When I first started out in business, as a budding entrepreneur/investor, I had no mentor or role model or beaten path to follow. I was making it up as I went along, feeling my way forward. As a result, I ferociously consumed business books, looking for nuggets of information I could cobble together to help me find my way.
I found much that helped me, but for a while I was confused. Many people writing about their own businesses didn’t seem to have serious problems, at least not real problems, the ones that keep you awake at night, or that stalk the back roads of your mind, or keep you peering endlessly into a deep fog that never seems to part, or wrestling with choices that seem like frying pan to the left and roaring fire to the right. Life appeared a lot easier and clearer in most of the books than the challenges I faced running my business.
Then it hit me. It’s like a restaurant: The front dining room (presentation) is quiet and serene, the kitchen in back (reality), where the real work is done, is often chaotic and noisy. Many writers, either to burnish their image of infallibility, or under the old dictum of business as warfare and “never let them know it hurts,” chose only to show the sunny side, to spurn the telling of “the rest of the story.” Perhaps, to be kind, things often seem a lot simpler in retrospect and the sharp memory of the confusion and uncertainty of a moment gets lost in the bright light of ultimate success (the failures rarely get book contracts).
That epiphany about dining rooms and kitchens left me with a life-long curiosity to “tour kitchens,” to search out the rest of the story, to never accept statistics in isolation, but to know the entire supporting/surrounding data as well.