(Still) Waiting for Validation?

Recently, somebody said to me in a matter of fact tone, as if imparting a universal truth:

Oprah said the other day that we all need validation.”

I asked “Who should validate you?”

Well—  he cleared his throat– I guess it’s me.  I will validate myself.

(Really?)  If we were able to validate ourselves we would not have to ask for validation from others (fans, friends, family, readers, etc).

If so— I asked– will you validate yourself even when others do not validate you?”

Well, I need others, I want to connect, I don’t want to be alone, I am not one of those people who want to do it alone.”   

Validation implies acceptance and appreciation. Receiving validation, we know that we are needed, loved, appreciated. Receiving validation shows that others find us “Valid.”

Connection, support and feedback—yes, we all need them, we should cherish them as great gifts, and we should offer them generously. They are not the same as validation.

You just started a new business and it’s hard; you’re writing a new book and it’s confusing; you are building a new house and it’s expensive; you quit your job to travel the world and your friends think you’ve lost your mind; you are excited beyond words, and frightened beyond words. Will it work, will it not work? Will you lose money, time, face or friends/ family over this amazing new adventure?  Are you right? Are you wrong?

You are well on your way with a new project — suddenly,  you don’t know,  anymore.   Are you seeking inner or outer validation at this moment?

In each instance, you give yourself truly to the endeavor of creating a new experience, business, book, house or new life– without knowing the final result. When you don’t receive approval or you feel you are not validated– will you go ahead anyway?

William W. Purkey’s words were quoted so many times that they became common place.  Still, who truly lives their life accordingly?

 “You’ve gotta dance like there’s nobody watching,
Love like you’ll never be hurt,
Sing like there’s nobody listening,
And live like it’s heaven on earth.”

Rejection (overt or implied) can be such a healthy mechanism.  It can help you focus and clarify your thinking,  it can increase your inner ardor and strengthen your resolve,  it can show you the path not taken,  it can show you that something is not working in a present incarnation, and it can help you find a new product/service that otherwise you would have not considered.

Validation may come later when you are already successful (people will say, “I knew it all along, I knew that you would be successful”). Or not!  

Either way, by the time you are done with your work, you would have validated yourself simply because you could NOT not follow your heart– so strong was the inner call.  On the way, you will get plenty of feedback and support. Joseph Campbell, the great American mythologist, wrote “I feel that if one follows what I call one’s “bliss” — the thing that really gets you deep in your gut and that you feel is your life — doors will open up. They do! They have in my life and they have in many lives that I know of.”

Working with young entrepreneurs who are excited to play, and enjoying every minute of the game of discovery, I see less need for validation. It’s quite interesting to me since kids need a lot of guidance and encouragement while they are in the process of developing identity, and particularly when we support them to become powerful leaders.  

Kids are so involved in the game of starting a new project or a new venture, that the pleasure of doing and playing overrides the fear and the need for validation.

Could we all play the game of “this- is- so-important- to –ME- that- I- will- go- ahead and –do- it- even –if- no- one- validates- me?” It can be a new business, a new book, a new job, a new gig, a new anything—anything that forces you to come out and play as if nobody is judging.

Can you validate yourself today?

Are we supporting young entrepreneurs?

By Roger Cowdrey

Young people are where the majority of entrepreneurs will come from and it is the role of society to provide a climate that encourages that entrepreneurial thinking. That means that we need to start right back at the earliest age possible to encourage a culture where young people believe they can and are not afraid to try.

Many people think creative people are born that way. In fact all of us were born with creative ability. Left to our own devices we would probably all come up with innovative solutions to problems that are faced in growing up. In other words, we are born with the ability to think ‘outside of the box’ as there is no box at birth.

However, other people soon start to build the ‘box’ for us. Parents set rules that define part of the box and this is soon followed by school teachers, university lecturers and work. Too many people in our lives define the ‘box’ by presenting us with the rules rather than letting us experiment and find solutions for ourselves.

This ‘box’ defining gives us our first indication as to why entrepreneurship is a great choice for young people. Young people are much more likely to challenge the status quo and to develop innovative solutions. Sony has recently taken on the winning team from a Lego competition to design a robot as entrepreneurs. They are aged 10 – 13 years!

The second thing that assists young people in looking at entrepreneurship as an option is that many opportunities today are based around technology. This gives young people are real start over older people as older people are less likely to understand the true implications of a technological opportunity and are hence less likely to try and build a ‘box’ around the solution.

Thirdly, most definitions of entrepreneurship include the concept of risk somewhere. Indeed, neurological tests on entrepreneurs have indicated that the only measurable difference between entrepreneurs and others is that they react less strongly to risky situations. This too benefits young people as they are less likely to be put off by risk than older people with responsibilities for the home and a family.

At first sight, therefore, one wonders why all young people don’t choose entrepreneurship as a career path. Probably the single biggest reason is the fear of failure. Whether it is our parents, our teachers or society in general, others often define for us what they see as success. How many times have parents said “we want you to get really good qualifications so as to get a good job” and yet have never said “we want you to keep your creativity by challenging and experimenting so that you can be a good entrepreneur”!

In our fast modern world, where society measures success by the number and level of certificates, the importance of different jobs or the size of the house or car, it becomes all to easy to join the status ladder at the earliest opportunity. Education that is totally certificate focused will have no time for experimentation or alternative solutions.  It is interesting to note that there are now people developing learning packs for young people that have no one solution and which requires experimentation, risk and creativity.

For anyone to achieve true entrepreneurial status they need to remove the fear of failure. They need to recognize that to achieve something new they will need to try more than once to succeed. Many people use WD40 as a lubricant for stopping water getting into engines without realizing that the WD stands for Water Displacement and that 40 was the number of times they had to try before they got it right.

Most successes came as a result of a number of unsuccessful attempts. Edison took 10,000 attempts to get the light bulb right but he did not talk of failure, he simply said that he found 9,999 ways that did not work! The person that invented the vacuum cleaner with no bag took 5126 prototypes before he got it right and Thomas Adams tried making toys, tires and boots from chicle  (from a Mexican tree) before he accidentally started to chew on some and invented chewing gum! All of them understood that failure is not in falling down, but in failing to get up and try again.

A few years ago I had the good fortune to work with a young man who was long term unemployed. He had gained a degree from university but could not get a job. He had a business idea that all of the older advisers he talked to said would not work. However, I recognized that he had the entrepreneurial spirit and today he sells his products in all major UK stores as well as the internet and has just launched in America. His turnover last year was over ten million Euros. His success mirrored so much of what I believe about young people and entrepreneurship.

Many who have heard me speak to groups of young people will know that I always finish my talks with the statement ‘Remember the Bumble Bee’.  I do this to encourage young people wanting to go into business not always to listen to the so called old and wise. For those that have not heard me speak, if you study aerodynamics then the bumble bee is too fat, too heavy, his wings are too small and they flap too slowly and yet he flies. The reason he does so is because he believes he can.

Roger Cowdrey has supported numerous young entrepreneurs all over the world.  He has expertise and experience in a variety of business areas with particular skills in SME development, entrepreneurship, innovation and economic development. After a 20 year career with IBM, Roger became the CEO of a start up business agency in Oxford, UK. Roger has helped develop numerous incubators and was involved with creating school and university programs. This article was reposted with his kind permission.