Great Founders Learn To Toe The Edge Without Falling Off The Cliff

19_20120115feet-cliff032That statement emerged from a conversation I was having recently with a founder friend of mine.

This individual is struggling in their current situation – not far enough along to support themselves with their endeavor but not wanting to let go (if only slightly) to do other work which would pay the bills.   They said it feels like being between a rock and a hard place, and it’s painful.  I felt it was more like a cliff.

I simply said:  “Great Founders Learn To Toe The Edge Without Falling Off The Cliff “

I know this spot really well because I was there for quite a while and I remember almost falling off more than a few times.

What I learned through the process was how to toe the line – balance on the edge if you will – without falling off the cliff.  I realized entrepreneurship is balancing the risk of great rewards with the risk of detrimental actions.

How do you know which is which and what to do when you find yourself getting weak knees as you get pushed towards the cliff?

You have to look deep inside yourself and ask “what do I gain from staying here?  Do I really only have one option, which is to stay here and not evaluate my other options?”

Notice I said “gain” not “lose”?  There’s a big difference between those two perspectives.  When you are standing on the edge looking far down the cliff, you have much to lose.  So much in fact it’s hard to pinpoint exactly what you are doing and why.  Founders face so much challenge and adversity they can easily lose their perspectives and clarity of thought.

I told my friend he needs to look inside and ask what he gains from staying there.  He needs to look out for himself first and foremost.  He needs to take care of his basic needs – be it money, food, shelter, stress relief, relationships – and only them will the company stuff  work itself out.

I said, “trust me, it won’t get any better if you don’t step away from the ledge.”

Stepping away from the ledge is exactly what I did and I am so much better for it.  Yes, I had to swallow the pill and realize my “first” attempt at building my company wasn’t going to end like I dreamed it would just a few short years ago.  But as I backed away from the ledge and got my priorities/basic needs back in order, things started happening I never thought possible.

You would be amazed what happens to your business life when you remove self inflicted pain and stress from your personal life.

Do You Have The Courage To Say No?

Do you have the courage to say no?  Even when an offer is on the table but something inside just doesn’t feel right?

Saying Yes seems too easy these days and is typically the simplest way out of a predicament.  I think  this is why most people are over stressed and maxed out.  They agree to way too many obligations and accept offers which might not be exactly what they are looking for just so can they feel like they are moving forward.

I was offered an opportunity recently, one in which on the surface seemed like a good fit for me.  I will not go into detail as to what it was, which business, industry or investors were involved, but after initially accepting it I ended up walking away from it upon further evaluation.  It was a tough decision for sure, but I believe it was the right one.

Approaching a tough decision is challenging and it is quite easy to reflexively answer with a “yea, sure… I’ll do it.”  Obviously, saying no means you do not go forward and receive the benefits of the opportunity. Saying no means giving up a future that for some meant promise and prosperity.  But saying no usually is the smartest decision.

When evaluating opportunities, strong wisdom needs to be used.  A great question to ask yourself is – “what happens if I say yes?

Here’s how to determine if something is the right fit and if not, how to have the courage to say no.

Does it meet your immediate needs?

Asking these questions will help you determine if the opportunity is something that meets your immediate needs, such standard of living, time commitments and opportunities to learn.

  • Will it cover your lifestyle needs and support your living?
  • Is it something that will challenge you in areas you want/need to be challenged?
  • Will it help you get to the next level?

Does it meet your long term needs?

Asking these questions help you determine if it fits the mold of how you see your life in 5-10 years and maybe even further down the road.

  • Is it something you still want to be doing in 5 or 10 years?
  • Does it align with your life goals (business, professional, personal)
  • Will I regret passing up this opportunity when I am old, wrinkly and gray?

How does your gut (heart) feel about it?

When all else seems foggy, the best decisions are made from deep down in your heart, where you can feel through the clutter and find a distinct Yes, or No.  Your lack of ability to sleep at night or your lack of wanting to jump out of bed each day should make it pretty clear what direction you should go.

  • Shut off all other external influences and listen to your heart
  • Are you leaning forward toward it?  Or are you leaning away from it?

If not, then you need Courage to say No.

Plain and simple, saying no takes courage.  No one likes to say or hear no and I think that is why people have such a hard time making decisions.  Having courage means you might have to pass on the good to have an opportunity for the great.  This is not easy and probably why most people in the world shun entrepreneurial opportunities and choose to be an employee.  Nothing against the employee life, but with high risk come high reward.  Risk requires courage, that of what few people actually put to use.

When one comes to terms with how valuable saying no can be, they will start to see their path become a lot more clear.