How to beat the chattering donkey

In September this year, it will be 4 years that I have set sail and left the safe harbor. It was a bumpy ride to be sure but besides my wife and my kids, it was the best thing that ever happened to me.

When I say it was a bumpy ride, it might sound a little romantic but I would not want anyone to get this the wrong way. It was incredibly hard, fraught with failure and starting over right after having crashed the plane is not for the fainthearted.

But what’s the choice? I had burned bridges so there was no going back. It was all or nothing and I owed it to my kids that it would be all.

Now, with hindsight, though, I still vividly remember the single most annoying and also single most demoralizing thing in those years.

There is an inner voice that wants you to play it safe. There is an urge to do it the right way without knowing what it is. I had set out on my own because I was sure that I had something to give to the world and that I could move some cheese and I am old enough to know all the stuff about entrepreneurs and how they did it their way.

I am a big Steve Jobs fan and I had internalized iPhilosophy. I am an avid listener to Seth Godin’s audiobooks and a ton more from authors such as Larry Winget, Malcolm Mc Gladwell, Jeffrey Gitomer and many, many others. I have read the Bushido, the Book of the Rings, the Art of War and countless other classics.

I have gone far and wide and my brain knew everything there was to know in order to strike on my own.

But in spite of it all, when reality slaps you in the face it all pales and you grow afraid quicker than a drop of water vaporizes on the surface of the sun. All superior knowledge and experience just go away when the voice in the back of your head rears its ugly head and constantly tells you why something would not work out.

It has potent allies and they are closer to you than you wish for. It’s your family, your peers and sometimes even your spouse and kids. You cannot blame them. Your spouse has made a very large bet on you that you would be available to help raise the kids and work for some nickel on the side for retirement. That’s a fair bet.

Now suddenly they see you veer off into the irrational. And irrational it must seem for them if you really have set out on a mission to do something truly important.

Because all the easy stuff is immediately gobbled up by the armies of jokers there is nothing left for you. You have set your sights on something that is not easy but truly important and that sure irks a lot of people around you.

Most of them are bystanders but your spouse is going to be directly hit by any failure you produce and failures (call it setbacks) there will be.

I (and others) call this combination of the inner nagging and the outer fearmongering by your surroundings the chattering donkey. You sure know the less than the tight-lipped gray buddy of Shrek.

Ignoring it does not work. Listening to it is deadly.

But it’s only important if you pay too much attention to it. Tell me, do you remember the melody from the last elevator ride? Probably not. It’s background noise and it has become so ubiquitous to you that you learned to filter out.

The same thing must happen to your chattering donkey. You must unfocus it from your life. It will not go away and you cannot get it out of your life but you can learn to live with it. It’s called resilience and this resilience will come you handy in many other situations in life.

Imagine Steve Jobs would have listened to the market and peers when he went for the iPhone. The market at the time was going for ever-smaller phones and it was Nokia who ruled the masses. It was absolutely inconceivable that anyone would want to hold a brick with not keys to punch on to the ear.

And still it was Steve who was right and virtually everyone around him was wrong. Did Steve fight his chattering donkey? You sure bet.

But he chose to ignore it. He elected for his intuition.

We all have it but its constantly drowned out by the nasty terrorist in us. We want to conform to what’s on as constant opposition is tiresome and does not really endear you to most people.

But most people don’t become the Steve Jobs’s and Rupert Murdochs of the world. They chose to be harangued by the endless chatter and bow.

I don’t. What about you?

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