After several requests, I’ve decided to write down my ‘lessons learnt’ that I have talked about in various presentations over the last couple of years. After 17 years as an entrepreneur, having founded 4 businesses, there are so many things that I have learnt along the way and I have tried to distil them down to a top 10 based on feedback and what I think are the most important.
No. 1 – Instinct + conviction + luck can be a powerful thing
You have to back your instincts. People will always tell you why you shouldn’t do something often because they’re more used to the slow moving world of large companies or are just afraid of change. Plus, when you have a really ground-breaking idea there are no reference points for what you’re proposing and that can make people uncomfortable.
Most people think in terms of small, iterative steps away from the existing order of things; really good ideas often propose a radical shift that has never been seen before. I bet that when Henry Ford started to talk about the motorcar everyone would have been much more comfortable talking about how to breed horses better and most probably thought old Henry was barking mad. But his idea didn’t do too badly! I’m not saying you should ignore all the feedback you get but I certainly wouldn’t be too worried about some negative feedback – many people just can’t get their heads around radical thinking. A fear of failure can also hinder your belief in your instincts. This reminds me of a quote from Bill Wilder, the American filmmaker:
Trust your own instinct. Your mistakes might as well be your own, instead of someone else’s.
What he is saying here (I think) is to trust your instincts rather than be persuaded to do something that you don’t believe in, and that if you make mistakes they may as well be your own so you can learn from them. There it too much fear of failure, especially in the UK, but failure can be an amazing learning experience that you can take into your next venture. Sometimes the stars don’t align but that doesn’t mean you should give up on your dreams. I have lived in New York for eight years and the Americans have a much better attitude towards failure where it is seen as part of the learning experience, which I completely agree with, and makes for a much more successful entrepreneurial environment.