Can you handle the truth?

truth

Do you know what separates good entrepreneurs from great ones? Some say it’s their ability to learn from their mistakes, but I think it’s their ability to handle the truth.

It doesn’t matter how smart you are or how good you are at executing, if you can’t handle the truth, you’re in for a treat. At the end of the day, would you rather have someone sugarcoat things to you…

or…

Would you want someone to be straight up with you?

As an entrepreneur, you should be doing what’s best for your business. What’s best for your business is what’s best for you…even if that means your ego gets crushed. For example, what if someone told you that you suck at sales, then that person helped you get better at it, and that resulted in millions of more dollars to your business. Would you care?

Sure, you may be a bit angry at the beginning because the person said you didn’t know how to do your job, but the millions of dollars you will make should easily make up for your anger.

Learn from the truth

One thing I look forward to every month is my board meetings. I know most entrepreneurs hate them and think they are a waste of time, but if you have a good board, you’ll actually learn a lot.

The best part about my board is that they don’t waste time trying to sugarcoat things. If they think something is off with the business or if I’m doing something wrong, they’ll let me know.

A good board will help you fix the issue they point out. And if they can’t do that, they usually know someone who you can talk to that can solve your problem.

At the end of the day, we both own shares in the same company, and whatever causes it to make more money, makes it worth more. That results in more money in your pocket.

Emotions can hold you back from succeeding, so set them aside and do what’s best for your business instead of what’s best for your ego.

Don’t kill the messenger

If you’ve received an email from me, you’ve probably noticed that it was short and to the point. This has caused people to think I’m rude. But the way I see it, I’m just being blunt.

If you want advice from me, expect me to be to the point as I don’t care to sugarcoat things. “Why?” you may ask. Well, it’s because if I tell you what you want to hear and you fail, it’s my fault. If I’m honest with you and explain what’s best for you, then it’s your fault if you don’t use my advice.

When people give you advice, ask for their honest opinion. Sugarcoating won’t help you get to where you want to be. Now, this doesn’t mean that the advice you get is always going to be right. You just need to listen to it, take notes, and then determine what you want to do.

Just don’t kill the messenger as the messenger has your best interests at heart when giving you the feedback.

You need to be blunt

Whether you are giving other people advice, talking with investors or business partners or just dealing with your employees, you have to be blunt.

If someone on your team isn’t performing and you sugarcoat things when you comfort your team member, it will inevitably cause you to be unhappy. And at that point, you can’t blame that person for his or her lack of performance because it’s your fault for not being upfront.

That’s not even the worst part of it. You’ll bottle everything up inside you, which will cause things to end on a very sour note between you and your employee.

When you talk with others, try being blunt. At first, people may hate you for it, but, in the long run, they’ll appreciate it. This can tremendously help your reputation and personal brand.

Conclusion

Life is too short to sugarcoat things. Be brutally honest with yourself and others, or else you’ll just be wasting time.

When people tell you everything is great, call them out on their bullshit. Things can always be better! Hopefully, they’ll return the favor one day and tell you how you’re screwing up.

It’s the people who are honest with you that are really trying to help. Instead of pushing those people out of your lives, start strengthening your relationship with those people.

So, do you think you can handle the truth? Or, better yet, do you have what it takes to be blunt with others?

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Comments

  1. Keeping track of untruths is a huge waste of time and energy. But worse is self deception. There’s a good book called Radical Honesty, by Brad Blanton, that goes into this in detail. Also, if you want to change the world, you need to see it objectively first.

  2. Wow Neil, I believe the part that you should not always sugar coat everything. because people will take you for granted and in the end you will not be happy. Thanks for the lovely post as always.

  3. Neil,
    Great truths there. I tell my customers “You don’t have to like me, but you’ll love what I do for you.”

    Nobody needs a yes-person in their lives if they want to succeed for real.

  4. great advice neil. it appears that the standard bureaucratic business model condones avoidance and avoids bluntness. that said, many newly minted graduates get roped into this mindset rather quickly upon graduation by entering into the fortune 500 world.

    where do you suggest that an individual begins working on being more blunt on a daily basis? we both know that change does not come quickly or overnight. thank you.

