Blind leading the blind or the echo chamber

Every plant that my heavenly Father has not planted will be uprooted. Let them alone; they are blind guides (of the blind). If a blind person leads a blind person, both will fall into a pit.” This echoes the words of the Katha Upanishad: “Abiding in the midst of ignorance, thinking themselves wise and learned, fools go aimlessly hither and thither, like blind led by the blind.

I decided to use the quote because it echoes something I see with social media all the time. Someone wants to excel in an area and instead of following the voice of reason from someone with experience and expertise, they follow the voices of people with an equal level of inexperience and lack of success. There is a reason why this happens. The people with more experience will often, in good faith, say things that might make someone feel “bad”, defensive, defeated…feel free to pick the term. The people with less experience and maturity will say “good job!” and boost the person’s ego.

Let us look at an example. I wrote an article called The Peter Principle and Fast Company. I was told I was being “mean”, I was “picking on them” and I should be more encouraging (although Scoble said it was “spot on”). Except, what I was saying was true. I was not blindly writing an article, I made a point and backed it up systematically. Eventually, point by point, it all came true. It was sad to watch it unfold because it did not have to be that way, but things happen for a reason. Fast Company is now making a comeback (after killing off the video project, changing management and using a better design) which is great because the site used to be a good business resource.

Ego vs The Truth

Whenever a warrior decides to do something, he must go all the way, but he must take responsibility for what he does. No matter what he does, he must know first why he is doing it, and then he must proceed with his actions without having doubts or remorse about them. ~ Carlos Castaneda

Excelling at anything means pushing yourself and successfully accomplishing goals that become harder over time. Business decisions do not become easier over time, they become more complicated the more the business scales. Many businesses start with owners making decisions but not in the frame of mind of the decisions being business decisions.

It is sort of like having the boy/girlfriend/spouse/significant other that is less mature than you are. When you enter in a relationship like that, you cannot expect the person to mature on your timetable. You cannot expect the same level of support from someone without the same maturity level and it is unfair to ask them to (cruel in my opinion because it causes him or her to jump through hoops they cannot successfully jump long-term). When you enter the relationship, you are saying you are the leader and you will guide the two of you down the right paths…whether you want to admit it or not. Unless the person magically matures while you stay stagnant for them to catch up, it will always be that way.

In business, if you surround yourself with people with less experience, you will end up hindering your abilities to reach your goals. These well meaning people do not have the knowledge or experience to guide you in the right direction. Instead of telling you the feedback you need to hear, not hurting your feelings will be of more importance. In addition, as your business scales, you will encounter very tough decisions these well-meaning people will guess at answers to. While your business declines instead of excels, your well-meaning friends with less experience that led you to the cliff and helped push you off, will be there to support you.

You decide your destiny by picking those close to you. If you pick people with similar interests, experience and maturity, together the group will excel in similar directions. Or you can let those without similar experience and maturity stroke your ego and distract your focus.

Reality

Instead, part of every entrepreneurs job is to invent the future. I also call it “kicking your own ass”. Someone is out there looking to put you out of business. Someone is always out there who thinks they have a better idea than you have. A better solution than you have. A better or more efficient product than you have. If there is someone out there who can “kick your ass” by doing it better, its part of your job as the owner of the company to stay ahead of them and “kick your own ass” before someone else does.

The above quote was from an article Mark Cuban wrote about not listening to customers. Many times customers honestly do not know what they want until they have it. The point being: you have to be careful whom you listen to.

Entrepreneurs always need to be reminded that its not the job of their customers to know what they don’t know. In other words, your customers have a tough enough time doing their jobs. They don’t spend time trying to reinvent their industries or how their jobs are performed. Sure, every now and then you come across an exception. But you can’t bet the company on your finding that person at one of your customers.

If the people you spend the most time with, share your secrets with, and listen to advice from have the same frame of mind, similar maturity level and experience they can support and aid you in re-inventing the future, which is what entrepreneurs need to do to have success. People with less maturity, experience, and different goals will drain your focus.

Because you cannot expect them to know what they have not learned.