The Entrepreneur Insider network is an online community where the most thoughtful and influential people in America’s startup scene contribute answers to timely questions about entrepreneurship and careers. Today’s answer to the question “When making a tough business decision, how do you know when to trust your gut?” is written by Glenn Laumeister, founder and CEO of CoachMarket.
It’s often said, especially by entrepreneurs and those who would like to be, that you should go with your gut when making big decisions. In my experience, this is the worst possible way for entrepreneurs to make big decisions about their businesses.
If you’re a successful entrepreneur, you possess a level of willpower far beyond that of everyone else. It is this willpower that allows you to overcome obstacle after obstacle in launching and growing your business. A large part of this willpower is a result of your desire to achieve something and to do it before you run out of money, time, or energy.
Typically, strong desire and strong willpower enable entrepreneurs to convince employees to follow them, investors to bet on them, and early customers to trust them. The problem arises when your desire and willpower overwhelm your instincts, sense of reality, and ability to follow a rational decision–making process. When you want something so badly, and your entire world revolves around making it happen, your emotions take over, and you end up running a decision–making process no longer based on facts, but on a false reality.
See also: The Hardest Part of Being an Entrepreneur
I have made some really bad decisions simply because I wanted something to happen so badly that I was blinded by any other inputs. You cannot will customers to buy something they don’t want, you cannot will employees to create a piece of software that they don’t know how to code, and you cannot will suppliers to work with you who see the world in a different way.
I couldn’t tell the difference between my gut (instincts) and my desire to make something happen. My desire simply told my gut what to do. On a good day, you feel instincts in your gut that are a mix of experience, intuition, judgment, subconscious sensing, and that magic X factor. But on a bad day, your gut is simply taken over by your desire, your willpower, and your incredible drive to make something happen in the way you envision it.
How does an entrepreneur solve for this? While a leap of faith is often required in many decisions, one must differentiate between not having all of the information and making a decision based on desire alone.
To address this, I write down the decision and a list of five key pros and cons on a piece of paper that support or argue against making this decision. The pros and cons must be fact–based and cannot include words such as want, need, hope, if, then, sure, etc.
I then show this list to someone I trust, who has no skin in the decision, and ask for a reality check. Are these facts or opinions? Are they educated guesses or are they my hopes, dreams, and desires?
Every entrepreneurial journey begins with a dream, but in my experience, dreams don’t pay the bills, so make sure your gut is based on the reality of the world around you and not the world as you want it to be.
Glenn is a technology CEO and lifelong entrepreneur with over 15 years of experience launching and scaling B2C and B2B online businesses. He is a previous INC 500 CEO and finalist for Ernst and Young’s Entrepreneur of the Year Award for Metro New York.
Read all responses to the Entrepreneur Insider question: When making a tough business decision, how do you know when to trust your gut?
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What Every Leader Can Learn From Alfred P. Sloan About Tough Decisions by Frank Fabela, Vistage CEO peer advisory board chair.
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Here’s What Happens When You Don’t Trust Your Gut by Gesche Haas, founder of Dreamers//Doers.
Here’s What You Should Do When You Have to Make a Tough Decision by Alexander Goldstein, founder and CEO of Eligo Energy.
Never Make a Big Decision Without Doing This First by Feris Rifai, cofounder and CEO of Bay Dynamics.
Here’s How Questioning Decisions Can Ruin a Business by Pat Peterson, founder and CEO of Agari.