An Entrepreneur’s Primer

Here are 13 concepts by which I live. They are my guideposts and serve as an Entrepreneur’s Primer. They’ve worked well for me and I’d like to share them with you.

  1. Live today like you’re going to die tomorrow. It’s impossible to know when our “number” will be called. Why waste a single moment on that which is unproductive? And make sure to appreciate those whom you love – you will have regrets after they are gone if you take them for granted.
  2. What you think, will become reality. People who always have a positive mindset produce positive results and live a happy life. We can stack the deck in our favor if we train ourselves to reject negativity. Just as importantly, we don’t allow negative people to be a part of our lives. Our mind is more powerful than we can imagine and we can use it to shape an amazing present and future.
  3. Never, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever give up. These are the famous words of Winston Churchill and they ring true as much today as they did in the darkest hours of World War II. The key to perseverance is to make constant tweaks and pivots until what we are striving to accomplish actually manifests.
  4. Don’t take risk . . . manage risk. Taking risk is like gambling. Our businesses and our lives are too valuable to be betting the farm on Red 32. Instead, we identify the risks and create strategies to contain and mitigate them. Then we can proceed to launch new initiatives without fear.
  5. Laugh every chance you get . . . especially at yourself. It has been proven scientifically that laughter is healthy. Laughing many times every day is good for establishing a positive mindset. When we laugh at ourselves and can be self-deprecating, we show others that we are comfortable in our own skin.
  6. What you give will come back to you in amazing ways. We give because it makes others feel good and us too. And when we give without quid pro quo for the simple joy of giving, our life is fuller and richer. We also remember that gratitude is part of this equation and express our thanks to many people as often as we can.
  7. March to your own tune, but do so with purpose. We avoid the herd mentality and are proud of our individuality. But we don’t do so simply to be different. We do so because we have a strong set of core values and a clear vision for our future. We aren’t worried about what others think so long as we aren’t stepping on their toes.
  8. Mistakes are simply the unfinished experiments in the laboratory of life. I love this one! There’s no way to know if we are on the right track unless mistakes are made. If everything is too perfect, then it’s likely we aren’t stretching ourselves to be better. Rather than obsess over our mistakes, we figure out what there is to learn from them and then start a new experiment.
  9. Creativity is a way to express your passion. And passion allows you to see in color. Each of us has a creative streak – it may be buried deeper in some of us, but we all have the ability to innovate in some way. Amazing and wonderful things can come about as a result of the creative process and it’s likely that our passion will be stoked. Life is full of sunshine and light when our creativity is off-the-charts.
  10. The success of a career can be measured in the number of lasting relationships that have been collected and nurtured. I see relationship building as an opportunity to serve. When we are always looking to help others in a genuine manner without the thought of receiving anything in return, we move beyond the transactional aspects of an acquaintance into a true relationship. Putting Good out into the world through service is the Law of Attraction – and in turn, we will attract Good into our lives.
  11. Balance your life – emotionally, intellectually, financially, physically, spiritually and with your family. This one can be tough, especially if we really, really love our entrepreneurial adventure. Here’s a secret. Having this sort of balance has a giant payday. It helps us to avoid burnout and sets the foundation for greater stimulation of our creativity. Besides, who wants to be around a one-dimensional person anyway?
  12. Help others buy your ideas. Do we sell our products and services, or do we help others buy them? There is a massive distinction between the two. Helping someone buy is “customer-centric” and selling to someone is “product-centric.” We will have much more success if we focus on the customer and his or her needs. It’s quite possible our product or service isn’t right for him/her – and that’s just fine. We can then move on to help someone else with the buying decision.
  13. You can’t do this all by yourself. Develop a support network of colleagues, friends and family. Being an entrepreneur can be a pretty lonely proposition. Being able to share success and failure with others is important to our mental and emotional health. Our friends and family provide safe refuge to which we can turn whenever needed. There is nothing gained by being the macho Lone Ranger . . . except loneliness.

You can also listen to a weekly audio podcast of my blog. What you hear will be different than what you read in this blog. Subscribe on iTunes or wherever you get your podcasts. You can also click on this link – Click here to listen to Audio Episode 90 – The Few, the Proud.

This blog is being written in tandem with my book, “An Entrepreneur’s Words to Live By,” available on Amazon.com in paperback and Kindle (My Book), as well as being available in all of the other major eBook formats.

