7 Powerful Reasons Why Learning What NOT to Do is the Best Way to Teach Entrepreneurs


When individuals of some mythical entrepreneurial standing reach a certain point in their careers, they seem to graduate and cross some invisible line where they suddenly seem to possess the authority to tell other aspiring and existing entrepreneurs what to do and how to do run their businesses.

So what exactly is it that gives them this self-appointed credibility to tell other business owners what to do? I think the easiest answer is that telling entrepreneurs what to do has been the traditional teaching method that society has grown accustomed to, so I guess as the saying goes, ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’… Well I am a firm believer that this way of teaching has been broken since the second it was implemented, and people either haven’t had the balls or the intuition to change it.

If you know anything about me or the HUSTLE BRANDING blog, you probably have come to see a pattern I have when it comes to teaching entrepreneurs, the first being that I do not believe you can ever teach an entrepreneur, only advise to the best of your ability. Even the word advise I am not a big fan of as it insinuates a level of authority and gives the illusion that you are putting yourself on a platform above, which in itself can be a fatal flaw when working with a first-time entrepreneur.

For the sake of leaving the Thesaurus aside, I will go along with the word advise for the purposes of this post. The difference, however, is that when it comes to advising, the way I do it is probably the opposite from what you may be accustomed to, as I think the only valid piece of advice we can give the start-up entrepreneur is to advise them what NOT to do. I believe that there are significant flaws in telling entrepreneurs what to do. Learning what not to do, on the other hand, is far more practical and provides several distinct advantages that will enable the entrepreneur an infinitely greater chance of success.

Here are 7 powerful reasons why this unconventional, non-traditional and reverse approach is, to my belief the best way we can teach entrepreneurs:

1. Entrepreneurs don’t like to be told what to do:

Entrepreneurs are idealistic by nature and quite simply do not like to be told what to do. That is why they forge their own paths and the sole reason why they have decided to go against the grain and start their businesses in the first place. This is one of the main reasons why learning what not to do in business is far more practical.

2. It takes the ego out of the equation:

Entrepreneurs lead with their egos and because of this, telling them what to do simply does not work, as they do not respond to authority. Learning through the experience and failure of others however, takes the ego completely out of the equation providing the entrepreneur with valuable lessons. By allowing an entrepreneur to see something that has happened to someone else, gives the entrepreneur a chance to look at the lesson from an objective standpoint.

3. Creates emotional attachment:

Once the entrepreneur’s ego is out of the equation, it will enable the individual to get engaged from an emotional standpoint. This will allow the entrepreneur to get deeper into a story and learn more from an experience because they are judging it from the outside-in. Telling entrepreneurs what to do, on the other hand, is an inside-out approach so you are hitting them in their most sensitive and defensive spot right out of the gate. Not a wise move.

4. Allows for Freedom of their own experience:

Tying back into the first point, the entrepreneur is all about his or her own journey. The more a person is told what to do, the more rebellious they become to do the exact opposite. That is where business mistakes happen. By showing entrepreneurs the mistakes made and lessons learned from someone other than themselves allows them the ability to learn, while at the same time still giving them the opportunity and freedom of their own experiences.

5. Non-threatening in nature:

Telling entrepreneurs what to do compared to advising (or making suggestions) as to what not to do is dramatically different from an authoritative standpoint. The key is for the entrepreneur to be open to suggestions, a paradox in itself, as entrepreneurs run on blinders and self-will. One can only offer suggestions to an entrepreneur and the best way to have a chance for the entrepreneur to take those suggestions is to talk about someone else’s experience.

6. There is no single blueprint for success:

Telling entrepreneurs what to do is simply not applicable as there is no single blueprint for success as all businesses are different with their own unique set of experiences and circumstances. For this reason, telling entrepreneurs what to do makes no sense. I can’t tell you how many times I have witnessed an entrepreneur taking suggestions from some ‘expert’ entrepreneur only to come back to that ‘expert’ to tell them how their suggestion didn’t work. The ‘expert’ almost invariably replies, “Well it worked for me so I don’t know what could have possibly gone wrong!”

