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One of the most dangerous things that True Believers do in business is when they start bolting on blinders. They are setting themselves up for failure and ensuring that any recovery will be a long, hard road.

Anyone who has read Eric Hoffer’s “The True Believer” will recognize that these cult members don’t start off as fanatics, but gradually become so. And to the extent that they lock their minds out of any other business possibilities or alternatives, they bolt on those figurative blinders. Recovery from any cult is fraught with agonizing adjustments, like a drug addict going through cold turkey, and the business true believer is not immune.

I remember talking with an acquaintance who was a failing insurance salesmen (that was before they stuck the ridiculous label of “Financial Planner” on their greasy foreheads.) In spite of the fact that he acknowledged that he was slipping down into bankruptcy, he adamantly refused to consider an alternative “occupation,” let along any other business opportunity. He “loved” his “calling” too much, he told me.

True Believers refuse to see anything wrong in their business, even when it is staring them in the face and hitting them over the head with a heavy saucepan. They refuse to criticize because they no longer enjoy critical or objective thinking. Blind loyalty is further fueled by unhealthy group dynamics.

True Believers refuse to accept that nothing in business lasts forever. After 28 years in business, I have witnessed too many organizations change, close down, reinvent themselves, get sold, go bankrupt, change their compensation plans, fire their top people, lay others off, turn into Ponzi schemes, and disappear to believe that any of them will last forever, but a true believer simply won’t accept that.

And so he or she will bolt on the blinders – invest everything, refuse Plans B or C, risk everything, and even when the fire engines and police and bankruptcy trustees are at the door, they keep on believing, hoping, making excuses, overlooking, and investing.

My message? Wake up. Plans B and C are essential. You don’t have to be distracted, but you regularly need to take a long, hard look at the business you’re involved with, preferably with the help of an intelligent, experienced outsider. Check your lifeboats and fix the fire escape. Maintain relationships outside of your current business; don’t burn the wrong bridges. Reduce risk. Remain mentally flexible and open minded. That way, you will survive to fight another day.

The only constant in life is change. Embrace it.

Robin Elliott LeverageAdvantage.com

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