Trust people but not circumstances

Are babies good or bad?

It’s a silly question.

Yet, the scientists at Yale University based their studies on infants to determine if people have an internal compass in understanding if a person is appealing or aversive. It turns out – we do, right from the beginning. The study’s results suggest that even from the youngest age, we humans have a sense of right and wrong, and an instinct to prefer good over evil.

Most people aren’t inherently bad – at least that’s what I’d like to believe. Sure, you can easily make a case that our natural drive for self-preservation (especially personal gratification in these interconnected times) goes against society’s perception of being good and living in harmony. 

But just as there is no such thing as bad babies, deep inside, we all have a true self that is good-natured, caring, and curious.

It’s the surroundings that tend to get in the way of our true selves and mess us up in different ways.

Peek behind the curtains

Entrepreneurship is a team sport so by default, you’re sort of preconfigured to believe in the integrity of others.

If you want to be in a mature and sustainable business, trust the people but not the circumstances because that’s what partnership is about, for the most part. Social evaluation is a constant process of adaptation, which is why you can’t take anything for granted.

Let’s say your partner in crime is going through a tough time and it’s wreaking havoc on his financial situation. So, they’re edgy because there is a pressing need for money – so they want to sell the company. At that moment, you find yourself in a position where your partner is against you, in a way – not because of you or whatever you did but because the circumstances changed.

It’s not a bad person you’re dealing with now – it’s just that they’re in survival mode, redefining their self-interest.

During one of my early entertainment ventures, I remember two friends who partnered up and started a kind of concierge business. The two were very much alike at the time – young, single, and with a huge zest for life. They were hanging out all the time, having fun while growing the business – until one of them met his future wife and married her. 

Then, he became annoying from the other partner’s POV because he couldn’t stay long hours to brainstorm new plans, help develop a long-term strategy, and so on. The fights started and they grew apart, with the partnership ending amicably. Years after, the friendship is still there – but their partnership couldn’t survive the context it found itself in.

There are countless such examples, where both the mental and emotional health of people involved alter and begin affecting professional and personal relationships.

Make no mistake – of course, there are bad, evil people in this world. I just like to believe that most of them are complicated because something is going on in the background. Broken trust can be mended over time – but no trust can’t create anything.

How to mitigate the risks of circumstances

Every great entrepreneur understands that a huge part of the entrepreneurial mindset is understanding and accepting uncertainty.

So, think about how things can go sideways. Envision as many scenarios as you can where every step of the way goes off the beaten path bit by bit. 

I understand that I can’t control every situation, especially in this rapidly moving entrepreneurial world of ours. People will disappoint you, sometimes often, sometimes rarely – but they will. It’s not because they’re bad people or anything but because there are so many variables you can’t affect.

One thing that routinely helps me in similar situations is picturing what the worst-case scenario is, then solving it.

The idea is that if you factor in the uncertainty and the unknown, then you reduce the number or severity of problems. Think of everything as it goes down the shithole and hedge yourself with a few different creative solutions.

Next, communicate, communicate, and communicate with your partners. Trust is a relational concept, which is why open communication is vital. It’s easy to play the blame game – try not to get to that point. Talk about the hypothetical shit and take it off the table. In entrepreneurship, you can’t allow yourself to be in the status quo because sooner or later, that hypothetical shit will hit the fan. 

What happens if your partner doesn’t have enough money or time? What is plan B if plan A doesn’t work? Address anything relevant to your future goals. Circumstances will breed mistrust over the years because you can never 100% trust the accountability of a person when there are so many things that can change. 

Next, take time when getting to know people. Some people like to take risks by default; others are naturally cautious. I guess the best zone to be in is somewhere in the middle: have enough faith that things will work out while retaining your sense of safety and security. Otherwise, by trusting too quickly or not at all, you’ll be stuck in a loop.

Seek professional help if need be. There is no shortage of instances where trust issues meddle with your business. Maybe some underlying conditions are causing arguments or problems in your partnership, so hashing it out with a licensed pro could be helpful.

Final thoughts

There’s a neat concept of ‘trust battery’, courtesy of Shopify’s CEO Tobias Lütke. For instance, when a new member joins your team, the trust battery between you two starts at around 50%. With each interaction, the trust battery is either charged or discharged, based on whether you deliver what you promise or not.

Every time we interact with someone, we are subconsciously impacting the level of our mutual trust battery, which affects how we respond to people.

Look at trust as a measure of the quality of a relationship, whether it’s between two people, specific groups, or between a person and an entire company. When you know exactly what to expect, then the question of trust doesn’t arise.

However, business is a really long journey where even closing a company takes a year or more, let alone growing it. A lot of things happen, from market turbulence to changing business models that creates a fertile ground for distrust.. Trust is the foundation of most health, including that of a business, so gaining the ability to effectively and mindfully trust others helps – big time.

About the Author
Ronen Menipaz is an Israeli investor, entrepreneur, tech advisor, and founder of numerous business ventures in the entertainment, adtech, and fintech space, as well as the co-host of the Real Life Superpowers podcast. During his 25 years of entrepreneurial experience, Ronen has been involved with over 100 startups in Israel, 30 of which he founded or co-founded. Two of those startups went public, while five were sold and four more are currently privately profitable companies.
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