by Paul B. Brown
Who said: “You know more than you think you do.” Was it:
A) Einstein, when people would tell him they would never understand his theory of relativity.
B) Steve Jobs, when people would say he was genius.
C) Pediatrician Benjamin Spock in talking to first-time parents.
D) Your Mom before a big test that you were sure you were going to fail.
While I am sure your mother may have said it. The answer really is C. It is the first sentence of Dr. Spock’s classic Baby and Child Care
That quote came to mind on a visit to New Directions, “the life portfolio company” based in Boston. They spend a lot of time working with people, who through no fault of their own, are suddenly out of a job and others—who as the name of the company suggests—want to take their working life down a different path.
New Directions argues that these people need to become the CEOs of their own life. It is analogous to our position about how everyone needs to become an entrepreneur, although there is an important difference. The term CEO congers up the image of a boss directing a staff; others are doing the work. The word “entrepreneur” evokes the image of you doing things yourself.
That said, one of the things New Directions does that we really like is point out that while the idea of taking control of your working life can be initially unsettling, you come to this new phase with far more skills than you initially may have thought. You know how to do everything from write a business plan to create fundamental marketing messages and you can use those skills to market, position and price you.
In other words, Dr. Spock was right, you know more than you think you do.
It’s an important point, given how the business world has changed.
In a world where you can no longer plan or predict your way to success, what is the best way to achieve your goals? It is a daunting question, but today—when saying “change seems to be the only constant” has become a cliché because it is so true—it’s one everyone has to resolve.
Given this uncertainity, people tend to freeze. They say “I don’t know what to do.” But as Dr. Spock would respond, “of course you do.”
In the face of uncertainty act the way you did as a toddler, when you knew very little about the world around you. You took a small action and learned from it. If something was wrong, you cried and Mom made the problem go away. Next time there was a problem you cried.
You had never seen a cat before. You wondered what would happen if you pulled its tail. You did and got scratched…and you never pulled its tail again.
The way you mastered the universe as a toddler is exactly the same way successful serial entrepreneurs–people who are experts at uncertainty (after all, what is more uncertain than starting a business–proceed.
You should approach the unknown as they do:
1. Start with desire. You find/think of something you want. You don’t need a lot of passion, you only need sufficient desire to get started. (“I really want to start a restaurant, but I haven’t a clue if I will ever be able to open one.”)
2. Take a smart step as quickly as you can toward your goal. What’s a smart step? It’s one where you act quickly with the means at hand: What you know, who you know, and anything else that’s available. (“I know a great chef, and if I beg all my family and friends to back me, I might have enough money to open a place.”) You make sure that step is never going to cost more than it would be acceptable to you to lose should things not work out. And you bring others along to acquire more resources, spread the risk and confirm the quality of your idea.