One fight that I wasn’t ready for was the fight against haters.
People starting up know that they’re fighting against time and trying to make money before their bank accounts deplete. People know they have to fight against competitors. People know about cofounder disputes. But I hear much fewer people talking about dealing with haters when they talk about starting up.
I define a hater as somebody who ends up discouraging you. A hater doesn’t necessarily have harmful intentions. However, a hater’s actions end up being harmful to you, and you have to shrug off the discouragement to keep going. A hater can be that annoying wantrepreneur who always rubs you the wrong way, or it can be even a friend who has genuine good intentions but lacks the experience to avoid being a detriment.
A hater does not choose to be a hater. A hater is a hater because he or she acts like one.
Types of haters
There are five types of haters that I’ve seen so far.
- Bean counters: they are always counting your expenses for you, always trying to make you afraid that your runway isn’t as long as you think
- Expert spectators: they dismiss your most expensive lessons by going “well OBVIOUSLY” when you share your lessons with them
- Club members: they make it clear that startup founders are an elite superspecies of human beings, and you’re not elite enough to join
- Academics: they have no practical experience, but they read enough startup porn to preach to you
- Snipers: they always seek the best angle to shoot down your ideas, your efforts, and you
Bean counters are weird motherfuckers to me. Really, why the fuck are you guys counting my expenses? Don’t you have your own expenses to worry about?
Expert spectators are easier for me to understand than bean counters, but they’re much more annoying. I think I read somewhere that the best advice oftentimes is intuitive and unsurprising, and therefore it’s unlikely to make any meaningful impact when you first learn it. I get pissed off when I make a huge mistake which costs me considerable time or money, and then I share my valuable lesson with an expert spectator only to hear them go “well DUH, I could’ve told you that!” First of all, no, I don’t think you could have, and I don’t think any startup spectator could have. Second, why do you have to rub salt in the wounds after I spent that much time or money learning it. Why.
Club members have a bit too much of their personal identities tied with being a startup founder, and I think they have egotistical reasons to discourage others from joining their elite ranks. There’s value in scarcity, and a smaller number of startup founders means they’re cooler, right? Correct, the answer is no, but that’s not what club members think.
Academics are a close cousin of expert spectators. Academics are well-read in famous startup bloggers’ posts. Like how expert spectators have no skin in the game, the academic is ready to recite their favorite startup wisdom to you backed by zero revenue earned in their lifetimes.
Snipers are probably the most common hater. What’s bad is that lots of your friends can turn out to be snipers. In starting a company, the only people who will give you meaningful feedback are your customers. A sniper is probably not your customer, but they’ll still try earnestly to give you negative feedback regardless.
The people who matter don’t care
The common trend with haters is that they shouldn’t really matter to you. They haven’t tried it themselves, so why should they be dragging you down.
One thing that I’ve noticed is that experienced entrepreneurs have never been haters to me. They’ve always been encouraging. These are the guys who have the personal history to back any hating that they’d choose to dish out, but they’re always consistently respectful and supportive. The trend is so strong that now, when I see a hater, I interpret the hate as a signal for inexperience.
Another thing I’ve noticed is that my supportive family, friends, and girlfriend have a genuine respect for me and my preparedness for the journey. Sure, despite my preparedness, I made some expensive mistakes, but they were always understanding and accepting.
These are the people who actually matter, and they don’t care to hate. The people who end up hating probably don’t matter.
The boss hater
Sometimes, a particular hater emerges who’s super difficult to ignore. The hater is somebody who you respect yourself, a lot. But they’re hating on you and discouraging you.
When you don’t respect your hater, they’re annoying sure, but you won’t have a hard time disengaging. But if you really respect the person, it’s incredibly difficult to cope with that. Even if you know that they’re wrong and they shouldn’t be saying those things or acting that way, it’ll still make it tough to keep trudging along.
These guys are boss haters. They’re tougher than the others, but you still have to get past them.
Making a small number of people extremely happy
The expert spectators and the academics should know that you don’t have to make everybody happy to make a successful business. In fact, it’s much easier to make a very small number of people extremely happy.
The same logic applies to your supporters. You don’t need everybody’s support. Keep hold of your supporters, and disengage from the rest.
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