Listen to the voices in your head

There was a great panel at Seedcamp this morning where Niklas Zennstrom, Marc Samwer, Charlie Muihead, Toby Rowland and Richard Moross shared their experiences as entrepreneurs with the assembled crowd.

Lots of good stuff was said, but one thing stood out for me. Moderator Danny Rimer asked the panel to describe their biggest mistakes. Both Niklas and Toby said essentially the same thing, which was:

If you’ve got a little voice at the back of your head questioning whether something will work make sure you listen to it

The mistakes they went on to describe were different, but the point was the same. It is easy to get excited about how great something will be if it works out – be that a new hire, business idea, partnership deal or really just about anything – but if you have a nagging doubt that it might not work then you should give that doubt full consideration. There might just be something in it.

I have suffered from this – a good portionof the things that haven’t worked out for me investment wise has been for reasons I had an inkling of before I invested. That is a mistake I have been determined not to make again for some time now.

This is an easy trap for anyone to fall into, but for entrepreneurs who are optimistic by nature it is particularly easy. That optimism is important (maybe even essential) – it gives great entrepreneurs the passion and dedication to pursue their ideas before anyone else sees the sense in them – but it pays to listen to the little voices.

UPDATE:  The first couple of comments to this post have led me to this clarification.  Emphatically I do not mean that entrepreneurs should stop taking risks.  There will always be doubts and often (most of the time?) the right thing to do will be to push on regardless.  The situation I’m talking about is the subset of occasions when you kind of know that the nagging doubt in question might be a showstopper but you avoid bringing it properly to front of mind and dealing with it head on.

  • True – but don’t confuse that instinct with the feeling you get when lots of people tell you you’re wrong or stupid to be doing it. There’s a subtle difference – and in one scenario you make the right call and in the other, you ignore the doubters and go on to make your millions to spite them 🙂

  • True – but don’t confuse that instinct with the feeling you get when lots of people tell you you’re wrong or stupid to be doing it. There’s a subtle difference – and in one scenario you make the right call and in the other, you ignore the doubters and go on to make your millions to spite them 🙂

  • This post – if I got it right – sounds to me like entrepreneurs (especially young and their first try) should not risk too much.
    A new project with some new – and unproven – concept or ideas in it is always full of voices at the back of your head before you go online and have a tangible feedback from your audience, isn’t it?
    So my feeling is that if you pay too much attention to these voices you risk to end up quitting what could be a great thing because you got scared.
    Be wise is always good but there’s no great success if you’re be too wise and don’t take some risks.
    Anybody agree?

  • This post – if I got it right – sounds to me like entrepreneurs (especially young and their first try) should not risk too much.
    A new project with some new – and unproven – concept or ideas in it is always full of voices at the back of your head before you go online and have a tangible feedback from your audience, isn’t it?
    So my feeling is that if you pay too much attention to these voices you risk to end up quitting what could be a great thing because you got scared.
    Be wise is always good but there’s no great success if you’re be too wise and don’t take some risks.
    Anybody agree?

  • A bit like “Chelsea will win the league”

    Gooners all the way

  • A bit like “Chelsea will win the league”

    Gooners all the way

  • You both make good points, but I think you won’t achieve success if you’re not willing to take chances just don’t do it with your last.