You’re Lying To Yourself

My coaching call with Penelope Trunk

I recently had a coaching call with Penelope Trunk, founder of four start-ups and known for her no-bullshit viewpoints.

She absolutely destroyed me on the call — as I knew she would. Because that’s what she does for many, many people, and what I was paying for: someone to give it to me straight.

I’m not normally one to do coaching calls, but when I heard the way she destroyed Steve at End the Grind and I agreed with everything she said, part of me wanted that, too. (If you have a minute, listen to it — as someone else noted, “the hilarity of their contrasting styles starts around minute 10 or 12,” and just goes on from there. Brutal.)

She told him that sharing the podcast they’d recorded would be amazing marketing for his blog — and it was — but it was also marketing for her. Because a few months later, I signed up for the same thing.

Here were my biggest takeaways:

You’re Bullshitting Yourself

Penelope started the call by asking me what I wanted to talk about. I told her, “how to build my next business idea.”

“What is it?” She asked.

And I told her, “I don’t know yet.” I mean, I built one before and it went pretty well, but that’s done now. And now I want another but am back at square one with what to do.

And she told me that I was lying to myself. Because without an actual idea, “this is a moot conversation.”

“You have no particular drive to do anything.”

Entrepreneurs and executives are either ideas people or people who execute. Ideas people are overwhelmed with the sheer number of ideas, and those who execute don’t really need one — they’ll deliver on anything.

If you’re in between or neither, it’s because you’re bullshitting. The issue of “needing an idea” is moot. The issue is either culling a bunch down to one or optimizing on it. Anything else is fabrication.

These hopes and dreams that we all hold on to — of one day “finding an idea” — are bullshit. It’s all fantasyland if there’s no action behind the scenes — like, already. Like, always. Like our whole lives. Not someday. Not in our heads.

“You’re gonna sit around for five years waiting for an idea? You don’t have one! You could execute anything, but the problem is you won’t.”

Daydreaming isn’t action, and planning and hoping and wishing and telling our friends and family is not action, either. All of that is fake, and we’re not going to wake up one day and be special. Most of us are ordinary.

By the time you’re in your 30’s, you are what you’re going to be for the rest of your life.

Trunk tells her clients,

“You’re not gonna find anything — the reason I know this is because you’re in your 30’s and didn’t.”

We already are who we’ll become.

As an aside: money is never rational

I always thought money was a good, clean market measurement — like, I care zero percent about material goods, but care a lot about market valuation and whether something is performing on the market.

This, apparently, is not how entrepreneurs or executives think. Because entrepreneurs and executives are NTs, and NTs don’t care about money. Not even market valuation.

“There is no way to care about money unless you care about impressing others. The only ones who care about money are S’s and F’s.”

NTs only care about generating ideas (NTPs) or solving problems (NTJs.)

If you aren’t overwhelming with the sheer amount of ideas, or want specifics on fine-tuning the execution of a problem, you’re not an NT — so you’re not an entrepreneur or executive.

You only like the idea of it. You don’t like what it is deep down.

Any motivation for money automatically disqualifies us from being a true NT — so we might as well assume our rightful seat at the S / F table.

But now that we’re there, what do we do?

Two options

And both of them involve relinquishing the pursuit of money, even disguised as “market value,” as well as our death grip on values.

(1) Force yourself to fucking pick something

Admit that nothing will ever be perfect, that an idea will not magically come to us, that working on our own thing is going to be even harder than working on someone else’s and with more risk and potentially less reward.

“You need to feel strongly about something to push yourself through life.”

Pick a cookie and take a bite.

(2.) Admit you’ll never pick something and have kids

Spoiler alert: Penelope Trunk will tell you to have kids. I read her blog, so I knew this going in.

But I still laughed when she told me: “There’s nothing left — you should have kids.”

“A lot of people have kids because they don’t feel strongly about anything else.”

And, she made it clear, I’m no exception. Because none of us are. (Herself included.)

That, and kids come with meaning ready-built in. You no longer have to wonder what your days mean — there’s no time with the demands of parenting.


Fucking commit. Fucking pick something. I tell this to myself as much as I tell it to anyone else: pick something.

For as much as the rest of what Trunk says might make us bristle, we can at least get on board with this much.

We have to stop bullshitting ourselves with “someday” and thinking we’re the exception, or assuming that we can live completely ordinary lives but extraordinary will happen to us, or that we always have tomorrow to make it happen, or that we’re going to wake up with a lightning bolt great idea, or whatever else.

If nothing else, we have to stop living in fantasy, and start living here, now, today. To choose our own lives, and respect ourselves enough to be honest about who we are.

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