Trying to balance other people’s perception with your reality is something that every entrepreneur struggles with throughout their career. On one hand, you are eager to present yourself as the living embodiment of everything you want to be.
You’re successful, your vision is coming to fruition and “whoa, look at me, everything is great.” Fast cars, easy women and piles of money. You’re a regular Floyd Mayweather.
The idea being that the illusion of success will magnetically attract actual success, because those who you want to work with will suddenly take you seriously and bring you into their inner circle.
Unfortunately, the reality of the startup grind is usually the complete opposite.
When JackColton.com first started getting traction in late 2006, I’d blown through my entire savings account and was literally living at my friend’s mom’s house in the spare bedroom.
But because I believed in myself – and so did my friends, I had what I needed to power through the tough times and to build up an ultimately very successful (and profitable) website.
Had I not been honest with the people closest to me about what I was dealing with, I’d not have had their necessary support. But had I been a little too honest to site visitors and industry members alike, no one would have taken the site seriously.
It was about carefully riding the double-edged sword of authenticity and perception.
My balanced approach was always to just let my work speak for itself and only to show off actual numbers, results, and accolades. I never once said I was anything other than exactly what I was and I never stopped being authentic, regardless of how much money I was eventually making.
In my opinion, that level of authenticity is essential. Especially online.
There was someone in my social media feed who was so overly bombastic and completely full of shit regarding their “entrepreneurial successes” — to the point of it being embarrassing to watch, that it was only a matter of time until it all came crashing down. Sure enough, it did. Spectacularly.
Everything on the right side of a beating heart was waiting in the wings to dog pile on them the moment they had the opportunity.
“I know of nothing more valuable, when it comes to the all-important virtue of authenticity, than simply being who you are.”
– Charles R. Swindoll
Watching that disaster unfold made me even more apprehensive about putting up a business blog called “StartupStud.com.” Without knowing any better, the implication of a site like this is that I’m an all-knowing, ultra successful web magnate who can do no wrong.
While I’ll cautiously admit that I’ve had my share of wins and have been working with online startups long enough to be able to offer somewhat useful advice to others (I hope), the point of this site has never been about what I’ve done.
It’s about what I’m doing now. It’s about what we are all doing together. It’s about the very real struggles, frustrations, hiccups, mistakes, victories and stresses that everyone faces when doing something new.
Through the questions and feedback from anyone who takes the time to reach out, by the time I’m done with this project, it will have amassed one of the internet’s best collections of resources for anyone starting their own online business.
In the 1.5 or so months that StartupStud.com has been online, about 12 people have already reached out to me about business projects that they are working on.
Initially, they ask for advice, but it ultimately ends up with us talking, sharing ideas, resources and supporting one another’s efforts. This has been incredible. Being able to have these kinds of honest, authentic conversations with like-minded people is like a shot of adrenaline to everything I’m working on. It keeps me on my game and improves the odds of any new project I’m involved in.
It’s also way less exhausting than what it must feel like to constantly be pretending that you’re something other than exactly what you are.
That’s kind of the point of today’s post. By being authentic, you’ll realize that you’re not alone. When you have problems and frustrations — which you will, you’re able to seek advice from people who have been there before you. You build relationships that matter and can earn the trust of the people you work with.
Starting something new isn’t easy. Being the face of it can add it’s own frustrating set of challenges. But if you remain honest, humble and stay authentic through and through, you’ll find that more people are rooting for you to succeed than are simply waiting around for you to fail. – JC