Getting to "yes" in a world of "no"…


Unless you have heard of Transactional Analysis (‘TA’), you probably don’t know that an “until script” is a behaviour (anti-)pattern with the (somewhat damaged) subtext “I can’t be happy until [insert unrealistic condition here]”. Basically, this is a fake justification people use on themselves to try to avoid taking responsibility for their own happiness, e.g.

  • “I can’t be happy until I get some kind of parental approval” – just about every child ever
  • “I can’t be happy until I get to the end of my degree course” – just about every student ever
  • “I can’t be happy until this project has finished” – just about every programmer ever
  • “I can’t get a proper contract until my probation period ends” – just about every employee ever
  • “We cannot prosper without an extended period of austerity first” – just about every government in 2012

Of course, you don’t have to dig very deep to find the entrepreneur version of all this…

  • My startup can’t prosper until it gets funding

I suspect that this points to something deeply broken in the contemporary entrepreneurial psyche. For at heart, the damaged emotional neediness of pitching for angel funding is nothing less than a über-until-script, i.e. Entrepreneur X can’t be happy until he/she has put together a funding round.

At its most excruciatingly awful, then, entrepreneurs pitching to business angels are pretty much on a par with unhappy children trying increasingly desperate measures to get attention from grossly neglectful parents. Realistically, in neither case is there a strong likelihood of a heart-warming outcome: however hopeful or optimistic you may be, positive thinking ain’t going to shift that particular mountain.

So… if “until scripts” (such as pitching for funding) aren’t any good, what’s the alternative?

Well, I think all of this points to one simple (yet brutally unfashionable and no less hard to swallow) truth: that any business plan that involves raising funding as a necessary step to operating success is inherently broken. Bust. Cracked. Dead In The Water. NBG.

Rather, the best paths to business success all steer their primary routes through self-reliance and customer-focused organic growth – your primary focus should be on building modestly self-sustaining businesses, yet ones that also have the capacity and vision to grow and scale rapidly in a best-case scenario. Is this do-able? Gosh, yes! But you’ll first need to unlearn the business school “lesson” that external funding is the only way to build a successful business – when in fact, it may well be the worst.

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