The most frustrating advice I ever received came from a mentor who told me, "Just follow your gut."

I had no idea what that meant nor how to do it. He made it sound as if my gut would suddenly appear in front of me and gesture for me to follow it.

Want to know why it's so hard to follow your gut? Because it requires you to stop giving a damn about what everyone else thinks.

Entrepreneurs spend so much of their lives comparing themselves to others and measuring their progress by some impossible ideal. Covers of magazines show 20-something who became billionaires off their brilliant ideas. Your bank account, meanwhile, looks more than a little pathetic. (I know mine does.) You start to feel that, whatever success is supposed to look like, you're not achieving it as well as the person next door.

So you worry that you're going to make a flop out of this thing called life. And that gut you're supposed to follow? It gets buried in the fear and envy and self-loathing. So, you pick up every self-help book you can find and seek out best practices. But you don't get it right. You just keep stumbling. Until one day you wake up and say, "What have I got to lose?" That's the day you dig our gut out and let it beckon us in the right direction.

But it's a cycle. And your gut will lead you astray again. (Sometimes badly astray.)

My gut plagues me constantly. I have advisors and investors and consultants and cofounders and most of the time, not a single one of them agrees with my gut. It takes a great deal of effort to convince dozens of smart people that you should go in a direction because you "feel" you should. There's no evidence. Just an instinct.

But the most brilliant inventions, companies, and ideas often come from people who persevered and listened to those feelings. How do you figure out whether it's a brilliant idea or a crazy one? You can't. But there is nothing worse than waking up one day and seeing a 20-something billionaire on the cover of a magazine with your idea.

So then, how do you follow your gut?

Step 1.

Stop giving a damn about what others think.

Step 2.

Remove fear. Ask yourself, "What have I got to lose?" Take yourself out of the position of a business owner who needs to pay the bills and put yourself in the position of your customer. What would be the coolest thing you would want?

Step 3.

That crazy thing that just popped into your head that you dismissed because, well, it was crazy? Go back there and explore it.

Step 4.

Don't let anyone throw you off that exploration (I try to isolate myself as much as possible) until you and your gut are incredibly comfortable and have some good momentum.

Step 5.


It's not actually that easy, but with lots of practice I'm getting much better at it. Hopefully you will too.