How ignoring my intuition lead to the worst year of my life…and what I learned.

I’ll be honest, 2014 was a bitch. The year started promisingly enough. I’d read A LOT about how “your network is your net-worth,” so I made a concerted effort to get out there and “mingle with the right people.” Thats not easy for me, I’m pretty high on the “Don’t-talk-to-me-I’m an-Introvert” scale.

2013 finished on somewhat of a high. I had just successfully launched a new TV channel (I managed the marketing piece) and then promptly got rejected for a job marketing a bigger TV channel. But, I’d also started to do a bit of consulting work on the side. Mainly for musicians and artists. This suited me fine, I grew up in the music industry, first as a musician, working in record stores (google it, kids) and then in marketing for a major label.

I consulted on digital strategy and then helped on execution. I loved it. But, finding paying customers in a struggling music industry seemed like it might be a painful pursuit. So, I turned to my other passion, the new music industry — technology.

I’d created a couple of apps in the past. My coding ability is limited to simple marketing related tasks, so I partnered with a good friend of mine. In 2010 we launched a curated video app for the iPad. It did OK. We had around 10,000 monthly users at one point, not a bad result. We worked together on several projects after that, none of which really gained any traction.

In the end I think we managed to repeat the same mistake over and over — we focussed on making “cool stuff” rather than products that actually solved a problem for someone. Big, but common mistake. Lesson (eventually) learned. Next.

By February 2014, I was completely out on my own and had started an influencer marketing agency, matching brands with digital influencers. This new venture actually started to gain momentum. Things looked to be on the up..

2014 was also the year I decided I needed a mentor, I found one too. An older music industry guy that had sold his business in the 90's and apparently made a bit of cash. Our relationship started out with him as my client (he was managing a couple of artists) and when he approached me with an opportunity that involved content and new technology….I only had one question “where do I sign?”

I met the CEO via Skype and he was clearly a smart guy, but he failed to answer a few basic questions. My main question, based on my earlier tech failings “what problem are we solving and for who?” got dismissed as if I hadn't asked it. Every time I asked that question (and I did a few times), the response concerned me.

Meanwhile, negotiations got underway between my partner and the CEO. A couple of months passed and I was eager to get going and couldn’t understand the hold up. We were met with delay after delay. For some reason it was hard to get anything in writing from the company. I was a little concerned, but not too much…my mentor was comfortable, so I saw no reason why I shouldn’t be the same.

Anxious, I consulted my mentor (now business partner) again and raised my concerns. He was still positive and didn’t seem concerned, “don’t worry, this ones gonna go!” he said. I had the same conversation with a counterpart in another of the international offices and got the same response “This is the big one, sit tight.” I thought to myself “OK, these guys have way more experience than me. They have sold businesses before. What have I done?” So…I sat tight.

Months passed, meetings with potential clients were always positive, doors opened to some of the biggest brands in the world. I’d never seen anything like it in terms of getting access to the C-level execs at large corporations, a few of whom were excited and wanted to progress. I would report back to the CEO and ask the question “When will the product be ready to launch, I have genuine interest from huge brands with large buckets of cash! The response “Soon. Very soon.” I sat tight and waited.

September rolled around, I was sitting on the end of my bed contemplating. (I did a lot of contemplating in 2014.) I asked myself that simple question one more time “What problem am I actually solving for my clients?” The answer was still not clear and a few potential clients had since lost interest in my ‘game changing’ technology and my “We’re launching soon” speech.

One day at lunch I was listening to a podcast, the interviewer asked the question “what has been your biggest mistake as an entrepreneur?” The answer stopped me cold…“Not trusting my intuition. Every time I ignore my intuition it doesn't end well.” Shit. Was I right all this time? Surely not. I Googled “entrepreneur intuition” and got the same mantra over and over again “trust your intuition.”

I had a decision to make. Ignore the advice of my mentor and quit…or sit tight. Admittedly, he’d been having doubts by this time as well. So, I did what I should have done months ago…I quit. It sucked. It was painful. I had lost a year of my life. I had to face up to my family, my partner and my friends. Admitting in my own quiet way….I fucked up.

When 2015 finally rung itself into existence, I was relieved. “Fuck you 2014! Good riddance.”

I picked up where I left off, my agency Fanlabs is now focussed on content marketing but doing better than ever. We’re serving some great companies, helping them grow their business. Also, I’ve got a new app coming.

Thats the other lesson I picked up from probably the worst year of my life…respect the momentum. Early 2014, my agency was doing well. But I dropped it all to focus on what? A promise? On something my intuition knew was a mistake all along?

It took me a whole year to learn these two key lessons:

  1. Trust your intuition.
  2. Respect the momentum.

Now, whenever I get that Spidey-sense tingling in my spine telling me somethings not quite right, I listen. I take it damn serious and I act accordingly.

In case you’re wondering, the company I quit is still alive. Which is good, I wish them success. Whilst I don’t hear from my old business partner as much, we’re still in touch. Was it his fault the year was such a mess? Hell no. It was mine, 100%.

Oh, there was one more thing I learned — when the going got tough, my partner stuck by me. I learned that I am the luckiest man alive….still. I will repay her for her faith in me. With interest.

Got a similar story? Let me know, I’m on dan@fanlabs.co or hit me up on Twitter @akadanjones I’d love to hear from you. Please recommend if you enjoyed this.

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