Are you hopeful or delusional?

May 17, 2019
Are you hopeful or delusional?

Are you hopeful or delusional?

Coaching an entrepreneur

I was coaching a for-profit start-up founder who had just embarked on his journey. He had a solution that would have benefitted many school and college students…or so he thought. To be fair to him, he had worked diligently on the idea. He had developed the solution after some research including surfing the internet for comparable global solutions. He had learned from those ideas as well while crafting his solution.

It was time to begin the pilot phase. I had entered the engagement at this point.

When we went over the plan, I realized that he was bubbling with enthusiasm. He had projected the price point, the turnover, the profits, the city where the pilot would begin and how the solution would be implemented in other cities. He had identified some partners with whom he could collaborate, how his social media strategy would play out and how he would begin hiring a team to support this endeavor.

Critical element missing

However, my sense was that he had missed a critical element: what was the ‘real problem’ that he was solving? Was there a ‘real problem’ at all? If yes, was his solution likely to resolve this ‘real problem’? Were his customers willing to pay him for the services at this price point? Would his solution be sorely missed by the customer if, hypothetically, he suspended the delivery of those services?

Coaching is also about asking the right questions.

Reality check

I wanted him to get a good reality check. I proposed that he meet with a reasonable number of potential customers (in this case, educational institutions) and discuss the solution and the pricing with them. He would get an idea of their appetite.

Appearing defensive, he claimed that he had bounced this idea off his friends who thought it was just great. In fact, many of them had volunteered to introduce him to their alma mater. He was very sure this was a great idea whose time had come.

I felt he was too inward-focused. He was reluctant to acknowledge the role of a principal constituent that mattered in this case – the customer. In him, I saw that person who keeps putting off the visit to the doctor, lest something shows up.

We believe because we want to!

I kept pushing him. Finally, he made a list of a few school and college authorities and promised to meet with them.

A week later, I received a call from him. He sounded dull. He wanted to meet me.

‘Customer’ feedback

At the meeting, he was downcast. His enthusiasm was missing. He explained to me that the school and college authorities who he had met liked his services but not enough to pay for them. They would gladly open the doors for the services if they were offered free of cost.

He decided to go back to the drawing board. But I realized that even now, it had not occurred to him that any solution needs to solve the customers’ real problem in a manner that the customer sees value for the money spent. He was still hoping to make some small tweaks to the services and launch the pilot. In my view, he was delusional.

My Quote #53 says, ‘Hope is not an option. It is the engine of Life. It is what keeps us going.’

While this Quote applies to everyone, it applies more so to entrepreneurs who are always stepping into unknown waters armed with an idea and their hope. They are determined to succeed.

Are you hopeful or delusional?

There is a distinction between being hopeful and being delusional. It is important to understand this distinction.

In my view, an effective reality check is an entrepreneur’s right. A reality check is like a medical check-up. Instead of assuming (and hoping) that things are fine, why not check it out? Even a piece of unfavorable news is good news because it protects an entrepreneur’s investment. However, if the news is positive, it helps the entrepreneur go forth with more vigor and determination.

An entrepreneur needs to come out of his delusion and embrace reality.

Efforts are laudable but if they continue to not produce the desired results, they are a waste.

Let’s not be under any delusion. What matters is results in the real world.

Just go back to the drawing board and check it out: are you hopeful or delusional?


In my case, when I stepped out of corporate life 5 years ago after putting in over 30 years, I prepared for a year before stepping out. I met with ‘customers’ sounding off my idea. Since I had wanted to support non-profits, I also met with non-profit Leaders during this period to check out the reality – if the skills that I brought to them would be valued. As a part of my strategy, I took on a full-time role in a non-profit in a leadership role to understand this world. All of this was my way to get a solid reality check. While I certainly wanted to hear the good news, I was ready for the bad news, as well.

Today, when I offer my services as a consultant-coach and facilitator for a fee, I know I am standing on firm ground, thanks to having had a solid reality check.

Whether you are in a career or on your own, a reality check is invaluable. Interested to get a reality check for yourself? Contact me for one-on-one coaching at [email protected] 

Let’s get you the results…the real ones.

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