The Egoless Entrepreneur

Entrepreneurship - Entrepreneur - Founder - Startup - Reagan Pollack

The Egoless Entrepreneur


To Survive a Startup, First, Kill Your Ego

If you’re the type of person, like I was in my 20s, who was seeking encouragement from others to continually reinforce your ideas, beliefs and path, get ready to get shook up when you start a company.

Encouragement comes and goes, and there will often be times where you will ask people for their opinion on your business idea, next steps, website/app design, product functionality, service offering, restaurant food, etc., and they’ll flat-out criticize it. I used to take this like a dagger to the heart — fully defending my position, idea, and product, and causing a fight with that person to prove that I was right, and they didn’t know a damn thing they were talking about.

Once I hit 30, I learned that criticism is only criticism when you don’t acknowledge what they’re saying.

If one person thinks a certain way, you can be assured that at least some group out there will have a similar thought — so it’s in your entrepreneurial best interests to understand why they have that viewpoint, and how to handle or react to it.

When you really listen to what others are saying, you realize that they have an initial viewpoint, and although it may be different from yours, often times it is worth at least taking a look at, even though it is really hard to do. Viewpoints change, and most viewpoints are initially established with limited information. If you don’t listen deeply to others viewpoints, and just want to be right all the time, you lose out on key lessons that will only make your startup even better.

Entrepreneurs always like to be right, and prove the world wrong. But the best entrepreneurs come from a place where they think they could be right, but are open to feedback so they can create the best possible solution(s), not just the original draft they may have dreamed up.


Now, I know a lot of you have this idea that the best entrepreneurs are the rebels with this contrarian viewpoint that just no one believes will come to pass, and they just persevered and stuck it out for years and years until finally it IPOed and became the next Apple. Reality check — that’s not how Apple was created. Great companies have great minds all working together on it to make it the best possible solution for a segment of humanity. Research, feedback and iterations are critical to creating what people need and want.

It’s hard to hear negative feedback from people right when they give it to you — regardless if they are right or wrong. 

So, how do you tackle negative feedback?

My tip: write it all down (the constructive, the destructive, and even the nasty), walk away, come back to the feedback when you’re not emotionally attached to the outcome of being right and proving them wrong, and ask what motivated them to say that? Could there be any truth behind those statements that you’re either failing to realize, or more commonly, artificially disagreeing with just so that it aligns with your thesis (see: confirmation bias).

Getting to the why behind the what is the golden nugget in mastering feedback, so it doesn’t make you just feel like you’re in a battle with your ego and the world. 

Here’s a great video of Steve Job’s response to an insult during a talk on Apple: 


#startups #leadership #ego #success #business

photo credit by Steve Johnson, unsplash


Comments: 1

  1. Mike says:

    Great point on writing it down and coming back later. It’s hard to not react to negative viewpoints, however valid.

    Steve Jobs is funny in that he still managed to insult the guy “…some people don’t know what they are talking about about …”. I would say that in this video Steve only got half way there.

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