  5. This is a 100% genuine thought. I believe its the way we are groomed where the problem lies. We are taught to be nice to others. In this we start sugar coating to pass the message around without hurting anyone else

    The problem here is hurting the other person might be the best that you can do for her! Right ?

    • It isn’t about hurting someone vs making them feel better, it is about helping your business succeed. You need to make sure that what everyone is doing is best for the business and if it isn’t it needs to be addressed and fixed. In the long run what is best for business is best for everyone.

      • That is absolutely right Neil; and having a long term view always helps. However I have a doubt. The context in which we are discussing this allows us to be to the point or be blunt as a teacher or a friend …

        But what about when it is important to be blunt to the customer. Being blunt is good in the long term but in short term it might kill business (giving no long term at all). How can we then do this ?

        • If you were truly trying to help as a teacher or friend then you would want to be honest and straight forward. This doesn’t mean you have to be rude or condescending but it does mean you owe it to that person to let them know when something they are doing needs to be fixed, or else it won’t work. For example If your math teacher sugar-coated it and wasn’t blunt when you solved a problem wrong you would eventually get to the test and most likely fail. You have to show the person that your advice is for the best and if they can’t handle that then they will have a difficult time succeeding.

          • If I think a student is gonna fail…I will tell them straight up. I don’t want to waste my time, theirs and most importantly…money! In the long run..they (their parents) appreciate it :) Nice post Neil

            • Exactly, no matter how much you like the “kid” you are working with, you want to see them learn and succeed. It will not only help them, but also look good on you. It is the exact same for business. Thanks, glad you liked it.

              • Thanks @Neil and @Rakiya for clarifying. As I understand its always good to see the long term view rather than short term wins. Business too is always a long term game. The ‘kids example’ says it all !

  6. ah, another good-encouraging post. Not very easy in family bussiness, to “respect” other is a rule… thanks for this post (hahaaa, I can forward this to some people for sure)

    • You can still be respectful, it is just tricky. You have to make sure that when you say something without “sugar-coating it,” that you give an explanation to the problem and a solution to fixing it. You don’t have to be rude to be honest. You just have to be strong and straight forward or else your business may fail.

  7. @Neil: I can’t describe the size of my grin after reading this post. I feel like a bus just got lifted off my shoulders seeing that others get how productive the no-B.S. approach can be. Thanks for the (indirect) encouragement!

    @Eric: That sounds like an interesting book. I’ll have a look at it!

  8. Hi Neil,

    First time I sent you an email, it was short and to the point and I thought, WTH…of course I still receive updates for your post because they are quite helpful n clear.
    Thing is receiving or giving no-bull-advice saves entrepreneurs lots of time which can be used in growing.

    Anyway the real challenge is definitely when you are on the receiving end. Thanks for sharing this

    David

    • It is definitely about time management. I don’t have a ton of time to go into lengthy emails unless it is necessary. I try and give my advice or response in short easy answers as to save time and continue forward. Thanks for continuing to read.

  9. One question? How do you get other people to open upto you when they do not want to do that as they perceive that in doing so, they will hurt my feelings, which of course would happen anyway..better now than later?

    • Always better now then later, because later may be to late. If you want others to feel comfortable opening up to you about problems then you need to let them know it is okay. Start by discussing with them how everything is going. Tell them that if there is anything they think needs to be fixed or improved to let you know because in the long run it is about making the business work and any feedback won’t be taken personally (even if it is). Then you need to practice “what you preach” so to speak listen to the problems, find solutions, improve and move on.

      • yeah… a good technique might be the indirect route. You can ask your guy, “what are others saying about me?”, or “what do others say I need work on?”

        That way, your guy could air his own thoughts as a third party comment without worrying that he would hurt your feelings directly.

  10. I think Emotional Intelligence is a very import point when listening the other person criticizing your business/idea/ or you. It is really hard to separate the truth and the emotions that are created during the talk/email/phone. I always find taking notes disconnects you very much from the content. So that you can also suppress the emotions. It is like the other person is talking about someone else :)

  11. Im totally agree… Im a transparent and sometimes see as rude person… I’ve lost many opportunity because of that, but at the end of the day, poeple who stick with me , employee and customer, like me for what i am: transparent, honest, fidelity, acurate and most of all : direct to the point. I end up with a smaller but stronger network on wich I can take roots and rely on. Also, I can expect the same honesty from poeple around me.

