15 Things Successful Entrepreneurs Do Differently
People who rise to the top of their field are always worth studying. Over the past 10+ years I’ve made serious study of those who not only rise to the top, but are able to remain there. From movie stars, to musicians, to entrepreneurs – why is it that some make it to the top and stay there, while others seem to struggle year after year?
If you carefully study and look for the differences between the super successful and the not so successful, you will discover the differences are in the small things. The super successful do things a little differently. Here are 15 things successful entrepreneurs do a little differently that the rest of us should emulate.
1. They have a compelling vision for their future.
Jim Carrey drove up Mulholland Drive, parked is beat up old car, and peered down over the vast expanse called Los Angeles. He knew that one day everyone in the city would know his name. He was so confident that he would one day be paid over $10,000,000 for his acting services he wrote himself a check in that amount. In the memo he wrote, “For acting services rendered.”
Elon Musk’s goal was to create affordable mass market electric vehicles. Not ordinary, ugly, electric cars, but cars that people actually wanted to drive. He saw a vision of a world were people drove beautiful electric cars.
Ari Weinzweig and Paul Saginaw saw a unique community of businesses, all located in the Ann Arbor, Michigan, that people would come from around the world to experience. There vision was a place where employees would actually look forward to coming to work – and love the people they worked with. That vision was over 20 years ago, and would accurately describe the Zingerman’s Community of Businesses today.
Successful people not only have a vision but they use their vision to keep themselves and those around them inspired about the future. They aren’t afraid to dream big. What’s your vision for your future? Have you taken the time to put it down on paper? For step by step guidance on creating a compelling vision I highly recommend Managing Ourselves.
2. They understand the ”why” behind their vision.
Creating a vision for your life is important, but understanding the why behind your vision is crucial. Your why is what drives you. It is what keeps you going when the going gets tough.
Here are a few questions to you discover your why:
- What makes you come alive?
- What makes you lose track of time?
- If you didn’t have to worry about money, what would you passionately wake up and do each day?
- Why is this vision important to you?
- What are three reasons you must achieve your vision?
Simon Sinek’s book “Start with Why” is a great resource for helping you discover your why.
3. They create a road map based on their vision.
A vision without action is merely a dream. Let’s be honest; people in most of the world have, or at least at one point had, a compelling vision for what they wanted to achieve in their life. But less than 1% ever comes remotely close to bringing their vision to life.
The reason is simple. Most never take action.
The first step is to create a road map that shows you specifically how to get from where you are to where your vision says you want to be. I highly recommend picking up a copy of “Mentored by a Millionaire.” In this book, Steven K. Scott details the steps necessary to create a road map to help you reach your vision.
4. They utilize S.M.A.R.T goals.
Now with your road map in hand, it’s now time to create specific goals that you’ll need to reach on your journey. One of the simplest ways to set new goals is a S.M.A.R.T. Goal.
Specific – Instead of “make more money” (which is vague), try “my personal income for 2015 is going to be $100,000.” By keeping your goals specific, it helps ensure that your goals are measurable.
Measurable – In order for a goal to be effective, you must be able to track the progress of its accomplishment. When your goal is measurable you’ll be able to determine your progress along the way.
Here are a few questions to ensure your goal is measurable.
- When will I accomplish this?
- What’s the number?
- How will I know when the goal has been accomplished?
Attainable – The key here is that you need to believe your goal is attainable. If you set a goal that you don’t believe is possible to reach, then you’re not going to devote the time energy and effort required to reach your goals.
Relevant – Just because you can achieve a goal doesn’t mean you should. Your goals must be in alignment with your vision. Sure, achieving random goals may make you feel good – but they won’t help you realize your vision.
Timely – A goal without a time-frame is a never ending pursuit. When will you achieve your goal? By what date? By what time?
You may want to check out “The Success Principles” for more help with goals.
5. They practice the S.T. Principle.
Successful people don’t wait around until the timing is perfect. They don’t wait around until they feel like it. And they don’t put it off until tomorrow. They practice the S.T. Principle – the Start Today Principle.
Successful people train themselves to ignore the way they feel. Feeling can be deceiving. They will give you every excuse in the book as to why you should wait until tomorrow, next week, next month, or even next year before you get started. Ignore those feelings. Start today!
Take some action today. Regardless of how small or insignificant it may seem. Taking action each day will slowly build momentum, and before long you’ll be well on your way toward your vision.
6. They focus on being productive, not busy.
“Being busy is a form of laziness – lazy thinking and indiscriminate action.” – Tim Ferriss
Don’t confuse activity with accomplishment. Being busy does not and will not ever equate to success. Over the years I’ve noticed how people like to brag about how busy they are, as if it were some form of honor. Busyness should never be celebrated. Productivity should!
Here are a few tips to stay focused on what matters:
Remove distractions – Remove anything that can cause distraction. If you’re going to be writing, that may mean turning off the wifi on your computer.
Set times – Set both start and end times for all the tasks and projects that you’re working on. Stick to the allocated times.
Beware of faux productivity – Carefully examine what you tell yourself is productive use of your time. Sure, making and responding to Facebook updates maybe productive for growing your business, but is spending three hours a day on Facebook being productive for three hours?
7. They practice the art of The One Thing
When Jobs returned to Apple in 1997, he cut their product line down from around 350 to 10 and focused only on a few products, continually perfecting them. Multitasking is the enemy of productivity and, as made evident in Apple’s story, greatly hinders your chances of success.
Studies have shown that multitasking not only lowers your IQ, but also causes brain damage.
Applying the art of the one thing doesn’t have to be complicated or complex. Simply identify one thing that you’re going to do each day to bring yourself closer to your vision and goals. Then do it! Don’t go to bed until you’ve completed that one thing.
