How’s That Working Out?

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Every once in a while, I think about being a therapist.

Then I remember that chocolate isn’t the answer to everything (#debatable) and I’ve got a really low tolerance for inaction.

Then, there’s one other thing that really puzzles me…

Common scenario. An entrepreneur or aspiring entrepreneur is struggling. Or they just want some mentoring or outside perspective. So they seek out a mentor and share their concept. They lay out everything they’ve been doing and plan to do. Occasionally, I’m that mentor. #BizarreIKnow

If you know me at all, you know I’m loving, but direct.

Life’s too short to dance around the truth.

If I think you’re heading off the rails or you’re already in a ditch but don’t know it, I’ll tell you. And if I have thoughts on what might work better, I’ll share them. Am I right? Who knows. But if you come to me because you think I can help, I’m assuming you’re open to the idea that something I share might add value.

I once had a successful fitness-industry entrepreneur share his dream business plan with me. He’d written it himself and run all the numbers by his good friend, a Harvard MBA, but one who knew nothing about the industry. The projections painted a picture of stunning success, but the assumptions upon which they were built, total fiction. I went data-point by data-point and ended up, without intention, shredding the plan.

His response. Pissed off. Threw the document across the room and said “then what’s YOUR big f#%@ing idea?!”

Anger in response to sought-after advice is a huge tell for failure. Not because I’m right and you’re wrong. But because you’re looking for the wrong thing from me.

When you’re building something you want desperately to matter…

You don’t need validation, you need truth.

And if that truth blows your concept, dream, vision or current failing venture to smithereens, that’s a GOOD thing to experience as fast and early as possible. Better a reality-check and pivot now than a 10X catastrophe 10 months, $10,000 or ten trips to the hospital from now.

Determination to deliver a specific outcome can be powerful. But blind attachment to a specific “way” to deliver an outcome when experience, information and insight invalidate your opening assumptions at every turn, that’s not persistence, it’s arrogance.

Stay open to the possibility that you guessed wrong, that you may need to re-guess and test 100 times before you guess right, and that others might be able to drop that 100 down to 10. If you’ll let them in.

Look at your assumptions and actions and ask yourself on a regular basis, “how’s that working out for me?”

Focus is good, openness is mandatory, blind arrogance is death.

The moment you think you know better than the market, you lose.

And so does everyone you seek to serve.

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40 responses

40 responses to “How’s That Working Out?”

  1. Lauren Rader says:

    I love how you write and what you’re saying here. It’s not easy to see someone blow your dreams to smithereens I would imagine. But only the honest and thoughtful will tell you the truth.

    I’m with you, truth is all.


  2. Jonathon, thank you for that example of telling ‘the truth’, in the face of someone who didn’t want to hear it. I resonate with that as I see myself more and more in the practice of blunt, bottom, line, clarity, not just as a personality quirk generally associated with INTJs, but as a commodity that is much needed. This is the way I’ve always been, and I am noticing, now 74, how many people are starting to come into my life requesting that. Your story elicited a bit more courage and appreciation and verbiage to both recognize and describe what I have to offer.

    Once again, thanks for just being you, in the most delightful way! You are my hero, yes, in a way that makes me my own heroine.

  3. Yes!! That blind attachment to a specific direction is a dangerous thing… Sometimes it’s the frustration of not finding ease that pushes us into that one forced channel; There’s this inner demand that IT hurry up and work out for us already.A painful place when left unacknowledged…

    But if it’s true that the journey matters more than the destination, then we need to keep checking in with ourselves to be sure we’re in alignment. And having an honest mentor who cares more about your journey and your wholeness than just the numbers…ah well, priceless

  4. We can always go further faster if we ask the right people for help – and then accept that help with gratitude. It’s the accepting part that’s hardest, believe it or not.

  5. Pamela Miles says:

    The love of contrary perspectives is an acquired taste; the love of truth might take even longer.

  6. Carmen says:

    Wish I could afford your hourly rate. I could use a new perspective.

    It’s very easy telling people what they can’t do. The true benefit comes when someone helps you figure out what you can do.

    You need to empower someone after you’ve given your dose of reality. It can take months or years before you can get momentum going in an empowering direction.

    Some coaches tend to lose their patience if you don’t want the same things they want.

    • Yes, this is more of the direction I was going.

      Yes, we need reality along with encouragement. I’m one of those people that if someone tells me I “can’t” do something, I will work even harder to make it happen. Unfortunately, some people have those in their lives that don’t want to see others succeed. So they will use that dose of reality to bring others down.

