Better Together: I don’t know what I don’t know

A bi-weekly column exploring the intersection of entrepreneurship and community by Sam Davidson

Reasons for business failures abound, but one of the biggest (or at least the most documented) is lack of knowledge. This can be a lack of industry-specific knowledge, a lack of knowing your key market, a lack of knowing the competitive landscape, or a lack of basic business fundamentals. And while not limited to them, the group this may affect the most is first time founders.

This has little to do with background and more to do with experience. As I try to remind my young children, “You’re not bad at it; you’re just new at it.” 

Of course the stakes are different between learning to skip or tie shoes and banking your livelihood on a startup.

We program for this at the EC, offering a slate of classes, events, and accelerator programs that help entrepreneurs first learn what they don’t know they don’t know and then learn what they don’t know. Sometimes that learning comes by trying and failing (which is why we hear stories like that at our “Cereal with a Serial” monthly event). But it can also come by evaluating and doing. 

What has struck me of late is not knowing what you don’t know isn’t limited to information and facts. It also includes knowing oneself. 

To this end we’ve added more programming this year related to the entrepreneur (the person) and not just entrepreneurship. We’ve covered mental health already. Next month Dave Delaney will share about entrepreneurship and ADHD. In June we’ll talk about being a parent and an entrepreneur at the same time. 

It’s as if “Know Thyself”, inscribed upon the Temple of Apollo in the ancient Greek precinct of Delphi, could just as relevantly be inscribed upon Trolley Barn 41.

What has struck me lately, however, is the knowledge of oneself that is limiting, a belief of scarcity rather than a mindset of abundance. How high can you actually climb?

This tweet stopped me in my tracks recently: 


“The guitar itself didn’t know that it could be played like this.”

There are some entrepreneurs in our community who I’d love to look eye-to-eye and tell them the same: “You are capable of more than you think.”

Truths like that rarely come from within. They usually confront us, like the guitar, when we’re in the hands of someone else, a trained virtuoso who sees something in ourselves we can’t yet. Who takes us and if we’re willing can show us all we were cracked up to be, if we’d only just give in to our highest potential. 

That’s why I’d inscribe “Know Thyself” on our walls. Much like the purpose of the Greek temple, our halls, too, call the community together to interact and to look higher by looking within. And we know we can’t do that alone.

If entrepreneurs want, they can get better. Together. 

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