I love positive people. I spend a great deal of my time and energy trying to help people launch and grow their businesses while trying to make the most of their skills. In general, I like to focus on the positive. I think that deep within most people there is an idea or a product or a skill that is very valuable and I do my best to try to help them discover or unleash those talents. But there is a huge difference between positive thinking and butt rainbows. I know what you’re thinking. Butt rainbows isn’t exactly the most mature of business phrases. So what exactly am I talking about when I use the term?
Butt rainbows is unbridled positivity that is unfettered by the facts. There is nothing more dangerous to a young entrepreneur than unwarranted positivity. Despite the fact that a lot of people will tell you that you’re crazy trying to start your own business, more and more people are recognizing entrepreneurial spirit as something that has some merit. So we’re seeing more and more people being supportive of those looking to launch. And that’s great. It’s important, as someone trying to make things happen, that you have people around you that provide you with much needed support. But those people aren’t butt rainbows.
Butt rainbows are my own take on “yes men”. Do you think this is a good idea? Yes. Do you think this is something people would buy? Oh yes. Yes men are the people that say, “you can do it” even when they don’t think you can, and those people are not helping. I used to be a butt rainbow.
This summer I was driving along with my wife talking to her about a couple of projects that I was partnering with people on. I was explaining how they had brought forward some ideas and that in one case, I had picked apart several of the ideas. I explained that I had told one potential partner that I had a number of questions that would have to be answered if I were going to join the project. My wife started chuckling. I asked her what was so funny and she explained that after years of being a butt rainbow (my words, not hers) I had finally started to have the sorts of questions and concerns that she had used for years to keep me in check. Her point was that some people have big dreams that don’t seem to connect with reality and I used to be that guy but over the years she’s helped me focus on the minutiae that makes the difference between a successful project and a time waster.
There’s nothing wrong with asking questions. If your idea can’t survive a few questions, it’s not going to survive and anarchy of bringing that idea to market. The most helpful people are those that provide you with constructive criticisms. These people are looking out for you. They really are. Sometimes, you might feel as though they’re being unnecessarily harsh. And they might be. But more often than not, they’re trying to make sure that you fully understand their point. Many of us “idea people” have a tendency to brush off concerns. “Yeah, yeah..” but we don’t actually LISTEN to the concern and we don’t actually take the concern seriously. Instead, we hear Charlie Brown’s teacher and we carry on.
Surround yourself with honest people. Honest people will tell you when they think you have a good idea and when they think you have a bad idea. Honest people thinking you have a bad idea, or that some aspect of your idea is flawed, does not mean you have a bad idea or that some aspect of your idea is flawed. But it does mean that you have to ask yourself, “are they right?” In most cases, even if someone’s criticism of your idea isn’t warranted, it will bring to light some aspect of your plan that’s lacking. Learn to love criticism. It’s one of the most powerful external tools you have.
And the next time someone tells you how great your idea is, make sure you’re not talking to a butt rainbow.