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This article was published on March 19, 2014

You are not stupid!

You are not stupid!
Boris Veldhuijzen van Zanten
Story by

Boris Veldhuijzen van Zanten

Founder & board member, TNW

Boris is a serial entrepreneur who founded not only TNW, but also V3 Redirect Services (sold), HubHop Wireless Internet Provider (sold), and Boris is a serial entrepreneur who founded not only TNW, but also V3 Redirect Services (sold), HubHop Wireless Internet Provider (sold), and pr.co. Boris is very active on Twitter as @Boris and Instagram: @Boris.

Someone recently asked me when I became more confident about my abilities as an entrepreneur. I thought it was a funny question, because I’m not very confident at all, and constantly filled with doubt about every decision I make.

It doesn’t exactly hinder my work; it is just that I’m very conscious of what I do, and I’m always reflecting on the way I work, think and talk. I have also learned over the years that making a decision is often more important than making the right decision. Preferably your decisions are the right ones, but inaction or indecisiveness is more costly than making the wrong decision every now and then.

There is one thing I’ve learned over the years that I wish I had learned earlier in my career. And that is the realization that I’m not stupid.

He who asks is a fool for five minutes, but he who does not ask remains a fool forever.
— Chinese proverb

It sounds logical, but I often sat in meetings and heard people explain things and then thought to myself, “I don’t understand that. Maybe I’m stupid?” or I would hear about a startup and I wouldn’t understand their business model and think I’m stupid. Or I would hear an entrepreneur speak and think, “That all sounds like bullshit, but I must be dumb, because other people seem to love it.”

A couple of years ago I came to the conclusion I wasn’t stupid at all. When people in meetings say things I don’t understand I speak up and tell them so. Usually, I hear a sigh of relief in the room and find out nobody understood what was being talked about.

When I don’t understand a business model it usually means there isn’t one, or it sucks. Turns out I’m not stupid and if I don’t understand it, most people won’t understand it at all. Instead of doubting my own abilities I’ve learned to trust my “bullshit radar” a bit more and not understanding something is a clear sign something is off.

My advice to young entrepreneurs is this: you are not stupid! If something doesn’t make sense, if it sounds stupid, if you don’t understand it, something’s wrong! Trust your gut feeling. Feel free to not know and be honest when you don’t understand something!

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