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Becoming a Person Who Helps People

Question from a reader -

Hi Sebastian, a question. I'd like to know how you came to be so... gracious. I've noticed that not only do you preach for others to spread gratitude, but you really do go over-the-top with it. It's a bit unbelieveable at times. But I have a good friend who is always very glad to see me (and everyone else). We aren't close anymore, but I always feel we are. I get the feeling you're similarly genuine. How did that come to be? Have you always been that way? I've been trying to be more thankful, but I don't want it to come off as meaningless as a forced plastic smile.

Well, first, that email totally made my day. Thank you.

Before I answer, I've got to pose a hypothetical question to you. Trust me, it's relevant:

Do you think it's more virtuous to do $5,000 worth of good for someone and get $0 in return, or to do $10,000 worth of good for someone and get $2,000 in return?

The DGF Principle

On DROdio

I meet with a lot of people to exchange ideas and advice. Lately I have noticed a very powerful trait that the most authentic founders, investors, and advisors exercise. I call it the "DGF Principle."  Since I come from a military background, I really love acronyms.  DGF stands for "Don't Give a F#$k" (aka Direct Given Feedback). Despite containing a curse word, this acronym actually connotes a very positive trait that I've noticed in the most authentic people I've come across in Silicon Valley.  DGF People are not insecure and they are willing to provide direct and honest feedback to you.

People who demonstrate the DGF Principle are always mindful of your time.  Out of respect for you and for the process of *becoming* an entrepreneur, they don't waste your time by giving you mixed signals or blowing sunshine up your ass.  If they don't like your product, they will tell you why.  If they are concerned about your market or product they will explain their rationale. If they are concerned about your team, they will communicate this to you.  Sometimes their criticism might come across as being harsh, but I have found that so long as they are authentic and honest, then the feedback is constructive at worst and empowering at best. You always walk away knowing where you stand with DGF people, which frees up mental bandwidth to focus on other priorities instead of attempting to second guess them.

When I meet with fellow entrepreneurs I try my best to exercise the DGF Principle. This motivation stems from my belief that you should strive to live the Golden Rule and "treat others as you would want to be treated."  Although it seems simple enough, sometimes it can be hard to exercise the DGF Principle because delivering honest feedback can often be a bit uncomfortable in the near-term.  But in the long-term it is the most efficient and valuable way to exchange ideas and feedback if you're an entrepreneur, advisor, or investor. 

In the past I wish more people would have just told me if they thought my product sucked or if they would NOT use it rather than sidestep the issue.  Sometimes giving or receiving a 'No' can be a blessing in disguise, especially when it's wrapped in a thoughtful explanation, which provides clarity on the issue.  That's why it's important to seek out authentic people to exchange ideas and advice — because they are most likely to exercise the DGF Principle. 

Case in point, a few years ago when I was raising capital for a software company, I had introductions and meetings with notable investors.  One investor, in particular liked our market, liked our team, and appreciated our ability to execute with product and customers. He dug in to get more information about the deal, made great introductions, provided honest feedback, and most of all — he was *fast*.  He did not waste our time.  When he ultimately passed on the deal, he thoughtfully explained his rationale and thanked us for considering him. To this day, I still have a great relationship with this DGF investor.  In fact, I have referred him good deals and recommended him to other founders raising capital. 

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