The start-up pitch session was full. Most were trying to start their own companies. They were here to pitch, listen, and most of all learn. I was here as a mentor to listen and to share. Two speakers kicked off the evening. Both shared perspectives on what it would take to launch. This was not a session for the weak. If you were timid, it was unlikely that you were going to last. If you were sensitive, highly likely you were offended. The words were blunt, brutally candid, and ultimately in my opinion, compassionate. Kill bad ideas early and quickly. Find ones that have a chance of working.
The way the audience responded was a lesson I want to remember and follow.
If you want to succeed, put yourself in a position of being more informed, educated, and encouraged. That means hearing things that you may not want to hear. That means changing your ideas. That means being open to those that know more than you do.
If you want something, hearing what you do not understand or agree with is more important than the opposite. Reinforcing your reviews is fine if you are short on confidence, however this is rarely the biggest problem when you are trying to get to a goal. When an idea was trashed, at times bluntly so, the audience went into high listening mode. When a mentor challenged the heart of the proposition, questions of clarity were proposed instead of defensiveness.
If you want to do the impossible, ask for help. This group seemed to have a natural instinct in asking for advice, ideas, and engagement. During the session and in the networking time afterwards, asking for help was at the heart of every conversation.
Looking back, I realized that the two presenters starting off with a shared theme; “Come, children, listen closely; I’ll give you a lesson in God worship.” (Psalm 34.11) The fun and learning was two-way in what followed. In listening, the children taught. In asking for help, the children modeled. I came away richer for their example.