This week I had a conversation with my first entrepreneurial mentor. We reflected on my journey and how much I’ve developed and matured. I started CCAW partly because I was supremely self-confidence. I thought I was superhuman, able to accomplish the impossible without help. Falsely, I believed I couldn’t fail. I knew the things that could go wrong, but I didn’t think they applied to me. When people reminded me of the risk I was taking, I was unfazed.
I had this attitude because of where I was in life. I was extremely young, only a few years out of college. I thought I knew everything. In truth, though, my knowledge gap was enormous and I didn’t know much at all. It was so early in my career that I hadn’t experienced any setbacks or run up against obstacles. In short, I was young, dumb, and stubborn.
Once I was full-time at CCAW, I learned the limitations of my superhuman powers. It was 2008 and the financial crisis was upending the world. I was drowning in an ever-deepening ocean of things that needed to be done, I had no help or resources to lean on, and I was fighting an uphill battle against a global recession to acquire customers. I began to question myself and I didn’t have the right support system, so I started to feel like the lone man on the island. That was my reality for a few years.
Talking with my mentor this week, I realized that my journey as an entrepreneur took a turn for the better when I became more self-aware. Once I experienced painful failures with no one to blame but myself, I was forced to take a hard look in the mirror. What I saw was an ordinary imperfect human who couldn’t do it all by himself. The failures were the result of my weaknesses in areas critical to CCAW’s success.
I began to be candid with others about my weaknesses and I sought out a mentor to help me improve. I connected with my first mentor, and things quickly changed. She gave me blunt feedback and told me what I needed to do to be a better entrepreneur. I took her critiques in stride (sometimes this was painful) and didn’t push back. After all, I had sought her out and asked for help.
Most venture capitalists invest only in entrepreneurs who are coachable. Now I understand why. The entrepreneurial journey is a hard one, and you need all the help you can get to be successful. If you aren’t self-aware and open to feedback, you’re more likely to fail. I encourage people to be honest with themselves about the things they don’t do well and get help with them. This simple mindset adjustment can change your life.
How has being self-aware helped you?