- Erik Bergman cofounded Catena Media and helped grow it to over 300 employees and a $US200 million valuation before stepping away to start Great.com, an organisation that donates 100% of its profits to environmental charities.
- Erik also spends his time advising entrepreneurs through his Instagram account (@SmilingErik) and the “Becoming Great” podcast.
- On his 28th birthday, he suddenly became a millionaire; to get there, he developed three strong habits.
- He prioritised things that are both enjoyable and productive, asked for help when he needed it, and just kept getting started on whatever he wanted to work on.
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You may have never heard of me (Erik Bergman) or my business (Catena Media), but by many people’s definition I’ve made it.
My best friend and I launched an affiliate marketing business that eventually gained VC funding. After a few years of scaling our company, we listed our business on the Stockholm Nasdaq Stock Exchange with a $US200 million valuation. It was my 28th birthday the day we rang the bell, and I suddenly became a millionaire.
I’m not naive; I’m not perfect. In fact, I’ve written at length about the many mistakes I’ve made as an entrepreneur and their influence on me personally and professionally. I also understand that the decisions and events that led me to that day were part chance.
However, I didn’t get to where I am today on luck alone. I developed strong habits that helped propel my success. Here are three of those habits and how you can implement them.
1. Prioritise enjoyable activities that target your goals
There are hundreds of strategies and countless books on goal-setting – many from experts more experienced and knowledgeable than myself. However, I’ve had a lot of success reaching my goals, and those successes weren’t because I followed some rigorous agenda or benchmarking cadence. Rather, it had to do with prioritising enjoyable activities.
What does that mean?
A lot of entrepreneurs are focused on an end goal solely – be it the success of their business, a revenue target, or some other “finish line” that they must reach at all costs. As a result, they have an ends-justifies-the-means mindset and make personal and professional sacrifices to achieve their goals.
While there is certainly merit in this approach, and many entrepreneurs have succeeded using it, I like to do things differently. I like to prioritise the goal-oriented activities that I enjoy.
For example, in Q3 2019, I decided that I wanted to grow my social presence. I had launched a new organisation and entrepreneurial podcast. I knew that the larger my social reach, the more value I could bring to these other ventures and activities. The only problem was – I didn’t love social media.
So, I set out to see if I could find joy while growing my social presence. I threw everything at the wall when I first started to find a formula that:
- l enjoyed.
- Would help me reach my goal of growing my social reach.
I started with Twitter. I tried following other thought leaders, asking questions, engaging with other posts, and generally just tweeting as much as I could. After a few weeks, I realised that I didn’t love the fleeting nature of the platform. While it’s great for news and trending events, it didn’t fulfil my joy for discussions and engaging at length with people about ideas and topics.
This led me to Facebook.
We launched a Facebook Group for entrepreneurs to share ideas and discuss relevant topics. With the help of another great member, Angelica, we quickly grew the group to over 350 members. Every day I spent time sharing original content, engaging with commenters, and responding to other posts from group members.
After a few weeks, I realised that I didn’t love the administrative tasks that were associated with running a group. Instead of sharing insight and engaging in discussions, I was spending a lot of time moderating posts and comments to keep the content relevant to the group.
This led me to Instagram.
It didn’t take me long to realise that Instagram was the social platform for me. After a few weeks, I found a formula I enjoyed that was also scalable.
I led intelligent discussions about personal and professional development, I shared fun and inspiring videos and images, I ran charitable contests to raise awareness about causes I believe in, and I collaborated with like-minded accounts.
Not only did I enjoy using Instagram, but my followers were actively engaging with me. This positive reinforcement made me want to invest more into Instagram than any other social platforms – which I did.
As a result, I grew my Instagram account from 3,000 to over 100,000 active followers.
By focusing on the goal-oriented activity (Instagram) that I enjoyed the most, I was able to surpass my expectations for social reach. If I had focused evenly across the other platforms and activities that I didn’t enjoy as much, I likely would not have the total reach that I do now.
