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Telling the Story Backwards

By: Ned Stringham

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When you read a story about a successful entrepreneur in the media, it’s important to remember that in almost every case it is being told after the fact, after the events and after the ‘success.’ By looking backward, the writer always knows how the story ends. They have the luxury of shaping the events to show the path to success. The hard edges are rounded off and miss-steps seem less important. Too often the actions the leaders could have taken that may have delivered greater success and examples of other companies that followed a similar path and failed go unreported.

The experience of living the story moving forward in time is dramatically different from the ‘air-brushed’ version written for readers. Looking backward, it appears that a company’s strategy and direction were more absolute and clear. It appears they knew which steps would take them to the success that is now a reality. In practice, those things are not so clear. Entreprenuers are regularly reactive. They test ideas to see what works. They learn from making mistakes. It’s flexibility, a willingness to learn and adapt, and the dogged determination to keep going that is more important to success than the brilliant insight or strategy.

So what is the message? Don’t let the media give you a false view of what makes entrepreneur’s successful. This isn’t theater where you are playing the part you think the market wants you to play. This is you, your team and your specific business. It’s going to be messy.

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