You often hear stories of super successful entrepreneurs who wake up at 4 a.m. and, by the time you’ve hit the snooze button for the gazillionth time, they’ve already conquered the world.
It’s easy to become discouraged by those kinds of people and develop an “I’m not good enough” complex. But, it’s important to know that not everyone who’s successful is like that and the good news is entrepreneurship is both a mindset and a skill set — like muscles you can develop.
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Any of us has the ability to be an entrepreneur, even if you didn’t revolutionize the lemonade stand at age 7. Entrepreneurship has never been easier to break into than it is today, thanks to technology and innovative business models that require little startup capital to make it big.
Yes, you need skills, capital, a good team, hard work, luck and timing. But, where your mind goes helps determine where your business goes. Accordingly, I’ve developed seven mental approaches you should implement as you build your business:
1. Embrace the roller coaster ride.
Starting a business is an up-and-down experience. It’s intense, all-consuming, exhilarating and depressing, often in the same week. You have to know that upfront and mentally prepare for the roller coaster ride.
2. Stop thinking like an employee.
We’re taught in school to do all the “right” things: Finish your homework. Don’t disrupt the class. Give the teachers the answers they want. That all trains us to be a productive cog in a big company. But in truth, it’s the exact wrong way to think when you’re an entrepreneur. Entrepreneurs, generally speaking, are all about disrupting "the way things are done.” The most disruptive kid in class probably went on to become the best entrepreneur. The “think different” mindset can create a business that makes a difference. But, you have to get out of the employee mindset.
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3. Know your driving force.
What drives you? What makes you want to create a new business out of nothing? You’ll need that driving force when you hop on the entrepreneur roller coaster. It’s the belt buckle on your ride, keeping you rolling when the bumps hit.
4. Give up.
This sounds a bit weird for a pep talk about entrepreneurship. But, you need to know what to give up on, and when. Sometimes you have to give up on an idea or approach or feature. Sometimes the market just doesn’t love the thing you do. You have to be willing to give up so you can get to the next thing that will work. We think giving up is really bad, but it’s really important to success.
Related: Why an Entrepreneurial Mindset Is Actually a Bad Thing
5. Pivot regularly.
Don’t just give up for the sake of giving up. You give up so you can pivot to the thing that will work. Ultimately, this is about building a resilient mindset, open to change and new approaches. Pivoting is about maneuvering in a forward direction with decisions and changes. The list of tech startups that pivoted from an unworkable idea to a new and profitable niche is long and encouraging. Be flexible and embrace change.
6. Make risk-taking a habit.
You can build habits of mind that open you up to regular risk-taking. My vice these days is parking where I shouldn’t, risking a ticket, but getting a little thrill when I get away with it. You might prefer a less expensive way to stretch yourself, but you need to condition your mind to risk-taking, so you’re used to that rush of possibility. And it doesn’t have to be illegal parking violations. Maybe you make small bets with your spouse; loser buys or makes dinner.
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7. Be irrationally optimistic.
Steve Jobs gave a remarkable commencement speech at Stanford University in 2005 where he told the graduates they needed to build a near irrational confidence that things will work out. I strongly recommend watching his speech, but the broader point is building the confidence that positive outcomes will arrive. You need to know that you’re going to figure it out and find a way to make it work. Bad things will happen, they just do. But, it’s how you respond when they hit that matters. If you believe it will all work out, you can do what needs to be done to get through it. You can become immune to the blows that life (and business) invariably dish out. That irrational optimism will get you through because yes, you got this.
As this checklist suggests, being a successful entrepreneur requires thinking differently in lots of ways. Maybe you never had a chance to build that mental approach in school, or in that job working for someone else. But, culturing a mindset built on these mental strategies can help you and your business thrive. You just have to put your mind to it!
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