Combating Entrepreneurial Arrogance: Why you are not a unique and beautiful snowflake

by Peter Shallard

Entrepreneurial arrogance explained

I’m obsessed with tracking, measuring and demystifying the learning curve that business owners journey. In the long process of going from wannabe to overnight success, there are many highs and lows – each as unique as the individuals experiencing them.

However, there are some slopes of the learning curve that are universal. Today I’m going to shed light on the one that paralyzes the pursuit of wealth, freedom and impact.

Entrepreneurial Arrogance

When someone makes the transition from civilian to entrepreneur, initially they’re just a “wannapreneur”. They’re getting started and they don’t really have their s*** together – which is fair enough really. You’d think this would be a very scary time for these folks, but it’s quite the opposite.

People generally make the transition from employee to renegade with a reasonably healthy dose of optimism. Sure, they might be a little freaked out before they make the big decision, but the courage to finally do it usually goes hand in hand with a perspective of a bright future. After all, to the naive newbie… freedom, wealth and glory is all just around the corner!

Invariably and rapidly, the entrepreneur then smashes headlong into the steepest learning curve of their life. Suddenly things don’t seem so simple any more. Obstacles stack up, the money isn’t working and panic rears it’s ugly hear.

How to people cope? They search for answers.

This is the phase of late night google searching, trawling through blog posts and the business/self-help section of the bookstore. It is here, surrounded by all the wisdom anyone could possibly need, that the arrogance rears it’s ugly head.

Business gurus and experts have an incredible knack for laying down the rules. They write blog posts. They write books. They create handy lists of proven formulas and how-to’s.

Arrogant entrepreneurs read piles of this stuff (it’s an addiction!) and disregard it.

“Great idea but that doesn’t really apply to my niche…”

“That wouldn’t work for my thing…”

“Even though it says this is mandatory now, I’ll figure it out later on…”

These are just a tiny selection of arrogance fueled internal dialogue examples – the kind that cripple entrepreneurs, preventing them doing the learning that moves them up the curve.

It is this rationalizing self talk that allows a business owner to disregard the wisdom of the been-there-done-it experts by believing they’re so special the rules don’t apply.

The humility transformation

An incredible thing happens to entrepreneurs and it occurs at the moment they “get it” and, simultaneously, their business takes off. They realize that all the advice was right.

They gain the humility to see that all the rules really do apply. That yes, they should be on social media. No, they cannot succeed without a proper business plan. Yes, sales and marketing make the business. The list goes on.

It’s a conceptual paradox, but people who’ve gotten it really feel it. All the experts are right and success is synonymous with realizing this.

The acceleration of business success I’ve witnessed, when people start bringing their business into line with “what works”, is phenomenal.

The truth is simple.

The really game-changing businesses are built by entrepreneurs who find ways to apply universal rules and strategies creatively, despite their unique situation.

It’s the combo of your-awesome-idea plus killer-business-basics that begets extraordinary success.

All the experts ARE right. If there is a problem, it’s only that there is way too much good advice out there to action all at once.

Successful entrepreneurs get overwhelmed by taking action in the best possible way. They’re so busy following the how-to guides, actioning tips and being awesome that they run out of time. This means that, naturally and perfectly, they can’t read too much more.

There isn’t any more time to hunt for answers when you’re too busy implementing the ones you’ve already found.

I know what you’re thinking – some business guru tips are better than others. I agree. However, if you’re still focusing on that you’ve missed the point entirely. The entrepreneur who takes the time others spend hunting for “the perfect answers” – using it instead to simply action some answers… is going to rocket to success.

No matter what guides you follow, the real value lies in the learnings gained from real-world action.

Disregarding great business advice is an insidious form of self sabotage and it’s driven by the sensation of feeling special. Feeling like you’re the exception to the rules.

Business is business. The same rules apply to all.

Want to know what’ll really make you different? Try being the kind of entrepreneur who takes the first great idea you stumbled on and makes it happen.

{ 18 comments… read them below or add one }

Barbara Ling, Virtual Coach June 6, 2011 at 8:49 pm

But it’s so much easier to whine about how things *don’t* happen than *making* it happen! :)

I’d also add…don’t think that because you were a beautiful and unique snowflake in one industry, it can carry across to the next. You might end up losing 23K (the most expensive lesson I ever had. :) ).

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Peter Shallard June 7, 2011 at 12:42 pm

Hey Barb,

Thanks for sharing your real-world experience… damn good points :)

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Ainslie Hunter June 6, 2011 at 9:22 pm

Peter,

My parents and in-laws laugh at me and my new online business finds on a daily basis. You see they were both successful small business owners who have retired happily.

And it seems that new blog post I read is based on a marketing or business principles that could date back to Bible times.