    • I try not to be rude but at times it comes across that way because of my upfront honesty. I only want what is best for my business and the business of others I work with. I agree, it is better working with a smaller stronger group then a larger weaker one. If you are sensitive to every critique made then you will have a hard time succeeding. If you cannot be honest then you will only hurt yourself.

  12. Sandeep Narang :

    Excellent buddy, nice article. When you are new in business without any past experience, you will be easily trapped by these sugar coating employees, especially managers. They will tell you that everything is fine and positive results are just about to happen very soon… but it never happens… until you think with your own brain. Keep the command in your hands before its too late. If you are listening what you want to listen, then you are in a big big problem. And yes I agree with all of your points Neil, keep writing, I love reading great stuff :).

    • Thanks, it can be difficult telling people what they don’t want to hear but by saying nothing, nothing gets done and the end result is never positive. I agree definitely take things into your own hands if you want to succeed and if those around you don’t want to listen then you probably should find others to work with who are willing to change and succeed.

  13. Great post, smart headline Neil.

    Of course, if someone’s blunt advice is going to earn me $1million then she can be as nasty as she likes. However, I think the important thing is for the manager/board member to really know what she is talking about before making any criticism. (Harking back to another point you made in a previous post about hiring people who know more than you do.)

    Most employees, let’s face it, don’t care about sugar coating as long as they are getting paid well or learning enough to move somewhere else where they will be well paid. But if a manager is just spouting her opinion in the name of honesty in order to look good in a meeting, then that doesn’t do much for the employee or the company. If you know what you are talking about, then by all means tell me what I could have done better. Otherwise, keep quiet.

    • Good point, that is where individual / group honesty comes into play. If someone suggest something that doesn’t seem like it would work then say something. Never let something happen that isn’t best or else it will effect everyone including yourself. Always voice your opinions, maybe your idea is good but the execution not just right. If you allow for others to hear your thoughts and combined their own the results could be remarkable.

  14. It is a lot easier to handle the truth, if there’s familiarity and trust between the two parties, otherwise the truth of the feedback becomes questionable. There are many folks that are blunt, ready to give their $.02, but typically full of hot air.

  15. its true, I told a client last time that there website sucked and they thought I was a punk, but then I explain to them how they can make it better and they where happy.

  16. Yes but there’s a thin line between honesty and just being an ass.

    The key is knowing how to walk that line and provide honest, usual feedback that inspires the person receiving the feedback to make a change.

    • I agree, you want to give constructive criticism, or else you will be of no help. You want them to understand what you are talking about and how it will improve there work.

  17. Wow! I agree. In a partnership or proprietorship you must not hold back. Providing honest opinion and only taking in others opinion as the same interest as you is the key. I am also working on my website at the moment and there were a lot of criticisms about my website that I didn’t like but in order to make it better, I listened and research for better results.

    • Definitely, in order to be better you must improve constantly. To improve you have to listen to feedback not only from customers, but also from those who work with you. You may not like it, like you said but it will be worth it in the end to listen.

  18. I’ve seen a lot of entrepreneurs fall at the first hurdle on a lot of the business forums out there. They ask for an option from people they reasonably believe are a little more experienced than them, and then they ignore it.
    I once advised someone on starting a retail site, and I did warn them about the difficulties they’d have reaching their market on the Internet. They ignored me, and six months later, after thousands in investment, they went out of business.
    I think most believe they have a great idea based on what they want to do, and they ignore whether it’ll be viable or not.
    The idea of “build it and they will come” died a long time ago on the net.

    • It is too bad that your advice wasn’t taken. It happens quite often and is a shame to see a business that may have worked fail do to unwillingness to listen and change.

  19. AR @ make money online :

    Honesty is the best policy – I couldn’t agree more with you Neil, especially if you’re running a business. There will always be a time when you’re business is not doing well and may need a few adjustments to achieve its short term goals. You cannot move forward if you won’t accept the fact that you’re not really doing well for that particular period, and make every effort to fix the problem that maybe causing the downturn in your business.

