Call Your Own Bluff


If you knew most of your problems were self-created, would you do something about it?

I was back in Phoenix over Thanksgiving having dinner with a longtime friend.

My friend is an electrical engineer, and one of the smartest guys I know.  He makes his living doing the legal version of what Enron did…trading energy derivatives.  Back in 8th grade, he said to me “You know, I think I’m smarter than you”.  I was pretty pissed, but I knew it was true.

We chatted a bit about work, starting with his job (which he eagerly reminds me how much he hates every time we talk), and then my startup stuff.

“R.C.”, he said…

“I really wish I was doing what you are.”

As you know from having read here before, one thing that brings my blood to a low simmer faster than anything else–the thing that I hate the most–even more than the thought of being pulled apart alive by a medeival torture device in the basement of a rat-infested castle dungeon–is excuses.  The destructive, debilitating ”pooh pooh” reasons that otherwise-smart people give themselves to justify taking zero action in pursuit of embracing and executing entrepreneurship.

The Tragedy of the Gut Reaction

My friend’s gut reaction–to actually convince himself that despite his intelligence, his connections and the money he’d saved through a having a high-paying job, he had no chance of entrepreneurship success–came through years of enculturation: from family, through school, through his peer group…through anybody who was vocal about their worries.  This bombastic group of overly-conservative worrywarts pulled his mind away from what his heart knew he wanted to do.

And it was destroying his happiness; worse, it was keeping him from getting what he wanted out of life.

But what’s even more amazing about my friend’s dismal state of unfulfilled desires (and, at this rate, likely to never be fulfilled), is that they’re all imposed by him, and him alone.

In his mind is so strongly engrained this idea that “I can’t succeed as an entrepreneur” that he never spent any time learning about what entrepreneurship really is.  He never read a startup book.  He never attended a Startup Weekend.  He never looked into starting a venture on the side.  He never thought about the breathtakingly-easy things he could do right now to try to start a company.  I doubt he’ll ever read this blog, or another like it.

He’ll never realize that success in entrepreneurship is a system: a skillset and process that is learned, refined and repeated.

Instead, he’ll just keep looking down the pale abyss of dreams unfulfilled and unbegotten happiness.

The solution?  Call your own bluff.

I recently wrote an article for the Change Blog about fighting fear with facts to achieve success in entrepreneurship; and avoiding the rampant tendency towards rationalization.

As I wrote the article, I smiled to myself, thinking “wow, I’m teaching these guys something they’ve never thought of before!”

But the more I think about it, I don’t think that’s true.

I think most of us, somewhere is the forgotten caverns of the back of our mind, know that we’re bluffing ourselves.

My friend is smart enough to know he could go read books about startups, but he doesn’t.

The average Joe knows that success in anything (pastry chef to investment banker) isn’t instantaneous and is expected to be learned over the long term as opposed to being mastered immediately…but that same guy doesn’t apply the same logic to entrepreneurship.

Most of us know we watch too much Gossip Girl and could watch 2 hours less TV per day to work on a side venture…but no one does it.

Success befalls upon calling our own bluffs…as Ramit Sethi of “I Will Teach You To Be Rich” would say, we have to eliminate our invisible scripts that subconciously guide our actions.

With startups, our culturally-engrained fears of failure, reputation loss and mockery outweigh what we know is logically true.  We know that if we work at startups, we’ll get it…but “ooooh I’m so worried so I’m not going to try anyway FML :-( “.

Will you call your own bluff?  Or will you kid yourself into failure?

What are the biggest bluffs you tell yourself that have kept you from achieving success?  Share in the comments below, and let’s see what we can do to reverse them.








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