The Entrepreneur’s False Choices

It’s 3:00 AM. You’ve just awakened with a start. Your heart is racing – not pounding, just a generally anxious sort of feeling. You aren’t sure why this is happening. There’s no sound of an intruder and everything externally seems to be in order. Then you lay there struggling to return to your slumber. You know you must get up in two or three hours, and you know you desperately need to finish getting your rest. But there’s one BIG problem. Your mind won’t let you.

I’ve never figured out exactly what causes this. There’s obviously something churning around in our subconscious. And it’s frustrating beyond belief to wake up this way, not know why, and then try to drift back to the Land of Nod. And I can attest to what happens next. I will allow my mind to conjure up False Choices. Perhaps I’ve been in the middle of a complicated real estate deal that has a lot of “hair” on it – that is, many moving parts that aren’t all moving as planned. At this point the game begins. Here’s the dialogue that occurs.

What if the appraisal for the apartment complex comes back at slightly less than is needed? Then the loan amount will be less, and the equity requirement will be more. But wait a minute – I only have an equity commitment for the exact requirement and I don’t have time to raise the extra amount that will be needed! Oh my (or some other less printable phrase) – we won’t be able to close this deal!! If this happens we’ll lose the earnest money that is now totally at-risk; we’ll lose all of our credibility within the industry; we’ll never be able to do another deal again; I’ll go broke and have to live under a bridge!!!!!!

OK, the bridge part may be a little dramatic, but you get the idea. The point is that in this state of semi-consciousness it’s very easy for our mind to magnify our concerns and create wild scenarios that are disconcerting. Often, logic is totally absent in these moments, and because of this the False Choices become overwhelming. Fortunately, I’ve gotten to the point where I rarely experience this anymore. But I can tell you that in years past I’ve gotten so worked up that I had to get out of bed and become totally awake to bring my full faculties to bear and find the solution. Kind of blows the opportunity to get any more sleep completely out of the water . . . right?

Rather than trying to figure out what triggers this kind of response, I’ve learned how to avoid letting my mind run away in this manner. If I do wake up with that general feeling of unease or even if something specific looms in my mind’s-eye, I immediately deny it. That’s it. I refuse to allow the monsters in my brain to come to the surface and get any satisfaction whatsoever. It’s my belief that we are extremely vulnerable when we are half-awake and half-asleep, and trying to resolve any sort of issue is futile and dangerous. If we let down our guard, invariably we end up in False Choices.

Learning how to deny these thoughts will not be easy at first. It will take a lot of practice. What I do is quickly translate the issue that is bubbling up into a visual image – perhaps it’s a dragon from a fantasy world. Then I take out my mighty dragon slaying sword and thrust it deeply into the dragon’s chest at which point it melts away and I fall asleep again. Thus, I’ve taken the horrible problem that somehow has invaded my sleep; turned it into a dragon; killed it instantly and gone back to sawing logs. While this might sound corny, I can tell you that with practice it works. It doesn’t matter what the outer issue is, I simply turn it into a dragon and eliminate it.

We must avoid the False Choices that may be presented while we sleep. Denying them before they have a chance to take hold of our minds will allow us to deal with them in a rational fashion when we are awake.

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.

Staying Away From the Cliff

What is your reaction when you hear the word “debate?” Is this code for conflict? Entrepreneurs and humankind in general are inclined to try and persuade others to see their point of view. Unfortunately the art of debate has been stigmatized by what happens in the political arena. Political debate has degenerated into something far removed from the honorable tradition of true debate. Sometimes in our business and daily lives what is being termed as “debate” is also something much less noble.

I remember taking debate classes in school. We were taught to construct factual arguments to support our position on an issue. In college my favorite class of all time was Logic. It was fascinating to listen to the professor walk us through various arguments that were commonplace in society and show us where the logic broke down. To effectively persuade and convince others to make decisions that we want them to make, it is helpful to frame our argument in solid facts and logic. To clarify, I’m not using the term “argument” in the “argumentative” sense but rather in the context of a thesis.

Every time I read an article that might contain an element of controversy, I always think of my old college professor as I read the comments. There is often a lot of emotion on a particular subject which may result in ad hominem attacks, name calling and a loss of decorum. Usually when this happens, the offending party has already lost the debate because he/she can’t offer a logical opposing position supported by facts.

