It’s Okay to Add Brakes

I was having one of those really decent conversations with a friend today over a cup of iced coffee (I believe he was having iced tea though…) and we were comparing notes about how we have found the balance between life, the work that we do, and our families that sometimes get the short-end of the stick (if we’re completely honest with ourselves).

Since both of us work with ton of entrepreneurs and startup organizations we both have often been asked to share our thoughts on how to accelerate growth, maximize resources, and to find opportunities to actualize revenue and profit. These conversations are at times in the privacy of a 1-on-1 or via a keynote on a public stage.

The humble reality is that it’s tough to provide real, meaningful value in both contexts; at least the type of value that doesn’t degenerate into startup colloquialisms and entrepreneurial platitudes. You see, sometimes the best advice isn’t the stuff that people really want to hear.

For example, the vast majority of people who want advice from so-called “seasoned” entrepreneurs is how they can go faster in their work and to help them identify the missing components on the rocket ship that they are building as they attempt escape velocity with their killer product and/or service.

They are, in simple terms, asking for better and more advanced rocket fuel besides how to find more of it. They distinctly believe that we have a clue, a hidden insight, some knowledge that might provide them with that rare resource.

And although we might have (with a bit of luck) some wise words to share (more like anecdotes on our own personal experience; very little prescription here!) sometimes the best advice is the stuff that no one wants to hear about, such as adding some “brakes” to the rocket ship (or even a parachute).

This has less to do with the product or the service or the company and/or organization but rather the person and leader themselves; that is to say, perhaps they need to slow down a bit so that they might actually recalibrate their efforts for greater effect. Perhaps they need to add some brake pads so that their personal lives don’t combust as their businesses attain orbit.

I have received this counsel many times throughout my life and it’s only been recent where I’ve begun to actually listen to it. I wish I had many years ago, not because I didn’t want the achievements but because the cost, in retrospect, was too high.

It’s a bit like the recent housing and financial crash where people bit off more than they could actually chew and the recompense came much, much later. Sure, it felt good to walk into that plush piece of real estate but the crushing reality of the cost has made even the stalwart doubt their original decision.

We are all moving so fast, so hard, and with a speed that is oftentimes blinding – as we all search for jet fuel (or a magical jetpack) it’s ok to consider a set of brakes too.