Someone Is Going To Laugh At Your Dreams.
But you can’t let their opinions dictate your decisions.
I have a paralyzing fear of failure. I guess that makes me pretty normal. For most people, that fear is what stops them from getting out there and doing the things they are most passionate about. Unfortunately, the fear of failure isn’t a fear of not succeeding — most of the time, what we’re actually scared to hell about is what everyone else thinks. And whether or not they’re going to laugh at us.
If you try and something, and fail, and flame out, you’re probably worried that everyone is going to know you lost. They’ll see you crash and burn, and they’ll lose faith in you. Mock you. Decide that you aren’t worthy of their respect.
If you ever want to get anywhere, if you want to do anything, accomplish anything, you will need to open yourself up to a whole lot of ridicule. And that ridicule will come flooding in. You’ll face it every day. It will come from people you’ve never met, with random Anime characters in their Twitter pic, and it will come from people you respect and look up to.
When I first started out in business, I had a lot of people making fun of me. As we call it in Australia, taking the mickey. I was working full time at McDonald’s, and the other crew thought I was an idiot for leaving a safe job to strike out on my own, with no guarantee that I’d have enough money to eat.
It wasn’t enough for them, that I knew becoming an entrepreneur was what I wanted to do. It wasn’t enough that I had a dream I needed to follow. To them, putting myself out there was stupid. And they were going to wait for the failure, for the sweet taste of “I told you so.”
I went blasting out of there with all the force of their derision driving me like high powered rocket fuel. I shot for the stars, and I gave it everything I had, driven by the need to prove them wrong. To prove everyone wrong.
Looking back, I know that I went on to make so many decisions based purely on my need to prove myself, to show the world that I was right. Some of those decisions turned out okay, but some of them were a total disaster. But I regret almost all of them, because I didn’t make those choices for me. I made them for the people I was trying to leave behind.
If I could go back, I would have been looking at what I needed to do, and wanted to do, without trying to make a scene and put myself in the spotlight to try and demonstrate my worth. That was a waste of my time. It led to a disaster in my personal life, and most of the money I made drying up.
These days, I’ve learned the hard way that what the rest of the world thinks doesn’t matter too much. If they’re laughing at me, I can laugh with them. It still happens all the time. Because I write about life, not literary essays. Because I build professional services businesses, not scalable startups.
That entire experience has been a pretty integral part of my journey, from flipping burgers, to playing shows in a Kings Cross nightclub, to being a tech founder. But I don’t let it dictate my decisions.
When you’re building a startup, you are going to have to go through this process yourself. You’ll have to face up to the stares and the sighs and the people who are going to point a finger and laugh.
Listening to me won’t teach you a lesson that will stick with you forever — I know, because you’re probably a lot like me. Reading this won’t stop you from having to slog your own way through the crap. You’re going to have to find your own way from here to there.
But I want you to take one thing away from this. When people laugh, it doesn’t mean a thing. It doesn’t mean you’re wrong, and it doesn’t mean you’re right. It only says something about them.