You’re doing it wrong
There are two responses when somebody tells you “You’re doing it wrong”. The first one is “Damn” and the second is “Fu*k you”. The first one is lame while the second one is cool. The first one is a sure bet while the second one is a gamble. Either way, that reaction tells you more about yourself than anything else.
I was doing it wrong my entire career. The content management system that I wrote for a big client used an versioning system that was “done wrong”, but it worked and was 99% less fat than the alternative. The mobile aggregation platform I pushed to my employer was “simply wrong” and in the end turned out to be a cash cow. Moving enterprise software to a virtualized environment was “over my dead body wrong” and in the end lowered overhead by more than half.
It is not about having different opinions or expectations. Arguments are the best tool you can use in a decision making process. There are arguments for and against. And what separates the “lame” from the “cool” is not whether the decision was right or wrong (that is a separation between “successful” and “unsuccessful”), but whether the path chosen was a challenge or a safe one. If you pick too much challenges, you’ll be torn. If you pick too much safe bets, you’ll be overrun.
In my latest venture, our choice of not using a predefined list of mentors was tagged as “doing it wrong”. A representative from another incubator in the region told me a couple of weeks ago that we need to invest in many startups in order to have some kind of results. I told him we will not disperse our investments and will rather target precisely. He told me “you’re doing it wrong”.
They are both right, this is not the way others are doing it and hence is “wrong”. But for me, this is a signal that we’re doing it right.
The wrong way to do it would be to pick another path just because everyone else is using the standard one. If you don’t understand why a different path would be better, you’ve already lowered your chances of success. The “why” is the argument tool you can use when fighting for your cause or protecting your decision. Human weakness is presented in a form of natural fallback to emotional response when all arguments are exhausted. An emotional response is often irrational, because it takes away any objective discussion and replaces it with a subjective one where the only arguments are feelings and not facts or opinions.
When you’re “doing it wrong”, you’re actually laying down a new path. Repeating errors somebody else made is stupid, hence listening to history classes at school is actually good. The path to disruption is to take on a path that everybody tags as “wrong”, and prove them wrong.
Take for example Michael O’Leary, CEO of Ryanair. In this speech, he explained that taking away free drinks and meals from flights was tagged as “doing it wrong” simply because people thought that is one of the main reasons people pick an airline. And they proved everyone wrong.
When somebody tells you “you’re doing it wrong”, prove them wrong. That is cool.