As an entrepreneur at times you forget that being in charge doesn’t mean you have to know everything. When it feels like you’re trapped facing an unsolvable dilemma, and wrestling with a seemingly intractable problem, remember that “getting out of your head” is the personal equivalent of the Lean Startup mantra “get out of the building.”

Learning this was a big step in making me a more effective entrepreneur.

If the problems were about corporate politics, I’d show up the next day defensive and ready for a fight. (Relationships with sales versus my marketing department was a typical food fight and problem). If it was a meeting my boss called, I was convinced I was going to be fired (even though I couldn’t think of any rational reasons why). Half the time I’d be amazed to discover the problem or obstacle I had been worrying about didn’t even exist. I had magnified a comment, document, or an interaction, and my imagining the worst possible outcome let it spiral out of control.

It took me a long time to see there was an easy way to break this obsessive cycle and end up with much better options. The key, I found, was getting out of my head and talking to other people.

When I was younger, I didn’t realize:

1. These were common problems; others had these same problems now or encountered them before

When I was in the middle of trying to solve a problem, it never occurred to me that these problems were not unique to me. I felt they were my exclusively mine and that meant that I alone needed to solve them.

Since I hadn’t run into this problem before I assumed no one else had. (In hindsight this was likely due to my age/lack of experience.) Later in my career, I began to see common problems recur. But at the time, I never considered that others had encountered these same problems.

2. If others had faced these problems, then there were solutions or at a minimum, good advice was available

Here’s the critical opportunity that I missed. There was a whole world of people who went through, or were going through, what I was struggling with. Some of them had figured out how to solve it, some made bad decisions and didn’t solve it, but all had experience in seeing a resolution one way or the other. Some could tell you stories of what they went through, others could tell you what worked or didn’t, and a few had real wisdom to share. And often I would discover what I thought was a critical problem really wasn’t. It wouldn’t end my career, or no one would really care.

3. If I had only shared that I was stuck, and needed help, lots was available

Seek out the advice of others? Ask others for help? The thought never crossed my mind. (See item 1.) And if it had, I would have rejected it. Why? Well a loss of control, admission of failure, loss of stature, embarrassment, etc. I thought I should have all the answers.

When I was an entrepreneur a face-to-face meeting or a phone call was the only way to get advice. That was a barrier to many. Today, the Internet has eliminated most of those obstacles. You can go online and with a simple search find others who have had the same issues you’re wrestling with and read how they solved them.

4. Not only was this true for problems at work, but even more so at home

Lessons Learned