      We all need guidance and it does hurt to hear the truth sometimes. But that can be turned around to show alternatives, right?

  7. Ragnar says:

    I think the anger comes from the misinterpretation that you’re under personal attack. I think the separation of actions, and plans and your core self is a good way to go about things. That way you can always accept criticism and objectively consider what needs to be changed and what doesn’t. When you take pride in your work of course the opposite happens. You become defensive at the first sign of criticism.

    Of course I am nowhere near managing to always separate myself from things I do wrong or right. But it’s an ideal that I am working towards nonetheless. Do you think it’s possible Jonathan? (Better to ask now than fail later right? Haha.)

    • Jonathan Fields says:

      I’ve been on both ends of the conversation many times, and likely will be again. One of the things that’s been really helpful in separating the data from the emotion is my daily mindfulness practice. Huge asset for creators and makers in any realm.

  8. Terry says:

    That makes a lot of sense. Over the time that I’ve operated my business, I have occasional conversations with a respected colleague and person whom I consider a mentor. (He has way more experience and has had much more success.)

    The other day, I called him to vent. We went back and forth for about an hour or so. Then something I said caused him to reply: “It sounds like maybe you’re just not cut out for this.” I didn’t get offended–instead I stopped venting. I knew he was right. This was just the first time anyone had point-blank said it.

    Now my focus is in a different direction. But it took years of fooling myself, and someone finally telling me what I already knew. Funny how that works…

  9. Zach says:

    A vastly interesting subject. One cannot disagree that having a mentor who’s willing to deal them the hard truth is invaluable. Any entrepreneur would be lucky to have you as their mentor.

    That said, the biggest ideas are often the ones met with the most criticism. How does an entrepreneur decipher between the constructive honest feedback and a critic’s narrow vision?

    • Jonathan Fields says:

      Great question, and as I shared, who knows if any given “mentor” is right or wrong. Often two different advisors give completely different lenses on a situation. This is more about how YOU the entrepreneur respond to both advice and hard data. Big question to ask.

      When I hear something I don’t want to hear, am I angry or am I curious?

      If the former, find a way to get to the latter. You may in fact know better, but assuming you do and responding with anger or arrogance to any challenge is where you get in trouble. Respond with curiosity and everything else falls into place. I’m about to write more on this, btw, so stay tuned.

      • Salma says:

        This is an important clarification, because, it’s really not about the mentor being right and the person getting advice being wrong.

        People’s evaluations are still judgements and opinions and are as subject to imperfection as the original plan, regardless of the data. By being curious, rather than angry, it allows the recipient of the advice to evaluate the new information, make sense of it, and incorporate it into his or her decision process. It then becomes about calibration rather than who is right and who is wrong, or who knows better and who is misguided.

  10. In 51 years of life I’ve observed that people who value unfiltered truth are rare. I cherish them, and they’re almost always my most productive clients.

  11. Even when the truth has a tendency to choke a bit going down, it’s a lot more nourishing in the long run than the pap of meaningless agreement.

  12. POW! Truth delivered with love, Jonathan Fields. Asking for help increases my (your/our) odds of success. And who wins when I succeed? Everyone. 🙂

  13. Jenny says:

    I read somewhere that a torpedo works by receiving error codes when it veers off course, so it knows to auto correct it’s path. It literally fails right and left until it reaches it’s real target! I have to remind myself sometimes to not take it personally, just re-adjust my course!

  14. Kim Upright says:

    For some reason I just find it hard to imagine that you would have ever gotten mad at anyone for their feedback Jonathan. Do you have any great examples for us?

    • Jonathan Fields says:

      Ha! Trust me. At some point, every entrepreneur gets “ego-connected” to an idea and has to be loving or not so lovingly pried loose from it. Me, included. Thankfully it happens less and less these days, but still… 😉

  15. Vicky says:

    Brilliant! Chimes with “facing the brutal realities” – Jim Collins From Good to Great. Delusion is not a path to success!

  16. Laura Neff says:

    Love it, Jonathan, and am so grateful I got some of your direct, truthful feedback and perspective this year! Lots changing and growing as a result.

    Question: assumptions often seem to be elusive and hard to bring out into the light. Got any hip pocket questions/inquiries/ways to flip on the mega-watt bulb so those suckers are no longer in the dark and can be worked?

