An Entrepreneur’s Philosophy

Jordan Peterson is a renowned Canadian clinical psychologist and psychology professor who wrote the bestselling book, 12 Rules for Life. I listened to an interview with him on one of my favorite podcasts, Econtalk with Russ Roberts. During the conversation, Peterson makes the following statement. “Life is fundamentally tragic, and ridden with suffering, and touched with malevolence and evil; and that goes for you and everyone around you.” And while Dr. Peterson may be highly respected and says much with which I agree, I must respectfully disagree with the preceding statement. Vehemently.

If we entrepreneurs bought into the premise that Life is Terrible, we’d never get out of bed in the morning. In fact, I believe just the opposite. Life is full of wonder and excitement. Life is full of joy and happiness. Life has far more upside than downside. And life offers unlimited opportunities for great and amazing things. This is not to ignore the fact that there are terrible things that do happen in life. But is life fundamentally tragic as Peterson posits? I think not.

I think it all boils down to perspective. If we choose to believe that Life is Terrible, it will be. Similarly, if we choose to believe that Life is Great, it will be. I’m not naïve enough to suggest that subscribing to the latter means that there will never be mountains to climb and challenges to overcome. But think about this. If we believe that Life is Terrible, those mountains are much harder to climb and the challenges much more difficult to overcome. It’s like adding a 75 pound weight to our back. What’s the point?

By now you know that I am the poster boy for optimism and positive thought. I attribute this mindset to the success I’ve realized over the course of my career. One of my mantras has always been, “What I think in my mind will become reality.” Because I only want Good in my life, I’m going to do my darndest to only think in positive terms.

We entrepreneurs have a lot to worry about . . . if we choose to worry. We could obsess over market share, customer reviews, rising labor costs, cash flow (or lack thereof), sales increasing too slowly, sales decreasing too quickly, government regulation, competition, legal issues, succession planning, production issues and whether we remembered to close the garage door when we left home this morning. Whew! Just thinking about all of this wears me out. But with all of this worry, concern and obsession, what exactly has been accomplished?

Being a Type A personality and maintaining a “chill pill” attitude isn’t the easiest thing in the world. Over the years I’ve discovered that concentrating my energies – mental and otherwise – on taking positive and productive steps leads to positive and productive results. There’s a surefire method that I use to measure my stress factor in this regard. I use a wrist cuff and take my blood pressure and pulse every day. I record it on a log including the time of day as well as notations as to what might have been occurring just prior to the reading. This single act is enough to serve as a reminder to remain calm. I’ve found that each year, my average systolic and diastolic readings have gradually decreased.

I’ve also trained myself to live in gratitude as much of the day as possible. When I am outwardly grateful to others for all of the good they do for me, a form of armor is created that protects me from the Life is Terrible syndrome. I’ve also found that there’s always a solution for just about every difficulty we may encounter. Somehow things just seem to always work out. I don’t think this is by accident. By maintaining focus on positive outcomes and really believing that we are entitled to them, they ultimately manifest. No longer do I blow a gasket when something doesn’t happen as planned. No longer do I wake up in the middle-of-the-night with cold sweats and a feeling of impending doom. No longer do I experience free-floating anxiety.

Jordan Peterson’s “Life is Terrible” philosophy is dangerous for entrepreneurs to adopt. A “Life is Great” mindset opens the way for a rich and full experience every single day.

You can also listen to a weekly audio podcast of my blog. What you hear will be different than what you read in this blog. Subscribe on iTunes or wherever you get your podcasts. You can also click on this link – Click here to listen to Audio Episode 103 – Goody Two-Shoes.

This blog is being written in tandem with my book, “An Entrepreneur’s Words to Live By,” available on Amazon.com in paperback and Kindle (My Book), as well as being available in all of the other major eBook formats.

Goody Two-Shoes

Gil Penchina is a 20-year angel investor in start-up companies. He was one of the earliest members of the eBay team and has invested in unicorn companies such as LinkedIn, Dollar Shave Club, PayPal and Cruise Automotive. I heard him tell a fascinating story about what he sometimes does when he’s traveling. He posts on Facebook that he’ll be away and offers his apartment to whoever wants it. Total strangers are often staying in his apartment – and have been identified not through a formal Airbnb arrangement! He’s done this 15 or 20 times and simply asks that the apartment be left clean and the bed linens and towels put in the washing machine. Only once has he been burned and that was by one of his cousins. Why would he do this? As Gil tells it, he believes that people are inherently good and he doesn’t believe they will harm his property.

How many times do we “look for trouble?” Do we have expectations that someone is going to try and take advantage of us? I’ve known many people who always have their guard up. They truly believe that if they don’t aggressively take protective action that they are going to be screwed. I’ve worked with people who spend more time trying to figure out how they are getting the short-end of the stick in a transaction than time spent figuring out how to optimize the deal. Guess what? This mindset can become a self-fulfilling prophesy.

I believe as does Gil, that most of us operate in good faith. Sure there are bad people in the world – I’m not naïve enough to deny this. But the number is infinitesimally small and I will do nothing to seek them out. I’ve said it many times that I’m going to put as much Good out into the world with no expectation of getting anything in return. What I’ve always found is that Good comes back to me, often beyond my wildest dreams. While there’s no quid pro quo for specific actions, I know that as I am doing Good, I will attract Good into my life. This is applicable to business, personal relationships, our health and all other facets of our existence.

Let’s be clear about something. This isn’t about blithely skipping down Candy Cane Lane oblivious to obstacles and pitfalls. When we believe in all Good, we manage risk such that we aren’t worried about bad things happening. Why? Because we have a mitigation plan in place that we methodically work through if the unexpected occurs. Simply planning for risks does not mean we think they will come to fruition. It gives us the peace of mind to know that we can successfully deal with them and allows us to devote our time and energy to the positive aspects of whatever we are doing.

In my 42+-year career I can count on one hand the number of times someone has maliciously taken advantage of me. Conversely, I know many business people who are constantly embroiled in lawsuits and always complaining about how awful others are to deal with. I guess I must be running in the wrong circles because I just haven’t encountered that many of those kinds of people.

A number of years ago we were purchasing an apartment property and placed a large amount of earnest money in escrow. During our due diligence process we found some issues that were unacceptable and we informed the seller that we were cancelling the contract. The seller wanted to fight over returning our earnest money and we spent a few dollars on lawyers before settling with him. He received less than 50% of the earnest money and we moved on. All of us believed that the seller was acting in bad faith and we could have endured a long protracted legal battle and won. But to do this would have required a huge expenditure of negative energy and prevented us from pursuing other positive opportunities. It turned out to be a minor blip in our process and was soon forgotten.

The Law of Attraction is a powerful force in our lives. When we think positive thoughts and do good things for others, we attract the same for ourselves. Negative thoughts and negative actions are also attractors. The choice is pretty easy to make.

You can also listen to a weekly audio podcast of my blog. What you hear will be different than what you read in this blog. Subscribe on iTunes or wherever you get your podcasts. You can also click on this link – Click here to listen to Audio Episode 59 – Mousetraps Squared.

This blog is being written in tandem with my book, “An Entrepreneur’s Words to Live By,” available on Amazon.com in paperback and Kindle (My Book), as well as being available in all of the other major eBook formats.