The Best Advice I’ve Ever Received

In December of 2007, in Melbourne, Australia, I received a magical piece of advice. This simple but brilliant message has changed the way I communicate, do business, and live my life:

There will always be an infinite number of legitimate reasons people do not want to do what you ask of them. Your job is to show them the one reason they must.

The advice came from Dr. William Ardrey, who had just agreed to be the chairman of my new company, DBIX, as part of a conversation about raising investor capital. However, the advice stands on its own in just about every situation imaginable.

For investors there is no limit to the list of reasons for avoiding a deal: too much risk, issues with the term sheet, a more attractive alternative deal, the economy, unexpected personal developments, travel plans, even elective surgery. You cannot dismiss these concerns even if you disagree with them; they are legitimate to the investor.

Instead of spending all of your time and energy trying to dissuade concerns, focus on highlighting the key reason why they should care. Do your research. Find out what the investor is passionate about and tailor your pitch to resonate accordingly. If the opportunity is framed correctly, all other concerns melt away.

However, the point is not to blindly ignore all worries; the point is that you cannot possibly address them all. Pick and choose your major battles and focus on what’s most important: the clear and valuable reasons to proceed.

But this doesn’t stop with investor relations. Applying this advice to my own life has made me a happier and more successful person. Focusing on the reasons for doing something instead of the reasons against help me to make decisions that I am passionate and positive about. And it prevents me from making fear based decisions. When I’m passionate and fired up about the reasons behind my decisions, I remain motivated to follow them through to completion.

Focusing on the reasons to do something ensures happier decisions, stronger decisions, decisions which will be followed through. And they’ll seal the deal.

41 Responses to The Best Advice I’ve Ever Received

  1. Hamish Hughes says:

    Very interesting, and a lot of truth there. This relates well to George Lakoff’s theory about how you cannot convince someone of something if being convinced would violate their mindset and assumptions.

    But tell me, why elective surgery of all things to mention?

    • Seth Blank says:

      Hamish,

      Because I’d personally try and argue with that one on the spot because it feels silly to me. “Pass up an exciting investment opportunity for surgery you don’t even need? Really?!”

      And you know what? Even if I won that discussion, I’d still lose in the long term because the investor would now be going into the deal for the wrong reasons. If things become rough, the investor is likely to feel that his arm was twisted, or that he got cheated out of money needed for something else. And if things are rough and you need more funding and go back to this investor? There’s a quick no waiting for you.

      But if you had instead shown the investor the reasons to invest, while never belittling his other uses for the money, the above situations cannot occur. And when the investor knows why he is investing and is emotionally committed to that investment, you have your support in rough times and your follow on funding in dire times.

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