Tips for Entrepreneurs: The emperor’s new clothes

‘But mommy,” the little boy said, “the emperor has no clothes!”

Overwhelmed anxious businessman 390 (photo credit: Thinkstock/Imagebank)
Overwhelmed anxious businessman 390
(photo credit: Thinkstock/Imagebank)
‘But mommy,” the little boy said, “the emperor has no clothes!” No matter what culture or background you come from, The Emperor’s New Clothes is one of the most famous and popular stories in the world. And the phrase, “The emperor has no clothes,” taken from the classic children’s tale is one of the most famous quotes from the story.
It is so popular because every human being sees the emperor, oddly enough, in themselves.
My dear reader, you might be a doctor, one of the best in the country. Or you may be an excellent and well-respected and known practitioner in whatever profession you are in. But deep inside you feel that you are not as good as people think.
While doctors do have that extra fear about “No matter what I do I might be sued,” I’m talking about a different fear. I’m talking about the insecurity inside you that reminds you that no matter how excellent people say you are, you don’t believe you are as good as your reputation. No matter how happy your clients are, you sometimes feel like you are insufficiently capable of truly doing what others say you do well. You live fearing that someone will point at you and say: “The emperor has no clothes!”
Pretty much all of us suffer from this malady. Even after I was consulting for major clients and speaking professionally at conferences, I myself had this little voice in my mind, telling me “You’re just bluffing!” It was only in the last year or so, that I understood this issue well.
After helping one of America’s top physicians, a man twice my age with twice my experience, with a tremendous business challenge, I still had the uncomfortable feeling that I didn’t know quite enough. I thought to myself, maybe I should get an MBA. (Aside from Bachelor’s degree in Talmudic Law, which isn’t exactly relevant for business strategy, never mind social media, I don’t have a business degree!)
I felt like I knew a lot. I know others thought so, too. One client alone has consulted with me for over 140 hours – so I knew that they were obviously receiving value. Yet, no matter how I reflected on my clients and their successes due to my advice, the feeling I wasn’t as good as others told me I was, wouldn’t go away.
During this time, I met an expert in Azerbaijani oil fields named Joseph Sherman, who has an MBA from Ecole de Management de Marseille. We became friends – after meeting via thought, media and business guru Seth Godin’s website,
Joseph has an impressive background and an MBA. Here was a true expert I thought! I hoped to learn and gain more insights that would help me continue to enhance my own skills. Here was a chance to help clients even more and see where I really stood!
I thought all these things only to find out that while he had learned a good many concepts (and math, which is not my forte) that would help businesses in many ways, when it came to practical, hand on nuts and bolts business strategy and marketing advice, He was learning from me.
He advised me not to waste my time and energy on business school. The only thing I truly needed was not more education and credentials, or a fancy vellum certificate and a gold seal. I just needed to alleviate my own feelings of unworthiness. I thought about this and realized how ready I was to hand my power and my money to someone else that I thought could help me, when what I needed was simply to trust myself.
So let me pass along the secret of the universal truth of the emperor’s new clothes to you all. The first fact is, underneath our white lab coats, suits, or Chassidic bekeshes, we are all the same.
We all feel vulnerable, exposed; unworthy and unskilled no matter what degrees, credentials or expertise we’re “wearing.”
The second fact is facts matter more than feelings. Have you ever walked past a mirror on a day when you felt pretty good? You look at yourself and say, “What a handsome fellow I am!” But 30 minutes later, after bad news or something discouraging happening, you can look in the same mirror and think, “Oy! I’m fat, or old, or I sure look tired.” The fact is you are the same. Your feelings changed, so your thoughts changed. The facts did not.
Business is the same way. When you have a customer yell at you, or fire you, or complain, you think, “The emperor has no clothes. Who am I fooling?” When customers love you, you feel like a king! The universal truth behind the emperor’s new clothes is that everything is about perception – your perception!
So sit down. Evaluate your business based on facts. Are you still in business? Are people buying from you? Do you have people telling you that you’re wonderful? Then believe them. The same person (you!) who tells your self “the emperor has no clothes,” is the same person who can say: “The emperor has plenty of clothes and looks good in them.”
It’s up to you to decide, but realize you are not alone and take comfort in that fact.
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Issamar Ginzberg is a rabbi, businessman, public speaker and marketer.