13. Avoid all the people who would rather pull you back. If you can't avoid them, hum loudly while they're talking to you.  


When things are going well, or even when they just begin to look up, you're going to find some people who are jealous, spiteful or - and this is more common - simply uncomfortable with seeing you taking risks that they have avoided themselves.

We're all human and we've all felt envy for others, or wanted to hold them back in our own safe world instead of watching them move out into something broader and more risky. I'm not saying that someone who does that is bad or malicious or even necessarily all that conscious of the way they're trying to hold you back. I'm just saying that it happens and it's a hazard to look out for.

Year ago, I formed my own unofficial, independent little group of user-interface designers right in the middle of one of the major tech research labs in the UK. At the time I just wanted to get on with some decent work with good people. Nowadays, I recognise that I did what Seth Godin would describe as building a tribe. The tribe we made in that place was amazing - for a couple of years we did remarkable work that changed things. It's notable how most of the people involved went on to quite glossy design careers. We learned, we worked - with passion and fascination for what we were doing - and we did things beyond what any one of us could have done alone. In work terms, I still look back on it as one of the most productive periods of my working life.

So how did people at "the Labs" (I won't give the actual name of the corporate but if you know the telecoms industry in the UK you'll easily guess) respond to this? Well, to my surprise at the time, they mostly criticised, challenged, tried to form their own carbon-copy competing groups and, in the end, managed to have us dissolved. They took a brilliantly functional, efficient and innovative group and - deliberately destroyed it. Makes them sound horrid, yes? Well, they weren't. There were some genuinely nice, well-meaning, clever researchers among them. But they saw the building of something that not only didn't fit, but that also worked amazingly well - and their reaction was to tear it down. That's not uncommon.

Noticeable success - especially if it's done in a whole new way that doesn't "fit" - can be threatening. Many people will react to that by throwing hurdles in your way -and occasionally worse. Your fun and your satisfaction may be someone else's threat.

So - decide now that as your small business grows and thrives (okay, maybe slower than it would without this financial crisis, but let's be confident and say that it will thrive) influence from people who want to prevent your success, even for the most well-meaning reasons, are not what you need. Learn to avoid them. If you actually work with them or - God forbid - they are family members or close friends - learn to ignore them.

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