The Confident Entrepreneur

There is at least one must-have trait for successful entrepreneurs. Without confidence the road is very steep and rocky. College basketball is one of the most interesting demonstrations of how confidence or a lack thereof, can impact outcomes. I’ve watched many a game where the players on a team are tentative. They lack energy and they are missing their shots. Often they are out of position and cannot rebound or chase down loose balls. A few days later the same team plays another game. This time there is fluidity in their motion. They are passing the ball crisply; players are getting nice elevation when they shoot, and the ball is going in the hole. The night-and-day difference between the two contests is that of confidence.

What is the secret to gaining and maintaining confidence? There are several elements that are required. The first is that of “mastery.” Mastery is achieved through constant practice and the repetitive patterning that occurs as our experience builds. This is particularly important for millennials to understand. Fair or not, many millennials are tagged with the stereotype that they have an incredibly high sense of urgency. They don’t want to wait for results and can be impatient at times. However, I’ve seen millennials and people of all ages, try something a couple of times and believe they have mastered it. Then I watch as they try it again and bomb badly. With confidence shaken they are humbled and may become afraid to jump in the water again. All of this could have been avoided had real mastery been achieved. One of the biggest fears in society today is that of public speaking. And the only way to resolve this fear once and for all, is to practice speaking over and over and over. The fear doesn’t suddenly evaporate after a handful of gigs. It took me 50 or 60 times to reach the point that I began to feel comfortable in front of a group.

The second element is that of achieving a history of desired outcomes. It’s one thing to repeat a process enough times to master something. That helps to build confidence. But achieving the results we want is the validation necessary for us to know that we’re on the right track with our mastery. Let’s use our basketball example again. A team may be executing the basics and fundamentals properly; it may be playing strong defense, and the players are running the plays as designed. But if the scoreboard isn’t showing a W for the team on a regular basis, it’s hard to build confidence. I’ve never heard anyone profess that losing all the time builds confidence . . . but winning does. As entrepreneurs we must tweak our approach until we begin to win consistently. For example, if our sales approach isn’t working and we keep doing it the same way, it’s time to start experimenting to learn what it takes to win. After all, there’s no point in “mastering” losing!

The third aspect of building confidence is to always maintain a positive attitude – no matter what. We must believe that eventually we’ll get it right; eventually we will win. I’ve said many times that what we think in mind produces in the outer after its kind. When we believe at our core that we are going to win, eventually we will win. If we have doubts or know in our bones that we’re going to lose, eventually we will lose. I have never seen anyone become more self-confident by having a negative attitude. Attitude is critical to the success of individuals and to the team. If one member of the team is positive and the rest are negative, the confidence of the team will be adversely affected. As entrepreneurial leaders it is incumbent upon us to make sure that our team is unanimous with a positive attitude.

Developing mastery, achieving success and being eternally optimistic are the rocket fuel that will propel us to a perpetual state of self-confidence. This patterning also inoculates us from having our self-confidence shaken when from time-to-time we might stumble. We’ve been there before. We know what we must do, and we are able to re-calibrate and get back on track with ease and grace. There is no panic or desperation – we simply remember to follow the formula that has worked so well in the past.

Building self-confidence is a process much like riding a bicycle. Once learned, we may fall off on rare occasion; but when we do we get up, dust ourselves off and start riding the bike again like it never happened.

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.

“Don’t You Know Who I Am?!”

The actor, Alec Baldwin, purportedly was riding his bike the wrong way near Union Square in New York and was stopped by police officers. After uttering some profanities, he produced this gem, “Don’t you know who I am?” We’ve all heard this before. Someone isn’t getting his or her way and so they play the “Don’t you know who I am” card. This statement is reflective of the ultimate entitlement mentality. Entrepreneurs are often on the road to success – sometimes in a big way. This success may lead to wealth, fame and power. What it doesn’t produce is entitlement.

Let’s define entitlement a bit more clearly. There are certain circumstances where entitlement is perfectly legitimate. For example, suppose we pay through the nose to fly first class on an airline. There are perks that inure to our benefit when we pay extra for them. Similarly, if we pay a premium for a luxury automobile, there will likely be some special treatment that we receive at the dealership when we arrive for service. Again, we are entitled to this special treatment because we paid for it.

Now, contrast this with the guy who always parks his luxury car in a “no parking” zone. Or the woman in an expensive mink coat who cuts in line at the grocery store or the theater. Or in 2009 when a young woman ordered a hamburger in a fast food restaurant and upon asking her name for the order, she replied to the server, “You don’t recognize me? I’m Miley Cyrus!” I don’t know about you, but I cringe when I witness this kind of behavior. This type of entitlement mentality is not the legitimate kind.

As leaders we’re role models whether we like it or not. Our team members are watching every move we make. If we happen to be in the public eye, there are many more eyeballs and ears that are taking notice of everything we are doing and saying. Oh, and they are judging us AND our organization at the same time. It’s one thing to have a great deal of self-confidence and assertiveness – this is entirely necessary to succeed in today’s rough and tumble world of commerce. But the line is crossed when that self-confidence and assertiveness becomes boorish, arrogant and aggressive.

The whole issue is one of self-esteem. The way we see ourselves comes from within and not from the outer. It’s probably no secret that people who are shoving their fame, fortune or power in the face of others, are acting from a feeling of low self-esteem. Sometimes the resulting sense of misplaced entitlement leads to destructive actions such as heaving drinking, drug use, gambling, extramarital affairs and other sorts of outrageous behaviors.

