Sound Check: Grow a Pair

Some entrepreneurs steamroll. Others charm. I paint with my ears.

One of the best gifts I received as a kid was a learning disability. Being diagnosed as dyslexic and ADHD (and understanding how my brain functions differently from others) was liberating for me. I began to adapt the way I communicate my thoughts and ideas with others … to take seemingly intractable subjects and make them simple enough for children to understand. 

But I wasn't able to translate this into commercial success until I first learned how to listen.

One of the greatest challenges an entrepreneur faces early on is learning how to effect change through others. And any psychologist worth their weight will tell you it’s damn-near impossible to change a person's behavior.

If you’re a Strengths Finder 2.0 geek, my leading strength is Connectedness. If you use Predictive Index, I’m Persuasive: more extraverted than dominant, low patience, average formality. Basically, I succeed best through others.

So for me to succeed in business, I had to learn (slowly and painfully) how to lead with my ears, not my mouth. This is a discipline that is often referred to as, “easy to say, hard to do”.

Entrepreneurs can become so consumed with their vision of how the world should be, we forget humans aren’t naturally receptive to change. If we’re not careful, we can mow people over and pigeon-hole ourselves into a cartoonish caricature of mad scientists.

The goal in getting others to see what you see is to inspire them with mediums that connect with their emotions first and logic second. You may have a colorful and compelling story that is backed up by accurate and useful data, but none of it will matter if you never give your audience an opportunity to express how your offering relates to them personally.

As the adage goes, seek first to understand if you wish to be understood. Find friends you trust and hear what they have to say about your widget. To create that first customer, allow them to provide unfiltered feedback on the problem you’re trying to solve.

Trust me on this one and shut up. Put those two ears to work. I promise you'll thank me later.