Serial tech startup rock star, small business owner, consultant, church plant pastor – doesn’t matter. We’re all entrepreneurs. While we’re certainly wired differently and may start and run different ventures, we’re all part of the same species.
So we share the same challenges – like how to deal effectively with stress.
That’s why we’re currently studying how stress affects the entrepreneur’s decision-making process and how it impacts the outcome of those decisions. Each of us responds differently under stress: Some freeze, some shoot from the hip, others take a step back to get more information… regardless of how you respond, stress definitely affects how effectively you make decisions.
Here’s the main problem: High stress decision-making comes with the territory of being an entrepreneur. But there isn’t a training ground for how to make those decisions under stress – at least not yet.
I first started thinking about high stress decision-making during a Starbucks meeting with Essan Soobratty, a brilliant, articulate, and seasoned trader working here in Chicago. He described the massive amount of research done on how elite, high risk-taking careers like hedge fund traders, elite military forces, rescue personnel, and fighter pilots make decisions.
He helped me connect an important dot that will have a huge impact on entrepreneurs in the future.
The primary job requirement in high risk-taking professions is the ability to perform in predictable and repeatable ways even while experiencing inhumane levels of stress.
Traders make high-stress decisions (often within seconds) while putting millions and billions of dollars at risk.
Fighter pilots endure tremendous amounts of physical and psychological stress while making split-second decisions that impact lives.
Elite forces like firemen, SWAT officers, Navy SEALS and Army Rangers train for countless hours to simulate the incredible amount of pressure they face in real-life engagements.
Without significant amounts of vetting, selection, development, and consistent, ongoing training, these individuals will make the wrong decisions – and at a tremendous cost:
Imagine the consequences of a firefighter who steps into a five-alarm fire after a weekend of initial training.
Or worse yet, a sub-standard Navy SEAL tasked with taking on a terrorist compound halfway around the world while protecting his team.
Or imagine being an emergency room physician dealing with multiple high-risk patients within a 10-minute window and making life-changing decisions with very little information on hand.
Expertise, competence, experience and confidence are everything in those situations.
Now imagine being a first-time entrepreneur facing a major financial, human capital or legal setback who must make a timely decision – with no preparation, training, or experience.
The outcome could be devastating.
And usually is.
Which leads us to a question I continue to pose to the entrepreneurial eco-system:
“Why is the frustration and failure rate in entrepreneurship stagnant or getting worse despite massive improvements in access to information and support?”
Part 1 of the answer is definitely Entrepreneurial DNA; people who select the wrong businesses, run them incorrectly, and engage with people, providers and insight not optimal for who they really are.
It is becoming apparent to me that Part 2 of the answer is a total and complete lack of proper simulation/pre-launch training to prepare the entrepreneur (or budding entrepreneur) to make high-stress, split-second decisions in a cool, composed, and predictable manner – just like a fighter pilot.
If elite forces, emergency room physicians, hedge fund traders, and fighter pilots benefit from high-stress cognitive training – so can entrepreneurs.
We’re working hard this summer at BPI to build the ultimate entrepreneurship simulator to allow entrepreneurs from every industry and walk of life to step in and build expertise and competence. The predictable kind of expertise!
And we’re looking for experts, researchers, technologists and guinea pigs to help us with this massive initiative.
Feel free to toss yourself in the fire with us if you’re up for it. You’ll learn a lot – and I promise it will be fun!