Entrepreneur concept with young woman reaching and looking upwards

Shooting Star

Imagine a warm summer night, a meadow away from the city lights and a cloudless, moonless sky. A blanket is spread on the ground and you stretch out on your back and gaze at the heavens above. Trillions of pin dots twinkle back at you. Suddenly, as luck would have it, a streak of light crosses right in front of your eyes – a brief moment of intense action in an otherwise passive setting. Yes, a meteor is truly a sight to behold and provides a metaphorical warning to us as entrepreneurs.

The romanticism of a shooting star quickly gives way to the realization that we have just witnessed a piece of interplanetary debris burning up in the earth’s atmosphere. The operative words here are “burning up.” In entrepreneurial parlance, we’re talking about “burning out.” We all know what burnout is, so I don’t need to describe its symptoms. In fact, we’ve all probably experienced burnout in some form over the course of our careers. More important are two central questions. How do we prevent burnout in the first place? And how do we get out of burnout if it already holds us captive?

Preventing burnout in the first place is actually easier than figuring out how to get out of it once we’re in it. Consider this example. Jeff is focused on his software training business in laser-like fashion. He eats, sleeps and breathes software training and hasn’t had a vacation in six years. The business is growing in a very profitable fashion, but Jeff worries every day that if he takes his eye off the ball, his competition could easily overtake him and he’d begin losing money. He justifies his herculean efforts as the right way to provide for his family (but he’s missed eight of his son’s last ten soccer games). By contrast, Amy has a competing software training business. She is passionate about her company which is growing like Jeff’s and is also profitable. Amy has learned through time management techniques and following a carefully thought plan, how to be incredibly productive while she’s at work. She serves on a non-profit board, exercises and meditates every day, volunteers at a local homeless shelter, plays tennis and takes a ten-day vacation every six months. It’s pretty obvious which entrepreneur is a prime candidate for burnout. Because she has embraced a life balance, Amy is more creative and innovative. When Jeff finally hits the wall Amy will blow on by him because she has learned how to build a strong team to which she can delegate.

Extracting ourselves from the clutches of burnout is a real challenge. The first step is to go back to the basics and determine if our vision and mission are the same now as they were when we were filled with passion at the outset of our endeavor. Do they need to be tweaked? What made us passionate about what we started doing in the first place? Are our core values intact? Reconnecting with our passion is critical and can only happen when we become grounded in our vision, mission and values. Without this re-set we cannot know for certain if the passion is truly alive.

Next, we need to make the choice to move toward a more balanced approach to life. Nothing prevents us from adopting Amy’s M.O. Experts say that it takes three weeks to form a habit. Every day we must become intentional about identifying and implementing the different elements that will compose our newly balanced life. Getting out of ourselves and doing good things for others is one of the best ways to break out of the burnout cycle.

Finding a balance in life is the best preventive medicine for warding off burnout . . . and for getting out of it. While shooting stars are spectacular to watch there’s no need to be one.

Shooting stars

Lovin’ It – Part 2

Question: In your previous installment you wrote about how you eventually became able to live your passion. I want to know how to find mine.

Answer: Let’s quickly review what I previously said. To live our passion we must find balance in our lives in all respects – profession, physical health, relationships, emotionally, intellectually and spiritually. And I said that when we become more multi-dimensional in these areas, the cumulative effect is passion. But there’s a very important element that still must be added to the mix. Without this ingredient we can be well-rounded and multi-dimensional but there’s simply no spark to start the fires of passion.

The ignition source which I refer is our WHY. I’ve written before about the WHY – a concept that is eloquently discussed by Simon Sinek in his magnificent book, Start With Why, and which has been explained to me in much greater detail by my friend and Sinek collaborator, Ridgely Goldsborough. Most people can tell you WHAT they do and HOW they do it. But when asked WHY they do what they do the answer becomes fuzzier. According to Sinek and Goldsborough there are nine WHYs. While we may identify with several, each of us has a predominant WHY. The nine WHYs are:

  1. Do things the right way.
  2. Do things a better way.
  3. Make sense of complexity.
  4. Make a contribution or a difference.
  5. Create trust and build relationships.
  6. Simplify things.
  7. Master things.
  8. Challenge the status quo or think differently.
  9. Create clarity.

