The process of being an entrepreneur is not in the tangible proof of your achievements but rather a discipline on how to broaden your mind while focusing on self-improvement. The word "entrepreneur” is not meant to describe how you live your life but rather how your mind analyzes and finds solutions to any particular business situation. There are no prerequisites to being an entrepreneur. You do not need to own a small business or need lots of money to be an entrepreneur. What you need is to be honest with yourself and be willing to make the effort. In simple terms, being an entrepreneur is having a mindset that is naturally "in-tune" with your analysis and perspective on business. It is the equivalent of being a soldier who is more comfortable on the battlefield than in any suburb in America. It is a natural state where you thrive with self-confidence and have few doubts. So, what does it take to have this mindset? Let's first throw out all the garbage. Being an entrepreneur is not about talent. It's not about having a college or higher degree or being a computer whiz. You don't have to live in Silicon Valley, Boston, Seattle or some other venture capital hub. Your idea does not have to make a billion dollars or even one dollar. Rather, being an entrepreneur requires a strong foundation of certain qualities that you can learn and develop starting today. Having these five specific qualities will place you well on the road to finding the entrepreneur and innovator within you.
ONE: Harness your self-doubts. Everyone has doubts about key decisions in business. It's a matter of how you harness this doubt that will strengthen your mind and spirit. Every entrepreneur and innovator had doubts and is always only one step away from being viewed as a success or failure based upon their most recent decision. However, you have to allow your doubt to strengthen your convictions. Being convinced of an idea takes thoughtful planning and analysis. Self-doubt helps you double check your work and dot your I's and cross your T's. It should force you to think about and create contingencies if the outcome is different than what you expect. By not giving into your fears and focusing this negative energy into strengthening your business plan, you will develop the mental fortitude to manage any possible outcome, preferably the one you expect based on your careful planning. There is another major benefit to harnessing your self-doubt. As you effectively quell your fear and work on your plan of action, others will perceive your personal confidence. Having conviction in your decisions and plan projects confidence onto others. As you carefully provide valid explanations to critical questions raised by others regarding your decisions, you turn that doubt into confidence and provide reassurance not only for yourself but for others involved or affected by your actions. You can never erase all doubts as that too can also be unhealthy. However, the negative energy of self-doubt becomes an opportunity for you to rise up and meet the challenge through increased awareness.
TWO: Inspiration, determination, and perspiration. This quote has been around since the beginning of time but every once in a while we re-label these qualities with descriptive terms like innovator or entrepreneur. For most of us, this was the “genius" in the classroom or the fellow manager in your office that everyone says will be the next CEO of the company. So, how to be the next genius or CEO? Follow this simple rule. Regardless of your idea or inspiration, begin by asking yourself "How can this be better?" Often, it's not about inventing something completely new but the willingness to do something differently, usually more efficiently or with the intention of providing a better quality service or product. Be inspired to be better at whatever you are doing. We often point to the guy who thought of the plastic sleeve at the end of shoelaces and say "What a simple million dollar idea?!” What we don't hear about is that the inspiration for this idea probably arose from working at a shoe store and hearing numerous complaints from customers about how the shoe laces constantly frayed at the ends. Not very glamorous is it? The AI Bundy of your generation working at the shoe store in the mall. But, once the inspiration is found, you have to be determined to follow-through. Start by planning and engaging all the resources you might need to develop your idea. Perspiration goes hand in hand with determination. You can be determined to reach your goal but without putting the actual time and energy required you will never reach your goal. The emphasis should not just be on working hard as this is a known requirement to all. Rather, the process of working harder often forces you to create innovative ways to manage your time or forces you to find ways to get the job done quicker. The necessity of hard work is just one simple source for the "Aha!" moment (epiphany) that will lead to the entrepreneur within you.
THREE: Understand your failures. Success and failure are just words used to describe the outcome from any particular decision and subsequent action. This is the way you should view words like "success" or "failure." These words do not define you nor are they an eventuality. Success or failure is simply about mathematical probability. The better you can understand the variables of any particular situation and the better you manage those variables, the greater the chance for the desired outcome, which is often labeled by the words success or failure. A series of small successes lead to big ones and the same is said for failures. A common analogy is to look at football. The successful teams attempt to get a first down by moving the ball 10 yards forward over 3 plays, sometimes 4 (taking more risk), with a series of successive first downs resulting in a touchdown.
