F#$% You, Don’t Tell Me What To Do

7 signs of old wiring that is slowing the growth of your business. (by Mark Eckhardt, edited by Julia Dopp)

My formal Zen Training began with a broom and mop. There was meditation of course, but work practice was front and center. After a few months of cleaning floors and scrubbing toilets I asked my teacher why I wasn’t doing much of anything else. His reply, “Too much Small Self. If we have to ask you three times to stay focused on cleaning a floor, what makes you think you are going to benefit from anything else we expose you to?”

Ouch! That stung…a lot. And of course, my ego couldn’t have disagreed with him more.

As my studies continued, it became harder and harder to refute what my teacher saw right from the beginning- there wasn’t much room for other people to contribute to my development, and my progress was much slower than the other new students. Someone would say, “do this”, and I would do the opposite or a variation of it, then justify my actions with excuses. My teacher appropriately labelled my behavior as, “F#$% You, Don’t Tell Me What To Do!” syndrome. Looking back I wasted a lot of people’s time, mostly my own.

Although I never uttered the phrase openly, “don’t tell me what to do” silently controlled my life. Despite my outward commitment to Zen and its principles, my inner resistance to vulnerability made me almost entirely unteachable. Ultimately, I was limiting my own possibilities by cutting off anyone else’s ability to contribute to my learning process.

Mark Eckhardt, CEO of COMMON

I left formal Zen training five years ago, but I’m still continuing the process of discovering and eliminating self-sabotage. As the CEO of COMMON, it’s my responsibility to help entrepreneurs accelerate- so tackling the mental blocks that can impede progress comes with the territory.

This process, called “stripping away”, is one of the most critical parts of entrepreneurship. Ironically, it’s also one of the least addressed aspects of it.

Here are seven of the signs I’ve encountered in myself or in some of the entrepreneurs I have worked with over the past decade that point to old wiring in the brain that is not optimal for the growth and success of your business:

1: Immediately challenging the advice of qualified mentors and advisors.

What this looks like: Your first reaction is to invalidate the advice or credibility of people who have done exactly what they’re recommending you do, sometimes hundreds or even thousands of times over.

2. Capitulating to other people’s opinions constantly.(nice-ing yourself out of business)

What this looks like: You often have conversations that result in an outcome that is bad for your business, because you’re unwilling to express yourself out of fear that your opinions will create tension or discord. Instead, you defer to other people’s decisions in order to keep things copacetic.

3. Insisting on doing it your way in spite of the fact that what you are doing isn’t right for your business stage.

What this looks like: You go to great lengths to achieve things that aren’t necessary (or aren’t necessary yet) for your business to succeed. This amounts to forgetting about basic building blocks, and getting carried away by your dream to the point that it takes time and energy away from other more essential things.

4. Frequently stopping a project before completion in favor of a different one.

What this looks like: Focus and discipline over the long-haul seems uncomfortable, or elusive. You’ve always got a “better idea” that simply can’t wait, and requires other projects be abandoned in its favor.

5. Assuming that prior experience translates to an early stage environment.

What this looks like: You bank on your previous successes, or the impressive track record of someone else, without considering how different circumstances might impact a skill set.

6. You frequently miss opportunities because you take too long to make decisions.

What this looks like: You focus on being overly democratic and considering every possible opinion and option before making decisions- resulting in decisions being almost impossible to make.

7. Struggling to form and maintain relationships that are meaningful and additive.

What this looks like: Your relationships have an unusually high casualty rate- and the endings are more often than not highly unpleasant. Although not every relationship works out, and some are bound to have rocky conclusions, if you look behind you and there’s nothing but a wake of wreckage… you have to look at yourself as the common factor.

Bonus: Thinking that you should be farther along.

What this looks like: You find yourself defaulting to considering yourself as one step from failure, or mid-failure, on a regular basis. Entrepreneurs are pre-wired to compare themselves to unicorns, and too often think they’re failing. That is both unfair and unproductive.

Time is the one thing that entrepreneurs should give themselves more of. Don’t buy into the notion that everything you do has to be done at breakneck speed. Take the time to address how you think and perceive your surroundings, especially when things get tough, then strip away what’s getting in the way. If you do, I promise that you’ll move faster than ever, have more fun, and attract the people and resources you need to do something great.

At COMMON we encourage each other to be FearLess. It’s a powerful invitation to embark on the inward journey necessary to produce outward results. This is my invitation to you.



COMMON is a creative accelerator and community for social businesses and projects. We help entrepreneurs build, launch, and promote products and ideas that take care of the planet and all the creatures on it.

Visit www.common.is

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Write us at: itmatters@common.is

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