    • What you have to remember is you can always be improving. I agree you can’t expect to move forward when stand still by sticking with how you have always done things. Nothing is perfect and if you think it is then you probably have some real problems. The market, customers and products are constantly changing so you need to be too in order to be a success.

  20. I’ve had to explain to people multiple times that my short emails aren’t meant to be taken so harshly. Now I find myself only looking to work with people who have thick skin.

    • It is a shame people take them that way. I would agree with trying to find others with “thicker skin” to work with. If you are too sensitive to criticism then you may not be able to cut it in the business world.

  21. hi Neil -Would you happen to know of any online group settings for entrepreneurs that can get feedback on their business? The only one I’ve heard about was 1m1m with Sramana Mitra. Thanks for your advice!

    • I don’t know of any myself but there are many ways to get feedback. Try the people around you first and if they aren’t fit to judge try emailing someone who’s opinion you respect and ask for their advice/opinion.

  22. it is always good to have advice from people who are blunt on your face rather than from people who speak goody goody things only. If you take blunt advice logically it will definitely help you rectify your mistakes and help you grow.

  23. I literally don’t know how to sugar coat things and I considered this as a negative point but now I know that it’s positive. Thanks Neil. :)

  24. Being straightforward is always best right? When I was younger I was always afraid of disappointing people, so I would sugarcoat as long as I could before I had to lay it all out. It only took a few of those scenarios to realized that everyone was a lot better off knowing what was up from the beginning, and never nearly as mad!

    • It seems that when you are young it is more appropriate to sugarcoat things. I feel it is no longer okay as adults because you should be able to deal with the reality of needing to improve to do better. In the long run upfront honesty will get you further and make you better.

  25. I thought this post was a portrayal of the advice that it gives. Be blunt and to the point. Nice Neil.

    It is funny how the technology and tools we have available to us now which are supposed to make our lives easier have made entrepreneurs crazier. We see opportunity in utilizing every tool we can to get the brand/word/sale out there that it makes it difficult to track everything and to divide our time up. So bluntness becomes the way of communicating. Some may find it rude, but I find it rudely refreshing.

    -Cheers

  26. It may take some guts being blunt to people around you, at the same time, it hurts when you hear blunt words from someone. Yet, right after the experience,it opens up your mind and you feel good about it by accepting the truth and applying it as well to yourself and to the people around you…As the saying goes, the truth will set you free..

    • It most certainly will. In the big picture it is not about being rude but about fixing things that may be wrong. Which is necessary in order to succeed in the long run.

      • Absolutely! Most successful people are blunt however, it doesn’t follow they are rude…It is a sign of integrity where there is no pretense, and adhering to the truth, one can’t go wrong.

  27. I would like those truth which will give me profit in my business.

  28. We can’t handle the truth! Son, we live in a world that has walls

    • We can handle a lot more then we give are self credit for. The human body is an organism that adapts to it’s environment. The truth should be something to be embraced and welcomed.

  29. That most important thing is not weather you can handle the truth or not, because after all you have to do it when someone is honest with you.
    I think that the most import part is whatever are you going to do after you listen to other peoples opinions. Are you able to really look at yourself?

    • I hope so, if you ignore the advice given you are not only hurting yourself, but also your business and everyone in it as well. Truth is meant to enlighten and help. If you can understand that then you will succeed.

  30. We actually told our mentor at our Startup to get tougher on us recently. We met up a few days after that and I had forgotten that I’d asked him to be tougher and so I was a little taken back when he replied ‘Why?’ (like a 4 year old) to every statement I made for a while!

  31. To be able to grow and improve, swallow your pride and put down your ego. They are big hindrances in being in success. Not only in business but also in your character or any other aspect in life. Because you could learn from them and if you’re being crushed by it, it’s just the same as accepting defeat.

    • Definitely, you have to learn to be strong and carry on. If you want to succeed then you will listen to what you need to improve in order to do that. Otherwise you don’t really want to succeed, you just want to be right.

  32. When I am mentoring my group, I have to be honest that we can’t make our goal if we keep doing bad habits.

  33. I always like to be upfront with employees and clients, and if I have to say something negative about their work, I always try to put a positive spin on things. Always offer solutions!

