single move they make to the point that they become paralyzed. They care too much about the outcome of each little decision that they make and they hang onto each one like it’s life or death.
It’s a lot like watching a teenager with a crush. He sees the girl he dreams about taking to prom, but he never asks her up front. Rather, he waits, watches, and obsesses. When he’s around her, he’s extra conscious about how he speaks and how he moves, which just makes him awkward. In the end, he gets crushed when she ends up going to prom with the jock who probably didn’t give asking her a second thought and who probably doesn’t care 1/10th about her as he does. The problem: he cared too much about the outcome and it paralyzed him.
Though a bit less emotionally awkward, caring too much about the outcome in business can have similarly painful consequences. Of course you want to be successful, but business is not like being in school. There are no clear cut right or wrong answers. The only way that you can find what works or what doesn’t is in the real world. This means that you can’t lose as long as you do one thing: take action. Even if you take action and everything goes wrong, you’ll still learn what didn’t work.
This means that to succeed, you need outcomes. It doesn’t matter if they’re good or bad. You need either one or the other to make your next decision. A bad outcome is better than no outcome. The bad outcome tells you what not to do. No outcome gives you nothing. The moral of the story: give no fucks about the quality of the outcome. Just get to an outcome and get to one quickly as possible.
Why is this important? If you care too much in business, you’re going to get swallowed by the details. You’ll do things like spending six months planning out your logo. Seriously, a fucking logo – I’ve actually seen someone do this. Not only did he spend this much time on it, he also started hiring people just to work on the logo, spent thousands of dollars on it, and came up with something that I could have generated in five minutes. And he wouldn’t start any other aspect of his business until the logo was done. When it was finally finished, he was already past the business idea.
Does this mean that you shouldn’t care about what your products or web site looks like? Of course not! The point isn’t that you stop caring about the quality of what you produce, the point is that you stop obsessing over whether anyone else is going to like it or not. Even if it’s uglier than me doing the running man in my Scooby Doo underwear, you can always make it better. But you will not know if it is good or not unless you release it to the world.
The business coach Dan Pena likes to say, “When I got out of the Army and I found out that lives and limbs weren’t going to depend on the decisions I made anymore, decision making became a whole lot easier.” Think about that. There will probably never be a decision that you have to make in business that is going to be life or death. You also have to understand that there will never be a decision that you make that will lead you to instant and final success. Everything in business is a journey. There is no end game until you stop doing business, which hopefully will not be for a very long time. Your environment will change, the market will change, and you will change. Even if you find success, the only way it will continue is if you continue to try new things as your internal and external factors change.
So rather than living your life trying to avoid making mistakes, try something different. Try making as many good faith mistakes as possible. A good faith mistake means that you really tried to do something good but it didn’t come out the way you wanted it to. Put it out there, feel the pain, and learn from it. Eventually, if you keep doing this, you’ll find something that actually works because you’ve found what didn’t work.
At the end of the day, business isn’t about what you think about doing. It’s about what you actually do. So if you want success, give no fucks about the outcome, and do more.
I should also mention that this applies to life as much as it does to business. If you’re hesitating to do something that you’ve always wanted to do, whether that be asking that girl out on a prom date, or starting a fitness routine, stop obsessing about the outcome. Rather, you should be wondering what you’re losing by not doing anything.