To live our passion we must understand our WHY. And to find our WHY we need to ask ourselves a series of questions. Think of something at work that we did that was a success. How did we feel about that success? Why is that important to us? Then ask the same questions about something positive that happened outside of work. We may need to repeat this several times before our answers create a discernible pattern that leads us to our WHY from the list of nine.

What is it about understanding our WHY that is so important in our quest to find our passion? Because to the greatest extent possible we need to align the various elements of our life with our WHY. Think about it – if our profession, physical health, relationships, emotions, intellect and spirituality track with our WHY, won’t we be in a better position to love everything we’re doing?

When we find our WHY we can then discover our passion. The alignment of WHY with the balance of the basic elements in our lives then enables us to live our passion every single day.

This blog is being written in tandem with my book, “An Entrepreneur’s Words to Live By,” available on Amazon.com in paperback and Kindle (My Book), as well as being available in all of the other major eBook formats.

passion2

Lovin’ It – Part 1

Question: You’ve written before about passion. How do I find my passion?

Answer: I’ve said previously that most people go through life and work at a job. Fewer of us pursue a career. And even fewer yet actually live a passion. To be truly successful entrepreneurs living a passion is requisite. But there are plenty of very rich entrepreneurs who are miserable, so what gives? I’m defining success to be much more than just money. A truly successful entrepreneur has success in relationships, in health, in philanthropy, in hobbies, in intellect, in spirituality and in emotion.

Passion is multi-dimensional. I submit that living a passion is more than just our chosen profession. It’s about reaching the conclusion that life is all about more . . . not less. And it’s not just more of one thing but more of many. A fundamental question to be asked is, “What are we excluding from our lives?” Kindling and sustaining passion is difficult if we’re one-dimensional and our lives are out of balance. We may experience bursts of energy and creativity, and we may have moments of euphoria when we achieve that upon which we focused. But then what happens? More often than not we crash and burn. Then we may yo-yo back and forth between the highest of highs and the lowest of lows.

Here’s my story. Early in my adult life I was pursuing a career. I move out of the “working a job” phase pretty quickly. Our business was growing and I threw myself into building it. There were plenty of 18-hour days plus weekends and holidays. In fact, I actually took pride in working 100-hour weeks. I read nothing but business books and thought about little else than what was happening in my company. I was the poster boy for being one-dimensional. No, I wasn’t unhappy but there was always a gnawing feeling that something was missing.

Living my passion did not come through an epiphany but was gradual over time. I loved what I did professionally but realized that burnout was unavoidable if I didn’t change my ways. Over the years my life became more balanced, and that in turn stoked the passion. What I’ve learned is that passion is much more than just loving my profession. The balance of physical, emotional, intellectual, spiritual, and relationships in addition to our profession has a multiplier effect. I love being creative in my businesses. I love the philanthropic endeavors that my wife and I pursue. I love mentoring and coaching others – the list of the things I love to do goes on and on. And the cumulative effect of all of these “loves” is what becomes passion for me.

Make sure to read my next installment in which I’ll add the other ingredient necessary to discover our passion.

This blog is being written in tandem with my book, “An Entrepreneur’s Words to Live By,” available on Amazon.com in paperback and Kindle (My Book), as well as being available in all of the other major eBook formats.

passion1

Entrepreneurs – Fasten Your Seatbelts!

Are you an entrepreneur! Do you want to be an entrepreneur? This blog is an extension of my book, An Entrepreneur’s Words to Live By. The book is about some of the traits of successful entrepreneurs. It’s also about what entrepreneurs can do to lead more rich, happy and balanced lives. And believe it or not, a more balanced life can help you become a more successful entrepreneur.

If you are a Baby Boomer there is still time for you to have success as an entrepreneur and enjoy a long and vibrant life. For those members of Generation X or Y who want to become entrepreneurs, the world is your oyster. Perhaps what you read in my book and in this blog will provide a perspective that helps you reach the goals you have set. Above all I hope that what I share with you may help you become a better, well-rounded human being who will eventually take the time to pass along to others that which you learn over the course of your life.

In this blog I will use a Q & A format to delve into many of the questions that entrepreneurs often have. If you have such a question – ask away and I will give you my two-cents worth.

Entrepreneurs have a complex collection of traits and tendencies. Entrepreneurship is all about harnessing these traits and tendencies into a positive driving energy force. Yet it’s even more than that. True entrepreneurship is a state of being. Are you ready to find out more about what makes an entrepreneur tick? Fasten your seatbelts because here we go.