Recently at ClearGears my business partner Steven called me out on my assumptions about how many happy customers we have. Our goal for mid-year was to validate the product with a specific number of happy customers. In conversation, Steven heard me boasting about the number of companies that had signed up, and heard me conflate sign-ups with happy customers. In reality, those two are very different numbers. Apparently I had happy ears.

Happy ears is the term for entrepreneurs hearing only what they want to hear about their business. For online entrepreneurs, feedback comes in many forms, but perhaps the most important feedback comes from users who validate or invalidate your product through engagement. Clicks, conversion, and cash flow are the forms of feedback that really matter. You have to be brutally honest about interpreting these numbers. Otherwise your Happy Ears will kill you.

Steven and I have implemented a No Bullshit policy. We are encouraged to call bullshit if either of us exaggerates our success, particularly if we’re doing it in a way that blinds us to real problems.

You know you have happy ears if:

  • You’re bragging to investors, family, and friends about progress aside from engaged users.
  • You don’t feel comfortable brainstorming ways to improve engagement.
  • You dismiss critics of your business while paying more attention to supporters.


  • Fight the temptation to paint a rosy picture. Only by sharing your biggest challenges can you recuit minds other than your own to solve your problems.

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