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  • As we learn to become adults, we become much more sensitive to the opinions of others.Recognizing and addressing these fears is a crucial first step on the journey to growing down.So many of the attributes that underpin success be they the ability to think creatively, act decisively, or communicate clearly are rooted in a person’s capacity to trust in themselves and their ideas.Now, not everyone is naturally confident, and that is as true for toddlers as it is for adults.That instinct won’t always provide the right answer, but neither will the doubt that often gets in the way.We often fear the consequences of ridicule more than we appreciate the benefits of sharing and exploring.We may still have lots of interesting thoughts, but we become less willing to talk about them or act on them.Often, the more tools we are given to express ourselves, the less successful we become.As our comprehension and lexicon grow, our confidence to say what we see, and act accordingly, recedes.And, while in many cases that can be a good and sensible thing, when you are trying to build a business or career, what seems like reasonable caution can easily tip into harmful procrastination.Inaction can carry costs every bit as much as action.If you want to grow down, you need first to cast off some of the inhibitions that we all acquire as we age.I’m not saying forget common sense, or don’t deliberate, but I am saying don’t allow yourself to be paralysed by caution.Successful people tend to be those who, when they see something wrong, point it out, and when they sense an opportunity, find a way to act on it.Like toddlers, it is their actions that define them.The statistics show that there is a yawning gap between people who think of setting up a business and those who actually go on to do it.It’s hard work, whether you ultimately succeed or fail.And you will be basing what is a huge decision on imperfect information, guided by what you know you know, what you know you don’t know and your gut instinct, all most likely tempered by worries about your family, your financial situation and the sheer uncertainty of going it alone.For toddlers, the stakes may be lower, but the decision is often clearer.If their gut is telling them to do something, they will do it.They show and act on their feelings to do things or to avoid them where we as adults will agonize, within ourselves and with anyone who will listen.Of course, in all our lives there are right and wrong decisions you just don’t always have the luxury of knowing which is which until after you’ve made them.And, of course, the world as we know it is not polarized, it’s not black or white.We see an awful lot of grey.Where should the balance be drawn when making a certain decision?Toddlers inhabit this very same world, but they see with less nuance and more clarity.Their world is more binary and they are more decisive as a result.That doesn’t mean toddlers are completely fearless and never afraid of trying something new but, with a bit of coaxing and encouragement, they are generally more willing to shed their inhibitions and give it a go.Ultimately, an idea for a new business is a risk that is either worth taking or not, and there is no amount of research, due diligence or advice that can make the decision for you on the basis of fact or logic.It’s a mouthful you either have to swallow or spit out.The option you don’t have is to chew it endlessly.Just as food eventually loses its taste, ideas can go mushy too.I have a number of friends who have had potentially brilliant business plans, but spent too long thinking about them and stopped short of taking action.Ultimately, the market moves on and the moment passes.If you don’t seize your opportunity, most likely someone else will.Weigh up the options all you like, but no amount of analysis can see into the future.At some point, you have to be guided by your instinct about the right thing to do.For me, the moment of truth came in 2004, after almost a decade with Nickelodeon which had taken me from the finance department to the top layer of the business.It was a fascinating journey into an emerging industry digital television and in discovering how a company worked from the inside, particularly one whose target consumers were children.I learned a lot about children and the issues they faced, including many that would shape the core mission of Ella’s Kitchen, around kids’ relationship with food and the need to combat the obesity crisis which was becoming obvious even then.My gut feeling was strong and the hunch, as it turned out, was a good one.Yet an objective observer would probably have judged me a poor candidate to start a food business.I knew nothing about the food industry, and had never dealt with the retailers I would need to persuade to make the business viable.At the same time, I was ready to move on from a job where I felt I had little more left to achieve.I loved the idea of starting and running something of my own.My childlike enthusiasm for doing something big, new, exciting and unknown was ultimately stronger than my accountant’s mind, weighing up the pros and cons and my own strengths and weaknesses.Once I’d had the idea, I also hated the thought of spending my life regretting the road not taken.After all, isn’t that what toddlers do every day?But my point is a little different.What I’ve observed, both as a parent and in the countless toddler focus groups I have conducted with Nickelodeon and Ella’s Kitchen, is that young children are not only decisive but also, above all, pragmatic.And sometimes that means choosing not to do things rather than to go ahead with them.And, while I’m a great