How to handle the “must mafia”

38-MustMafia-Pic#2-09MAY2016The bar to becoming an “expert” these days is pretty low. Write a few blogs, self-publish a book, do a few podcast interviews, sell a product online, get quoted in your local news, make a little money with a side-hustle and poof…you are an expert.

With the rise of the “expert,” also comes the rise of the “must mafia.” Who are these people? They are the “experts” who build an audience and a following by convincing you that you “must” do this or you “should” be doing that. The softer version of this is, “you ought to consider…”

Here are a few examples:

  • “You must reorganize your cap table when…”
  • “You need to focus on one revenue stream before you…”
  • “You should use these hiring questions because…”
  • “You ought to consider using facebook dark posts to drive traffic because…”
  • “You should really try this new org structure because it works for…”

You get the picture. Their way of leading, their technology, their secret sauce, their approach, their experience, and their mindset will “change your life and business.” Oh yes, my favorites are the former business executives, former “big exit” entrepreneurs, former military officers, or former, fill in the blank, who write their memoirs and fill their pages with their “shoulds,” “musts”, “need tos” and “oughts.”

Many have written and spoke about a sister phenomena, “mentor whiplash.” My friend Mike Bott speaks about it with eloquence. Fred Wilson has written about it. And, Brad Feld has weighed in too. It’s often hard to discern between competing ideas from quality experts. However, I’m talking about those “experts” whose advice, help, and thoughts you admire and respect, but whose advice frequently moves unnecessarily to the “should” spectrum.

I guess you could say that I don’t like to be “should upon.” Maybe it’s my high need for freedom or the entrepreneurial spirit that runs through my veins. I am not sure. But, I have witnessed how the “must mafia” impacts you, the Founding CEOs that I work with and interview on my podcast. It can be confusing. It can be demoralizing. And, it can be counter productive.

You may be thinking that I am a “relativist.” No, I believe in many “universal truths” like kindness, compassion, honor, prudence, justice, courage, and love. There is a practical point I am making.

Founding CEOs like you benefit greatly from mentors, teachers, mastermind groups, books, etc. I think it’s extremely helpful to tap into all that “experts” can offer. However, when you are sitting across the table from your mentor or Skyping with an “expert,” it can be challenging to channel their “musts” into relevance for you.

Below are some tips that might help you handle the “must mafia.”

  • Ask them if they can help you understand how their “should” relates to your specific circumstances.
  • Encourage them to talk through what would happen if their “must” doesn’t happen.
  • Invite them to share an example of how their “need to” played out in their personal experience.
  • Talk them through your perceived impact of their “ought to” in your company and ask them if they see it that way too.
  • Thank them for their input and share their “must” with another advisor, “expert” or your team and see how they react.
  • Listen, demonstrate gratitude, discern if it is applicable to you…if not, be gracious and ignore their “should.”

Most of the time, the “must mafia” mean well. They just may forget that your company is unique, you are unique, and past performance is not necessarily an indicator of future performance. Hmm. Sounds like an investment disclaimer. 🙂

How do you handle the “must mafia?”

Please share your thoughts below.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.