I have been thinking recently about some of the failures I’ve had in business (product launches and investments). I was trying to figure out if there was one common element, one mistake that was common to all of them. And I realized that for most of them, there was. The common denominator was this: In every case, I went ahead and did something that went against my gut instinct. (See Messages #311 and #312.)
However good the rationale of the business was, however great the projections, I sensed and then ignored — almost every time that I failed — something fundamentally wrong about the project. This reminded me of another problem I have. Occasionally — and it is only very occasionally — I let myself be talked into a significant investment simply because a salesman pressures me into it. I allow him to have a power over me that I don’t allow even my closest friends to have. It’s a very bad feeling.
There is a stock analyst who is on the advisory board of the Oxford Club (an investment group I highly recommend, by the way) who argues that most investors lose money because they have bad psychological habits. He makes a very compelling case that even smart people, when confronted with the actualities of fear and greed, make the wrong investment choices.
All this points to one important conclusion: Success in business and in investing has everything to do with the decisions you make. And the decisions you make depend on all kinds of emotional baggage you carry around with you. If success is directly related to emotional intelligence, is there a way to improve it? Is there a scientific method out there that could help us make better decisions by ignoring the stuff that doesn’t matter and focusing on stuff that does? Is there a way to be emotionally smart about the key decisions we make? Such as who we marry, what we do for a living, whether we treat our children right, have an affair, etc.?
I guess what I’m suggesting is that the same psychological baggage that screws up our personal lives can wreak havoc with our business and investing lives too. So here’s the business opportunity: Psychological counseling for businesspeople and investors. Personal consultations, seminars, conferences, and newsletters on how to follow your best instincts, how to avoid ever again making a foolish decision about money, and — as an added bonus — how to clean up your personal relationships and live happily for the rest of your life.
You could point out that the cost of the training and counseling will be repaid many times over — probably the first time your client is confronted with a vexing choice. You could either go into some kind of partnership with a shrink or set up your own programs and hire professionals to run them. You could do it as a nonprofit enterprise if you wanted. You could do it locally or nationally, discretely or publicly. You might even wind up with a cult following.