The Curse of BS

Posted: July 29, 2012 by Micah Baldwin in Leadership, People

How are you?

In your head, how did you respond? Did you automatically blurt out “fine”?

My freshman English teacher, Mrs. Carter, once told me that answering the question “How are you?” with anything other than “I’m fine” was a waste of breath.

People don’t really care how you are.

It’s the same with honesty. People don’t want honesty.

“How’s it going with your company?”

“We’re killing it.”

Shut up.

I’ve taken to answering that question with “It’s interesting.”

Blank stares and fear that I am eliciting a response flow over faces.

We have been cursed by a belief that being anything other than [BS] is helpful to whomever we are speaking with. Don’t burden them with your problems, let them enjoy a false sense that your life is better than theirs (after all we all know how sucky our own lives can be). Don’t blog about pain, confusion or doubt (unless you are Dave McClure, but you know, that dude is crazy!). Don’t use any other colors than happy to paint a picture of your life.

But all that [BS] is a curse. It’s the boy who cried wolf in reverse.

What happens that one time when telling the truth and getting an actionable response from a friend matters most? The words get stuck in your mouth and meander around your tongue and come out as “killing it.” or “I’m fine.”

Entrepreneurship, by definition is a series of ups and downs. Yes, its hard and it can be the most amazing thing ever. If you haven’t experienced waking up one day with millions in a bank account and a dozen or so people looking at you in the eye, nodding their heads and telling you that they believe in you, you have never experienced the perfect storm of excitement and fear.

Entrepreneurs have to be strong. We are changing the world and only mountain crushers can do it. Companies that unseat incumbents are better, faster and smarter than the big old companies. So are the founders. We are supermen and women skipping through daises and pulling cash from behind the ears of thankfully, delighted customers who are saved from the old guard. We don’t make mistakes; we pivot. We don’t win; we crush it.

The curse of [BS] permeates beyond the external relationships we hold dear, but it starts internally and expands beyond that in concentric circles. The [BS] is deepest with people living on the furtherest circles, but its spread across everyone, even down to the Big Cheese that stands alone.

Imagine a world where honesty is not only expected but accepted. When you ask someone how they are, you actually care about the response. That you are willing to take action if asked, but at the very least be supportive. That the words “How can I help?” are not strange, but common.

I challenge you to take a day and care. I dare you to listen actively and when you ask someone “How are you,” that you demand a deeply truthful answer.

When your employees, investors and friends ask about your business that you tell them truthfully what’s going well, and areas you need help. It’s amazing. People, especially friends, by default, want to be helpful. It’s a gift to provide them the ability to participate in your happiness.

[BS] is a curse. Break it.

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