Photo: Look Into My Eyes via flickr
Though an initial spark is an essential ingredient, there is much more to being a successful entrepreneur than having and maintaining that vision. The unfortunate reality is that there are plenty of people who have the “big vision moment” but who never become entrepreneurs—because they don’t have the passion needed to sustain this vision long enough to take action. There are also people who get started but who lack perseverance, and therefore falter when obstacles arise.
Turning your initial vision into a viable business has everything to do with your level of passion and ability to keep moving forward, even in the face of challenges. Without passion, it is easy to become discouraged from pursuing your plans by other priorities and self-doubt when difficulties arise. Your mind-set ultimately dictates your actions, so operating with one that is anything less than dedicated unwaveringly to your future as a business owner will cause you to struggle to take the actions necessary for your success.
Every entrepreneur in the world comes up against challenges in his or her business. No matter how carefully you plan; no matter how great you are at what you do; and no matter how hard you try to make sure everything always goes smoothly, unexpected trials will test your vision. The many successful entrepreneurs we’ve interviewed from a variety of industry sectors, backgrounds, and areas of the world have almost all credited their perseverance as the most significant element of their success. They claim that their ability to maintain their vision and a positive mind-set in the face of adversity has been the X factor that has made all the difference in their eventual achievement or failure. Their vision was big enough to carry them through the hard times, so it overshadowed any doubt that crept in along the way. In fact, these kinds of challenges are exactly what cause many entrepreneurs to thrive.
But even the most formidable entrepreneurial spirits aren’t immune to discouragement and disappointment. We all struggle at times to maintain our positive mind-set and to stay true to our initial vision. Fortunately, we can use unexpected setbacks and problems as opportunities and learning experiences, and we can push through just about anything. But let’s be realistic: there isn’t a person on the planet who doesn’t, at some time, have doubts or worries about themselves or their business. It would be unnatural to never feel discouraged or frustrated. The key is to keep those feelings from ruining your vision and changing your mind-set. During the worst times, we can all use some help to persevere and stay the course. To that end, we present five keys for maintaining your vision and positive mind-set:
1. Plan your work and work your plan Entrepreneurs commonly become discouraged by a sense of being overwhelmed. This is particularly true within start-up companies, or those experiencing a period of sudden growth. Although the start-up process can be an exciting, energizing time—and although growth is almost always a great thing—the pressure to get so much done in a short amount of time can mount and incite feelings of frustration and worry. In companies where deadlines are the norm, these feelings might not ever ease up. In fact, regardless of company structure, we can all occasionally feel like there just isn’t enough time in a day to get everything done that needs to be done. So how do you keep from losing sight of your vision when this happens?
One way to avoid, or at least reduce, the pressures that can dampen your entrepreneurial spirit is to stick to a plan as closely as possible. This isn’t your business plan; rather, it’s about a daily action plan that keeps you focused—not only on the details of your day, but on the big picture as well. A great way to devise such a plan is to ask yourself what you have to do daily to achieve your long-term objectives. Once you’ve answered that question, design your daily plan around those activities, and delegate or hire others to perform as many of the other tasks as possible.
There are some significant advantages to this tactic. First, chances are good that the duties you end up tackling will be those that have to do with building and growing your business. If you’re in a business that you love (which is hopefully the case), you’ll enjoy the activities that contribute most to the company’s success. And it doesn’t really feel like work when you’re doing what you love to do, even if you have a ton on your plate—and you’re far less likely to become overwhelmed. Additionally, working from a plan of action gets a lot of your “to-do” items out of your head and down on paper (or on a computer screen). You know what your responsibilities are and can focus on one thing at a time without all the other issues weighing on your mind.
Of course, even when you have a plan, you’ll need to deal with some unexpected “fires” that come up. When these challenges arise, the key is to handle them as quickly and efficiently as possible, with the goal of getting back on the plan as soon as you can. Your plan can be flexible, but only to the extent that it continually supports your long-term vision.
