If you’re in a solo or small firm and someone tells you that growth is the most important metric of success, smile politely and take their advice with a grain of salt.
Do the same thing if they tell you to do whatever it takes to fit in.
Those are two pieces of bad advice entrepreneurs say they got when they launched their businesses.
“The people in your life – from family and friends to investors – will all have opinions that they will gladly share with you, sometimes whether you ask them to or not,” writes Nina Zipkin for Entrepreneur. “The fact of the matter is, you can take in all the advice in the world from the most respected sources, but if it doesn’t feel right to you, you have to trust vision and conviction enough to go your own way.”
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Here’s the Worst Advice Ever
Here is how 17 business leaders answered Entrepreneur’s question: “What was the worst advice you ever received, and what did you learn from it?”
- Be fearless. “There are irrational fears that you should pack in a box and put on a shelf, but then there are warranted fears that you should listen to closely as you think through challenges,” says Julia Hartz of Eventbrite.
- Dress like everyone else to fit in. “You’ll be the most effective if you achieve your own personal style,” says Alexis Maybank of Project September.
- Listen to the most vocal minority of your users. “If you are just listening to the people who reach out to you, then that is a biased sample of people who are a loud minority,” says Luis von Ahn of Duolingo.
- Don’t call attention to yourself. “My parents told me to keep my head down, work hard and show my value through work rather than through my mouth. That might work well in some industries, but even in those cases, there is a benefit of speaking up and communicating,” says Tim Chen of Nerdwallet.
- Don’t try something new. “Most regrets come from not seizing an opportunity or not doing something. A lot more comes out of saying yes than saying no,” says Heidi Zak of Thirdlove.
- Growth is the only metric that matters. “Looking back, I realized how important it was to stay the course, and stay true to our values and vision,” says Scott Harrison of Charity: Water.
- Your idea will fail. “Take that kind of advice with a grain of salt and keep pushing,” says David Bladow of Bloom That.
- Follow someone else’s lead. “It’s totally okay to have a different playbook. Just listen to your heart and try to find what you want to do and the people that support you,” says Bastian Lehman of Postmates.
- Dwell on mistakes. “I attribute our success to a mantra we have at the office: ‘Fail fast, fix fast, learn fast,’” says Bea Fishel-Bock of Hutch.
- Try to be someone you’re not. “If it’s not genuine, it doesn’t work,” says Angie Hicks of Angie’s List.
- Sleep on it. “When people tell me to sleep on it, it never turns out well. I just end up questioning myself and not having any real conviction in my decision. I’ve really learned how to read my instincts,” says Jen Rubio of Away.
- Hire just to fill the position. “The old adage is really true: hire slow and fire fast. Bringing somebody on to your team impacts your culture and drives your business,” says Jordana Kier of Lola.
- Don’t trust your own gut. “I had plenty of people say that I was going to fail, or it wasn’t a good idea,” says Alexa von Tobel of LearnVest.
- Succumb to doubts. If you’re trying to innovate or what you’re doing is very unique, there’s so many people who will say you can’t do it,” says Bruce Poon Tip of G Adventures.
- Don’t try new things. “I think it’s healthy for people to move on and find something new,” says Jeff Chapin of Casper.
- Change your appearance. “What you look like has absolutely nothing to do with the quality of your work,” says Tracy DiNunzio of Tradesy.
- Don’t put yourself out there. “When there’s an opportunity, put yourself in the middle of it, figure it out and figure out how you can make a difference. That’s where all my opportunities come from in life,” says Tina Sharkey of Brandless.
What’s the worst advice you’ve gotten about practicing law? We’d love to hear from you.
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