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Handelabra Games: Humility vs. Moxie

(Originally posted here, September 2013)

As I move through the LaunchHouse Accelerator process, I’m finding myself in a familiar position, which my gut tells me any entrepreneur can relate to. You see, my industry is video games and it is likely the one thing I know way more about than just about anyone else who passes through here. I don’t actually need to guess about this; every time I’ve asked anyone from mentor to finance person, first timer to 5-time exit guru for help about the games industry, they all collectively throw up their hands and say “yeah, we don’t really do that in Cleveland.”

The irony is that almost all of the people will, right after telling me essentially not to trust them on this topic, proceed to explain what’s wrong with what we’re trying to do. It’s frustrating and it’s what tends to push me to the moxie side of the continuum. “This person admitted to complete confusion, but then attempted to pontificate anyway, why would I listen to anything they say?”

But one of the most important things I’ve been learning from the LaunchHouse process is that knowledge can come from anywhere. I’m constantly reminded that I need to swing back over to the humility side of things and stay out of my own way. But how do I make sure not to swing too far? The truth is, I do actually know quite a bit more about this industry than most of these people. How do I not discount that knowledge, while still maintaining an open mind? Luckily, a Monday session with Mo Wheeler gave me the name for this phenomenon - “Last person I talked to syndrome”.

The first iteration of Handelabra fell prey to this a LOT. It’s why we started 4 different major projects in the first year. Every time I would talk to someone who even seemed to know more than me about something, I would completely rewrite my plan to match this person’s view of reality. I spent a lot of my time assuming not only that I wasn’t the smartest person in the room (probably a good thing) but that I was in fact the dumbest (whoops). This is how I came to learn what my most important skill as an entrepreneur probably is: Filter.

I need to be a semi-permeable membrane that can assess any incoming information for it’s net worth, allow in that which is helpful, and keep out that which is not. Being able to sit, listen and assess with the humility to actually hear it, but to still have just enough moxie to ignore information that truly isn’t constructive is a hard skill to hone.

But I’m working on it.

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