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The presumptive no
Avoid taking yourself out of the game
You are the single greatest storyteller in the world. Every minute of every hour of every day, you are spinning stories in your own head.
The presumptive no is one such story. It’s the story we tell ourselves when we fear rejection. We presume that someone will say no to whatever we plan to ask of the world, and so we save ourselves from the rejection by simply not asking. What was the last idea you shut down in your own head?
This is bad in a number of ways. It is bad for each of us individually. It dampens our potential, or completely cuts it off before it ever has a chance to blossom. And it is bad for our audience, because we are robbing them of an opportunity they never knew they had. For startup founders, I have seen this in two very acute forms:
A direct impact on fundraising. If you need money, start with your existing investors. They are the warmest lead you could ever have, because they have already said ‘we believe,’ and are already on your team. Never apply a presumptive no without posing the question, no matter the state of your business. Worst case, you learn something about where you need to improve and/or which type of investors you should target for net new conversations.
An indirect impact on hiring. Good people tend to know other good people, and referrals can be an amazing source for new talent. Directly asking for referrals will preload your connections with presumptive nos, however. E.g. virtually anyone already employed is an immediate presumptive no in the mind of the person that you are asking. Reframe your ask. Instead of asking for referrals, guide your connections through an exercise to identify the top performers and people that they admire within their own network. E.g. who were the three smartest people in your high school? Who were your best friends in high school? Where did they go to college? Who was your favorite partner on projects in college? Why? Asking for referrals is passive; this is not, it will require active work, but it will significantly increase your pool of potential talent.
Whatever the case, consider that the solution can be as simple as reframing. What may feel like an ask to you could be seen as an opportunity to your audience. The two are not mutually exclusive.
You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take. ~ Wayne Gretzky
You have more to lose in your own head than you do out here. Take the shot.
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