When Lions Eat Your Lamb

Your moment has come.

With fluttering stomach and sweaty hands you sit down and tell them your vision:

The new company you want to start…

The radical life change you want to make…

The brand new career path you want to take…

Whatever it is that has seized you body mind and soul and won’t let go.

You finish your spiel and look into their eyes, waiting for the look of awe and excitement to wash across their face.

Instead you get stupor.

An awkward shifting in the chair.

And then they open their mouth and the stream of soul-numbing effluent begins:

Now I don’t want to burst your bubble, but I’m not sure you’ve thought this through…

Why throw it all away to go do X when you’re so good at Y?

Or, worst of all:

Don’t you realize how successful you already are? You have a great job. You make a great income. You have a family who loves you. What do you have to be unhappy about?

And so you leave the room in a fog.

And with astonishing speed, the anger and disappointment that stung you as you walked out that door is gradually displaced by a seeping self-reproach:

Maybe he’s right.

Maybe I WAS a bit grandiose.

Maybe I just need to be more grateful with what I already have.

And in that moment, your tender green shoot of ambition–the embryonic mission that could have electrified your entire life–gets mashed by the boot of other people’s sage reasons.

Here’s the thing:

They don’t know shit.

Through some combination of personality, experience, and luck, you’ve caught a glimpse of the invisible.

You see something no one else sees.

That means the rest of us are categorically unequipped to judge.

Asking others to see what you see and give you their blessing is like asking the lions to look after your lamb.

Is it any wonder it’s been devoured when you return?

Imagine the things they must have said to Steve Jobs:

You drove Apple into the ground the first time, before they kicked you out…and now you think YOU’RE the one to come back and save it? The hubris! Be grateful you have NeXT!

Or Richard Branson:

Look at how far you’ve come! Student magazine is a wild success, especially for someone so young. So what’s this about starting a music label? Stick with what’s working!

ONLY YOU know what you are capable of.

ONLY YOU know what latent powers you’ve been incubating in secret.

ONLY YOU get to decide how far your ambitions reach.

THEY don’t get a say.

Because it’s YOU, not them, who have to live with the regret of playing it small.


  1. J F Barakeh says

    Unless, of course, they are correct, your business plan is ridiculously optimistic, you haven’t secured financing, and (most likely) you have demonstrated poor judgement on repeated occasions in the past. Only this time, it’s not just your risk, it’s the family’s risk. For every Jobs and Branson, there are literally millions of nameless plane crashes, the field littered with excuses. God first, family second, you third. Don’t quit the day job, just find extra time and sweat to get the new thing rolling. Need extra financing for the new gig? Try and get venture $$. If no takers, maybe your plan sucks.

    • @JFB,
      True, biz plans can suck, but it takes more than “no takers” to know that.
      I’ve been turned down by banks and VC and went back to do it the hard way (saving or begging it), and still succeeded. Professional lenders’ core competency is risk avoidance, and they will avoid every perceived risk real or imagined… which doesn’t always mean your plan sucks.
      I actually feel like having a chip on my shoulder from early denials has made me better in business. I don’t care if they ever find out they were wrong. Proving it – if only to myself – has made me work harder for my startups than I ever worked for anyone else.

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