03.21.18

Are you taking the p​ath of least resistance

KARL R. LAPAN, PRESIDENT & CEO, THE NIIC

Something that worries me today is the lack of candor and authenticity in conversations. Some say it is a midwest thing, but I think the problem is broader than geography. Buffet said what separates the “uber” successful people from successful people is saying no most of the time. Most people just want you to say “yes”, and affirm what they want to do with no thought-provoking questions or robust discussion.

Have you ever wondered why all board meetings are unanimous on decisions? Do you ever feel you go to a meeting and the meeting happened before you arrived? Do you feel some people just tell you what you want to hear because it is more important to encourage than to engage and invest in constructive dissent and debate? If so, these are all reliable indicators of taking the path of least resistance. Avoiding difficult conversations is easier than confronting them.

Entrepreneurship, like life, is full of its share of disappointments. However, if you want to achieve anything in life or business, it comes down to one word: resilience. That often means eschewing the path of least resistance.

I believe better things can happen if and when people are vested in other people’s success. Startup founders can model these truths for better performance, relevance, and happiness.

Right action follows the proper perspective.

When something unforeseen and traumatic happens in your business, how do you frame it? Is it the end of your business or just a temporary setback? You have the power to determine your attitude—and ultimately your fate. My first boss said to me on my day of employment ” an excuse is a lie stuffed with a reason. No excuses.” Our culture today is toxic and encourages a victim mentality. Simply put, we are each accountable for our actions or inactions. Ducking accountability doesn’t make it go away or get better.

No one is asking you to be a Pollyanna.

Be realistic but optimistic at the same time. Have the courage to expect the best outcome from every situation. This gives entrepreneurs the freedom to reimagine following a failing tactic and implement actions to get back on track. Courage and leadership go hand in hand.

It is okay to be discouraged-it is not okay to quit.

Entrepreneurship is hard. If it were easy, everyone would be doing it. If you get discouraged, recalibrate until you succeed. Don’t play the victim card but instead own your failures—and successes. Seek out people that make you better, and that challenge your intellect. There is no value and no ROI in hanging out with people who take up space but don’t contribute much.

Be prepared for it to seem like nothing will stick.

Most of us have too high expectations in life and business alike. Despite hours of hard work and preparation, no one can guarantee your success. Manage your expectations. Try hard, accept it, and move on, but be smarter the next day. Iterate. That is the recipe for a healthy relationship with failure.

The “easy way” is a terrible teacher.

Don’t run away at the first sign of difficulty. On the other hand, don’t do things just because they are easy. Growth comes from places of vulnerability and challenge. Not making waves only leads to stagnancy and stagnancy is a stop on the road to irrelevance.

Where are you going and how will you get there? Moreover, who’s coming along for the ride? Surround yourself with dreamers—and avoid toxic people at all costs.

There are no easy breaks.

When you overcome one obstacle, another one is waiting to surface. Challenges in entrepreneurship are the norm and not the exception, so you best be ready for a wild ride.

Remember that true failure only comes if and when you give up. Moreover, there’s no glory in quitting. It may be lonely to stay the (challenging) course, but it is worth every minute. However, let’s be clear, don’t romanticize like the “mythological” and embellished stories you hear about entrepreneurs, but lean into it when you face it and come out on top.

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