    • Jonathan Fields says:

      the more “blue ocean” you go, the bigger the leaps of faith. You HAVE to make huge assumptions in the beginning. Build enough financial runway into your launch plan to allow yourself the time to test your critical assumptions with small experiments as fast as possible. Your biggest goal in the early days is not revenue, it’s validating or invalidating the key assumptions upon which your entire model is being built and if key assumptions are blown up, then you’ve gotta be willing to pivot or fold as fast as possible.

      • Laura Neff says:

        Muchos gracias. Makes me even more glad we sent out a killer customer survey in late October. Blew some of our assumptions out of the water, validated others, and allowed us to make positive changes quickly, responding to our peeps with, “We hear you!” Thanks, Jonathan!

  17. Nancie says:

    The truth can be brutal, but necessary!

  18. Chris Hill says:

    Right on brother. The first thing we must do, which I have heard you talk about much, in #TGLP is to identify who it is with whom we are sharing our goals, and why – are we seeking validation, in hopes that we might be able to sleep better at night thinking we made the “right move”, or are we seeking someone because we value their opinion on the given matter, knowing that whatever response we receive from them is out of love and wanting us to succeed, and isn’t served to us on some esoteric silver platter. Surround yourself with good people, and part of that equation is listening to good people and their true intentions.

  19. Kim says:

    Thanks Jonathon 🙂
    I tried sharing my book with friends for feedback and I scoffed at their comments. Then I went looking for an editor who told me, get some people to read it, make changes and then bring it to me. A few months later I read the comments I originally scoffed at and can see that I just wasn’t ready to hear it, now I see they are helpful, and ones I don’t agree with means I am strong in my conviction.
    Now I want everyone to read it and tell me what they think…I think 😉

    Love your posts, thanks for the insights!

    • Jonathan Fields says:

      Trick here, Kim, is to share with the people you want most to serve to see if what you’ve written is a home run for them. Be careful about soliciting input from “everyone else.” The “qualitative” input that really matters is from those you seek to serve and those who’ve been where you want to go.

  20. Kimunya Mugo says:

    Jonathan, LOVE your graphic. Openness grows what you build. It means you are authentic in your approach, you welcome solid advice (even though it may challenge your thinking or position), and helps you grow organically.

  21. […] Fields is one of my inspirational mentors; his emails help to keep me mentally ruddered. Definitely a good thing. His last email asked the “how’s that working out for […]

  22. Sheryl says:

    We all have the need to succeed. We want to prove to the world that we matter. So when we hear the constructive criticism, after we invested ourselves in whatever the endeavor, it tends to sound more like a death knoll. We have been raised in a society where failure is not an option and that is the true soul crusher. So many questions come up for me when I read this. How do you know you are talking to the right mentor? How many times have we heard stories where people have told others that their idea stinks and they ignored it and went on to be successful? How do you balance the faith in yourself with the advice from others?

    • Jonathan Fields says:

      Hey Sheryl – Great questions, check out my response to Zach.

      It’s less about whether other people are right and more about how YOU handle opposing views or, more important, clear data that you just don’t want to hear or see…so you don’t. We’ve all been there. Question is, where will you be moving forward? How open will you hold yourself to the possibility that you guessed wrong or new insight or irrefutable information could make what you’re doing a lot better? Like I said to Zach, are you angry or curious when you hear an opposing argument?

  23. […] writing. They inspire me to be better. Here is a link to someone I read often, Jonathan Fields: He might resonate with you. […]

  24. Janet says:

    Yup. The truth hurts….both the receiver and the giver to the unrealistic recipient. It ‘s a hard call but it’s the best way. And one day, maybe they’ll realise you did them a favour….but maybe not. At least you’ll know you did your best.

  25. Anthony says:

    We all need a mentor and guidance from time to time, it’s finding the right mentor that seems to be the hard bit. The truth might hurt, but you have to accept it or at least acknowledge it then try and learn sometihng posiive from it

  26. Great insights. Thanks for sharing.

  27. Benedicte says:

    Hello Johnathan!
    I enjoyed reading your thoughts. I know how hard it can be to tell anyone something that is obvious to ourselves but might hurt the person. Yes, that truth that we see in someone needs to make its way to the person, and sometimes it is a long way! I know I can see pretty clearly through people but I am somtimes afraid of them rejecting me if I express what I see. Am I a coward? And yet I am learning to be true to myself, which helps me to develop the confidence I need to express it in others. There is also a difference in the situation when our insight is actually sought by a person, because then, that person has already opened up to receive that truth… Thank you for your share. Very… true! 😉