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.