NEWSFLASH TO EXPERT- The entrepreneur did nothing wrong as your entrepreneurial blueprint was unique to your own set of circumstances. Expecting your blueprint to work for someone else, to me, is a relatively good example of insane thinking and false expectation on your part, Mr. or Mrs. Expert!

7. Common-thread mistakes:

While every business is unique with its own distinct set of circumstances, there are many common thread mistakes entrepreneurs make that they all seem to share in common. While there is no “expert” that can accurately tell the aspiring entrepreneurs of our next generation how to live their entrepreneurial journeys, they can utilize the experiences of others to warn them what not to do; what to avoid; and what problems they may encounter along the way. Once these mistakes can be identified, it gives a much greater chance for the aspiring entrepreneur to be successful.

The reason I have such strong opinions on this issue is because it has taken an overwhelming majority of my time and focus over the last several years as I wrote a book about it, a book I actually started writing after losing my second business in 2001 and has been a labor of love for the last twelve plus years. The book, How To Ruin A Business Without Really Trying (October, 2014) focuses specifically on what not to do to help entrepreneurs in their journey towards success. The book is, to the best of my knowledge, the first book to concentrate on what not to do as its method of teaching, and uses my personal stories to highlight some prevalent and destructive mistakes entrepreneurs make when going into business for the first time.

If you are interested, download the free sample chapters by entering your information at the top right portion of this website. After you are finished reading, contact me via e-mail (see CONTACTS in menu bar) and I will schedule a brief call with you to discuss your thoughts.

That’s all for now.

Have a great day!



“MJ takes a new and exciting approach on how to teach entrepreneurs.”

Daymond John
Co-host of ABC's, 'Shark Tank'

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2 thoughts on “7 Powerful Reasons Why Learning What NOT to Do is the Best Way to Teach Entrepreneurs

  1. Dude – Curses and Kudos to you!
    This post opened me up to a major internal conversation! There are some points I totally agree with you on and a few I believe you miss on. Big right on hits and big misses. To me that’s the best content of all… it provokes the conversation and stimulates thought – which for us entrepreneurs is just the fuel to activity! The Holy Grail!
    I get it and respect your approach to helping other entrepreneurs. As a fellow entrepreneur committed to helping guiding and mentoring other entrepreneurs – I wrestle with the advice/help/coach and agree with you on how advice is limited in it’s effectiveness and that is whether it is positive DO This or Don’t Do This.
    The paradox here for me is it is like raising a child. There comes a certain point you cant TELL them anything! Can you say teenager!
    Helping another entrepreneur is almost like raising a kid… Given the opportunity and responsibility – you help them build a strong foundation. You Tell, You Warn, You Show, You Reward, You Punish (consequences) and then they fly on their own and learn the longest lasting learnings by their own actions. Helping entrepreneurs is like raising kids – you do the best you can, sometimes you have to adjust your strategies, there is no one-way-fits-all. There is a universal law here though I think… it is what you do and have done speaks louder than what you say. Kids are the strongest mirrors and reminders for this…
    So Curses for the mind spin opportunity (LOL) and Kudos for the spark and much Kudos for what you do each day – helping us all…
    Rock On

    1. Thanks Glenn for such an informative comment. I think the part where you said about “what you do and have done speaks louder than what you say…” is very much in line with my thinking, as it is all about learning through the experience of others. I think it is critical to point out that, while experience is the best teacher, when you have already started your company and the stakes are for real, seemingly little mistakes can destroy your business. This is why I try to get people to try to identify potential mistakes in advance by seeing the mistakes that others have made. My belief in this stems from the extreme loss of time and money myself, having lost my first two businesses by 2001 due to reasons I would have never that of to bring a company down so quickly. Turns out, they were simple mistakes that many entrepreneurs make that could have easily been avoided…. and I love your analogy of the teenager… kind of like the father, son and the snake in my beginning of my book (I know you downloaded the chapters so I assume you know what I am referring to!)… Have a great day my friend and thanks again! Best- MJ

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