Our Instincts are Wrong

Are Your Instincts Serving You?

Imagine that you and I are sitting in the living room, hanging out. And suddenly you hear a small sound – a knocking of sorts. Then it's a bit of a sliding sound. I interrupt what you're saying and jump up to head to the kitchen. Why?

Because my instinct tells me that a toddler has opened a cabinet and is starting to play with the items on the bottom shelf. Soon they'll be all over the floor. What did you hear? It's not clear – but one thing is certain: whatever you thought it was, you were wrong. Your instinct was off.

Our Instincts are based on our Experience

The reason it was off isn't because you're a bad person or because your hearing isn't good. It's just that in your whole life (especially if you don't have kids, or toddlers specifically), you've never heard the sound and you're not prepped for it.

Victims of 911 react differently when they hear planes fly overhead. They've developed a new awareness because of their experience. It's possible I hear a plane, but I don't even notice it. I think nothing of it. And in fact, I'm likely to think it's something else when it's only a far-off sound.

Everyone tells you to Trust Your Gut

Trusting your instinct is only good if it's a trained instinct. In my home, I know the sounds that our kids make. I know the sounds downstairs, upstairs and even outside. Because, as a parent of two, I've been through this stuff at least a couple times.

The same is true for startups, as I've helped start or worked on 7 different ones. I know the distinct “sounds” that they make – even when some situations are far off.

  • Partnerships
  • Outsourcing
  • Marketing
  • Pricing
  • Technology
  • Features

You get the idea. Any one of these could make or break an early start-up. And yet, the thing I hear most from people starting their own project is the phrase, “Sometimes you just have to trust your instincts.”

And I wish I could reply to them like I can in this post, “Sure, if you'd like to be like the other 75% of startups that will fail this year because they too were driven into the ground by decisions made from an untrained gut.”

But no. That's too harsh.

So I often reply with, “well, let's see if we can put a framework around that instinct and get a balanced look at the decision.”

What about Merchants & eCommerce startups?

Everything I've written about startups is also true for merchants and eCommerce startups. On Mondays that's where I focus. And what I want to do today is give you a three-part framework that will help you train your gut.

First – find a group of people who are on the same road you're on.

If you're running a WooCommerce store, you're not the only one. There are tons of Facebook groups where you can go to get help.

But there are also other eCommerce communities like eCommerceFuel where discussions take place daily to help merchants navigate the world they're in.

Second – find someone, a mentor, a coach, that has been on the road before and successfully navigated it.

A couple of years ago I was having a conversation with a merchant. They were super eager to make a big move. Change their supplier and dramatically change their product line.

Our conversations were mostly stories of where I'd seen this go wrong, and how they might approach things differently.

A year later I got a nice note saying that the move I had helped them NOT take had saved their business.

It doesn't have to be me, but find someone you can trust to help you think about your moves – especially when they have a trained gut, and the scars (and war stories) to prove it.

There's no reason you have to learn everything the hard way.

Third – find someone on the same road that you're on now, who may be just a bit ahead of you.

The best thing you can do, when running an online store, is build a community of people around you (merchants, eCommerce developers, partners, vendors) that you can watch. Even if you don't talk with them, you can see what they're trying (and succeeding at, or failing at).

Don't do this work all alone. It won't help you develop your own instincts that will one day save you.

When our Instincts are Off, We Need Community

This three-part framework will still let you make your own call, and not turn you into someone else's puppet. It will also sharpen your instincts as time goes on.

And at some point, you'll hear a sound, a strange one that someone else will mistake for “nothing” when you'll know it most definitely is something.

And then you'll be able to jump up, act quick, and protect what's valuable to you.