This week kicks off the TechStars Cloud startup incubator program hosted right here in San Antonio. Eleven eager startup companies from all over the country have come to learn and started officing together at the Geekdom collaborative workspace. I just came from the introductory lunch, see they asked me to be a mentor in the program.
Can you believe it? Me?! A mentor?! (I know right?)
I’ve certainly bent the ear of enough folks over the years to have gathered plenty of useful tidbits of wisdom but what a daunting task it is to see a room full of ridiculously smart people, most of whom are easily smarter than me, and have to find something useful to share, something of value to impart so that their time with me was worthwhile.
No pressure right?
What I got to thinking about was how these folks must be inundated with suggestions and advice, often from two people who couldn’t disagree with each other more. How do you know who to listen to? How do you know what pieces of advice to ignore?
You have to trust your heart. There’s a stellar line from Ronin that I use quite often: “Whenever there is any doubt, there is no doubt.” I couldn’t agree with this more, if nothing else this is my new moto. Sometimes when we’re feeling ineffective it’s because there is a doubt in our heart and that doubt is holding us back. If you get advice, even great advice, even well educated advice from people making more money than you could possibly imagine, if it feels wrong, don’t do it.
I had the fortune of sitting down with one of the startups, this one in particular working on a pretty cool Cloud Computing Analytics tool. Their CEO and I talked about blogging and inbound marketing, keywords and on-site optimization. He and his team took some notes on improving their SEO and outreach programs with my feedback. Pretty cool right?
Maybe I’m not such a bad mentor afterall! They took notes!
You could see their eyes light up when they got a piece of feedback that they loved, an idea they hadn’t though of, or my favorite, the advice that gives you affirmation that another idea you knew in your gut was right, was in fact bad ass. You could see it in their expressions, in their tone, it was a very high energy chat!
That said, you could tell they also knew which advice to ignore.
It’s very easy to get a million different suggestions from a million different angles. I’m a big fan of Hugh McLeod’s Ignore Everybody for just that reason. While I can’t say you should ignore all advice, you have to believe in yourself and have the faith that not everything you learn will be worth implementing. You have to write your own story, often that means writing it by yourself. Sorry.
Despite the success that Image Freedom has experienced, and my personal growth since our founding, it’s been a very insecure process much of the time. It’s freaking scary to own a business! Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. It’s easy to see what “everybody” is doing and think you should be doing that instead, acting like that instead. It’s easy to think you have to go with the flow. Trust me, you don’t.
If I’ve learned anything in these three years of chaos, tears, and miraculous success, it’s that you have to follow your heart. Your heart will give you the best advice that you could ever ask for. You already have all you will need.