“Rup, we’re talking about your career and life here. Don’t waste this opportunity…”
This was back in 2013 and my sister and brother were staging what I can only call an intervention. I was a newly-minted MBA and they were worried (terrified) for me that by starting my own business I was carelessly tossing my life, my career, and my MBA into the rubbish heap. “Get a big name on your resume,” they were imploring me, “and THEN you can do your own thing.”
Their one-way conversation lasted a few hours, and despite the delicious cocktails we were drinking at the dive bar on 3rd Avenue in New York, my mouth tasted like bile and regret. What if they were right, my mind wondered even though my mouth kept insisting “I’m an adult, I know what I’m doing.”
What if I failed? What if my business didn’t take off? What if I was throwing away the chance to work somewhere “impressive”? What if McKinsey (or Bain or BCG or the dozens of other consulting firms MBAs are supposed to want to work at) never bestowed their vaunted credentials onto my CV? What if I was being as reckless as they thought?
Everything my siblings said made sense, so why couldn’t I just do what they said and be sensible? Why couldn’t I just go out there and get a real job?
I have a theory (actually, I have a LOT of theories, but for the purposes of this article, I’ll stick to one), and it goes something like this: the people who know us or love us are often the ones who make it hardest for us to do something different or to make a big change. So often, they keep us in a time warp where the way they once “knew” us is who we have to stay, and sometimes wanting us to stay that way is more for their benefit than for ours. Sometimes they just want us to keep playing a certain role so it doesn’t upset the equilibrium established over years of knowing each other or so it doesn’t challenge their own safety and comfort.
And sometimes, the people who “know” and love us just want us to do things a certain way because they are trying to protect us. They are worried we might fail or get upset or ruin ourselves financially, and their advice is meant to shield us from all of those things.
But you know what? No one can do that for us. No one can keep disappointment at bay for us. No one can read what’s in our heart of hearts the way we can. And no one can tell us what is risky or what is not because we all have different definitions of risk. We have to listen to our intuition, to our gut, to our own ideas of what we want and who we are, because sometimes, maybe a lot of times, the people in our lives have their own agenda and we can’t let them live our lives for us.
Did I ignore my siblings and tell them to shove it? Of course not. I listened to them (and tortured myself about whether they were right), and then I forged my own way. I covered my downside, I had a Plan B (and Plan C), and then I put my all into making a success of my business because I had no choice. I worked hard (before I learned how to work smart) and I got there. I replaced my post-MBA income in about 18 months and put everyone’s worries – including my own – to bed, once and for all.
But it was really, really, really, really effing hard. Especially in the beginning when my own doubts and insecurities kept creeping in, it made every phone call with my family that much harder. I couldn’t bear to talk to them for fear that one of them would tell me to just “keep an eye open” for jobs or work with a headhunter or do my business as a side hobby while working for someone else. All of their concern and anxieties only amplified my own and it took every ounce of strength I could muster to nod and mmm-hmm and then tune them out.
Because the thing I learned is that the people who “know” us and love us aren’t always right. And if we listen to them too readily, they can keep us from being who we are or who we want to be or who we know we can be. We can take their concerns on board, sure, but that doesn’t mean we have to let them stop us from actualizing our vision for our lives. We can do things our way. Protect ourselves our way. Address all of their concerns our way. And sometimes, just tune them out.
Not everyone is worth listening to, no matter how much they love us. Not everyone is qualified to have an opinion, no matter how long they’ve been in our lives (I don’t ask my hair dresser for tax advice even though I’ve known her twice as long as my accountant…). Sometimes we have to beware of the people who “know” us and love us because sometimes they can be the biggest roadblocks to our success, and a lot of the times they simply don’t know what they’re talking about.
There are no easy solutions, but some of the best antidotes to the nay-saying and doubts that can be foisted on us from people who “know” and love us are to join a community where what we are trying to do/build/grow/achieve is the norm and to be very selective about who we take advice from (ie, is the person telling us that being an entrepreneur is a bad idea an entrepreneur themselves?)
Making a big change, accomplishing a big goal, starting a business and then growing it to be as successful as it can be is too important and too personal to let other people decide or derail for us. Sometimes we just have to beware of those who “know” and love us and then forge on towards our success anyway.