Ryan Serhant: Why you shouldn’t listen to your gut

April 8, 2021, 12:00 AM UTC
Commentary-Ryan Serhant
Fear can prevent you from achieving career success, writes Million Dollar Listing New York cohost Ryan Serhant.
Kareem Black—Bravo/NBCU Photo Bank/Getty Images

When the pandemic hit, it felt like the safest thing an entrepreneur could do was stay put. I had recently made the decision to leave the brokerage company I had been with since the beginning of my career, where all expenses from rent to payroll were covered, and start my own business from scratch. 

With all of the uncertainty, hiring new team members, taking on overhead, and renting office space seemed like a huge risk. Other leaders in my field were furloughing or firing employees, tightening their belts, and not making any big moves, so shouldn’t I do the same? My gut was practically shouting at me to hold still and put my plans for my new business on hold.

But what exactly was I waiting for? There is no magical moment when any business venture is perfectly safe. While the fear in your gut can be a source of protection (the fight-or-flight response can stop you from making choices that get you killed) it can also put you at risk by holding you back. 

If you freeze in your tracks, you’re not seizing any opportunities, honing new skills, making new contacts, or innovating. The world is passing you by, and who knows if or when you’ll be able to catch up? When a gut feeling is stopping you from taking big steps, consider the following to push yourself forward and achieve success:

Find your own way in

Diving headfirst into a lake is terrifying. There are too many unknowns. When jumping into a new venture, understand it’s not necessary to take a wild running jump. Instead, you can ease yourself in. 

Examine alternative ways to get your company venture off the ground. Instead of signing a long lease on an office space for your design company, start out by working virtually. Find advocates for your product or service and feature them in your social media rather than spending money on an advertising budget. Lean on interns for administrative help if you need to. 

It doesn’t matter if you don’t immediately make a huge splash; what’s important is that you’re ignoring the voice that says, “Stay on land where it’s safe!” Instead, you’re getting your feet wet.

Don’t wing it

Once you’re in the water, your job is to stay afloat. Plan what needs to happen to take your company to the next level, create a time frame for implementation, and break the tasks into actionable steps. 

If you need to increase your network, commit to reaching out to five potential contacts a day. If you’re actively growing your client base, plan events to increase awareness of your services. 

Don’t waste time and energy by flailing around. Be deliberate about your actions so that you’re growing stronger and ready to come out of the gate swinging. 

Utilize your greatest strengths

Suddenly you realize you’ve swum out to the deep end. You’re surrounded by strong swimmers now, and you don’t know how you’re going to compete. It’s from this admittedly scary place that you must come up with innovative ways to keep your head above water. 

This is when you must maximize your resources and push the envelope on creativity. I am one realtor bobbing along in a sea of real estate brokers in New York City, and I’m in danger of sinking unless I continually challenge myself. To stand out from the crowd, I merged my two biggest strengths: real estate and media. Now my team includes visual artists, storytellers, media mavens, and brand strategists to maximize our reach to buyers and sellers all over the world.

To truly squash those negative messages coming from your own gut, examine how your greatest strengths can put you in a stronger position to survive. Are you a problem solver, a connector, or a design genius? How can you use those qualities to add a special twist to your company?

Staying out of the water might sound like self-preservation, but it is actually self-sabotage. Gut instinct is for staying safe right now, but your gut doesn’t care about the opportunities you’ll miss, the goals you’ll never crush, or the dreams you won’t see come to fruition. Your gut doesn’t work for the future you. 

So, if you want to discover the big things life has in store for you, you need to stop listening to your gut and jump forward instead.

Ryan Serhant is the CEO and founder of SERHANT., a costar on Bravo’s Million Dollar Listing New York, and the author of Big Money Energy: How to Rule at Work, Dominate at Life, and Make Millions.

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