Counterintuitive: When to Believe Naysayers

During a recent episode of Shark Tank, all of the sharks told a budding entrepreneur that his idea wouldn’t work.  The sharks went on to explain why the idea wasn’t viable.

Reasons to listen
There are a number of reasons why this entrepreneur should listen to the sharks.

  1. They’re incredibly successful business people.
  2. They have experience in a lot of different industries with a lot of different markets.
  3. They don’t hide their mistakes; indeed, they readily admit their failures hoping to help others avoid making the same mistakes.
  4. Their mission is to promote innovation and entrepreneurship, not quash them.

I have to admit I shared the shark’s opinion of the idea, although I‘ve been wrong before.  This raises some interesting questions “When do you listen to naysayers?  When do you ignore their advice?  Is this an either/or decision?”

Not either/or
One of the things I’ve learned over the years is that just because someone says “It can’t be done” doesn’t mean I should abandon the idea.

A few years back I pitched a book idea to my literary agent.  She responded saying “You’re not known for that topic so it’ll be a nearly impossible sale.”  And she was right.  One of the things publishers want to see are credentials that lend credibility to the book’s message.  I didn’t possess those credentials.  I set the idea aside and didn’t do anything with it for over a year.

During that year my mind was continuously drawn back to that topic through conversations with friends, through questions I got from people who were suffering a crisis of confidence or some personal pain.  Eventually it became obvious to me I needed to write this book and I did.  The title is “Lead a Life of CONFIDENCE…Free yourself of fear, anxiety and frustration.”

While it hasn’t yet (note the yet) become a best seller, it has laid the foundation for me to become known for this topic.  Indeed, within the past few weeks a whole new market has opened for me to promote the book, and more importantly, the message.

A follow-on book will be released this month, “Stand Out From The Crowd…Without having people point and laugh,” and I’ve just completed the outline for the third book in the series.  I’ve decided to self-publish all three as a way to build the credibility that may or may not lead to a future book deal with a major publishing house.

My point in sharing this story with you is that when you’re told “it won’t work” by naysayers, listen to what they have to say, then figure out a way to overcome the obstacles they see.

When to listen
It pays to listen to people with more experience than we have.  It’s counterintuitive, but it doesn’t mean we have to abandon our idea.

Typically when experienced people say “That won’t work” what they mean is that it won’t work as you outlined it.  It’s your job to ask “Why won’t it work and how do I overcome the obstacles you’re seeing?”  Let them help you find solutions, they have more experience than you do.  But don’t give up on the dream.  You may have to make major adjustments to make the idea work, but if you want that dream badly enough, you will make it work – simply not in the form you originally envisioned.

When not to listen
Don’t listen to people who have little or no experience in what you’re trying to accomplish.  Many of them become naysayers simply because they can’t dream as big as you are dreaming.  I learned this lesson from having seen an interview of the Williams sisters.

They said that when they told their friends their dreams of being tennis champions, they were told they couldn’t do it.  The sisters said that at some point you have to leave old friends behind because they aren’t dreaming as big as you are.  They went on to say you have to develop friendships with people who believe in you and encourage you during the inevitable dark hours that accompany the pursuit of any significant dream.

My mastermind group encouraged me to go forward with the confidence book despite the fact that my agent said I wasn’t known for the topic.  Their advice?  “You’re not known yet.”

By all means, pay attention to what people are saying.  There’s almost certainly some sage advice to be found in their comments.  Don’t, however, let them dissuade you from your dream.  There’s a reason why you’re being drawn in that direction.  You may have to make course corrections and the ultimate form your dream takes may be dramatically different than the one you currently envision, but if you’re dreaming it – it is possible.

Dale Furtwengler is the author of the internationally acclaimed book, Pricing for Profit as well as six other books

  1. Lead a Life of Confidence: Free yourself of  fear, anxiety and frustration
  2. Making the Exceptional Normal
  3. The Uniqueness Myth and other misconceptions that derail businesses,
  4. Become a Maverick: Grow your business using the unconventional strategies of world-class companies
  5. 10-Minute Guide to Performance Appraisals and
  6. Stand Out From the Crowd: Without having people point and laugh.

Dale’s company, Furtwengler & Associates, Inc., helps companies get higher prices regardless of what their competitors or the economy are doing.


Don't Fly Alone. Join e4e today and receive an annual VIP pass to attend all monthly events AND gain instant, unlimited access to e4e Academy content on this site. As an e4e member, you will

Grow your business faster
Reduce the "overwhelm" factor
Become more productive
Connect with other business leaders and resources


Filter your search further with a keyword. Search results will match ALL criteria you set.