    • Great, I am glad you offer some insight as to how to make it work in return. That is the best way to ease the blow of honesty on people who may not be able to handle it quite so well.

  34. I dont think its being blunt, its being quick and to the point…

  35. Yes, I agree that it can be good to be blunt. And, I also know that it is a fortunate thing for me to be around people who I *can* be blunt with (without worrying about “upsetting” someone).

    • If you can find people to work with or even be around who can handle the truth then you are lucky to have them. Having those sorts of people around will allow for you and them to grow and succeed further and faster.

  36. I think being “real” is most important. You can absolutely be terse or “blunt” without sounding rude…just matter-of-fact, true to what you believe, and real.

  37. Neil – I on the other hand thought you had some sophisticated piece of software responding to your email :) – I enjoy your quick one-liner’s though. As far as honesty, *especially* when money is involved — I think it will always get skewed in someway for the benefit of your own ulterior motives/agenda. I mean look at Wall-Street. Certainly golden rules to live by though.

    On a side note, I would also like to recommend the book “Radical Honesty” by Brad Blanton. – that is: if you are brave enough to be honest.

    Thanks again neil!
    Dilanka

  38. I agree with you, we should all handle the truth. I believe in the saying that truth will set us free.

  39. christina thomas :

    If there is one truth that I am not sure I have embraced yet, it’s that I’m working on too many things at once. I wonder if it’s deceptive that I am making moderate progress month-by-month in each, and see that as somewhat successful, when if I could just focus on one it would explode…..

    • If you feel you are spreading yourself to thin and your work is suffering for it try to narrow your load down. Take a step back to evaluate your priorities and choose to continue working on the ones you feel most passionate about.

  40. Hello Neil,

    Did you ever come across any instance when you other partners felt that they did all the sales and you nothing, even when you are supporting his sales directly or indirectly.

    what would you do in that case.

    • No, I haven’t. Me and my partner have a good business relationship and both bring valuable things to the business.

      If you are having trouble I would recommend communicating with them. Try to talk with your partner to see how you can resolve or fix your current situation.

  41. I agree 100% with the premise. Execution is another matter.

    Asking someone to be brutally honest with one’s self is like asking a schizophrenic to stop trying to be someone else. Exaggeration? Yes, but I’ve found it’s often difficult to separate the ego from decision making.

    My solution is to have a trusted circle of mentors and friends that I turn to for feedback (in your case, the Board). I try to put their combined insight on the same level as mine, and allow red flags to be raised when my position differs dramatically from theirs.

    I’ve found people are more inclined to react negatively to an idea than positively, simple because of a bias against change. Just make sure these folks aren’t the mentors you seek continual feedback from.

    • You have some good suggestions. I agree you want to have people who are open to change and can be trusted. It isn’t easy being completely honest with yourself and that is why you have others around you to tell you things you may not want to tell yourself.

  42. Sometimes it is hard for people accepting that the did some mistakes and as a result you are facing certain problems or in certain circumstances. But if we take positively to someone on whom we can trust, we will see continuous improvement by truth teller.

  43. Those who listen and who can take the truth are the ones who will succeed. Though it is a common reaction to not take criticisms but those who could handle the truth are those who could handle victory :)

    • Very true, if you cannot handle the truth you will not be able to improve and therefore won’t succeed. No one likes to be criticized but those who take it and improve from it will be the people who make it.

  44. In fact, we don’t face the truth! or you can say that our pre-expectations from our business partners, client make some confusions.
    The idea is great face the Reality Not expectations

  45. This is a great advice.

    I guess I am making a mistake of sugar coat my development team. They have always been telling me everything is great.

    • If you are doing well and everything is great then it doesn’t matter. However if business is not improving then it’s time you are upfront with them and let them know what they need to do to fix it.

  46. In this economy, I agree that transparency is the best possible way to conduct business. If you are looking to start a business, franchising can be a great opportunity for transparency because their business model is already proven out and many franchisers already have established brand presence. This all makes your road to success easier and ensures that your operations stay “in the light.”

  47. Hi Neil,

    Ego has killed the dreams of many men. Being able to let go of your ego and take constructive criticism will almost always help you to improve yourself or your business.

    Great advice Neil!