2. Don’t be afraid to ask for help
How ironic – an advice column that recommends asking others for advice. It feels like a cop out saying that one of the best things you can do is ask for help, but it’s honestly one of best habits. I’m not afraid to ask for help, and you shouldn’t be either.
If you want to implement the habit of asking for help, keep the following in mind:
You’re complimenting someone by asking for help
If imitation is the biggest form of flattery, then asking for help is second. Many entrepreneurs are afraid to ask for help because they feel like they are bothering the other person, but it’s quite the opposite.
When you ask someone for help, you’re implying that you respect and admire that person’s skill, intellect, and experience. In other words, you’re complimenting them. This realisation will make it much easier to ask for help.
Be specific when asking for help
To take it a step further, when you ask someone for help, focus on specificity. This subtle component of the request can have a profound effect.
To start, specify why you chose that particular person. When you individualize the request, you’re heightening their importance and expertise.
For example, when I decided to start a podcast for my climate-conscious affiliate project, Great.com, I wanted to find a cohost with whom I had chemistry and respected. I immediately thought of a good friend Emil Ekvardt. He had no previous podcasting experience but was one of the most natural communicators I knew.
When I asked him to help me cohost the “Becoming Great” podcast, I focused on his skills and experience as a public speaker. I framed the request with so much specificity to him and his abilities that he felt like he was my first and only option. He accepted, and we’ve grown the podcast into one of the top podcasts for entrepreneurs.
Make it easy for them to help you
If you develop the habit of asking for help, you will need to perfect the skill of simplifying the request. Jerry Maguire famously coined the phrase “Help me, help you,” which eloquently communicates this message, but let’s use an even more familiar example – moving.
I’ve helped several friends move, and the experience has taught me a lot about asking for help.
Friend No. 1 had the moving truck pulled up to the garage, rented trolleys, and had all their belongings boxed up and ready to go when I arrived in the morning. The experience was seamless.
Friend No. 2 had nothing ready when I arrived. We spent the day packing, acquiring the moving equipment, and finally getting everything moved into the truck. The experience was much harder and time consuming.
In both cases, these friends had the same request: “Can you help me move?” Yet, they were completely different experiences and tasks. Without communicating the request clearly, you’re not setting accurate expectations and are not giving enough information for the person to know what they are commiting to.
Asking for help is a great habit because it can help you reach your goals while also allowing you to connect and build rapport with someone you admire. However, if you are going to get in the habit of asking for help, you need to make sure that you’re specific and clear.
3. Stop wasting time and start already
If there is one lesson you should take away from this article, this is it – just start already.
I have a habit of jumping first and looking second. While some might call this impulsive, I call it trusting my instincts. Sure, it doesn’t always work. But, when it doesn’t, I typically come away from it having learned something valuable.
This habit was born from my first entrepreneurial failure – a party-planning business. I rented a nightclub, hired a DJ, and invested into promoting the event only to watch it fail miserably when no one came.
If I would have taken my time to think logically about the finances and investment I was making into this event, I likely would never have tried it. However, I took a chance, and even though it failed, I learned one of the most valuable lessons of my life: People don’t care if you fail.
This initial lesson gave me the courage to launch several subsequent failed businesses. While I continued to fail, I never stopped trying or learning from my failures. Best of all, each failed venture got me closer and closer to my big break.
After the party planning, I launched an apparel business with a childhood friend, Emil Thidell. It failed, but I realised that Emil was the perfect business partner, as we had great chemistry and complemented each other.
We then launched an online food guide in our hometown and tried to get local businesses to pay for advertising. This business also failed, but we discovered a passion for online marketing and web design.
We then tried building poker software thanks to a new passion for gambling that I had also acquired. We again failed, but this introduced us to the online gambling industry, which led us to launching a website for online bingo.
This bingo marketing website was our first success and would ultimately grow into Catena Media.
My habit for starting has led to a ton of failures, but it has also taught me a ton of lessons and set into motion a sequence of events that led me to success. If you have any hesitation about launching your business, don’t: Just start already.
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