Gary Whitehill, Founder of Entrepreneur Week, Embraces His Inner Critic

Birds from Brain Photo by Mika Baumeister on Unsplash
Photo by Mika Baumeister on Unsplash

The Hardwired Brain

Your brain is hardwired from a hundred thousand years ago. You had a fight or flight syndrome back there.  Your brain is hardwired to sleep, eat and produce, try to survive, and keep your lineage going. Evolutionary-wise your brain doesn’t want you to take risks. 

It has become a self-reinforcing negative because it doesn’t want you to take risks — and entrepreneurship by definition is insanely risky.  There is the pain and frustration of not being able to execute an idea or feeling bad about yourself, and all that negativity is in your head.

Ninety percent of the problems in business have nothing to do with skillset and everything to do with what’s in your head. Nobody talks about it; you don’t read it in school ever. You learn how to build a business, but you can’t build a business unless you are on the right path.  Most people don’t even realize that there are tools, techniques, and people out there that know the right way to free your mind to be able to be as efficient and effective as you can as an entrepreneur.

Gary Whitehill and Kevin Buckley
Gary Whitehill and Kevin Buckley

Don’t Be Too Hard on Yourself

My advice is, don’t be too harsh on yourself. It’s natural to feel this way.  You can’t push it away because it only compounds itself; understand that you need to embrace it and that it’s always going to be there. You just have to talk with it. It sounds really funny to talk to something that talks to you in your head, but that is the reality – it never goes away.  It’s literally hardwired into our DNA.

I’ve had tons of failures in my life, including one in the skincare industry. At the time that business fell, I didn’t beat myself up from the perspective that I couldn’t do it. But the business failing really had an effect on one of the co-founders who had three children and had double mortgaged her house. 

So it wasn’t a personal inner critic for me, but it was a learning curve.  It takes a lot of self-reflection, being realistic with yourself, sitting back, and not trying to push it away.  

Gary’s Five Pieces of Advice

  • Pay attention to what your inner critic is telling you. You can only act on problems if you admit they exist.
  • Sit down when you have a quiet moment, and write the problem down on a piece of paper.
  • List the pros and cons of not acting on the issue. Consider the cost of not rectifying the problem and what it will do to your reputation. List everything that can go wrong if you don’t take action. Usually, you will find that the only pros will be saving time and money, in the short term. If you want to be a success as an entrepreneur, you need to think long-term.
  • List possible solutions to the problem. Write down as many as come to mind within 5 minutes.
  • Decide on a solution and execute.

So many people try to push it away – they go out with their friends, play video games, go to movies or engage in different behaviors.  And all of that compounds the problem. You really have to face your demons – and understand that they are always going to be there. 

There are always two paths, and somewhere – where that edge is – it’s gray.  If you fail, all you can do is do what you think is best at that moment. You just can’t give up and take one path because you’re not willing to face what might come.

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