    • Yep, if you want to succeed you have to swallow your ego and listen. If you don’t do what needs to be done the image the effect a failed business will have on that large ego. Listen now or you will regret it later.

  48. angelinvestor8 :

    There needs to be some sort of equilibrium between being blunt and sugarcoating. Some entrepreneurs tend to go to the extreme on both counts.

  49. Neil, I have been practicing honesty with my clients for a long time and have been giving them a clear picture which usually seems dark to them. I lost clients in the beginning, as they went to guys who would make them happy with their Link Building Servicesoffers and claims, but to my surprise half of them came back to me after getting bad results from sugar coated deals. Truth REALLY works in business.

    • Thank you fro sharing your personal experience. Everyone one wants the nice sounding deal and promises, but like they say, “When something sounds too good to be true, it most likely is.” People may not want to hear the truth all the time but when they realize how much more useful it is then they come back around.

  50. I am a colorado family law attorney and believe it or not I see people who want others to speak the truth but they can’t handle it themselves. Most of them either govern us or are our bosses. To tell the truth the first step is to accept the truth from others. That will make you honest.

  51. I like it straight up, that way I will know what if things are good I’ll continue on that path, if not so good, then I’ll just get better and keep on keeping on.

    I appreciate your post…

    Keep it real with Neil!

  52. there are many who are ready to walk the path without lies but when they see people with sugar coating are making it big time they get diverted. This is a difficult place to survive.

    • Typically people who are successful and sugar-coat things don’t last in the long run. It may be easy at first to sell people sweet ideas and advice but in the end they don’t end up woking out and then everyone is upset.

  53. I agree Neil, sugar coating things may work at first, but eventually, you’ll realize the negative results it produces and that you’ll only hurt someone or a business more if you sugar coat things. Thank you for reminding us about the importance of truthfulness and that the ‘truth can set you free’ — in this case, make business owners more successful.

  54. I like the part where someone tells you you suck and goes on to help you make millions. I’ll surely take the corrections if that would be the result.

  55. If someone comes out with truth, they will never accept at last they ends up in hiding the truth, braveness makes the man to tell the truth

  56. “Be brutally honest with yourself and others, or else you’ll just be wasting time. ”

    LOL. Dude, you have absolutely no idea of what “being honest with yourself” means. No so-called enterpreneur has. In fact, business people are some of the most self-deluded people on Earth – they have to be. After all, “being honest with yourself” means asking yourself from time to time, “how can I even start to be happy with what I have when there are children starving to death in Africa right now? What kind of person am I?”

    Acknowledging that we are animals and we need to take, from a scarce pool, the resources we need to stay alive – now that is Radical Honesty. Which the business world wouldn’t touch with a ten-foot pole, since it would raise the debate of how we decide (or do we at all?) who gets the resources and who doesn’t.

  57. Listening to truth gives you a proper feedback and then you can improve on your services/product.

    - pradeep gaur

  58. Truth will gives us right direction in our life and other circumstances

  59. I agree that there are lot of people that are self-deluded.

  60. hey neil,
    nice pieces of advices. that will definitely help us in business life as well as in personal life. thumps up.

    Thank you.

    Matt

  61. I appreciate this post Neil. Made me think on so many levels…

    Although I completely agree with “honesty being the best policy”, applying serious matters of morality in today’s business can cause its ruin if the business goal is to increase revenue. Profit is not a factor to consider when being honest with yourself and others. Wanting to make more money and being honest do not coexist.

    Think about it. When you are bluntly honest with someone two things can happen; either they’re ego is hurt or they appreciate your honesty. Both of which are EMOTIONAL. Profit boost is not an initial factor on the mind of the person receiving advice.

    Also, this moral decision can and will remain prevalent: Is being honest more important than the profitability of my business?

    Wanting to build loving relationships and helping others should be the ultimate goal of the truth.

  62. Hi,
    I end up with a smaller but stronger network on wich I can take roots and rely on. Also, I can expect the same honesty from poeple around me.

  63. Hello!,,I would like those truth which will give me profit in my business.Thanks,,,,,,,,!

  64. Great post! Confrontation is not easy for either person, but like you said, a necessary evil if you want to get better, and improve your business.

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