believer in the power of optimism, that doesn’t mean the affirmative choice is always the right one.Indeed, if that had been my approach, there would never have been an Ella’s Kitchen as it is today.That’s because Ella’s wasn’t my first serious business idea, or even the second.Before I finally settled on organic, handy baby food, I had gone quite far down the road with two other business plans, both of which would have led me in very different directions and made this a very different story.The first was an internet business which, it might not surprise you to hear, was dreamed up around the time of the dotcom boom.I spent three months in the spring of 2004 developing a script, creating a company and negotiating with Nickelodeon over potential rights.Or rather, it was ‘not like this’.The door remained open for us to redevelop the pilot and try again.And that meant a decision needed to be made.This is where gut instinct played a big part.It just didn’t feel right, even though the idea was interesting and perhaps ahead of its time.I had no professional expertise, but felt a much stronger affinity with it, even just as an amateur who enjoyed messing around in the kitchen at home.As a parent, every day I faced the challenge of feeding my children well.It was both a business and a cause that I was closely tied to, passionate about and could invest myself in completely.That was in January 2005 I was taking my first steps towards understanding how the food industry worked, visiting factories and talking to retail buyers about what it would take.Exactly a year later, the first Ella’s Kitchen products made their way on to the shelves of Sainsbury’s.As you can see, the decisions that eventually led to launching Ella’s Kitchen were a mixture of ideas instinctively accepted and rejected.The important thing was that both those decisions were made before too much time, money or reputational capital had been invested in ideas I couldn’t fully commit to.But it does mean that you probably have to act before the picture is as clear as you would like it to be.You often have to make decisions guided as much by your instincts as by the imperfect information in front of you.When it came to Ella’s Kitchen, the idea felt so right that I was willing to say yes at those crossroads moments.So, when we realized we might need to remortgage our house if we were to fund the first supermarket order, my wife Alison and I decided we would do it.It was a risk, of course, but there were also risks in coming so far only to turn back.At such moments you have to ask yourself, first, whether you can live with the risk and what it might mean if things go wrong, and, second, whether you can live with the possible disappointment and regret of not following your dream.I met Ron and Arnie at a trade show and asked if they had any advice for someone starting on a similar business path.You will know the moment it falls if you’re happy or not with the outcome.It’s that instinctive reaction that will help you work out how you really feel.As it turned out, I ended up in charge of a brand whose founders had helped set me on my way.We all face tough decisions in our lives, and not just regarding our careers.It’s the same when we decide whether to ask someone on a date, or whether to put in an offer on a house that is a little beyond what we can afford.They are always difficult decisions, in business and in life, and there is no magic formula for getting it right.Only you can decide.But you should always let that inner child have its say.Of course, we cannot.Nor can we ever know enough to accurately predict how one decision, whose outcome will ultimately be governed by endless unknowable future decisions and circumstances, will affect our lives.In a world of imperfect information, many of us seek comfort by gathering as much of it as we possibly can.We seek a crutch to justify decisions, to ourselves and to others.We want to feel like rational beings and that our decision is as much informed as it is instinctive.We claim rationality, yet cling to the irrational notion that there is one right answer to every difficult problem.Our focus is on a perfection of information and insight that is simply unachievable.Compare that to toddlers, who are also weighing countless decisions, but more on the basis of instinct than information.Do I want to do it or not?Will I like this or not?You might think that’s a simplistic way to look at important life decisions that will have a material impact on your future and that of your family.And I’m not saying that is the only thing you should be thinking about.But you should ask yourself the question all the same.And if the answer is no, haven’t you already made your decision?A precious ability that young children have is to see things clearly, in simple terms, and to act accordingly.It’s uncanny how children can sometimes see fundamental simplicities that others can’t.A Grandfather’s Lessons on Love, Loss, and the Gifts of Life by Daniel Gottlieb, which is a series of letters written by a quadriplegic grandfather to his autistic grandson.In one letter Daniel tells Sam about a time when his mother was six years old.Daniel had just had the car accident that left him paralysed and one evening, very shortly after starting to go back to work as a psychiatrist, he was looking in the mirror fretting about how he looked.Finally, very seriously, she said, ‘Daddy, why do you always worry about how you look before your patients come?’‘I don’t know.’She reflected for a moment.‘It seems like you always have to look perfect.’‘I don’t know.‘They’re only people you know.’That is so perceptive, simple and true.

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