There are a number of phrases entrepreneurs use every day that are counter-productive and, because of our tendency for negative bias, can actually encourage apathy and giving up.

From my experience, however, one phrase might just be the worst.

"If only."

Two simple, innocent words by themselves, but when together in this order and used as part of our daily business activities can be destructive. As in:

  • If only I had money.
  • If only I had more time.
  • If only I could get a larger line of credit.
  • If only I could hire a few key employees.
  • If only I (fill in the blank).

When I started my first business, things were really looking great. We had a fair number of customers and consumer confidence was high. The time was mid-2007.

Of course, most of us know what happened shortly after that. The standard for excellence and stability, Lehman Brothers, filed for bankruptcy and the entire financial system crashed, sending banks and businesses into complete chaos.

Our business had all credit revoked, and my business partner and I were relegated to running an all cash business during one of the worst recessions in a generation.

The problem was that we had no cash.

What I remember about that time were the countless evenings, often very late at night, at a local tavern for a bite to eat and a beer. We would sit at the table pondering how it was that we would start a manufacturing business with a retail component during such a tumultuous time.

Our conversations often turned to being wishful and wistful, imagining what life would be like if the economy was better or if we had cash to do the things we wanted.

We realized soon that we were not going to get more money. We were not going to be able to hire capable employees. We were not going to get a line of credit from the bank.

Nothing, in fact, was going to be given to us -- we needed to hustle to make things happen.

We decided to punish ourselves every time we said the phrase, "if only" -- our very own, personal swear jar, if you will -- and we decided to transition from saying, "if only" to "only if." As in:

So don't let yourself fall into the destructive "if only" trap. And, if you need more motivation, consider creating your own company "if only" swear jar. It worked for us.

What do you think? Do you have any tips for how to overcome negative bias? Please share your thoughts in the comments below.

Published on: Aug 14, 2017