2. Guard against negativity—from outside and within No matter how intense your initial spark was, it simply isn’t possible to maintain it for long if you’re deluged with negativity and cynicism. This can be a difficult challenge to overcome at times, because it is often those closest to us—friends, family, and coworkers—who are the ones feeding us negative energy. This may especially be the case if you don’t come from a family or peer group of entrepreneurs; you’re more likely to receive a lot of push-back from those around you and you might even feel some resentment as you experience success.
You can take steps to effectively offset any negativity you’re experiencing, either from other people or from yourself. First and foremost, it’s important to think for yourself and stay focused on your business and your dreams. You should certainly be open to others’ feedback and criticism, but only take actual advice from those who have done what you want to do. People with whom you discuss your business idea frequently act like experts—even though they have never successfully created their own company. Just remember that the person with whom you’re talking probably isn’t qualified to advise you unless he or she has accomplished what you want to accomplish. Their hearts might be in the right place, but always take what they say with a grain of salt.
Surround yourself with positive people as often and for as long as possible. Attend networking events; get to know other entrepreneurs in your community; schedule lunch with a high-energy peer to have an inspired discussion about the future. prioritise your time so that for every hour you spend around people who are negative, you spend two hours around people who “get it” and who can feed you positive energy.
3. Fortify your mind Our culture’s “self-improvement movement” has been in full swing for more than 35 years now—and enough material has come out of it to keep you surrounded by positive words for the rest of your life. An Amazon search for the term self-improvement yields more than 60, 000 books, not to mention thousands of DVDs and audio programs in MP3 format and on CD. If this isn’t enough, you can find countless seminars, retreats, workshops, and camps, all designed to infuse your mind with positive energy and purpose. On top of that, you have the option to hire a business or personal coach to keep you focused on your vision.
Instead of watching the news (or almost any TV for that matter), listen to an audio book or watch a YouTube video of inspirational speakers like Les Brown or Tony Robbins. You have an opportunity to control what goes into your mind; choose to focus on positive, uplifting, and motivating material to help you overcome obstacles more easily, to ignore the negativity of the world around you, and to keep your vision alive and strong.
4. Embrace change It’s been said that the only thing you can count on never changing is the fact that everything changes. You can plan for every contingency imaginable and the unexpected is still bound to arise at some point. It is simply the nature of business and life. Whether it’s an economic downturn, an unexpected product shortage, or new technology that changes the face of your industry, something will happen sooner or later for which you didn’t—and couldn’t—plan.
Often, the difference between thriving and feeling overwhelmed in such times of change is the ability to embrace the change and make it work for you. Rather than feeling crushed when things don’t go as planned, stop and think of how this new or different set of circumstances can work in your favour. You’ll be surprised at what you can come up with when you approach change this way. As you’ll learn in this book, some of the best companies have come about as a result of their owners’ need to completely reinvent themselves when faced with unexpected circumstances. What starts out as a challenge that has the potential to cloud your vision can ignite a new spark that you never would have recognised under other circumstances. So accept that change is inevitable, embrace it, and make it work in your favour.
5. Let history be your guide Every successful person—from the Wright brothers and Walt Disney, to Thomas Edison, Bill Gates, and Donald Trump—has experienced setbacks, disappointments, and internal doubt. Although all of t
hese individuals accomplished amazing things, each of them had to overcome obstacles, just like you do. What kept them going more than anything else was a belief in their vision, an ability to focus on their goals, and most importantly, a sense of perseverance that pulled them through when they needed it most. The encouraging thing is that none of these qualities is reserved for a select few; we can all access them.
If you’re still having trouble staying motivated, do whatever you need to do—whether it’s reading an inspirational book, staring in the mirror and giving yourself a pep talk, or sitting on a rock meditating—to recapture that original feeling you had when the spark first hit and your vision was crystal clear. Remembering that moment—and, most importantly, reestablishing that frame of mind—will get you through any challenge you face. No matter what the world throws at you, you do have the power to push through. So don’t let anything or anyone get between you and your BIG Vision!
Excerpted with permission of the publisher John Wiley & Sons, Inc., wiley.com , from Small Business, Big Vision: Lessons on How to Dominate Your Market from Self-Made Entrepreneurs Who Did it Right by Adam Toren and Matthew Toren © 2011 by Business Plus Media Group, LLC.
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