Losing idealism

Entrepreneurs must depart from "business as usual" in order to succeed. Those whom I mentor routinely get hold of some big idea and chase after it with a vengeance. Entrepreneurs are prone to this idealism, in part, because it's an energizing state of mind. Amidst all the adversity, setbacks and problems, the emotional impact of idealized possibilities is downright encouraging.

Idealism is a perilous state of mind. As a mentor, I am constantly in the position of seeing the imminent dangers. Their big ideas look to me like bubbles that will get burst in a world of pins and needles. From my detached perspective, their inflated ideas appear as grandiosity, and self-delusion. The situation appears as a set-up to reenact the pattern of "those who exalt themselves shall be humbled".

When bubbles get burst, hopes get shattered. It feels like we've fallen off our high horse and bit the dust. Our fall from grace leaves us in disgrace. We experience a crisis of confidence, a loss of certainty and a change in outlook. We no longer know which perceptions to trust, which thinking to rely on and which urges to follow.

To the entrepreneurs caught up in idealism, the big ideas appear enlivening, inspiring and motivating. My practical outlook does not get a warm reception. Forecasting their downfall appears cynical, pedantic or hostile. I'm faced with a dilemma at this point. Their improved energy level is as important to me as their facing the inevitable consequences of their inflated ambitions, expectations and assessments. I've learned to trust the unfolding process that works things out with perfect timing.

The world defeats idealism when support is available to pick up the pieces. Shattered hopes call for a bigger picture. Disorienting feedback begs for a more inclusive frame of reference. Indications of poor judgment, a misdiagnosis, and over-estimations of potential -- all create demand for a broader perspective. In my experience, mentoring really begins when a bubble has been burst by happenstance.

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