There’s absolutely nothing wrong with driving a luxury automobile, wearing expensive jewelry and clothing, or being on a magazine cover. It’s how we feel about ourselves and how we treat others that matters most. Country singer Dolly Parton is one of the nicest and most humble mega-stars on the planet. Soccer star David Beckham is super polite, and actress Jennifer Lawrence is known for being very down-to-earth and easy to work with. There’s no doubt that all three are members of the rich and famous class. And yet they aren’t overcompensating for their insecurities (and they may not have any) by displaying an attitude of entitlement. They, and many others like them are gracious and put others first.

Our station in life is not a rung on a ladder. Instead, it’s simply a stepping stone that is part of a long and winding journey. Each of us is on a similar journey. When we offer a helping hand to others our lives are enriched.

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 62 – 2300 Feet and No Ropes!

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.

Beam Me Up Scotty

Did you know that Michael Jordan was cut by his high school basketball team because it was determined that he lacked skill? Babe Ruth struck out 1,330 times in his stellar career. Winston Churchill flunked sixth grade. Elvis Presley was once told that his career was going nowhere and he should drive a truck. Authors Stephen King, John Grisham, Theodore Seuss Giesel and cartoonist Charles Schultz were all rejected more than 85 times before being published.

What do all of these famous people have in common? They all are or were extremely self-confident. Successful entrepreneurs need a healthy dose of self-confidence. Without it the chances to achieve our goals and objectives drop precipitously. We also must guard against misunderstanding confidence for arrogance. Arrogance is actually overcompensation for a lack of confidence.

So how do we go about building self-confidence? Allow me to share my experience with you. Early in my career I struggled in this department. I graduated from college at 21 years of age and immediately began working for the company I’ve been with ever since. I thought I was pretty confident when I was in school but in the real world I discovered a lot of self-doubt. It didn’t help that I was told that I was just a punk kid who didn’t know anything. This statement was reinforced for a number of years – and I let it get inside my head. Eventually I came to realize that with a few years of experience under my belt and some creative successes along the way, I really did know what I was doing.

Here are some ideas. Repetition is extremely important. Identify one or more things that you feel less confident about and do them over and over again. Perhaps it’s public speaking or maybe it’s interacting with lots of other people in a large group setting. Set standards for what you believe to be “good” or “great.” Try and consistently perform to those standards and when you do, congratulate yourself. Own your mistakes and setbacks. Resist the temptation to blame others or play the victim. When we focus on how we can improve and do things differently the next time, we build confidence for our next encounter in a similar situation. When we celebrate the success of others – including our competitors – it’s a demonstration of confidence. When we criticize others – including our competitors – it’s not. When we’re not afraid to be wrong, that’s evidence of self-confidence. Being defensive and making excuses is not. Being positive and humble are definitely traits of self-confident people.

Self-confidence can ebb and flow. Our goal is to be more consistent with our confidence. But just because we have moments of doubt or fear, doesn’t mean we’re losing our mojo. When we can take a deep breath and understand from where the doubt or fear is coming, that’s a way we can regain our confidence.

Self-confidence enables us to eliminate thoughts of lack and limitation and know the truth about ourselves. In so doing, we can shoot for the stars and realize our true potential. Beam me up Scotty.

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.

Scotty

Three Little Words

Question: I’m in the middle of a dispute with a colleague. I know she’s wrong and I’m right. But now I’m beginning to wonder. I’m concerned that this dispute is damaging my relationship with her. How do I work my way out of this mess?

Answer: There are three underused words in the English language that would probably solve all of this . . . I am sorry. Why don’t we say we’re sorry more often? For some reason, we believe that apologizing somehow causes us to lose something in a relationship. In fact, just the opposite occurs. I’ve been one of those people who always had to be right about everything. And after a lot of self-analysis I realized that this may have been driven to an extent by some sort of insecurity or lack of confidence.

Here’s an obvious statement; apologies must be real. How many times have we heard a politician or other public figure make this kind of an apology, “I’m sorry if my comments offended some in the community.” Saying one is sorry if someone else is offended can be subject to interpretation. Is the speaker sorry that someone took what he said the wrong way? Or is he sorry for what he actually said? If the apology was sincere, the speaker would say, “I’m sorry for what I said because I was wrong.” There’s no doubt that this person is truly remorseful about what he said.

I’ve gotten better at making heartfelt apologies. I’m not completely there yet, but my progress is incremental. I’ve found that I am catching myself before I try to defend a word or deed that may or may not be correct. The old me would argue to the end of the day that I was right. Not so much now. Several months ago I had what I thought was a playful moment with my wife. I had been teasing her throughout the evening and was oblivious to how frazzled she was at the end of the day. I made the mistake of turning the light off on her before she got into bed causing her to stumble around in the dark. She blew her top at me – something that very rarely ever happens. The old me would have snapped back at her that she was being overly sensitive and that I wouldn’t tease her if I didn’t love her so much. Instead, I made a choice at that moment. I simply said, “Honey, I’m being totally childish and insensitive. I’m completely wrong and I’m sorry.” The situation was defused and there were no hard feelings. I’ve also stopped turning the light off on her before she gets into bed.

Being able to say “I’m sorry” is not an act of weakness but an act of honesty. Sincere apologies build relationships and are an indication that we value another person. Rarely will we find three little words that have as much power as “I am sorry.”

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.

Apology