Eventually more touchdowns than your opponent leads to victory in the game. More victories lead to the playoffs and eventually the Superbowl. The strategy is constantly modified but the goal is never in doubt. The farther you get but are turned back, the closer you examine your strategy and make improvements to put enough consecutive first downs to score a touchdown. This same process applies to success in business. You have the ability to manage the known factors and also prepare for the unknown events in the game of business in order to achieve a successful outcome. When the outcome is not what you want or what was predicted, then do not hesitate to describe it as a failure. However, the proper way to move forward is by analyzing what went wrong and determining how to prevent or correct the problem and effectively increase the probability of a successful outcome. If you can make a second attempt, then do so. At the very least, you are now prepared if and when a similar situation arises in the future. The best way to appreciate your success is to recognize and understand the reasons that led to the undesired outcome or failure.
FOUR: Embrace risk. Making the attempt should never be in question. It is indecision that is often the biggest regret associated with any particular situation. As an entrepreneur, you must be a committed student of observation. Observe every situation for the cause and effect, whether you were involved or not. Manage the known components to the best of your ability and trust that you have enough confidence to successfully adapt to meet or head off an unexpected variable that could de-rail your plan. Luck is a true negative. We describe ourselves as lucky when the outcome is as we hoped and predicted i.e. success. Rather, one must recognize that the "good luck" was created by thorough preparation and that the "bad luck" should be reserved for unknown variables that truly could not have been prevented or considered into account. These particular situations are the ones to learn from but not because you did not embrace the risk and take action. If we could predict every factor or variable then there would be no risk. As an entrepreneur, you have to accept that a part of every situation will be unknown but that you or your team is prepared to handle the situation if and when it should arise. For many entrepreneurs, it is this unknown element that presents the most exciting part of the challenge. If everything goes as planned, then great! However, the true test is often managing the situation when the unknown arises and still doing well enough to achieve a successful outcome i.e. the costly turnover in football. So, contain the fear, embrace the risk, and approach your actions with confidence.
FIVE: Nothing is an obstacle. Since death and taxes are the only guarantees in life, then theoretically, everything else is a possibility. We can point to many events that have only an extremely remote possibility of happening, but they are within the realm of mathematical probability. As an entrepreneur, your mental strength should be to view every situation as a possibility but limit your preparation to those possibilities within the scope of reality. Don't waste your time and effort on those possibilities that require lightning to strike on a clear and sunny day. Overcoming obstacles is often a matter of refusing to accept that something can't be done. Obstacles are meant to be overcome and your goal should be to identify a way that it can be done. Your path may change but not your destination. It is this "can do" attitude that will allow your creative juices to flow and allow you to recognize unique and often different ways of doing simple and complex tasks. It is not just a matter of believing but a willingness to delve deep into your analysis and eventually take an appropriate action in order to overcome obstacles. This is true whether your goal is a job promotion or finding a way to deliver a service when none thought it was possible. As always and in most situations, the only control you have is over yourself. Often, an obstacle is not meant to be run over but rather requires a modification in your plan, approach, or decision making. The greatest obstacle will often be rejection, the dreaded "No!" word. Don't let "no" be an eventuality, change one variable at a time until you can overcome the obstacle. This key mental approach eventually turns the goals you envisioned into reality. In conclusion, these five principles are the core foundation for developing the entrepreneur within you. A closer look at this foundation demonstrates that each mantra is linked to the others much like the individual fibers in a rope. Collectively the intertwined fibers are made stronger through their synergistic effect. Each principle strengthens the other with all having equal importance. The common theme across these principles is to focus on you and your self-improvement. These principles foster leadership and encourage you to lead by example. Be someone who actively practices these principles and others are sure to follow. Like you, your team of followers and fellow employees won't accept "no" or "failure" as a possible outcome. This strength in leadership is a key business asset that drives your ability to build value and integrity through your relationships with others, whether they are employees or clients.
So, control your fear and accept risk. Observe carefully, plan thoroughly, and act decisively. Learn from your failures but get right back up and keep moving forward by trying again until you succeed. Let yourself be recognized as the "genius" in the room and become synonymous with success. Eventually, people other than yourself will describe you as the next great innovator and entrepreneur.