This post is for the 5% of people who are driving. This is not for the calculators. This is not for the supporters. This is for people who do things.
Fuck the accolades. Seek the criticism.
Accolades don’t help you.
What helps you is qualified support and knowledgeable criticism.
I come from a world of social entrepreneurs. Some of them do amazing things. Right now I’m working withEducation Labs startups. Same thing.
Because of the potential for social impact, both groups get a lot of praise and accolades.
For example, in the past, I’ve worked in Senegal and Ethiopia to design low cost water pumps and build whole markets around them.
‘Oh wow!,‘ most people back home would say, ‘that’s amazing!’
That never really helped. But a few people knew what they were talking about.
‘Okay,’ they’d say, ‘Generally this is pretty good, but you’re going to fail, because you’re missing this key link in the supply chain.’
Or ‘Yes, you can get pumps to hundreds of people, but what about sanitation? That’s missing from your plans. Rethink it.’
This happens with VCs too, incidentally. Most conversations with VCs seem to go well, because VCs are good at building relationships. But really, two productive things can come out of a meeting with a VC:
1) They help you directly. Money or connections.
2) They make you better. They criticize you where it counts. They poke holes. They make you defend. They make you justify. They make you question.
Most VC meetings don’t result in money. But hopefully they can make you better. This has real value.
I remember my first pitch to Silicon Valley VCs. They identified the core assumptions we hadn’t validated and politely tore us apart. We went home a crushed team. Through the night we rebuilt the weakest parts and emerged stronger. It was the most valuable meeting we had.
If you’re doing something big, people will compliment you. Most will give you accolades or be quietly supportive. But it’s those who simultaneously support and challenge you who can help.
The best teams know this. They embrace feedback and seek criticism. They find ways to change and improve.
And they know that when someone criticizes them, it’s an indication of respect. Only the people who really care risk helping us improve.
Fuck the accolades. Find the knowledgeable criticism.