By whilst I enjoy their advice there is still that “I will do it my way” creeping into my thought patterns. And I think us entrepreneurs still need a dose of that – because it is through the hard knocks that we pick each other up and keep trying to be better and do better.

Ainslie

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Peter Shallard June 7, 2011 at 2:21 pm

Hey Ainslie, totally good points – it’s a bit of a paradox, but you DO need to do things your own way as well as following the age old formula :P

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Conor Neill June 6, 2011 at 11:32 pm

The truth is simple. There is a vast gap between knowing and believing. This is best summed up in a wonderful phrase that I heard from author Alex Rovira about 6 weeks ago: “The difference between knowing and believing: we all know we are going to die, but very few of us really believe it”. How to get to humility without falling? Is there any path?

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Peter Shallard June 7, 2011 at 2:24 pm

Hey Conor – the life and death example perfectly illustrates the big point here. Thanks for the contribution :)

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Giulietta Nardone June 7, 2011 at 2:53 am

Hi Peter,

Though provoking article and a topic I think about often.

A lot of folks get hamstrung by all the advice from the experts and end up doing nothing. Some of the bigger names stumbled on this model at the beginning. It’s been a lot harder for those trying to follow in their footsteps even when they do follow the plan.

Playing the Devil’s Advocate here, could everyone on the planet really make a million dollars if they just use the prevailing Internet biz model? Math-wise, it doesn’t add up for me since it would mean each person would have to spend all their money on other businesses for everyone to make an even million. Yet, that’s the message I hear. Does it for you? I’d love for someone to show me how this can happen.

Is it the indecision of so many folks wanting to start businesses that fuels the high income of others? Curious what you think about that.

Good article as usual. thx, g.

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Peter Shallard June 7, 2011 at 2:27 pm

Hey Giulietta – not entirely sure what you mean here. I’ve never implied that everyone on the planet should shoot for a million bucks of online biz success. Not entirely sure how that relates… but maybe you can illuminate this for me :)

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Anusha June 7, 2011 at 1:12 pm

Just to add to what you mentioned in your article, a lot of entrepreneurs I meet seem to get their greatest confidence from viewing themselves as someone who can combine risk taking with savvy marketing (extrovert behavior).

As a result, they seem to hold the theoretical (academic/introvert) types in contempt. Strangely, I am one of those “theoretical”-types-who-got-into-entrepreneurship.

Many entrepreneurs seem to suggest that as they are the ones in the market, they are more “realistic” or “reality oriented”. What they don’t realize is, an experience becomes meaningful only when they gain insights from it. Otherwise, they can keep repeating the experience ad nauseam.

They are too immersed in data collection to conduct any data processing. But that doesn’t seem to stop them from having convictions of all sorts, based on what they want to see.

And, I think, this is where the Internet can rescue many ideas from having to pass the “real-world” test (which, uptil now, was the **only** way of doing business).

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Peter Shallard June 7, 2011 at 2:31 pm

Hey Anusha,

Great points here – thanks for adding value to the discussion. I agree with you, but would like to add something: The power of an entrepreneur’s INTUITIVE ability to unconsciously process (and learn from) real word experiential data… should not be underestimated.

:)

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Anusha June 9, 2011 at 7:21 pm

Agree! There is no substitute for experience :)

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Cat Matson June 7, 2011 at 3:45 pm

Here’s what I want to know Peter …

How is it you so eloquently articulate my exact thoughts? I was just saying to someone this morning, in answer to the question ‘who’s your ideal client’, ‘someone who listens’. I cannot help anyone who thinks the ‘fundamentals’ don’t apply to them.

The biggest ‘E-myth’ going round in the age of ‘internet business models’ and ‘you-too-can-make-millions’ is that the rules have changed. They haven’t … we just have access to some different channels and technologies.

Another great post Peter … I now have a Meatloaf song playing in my head ;-P

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Peter Shallard June 7, 2011 at 4:27 pm

Hey Cat!

Ex-frickin’-actly. This is what I’m trying to say.

I think the reason I’m reading your mind on this is just that you’re a coach of sorts as well – anyone who’s in the business of mentoring and advising business people runs into this phenomena regularly.

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Cat Matson June 7, 2011 at 4:35 pm
Lucas June 7, 2011 at 12:38 am

Great advice Peter, but I don’t really think it applies to me. I’m too special…

Just kidding, I’m going to act on some guru advice right now :-)

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Peter Shallard June 7, 2011 at 2:25 pm

Haha someone had to say it!

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Lucas June 14, 2011 at 11:42 pm

yeah.. couldn’t resist ;-)

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Tito Philips, Jnr. June 15, 2011 at 1:27 am

Great Read Peter!
I recently wrote a post too mentioning the need for entrepreneurs to come to terms with the reality that business is business and the rules apply universally.

The arrogance is self-destructive and it is for our own good to take advice and act on them as we run into them.

Thanks for the piece.

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