In my opinion, the components of a healthy debate include a willingness to lay out one’s position in logical and factual manner; the ability to listen to and understand a contrary position without interruption; the ability to politely use facts and logic to counter the contrary position, and at the end of the day, the willingness to have respect for the person making the contrary argument. In other words, smile and shake hands when it’s all said and done. We may or may not persuade the other person to see our point of view and vice versa, but we avoided falling off the emotional cliff.

The emotional cliff is a dangerous place to be for entrepreneurs. I would much rather persuade someone to agree with my position on something using facts and logic, than appealing to their emotions. Using emotional appeal is another term for manipulation. Business does this every day through marketing a myriad of products and services. But often the person being persuaded is left dissatisfied with the overall experience when he/she realizes the product or service may not meet his/her needs. The feeling of manipulation has a long shelf-life, whether in a marketing or sales sense, or when making decisions based upon the arguments made in debate.

Debate and persuasion that are fact and logic-based can build positive and lasting relationships. When we aspire to stay above the emotional fray we win every time in so many ways.

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.

Cliffs

What to Do?

Question: Lately I’ve been faced with some tough decisions. I struggle in this department. How can I make this easier?

Answer: Entrepreneurs by definition have to make a lot of hard decisions. Do we add a new product line or not? Should we raise our prices? Should we fire a client? Can we afford to buy a new piece of expensive equipment? All of these decisions are weighty for a reason. They could have adverse consequences if we’re wrong about what we decide.

Life is full of tough calls. Whether in our business or personal lives one factor that makes decisions hard is a little thing called emotion. The more we can eliminate emotion from our decision making process, the more likely we will be to turn the tough call into the right call. Without emotion we can then turn to a factual approach in this process.

Something that has worked for me over the years has been the use of a decision tree. When I have to make a complex or difficult decision I draw one or more lines down the page. At the top of each column I write a decision that I could make to address a particular situation. There might be two or three possibilities – maybe even more. From each decision I draw lines with boxes underneath. We all know that when decisions are made there are consequences. These boxes contain the consequences. By laying out all of the decisions and the various potential consequences I am able to assess the probability of outcomes and determine which yield the best result with the lowest risk. Doing this insures that emotion remains on the sideline.

Some people say, “Follow your gut instincts.” So you may ask, isn’t gut instinct an emotion? Actually gut instinct is the result of experience. There’s no such thing as pure gut instinct that isn’t based on some level of experience. And this experience can be developed by making decisions over and over utilizing facts and decision trees. Eventually you just know what to decide because you’ve done it so many times. But a strong factual foundation was laid early on.

We can all make the tough decisions with ease when we take the emotion out of the equation. By turning to an examination of the facts we are able to logically figure out what steps to take. And after we do this long and often enough, we develop strong instincts that enable us to act quickly and decisively.

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.

decisions

A Bucket of Blue Leaves

Question: It seems like everywhere I turn there is more bureaucratic nonsense to deal with. I have to fill out endless forms and jump through hoops to get anything done. What can I do to bring down my blood pressure?

Answer: People who know me will attest to the fact that bureaucracy makes me crazy too. And over the years I could have easily filled 100 volumes of books the length of War and Peace with my rantings about mindless, spirit-crushing bureaucracy. But recently a friend of mine told a story at a business conference we were attending. He called it “a Bucket of Blue Leaves.”

It seems as though he had experienced many of the same frustrations as had I, with a particular federal agency. Someone told him he needed to get a Bucket of Blue Leaves. He of course said, “There is no such thing as this. Blue Leaves don’t exist.” But after thinking for a moment he realized that all he needed to do was go to the Home Depot and buy a bucket and some blue spray paint. Then he would simply find some leaves and paint them blue. Ultimately he delivered this “Bucket of Blue Leaves” to the federal agency and got what he wanted.

What a perfect metaphor. We can do as I have done in the past which is to fight, stew, get angry and undoubtedly make other people mad. Or, we can be smart and figure out how we can deliver exactly what is being requested regardless of how ridiculous we believe the requirements to be. Often, what is being requested in such situations may seem completely illogical. We entrepreneurs generally want everything to be neat, orderly and logical. When this doesn’t happen our world can turn upside down. But it doesn’t have to.

I’m still working on this one. When things get in my way – especially bureaucrats – I want to bulldoze over them. However I’m now realizing that the idea of getting past an obstacle doesn’t always mean I have to go through it. So every time I have an encounter with another bureaucrat, before I get mad I get a Bucket of Blue Leaves. I suppose if this doesn’t work I’ll have to get a Bucket of Purple Leaves . . .

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.