Every entrepreneur has likely experienced the same scenario at one point: sharing a great idea and execution plan among friends and family, only to be told bluntly that it wouldn’t succeed.
It is frustrating, and in some ways heartbreaking, to hear these criticisms from people we have grown to respect over the years. Though their arguments and points may likely be well founded, it’s also important to remember that these very points are based from their own belief systems which are contrary to your own. They do not believe they themselves can succeed in what you are doing, or they’d be already doing it.
Arguably, the single most poisonous culprit of their lack of faith in us is a thought pattern you’ve probably never heard of. Family and friends, unless they have had successful ventures, have a psychological bias known as the “false consensus effect.”
False consensus is defined as a cognitive bias, whereby a person tends to overestimate the extent to which his or her opinions, beliefs, preferences, values, and habits are normal and typical of those of others.
What does this mean?
Suppose your business idea is to create a mobile app which gets local dog trainers in NYC customers, or a nationwide service that prints company t-shirts.
Family and friends will tell you why it won’t work, or why they would never use it.
Interestingly enough, your family and friends are hardly your ideal customers. They do not represent your future consumers who will reach in their wallets and potentially throw money at you.
I remember Jason Nazar, originally the founder of DocStoc, saying, “Most people have to see it to believe it. What separates entrepreneurs from the rest is we believe it before we see it.” We obsess to the point where we can smell, taste, see, touch, and hear our idea so much, it propels us to create something from nothing.
Jack Ma, famous billionaire and CEO of Alibaba, was laughed at by his circle of friends when he told them his vision. Against all odds of rejection and stress, he made ends meet, and persevered to where he is today. His old friends are probably not laughing now.
People closest to us will mention things like competition and the opportunity cost. All true, however, competition validates a market like Wal-Mart versus Target, and opportunity means you could be working on something different. People fail to realize that the time with what we do with our lives will pass regardless, and anyone is free to do what they want.
But this is not a piece on us versus them.
Remember, friends and family may mean well because they only make judgments about the present, but they don’t understand the future that we see. They think they are protecting us from harm.
It is our duty to recognize this and take a step back. We can educate them, but if they’re as passionate as us about being right, then it is a useless conversation and will simply add extra self doubt.
So, what’s the best route in discussing entrepreneurship with our friends and families?
I wish I had a magic answer, but unfortunately there isn’t one. There are a lot of days and nights that you will waste. If you’re going to argue with someone, then you are better off arguing with a customer, and learning why they love or hate your product or service.
Maybe friends and family will come around after they can see it and believe it.
Whether you succeed or fail in the end isn’t the point.
You will need guidance to begin and then again for traction as you grow in this journey. You will also need support from those in the trenches, and successful peers you can bounce ideas with.
To build this network of peers I recommend local or national meetups, conventions, Facebook or Linkedin groups. This is where you’ll find people who should be allowed to shoot down your idea, but in most cases they’ll tell you to test it out.
Now, do you realize why you shouldn’t tell your friends and family about your business ideas?
It’s no one’s fault.
It’s just the way it is, and if it was easy more people would eat risk for breakfast rather than run away from it!