Entrepreneurs Compare Their Success To A Fake Ideal

Nearly 40% of entrepreneurs could be lying about how well their business is doing, their social media engagements, where their funding came from, or how their business found success. But are these white lies, intended to project confidence, hurting the entrepreneurial community?

Keeping Up With Entrepreneurial Jonses

White lies about your own company might not seem like a big deal. For example, Anthony Byrne, CEO of Product2Market admitted to stuffing his offices with family members, friends, and even neighbors to create an appearance of success. He did this to impress Microsoft who toured his office before doing business with him. I’ve seen versions of this ruse myself.

Some entrepreneurs add friends to their staff page on their websites to give the illusion of size. One PR company I researched had multiple offices throughout the USA that turned out to be WeWork locations. White lies like this seem justifiable at first.

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One could argue because Microsoft shouldn’t care about an arbitrary metric like staff size, Byrne was justified in playing the game. Similarly, because social media companies manipulate reach, it’s fair to manipulate their platforms by purchasing followers or fake engagement.

I’m not innocent in this either. As a first-time entrepreneur feeling the pressure around me of everyone “crushing it” I remember telling people I had “doubled revenue this year from last year.” While technically true, the reality was I had made less than $1000 the year before.

The pressure to lie is real. But all the deception is doing damage. This “fake it ’till you make it” approach is one cause of crippling anxiety and depression within the entrepreneurial community writes Jessica Bruder for Inc.

Entrepreneurs Are Comparing Themselves To Fake Ideals

I’ll argue one of the reasons for anxiety and depression in the entrepreneurial community is the same reason for anxiety and depression in general. Comparison.

Entrepreneurs have a distorted reality. They see their peer’s insane social media engagement, another speaking at a big conference, and others going through successful acquisitions, hiring staff, and making lots of money, and create a single entrepreneurial amalgamation in their head. Then, they compare themselves to that ideal. An ideal, that doesn’t exist in whole.

The distorted comparison effect doesn’t even require deception. People do it by default. NYT Best-selling author and Chair of Duke’s psychology department Dan Ariely explained to me when we meet someone new, we tend universally apply their positive characteristics. We tend to be remarkably optimistic about complete strangers.

In truth, entrepreneurs could be doing better than those they are comparing themselves to, but they go around depressed, anxious and upset ready to quit.

What Metrics Entrepreneurs Should Observe

I don’t expect the entire entrepreneurial community to have a change of heart and start being honest, but I do expect knowing the truth will set you free.

The emperors of entrepreneurship have no clothes, and now that you know, you can be accountable to the only reality you know to be true. Your own.


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