8. They understand the power of perception
Perception becomes reality. The most successful people not only understand this, but they embrace it. The most recognized names in any industry spend time carefully crafting how others should see them.
Michael Jackson was not only the King of Pop but the king of controlling the perception of others and manipulating the media. Becoming known as the King of Pop was no accident.
Around the mid-point of his solo career Michael became aware that he didn’t have a clear brand identity in the marketplace. Franks Sinatra was Ol’ Blue Eyes. Elvis was the King. Madonna was The Material Girl. And Michael Jackson was just Michael, or even worse, one of the Jackson 5.
One day while lamenting to his friend and confidant, Elizabeth Taylor, she responded and said, “Well to me you’re the king of pop, rock, and soul.” Michael loved the idea of being known as the King of Pop, and it wouldn’t be long before he would make sure that is was what everyone called him.
MTV was scheduled to have a televised awards show, and they knew if they could get Michael to attend it would give a boost to their ratings. Michael, however, wasn’t interested. He was busy working on a new album.
Michael brilliantly negotiated with MTV that he would make an appearance, but only if their television DJ’s would only refer to him as the King of Pop in the future. And as they say…the rest is history.
9. They understand the power of compounded effort.
Success doesn’t magically appear one day. You won’t wake up and one day magically all your goals will become reality. No, success is an emergent. It emerges out of the small daily habits.
Often people get distracted chasing what I call ‘magic bullets’. They get hung up pursuing the latest and greatest thing that could catapult their success. And as a result they forget that success is an emergent.
Successful people don’t have a lottery mentality when it comes to reaching their goals. Instead of hoping and believing that one day in the future success will magically arrive, they focus on the small daily steps that bring them a little closer to their dreams.
To learn more about how our small daily actions lead to our success I recommend The Compound Effect.
10. They learn to control their emotional state.
Thoughts lead to feelings. Feelings lead to actions. And action (or inaction) leads to results. Successful people throughout history have understood the power of this process.
The most successful people in any field are those who regularly take action toward the realization of their goals. They understand that it doesn’t matter how they feel or what their emotions tell them, if they’re going to reach their goals they must take action.
If you’re human, chances are good that your emotions often communicate the opposite of what we know we show do. For example, your emotions may say, “eat the ice cream, sleep in a little longer, and watch another episode” – even though we know these feelings are going prevent us from taking action toward our goals.
As I write this it’s a Monday at 5:44am. I certainly didn’t feel like getting out of bed this morning. Another hour of sleep would have been great! My emotions tried to keep me in bed, but I knew they would try before I went to bed last night. However, one of my goals is to write, so I knew I would have to ignore what my emotions would say and act anyway.
The first step toward taking control of your emotions is to acknowledge that they may be, and often will be, in conflict with where you’re going. The Power of Full Engagement provides insights into how some of the top athletes in the world learn to keep their emotions in check, and is worth checking out.
11. They understand that success lies just outside their comfort zone.
Chances are, whatever it is that you’re after is just outside your comfort zone. If your vision and goals are big enough, they should make you uncomfortable. If they don’t make you feel uncomfortable, then whatever it is that you’re after is still within your comfort zone.
“I’m continually trying to make choices that put me against my own comfort zone. As long as you’re uncomfortable, it means you’re growing.” -Ashton Kutcher
It’s not easy to force yourself out of your comfort zone, but it’s necessary in order to reach your full potential. It’s never going to be the right circumstances to reach for those big goals, but taking action despite fear and stepping out of your comfort zone is required.
12. They have identified the superconnectors they need to meet.
Not everyone is created equal. Sorry, don’t mean to burst the equality bubble. On your journey toward success, some people will have the ability to help catapult at light speed closer to your vision. These people are called superconnectors.
“You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.” -Jim Rohn
A superconnector is someone who can connect you with the person, or people, you need to connect with on your journey toward success. Regardless of where your vision is leading you, you’re not going to get there without others.
To understand the power of superconnectors, check out this article on The Tim Ferriss Effect.
13. They measure and track their progress.
What you measure improves. Successful people understand this and leverage it. They measure where they are currently, in light of where they want to be in the future.
Michael Hyatt, author of Platform, recommends three specific times to review and measure your progress toward you goals.
Daily – A quick glance to track any progress, regardless of how small it may seem, toward your goal. Time required – less than 5 minutes.
Weekly – Michael reviews and tracks his progress each Sunday evening. This provides a prospective on not only what was accomplished over the past week, but also where to focus during the week ahead.
Quarterly – This is a time to reflect and reevaluate. You want to be sure that you’re still pursuing the right goals. Over the past quarter, have you made meaningful progress? If not, why?
Don’t over complicate the tracking and measuring of your goals. The intention isn’t to create a lot of additional work, but to give you confidence and motivation that you’re still on the right path.
14. They practice the art mindfulness
“The clock is running. Make the most of today. Time waits for no man. Yesterday is history. Tomorrow is a mystery. Today is a gift. That’s why it is called the present.” – Alice Morse Earle
Successful people understand that this moment is all they have and they make the most of it. So often we find ourselves either worrying about the future or obsessing about the past. Either of these is extremely unproductive.
Successful people understand there is nothing they can do to alter their past. Instead of over-thinking their past and thinking I could have or I shouldn’t have, they use their block as a stepping stone. They learn from their past mistakes and from their past successes. What they learn gives them power in the present.
The most successful people don’t worry about the future. Instead they have a vision of what their future is going to look like. Obstacles and challenges are sure to come their way, as they do for everyone, but successful people don’t worry or obsess over the unknown.
To succeed, you’ve got to learn to be mindful of the present, to take decisive action now since your (and everyone else’s) future is uncertain.
What are you going to do as soon as you finish reading this article? Maybe it’s order a copy of Managing Ourselves to learn more about how to embrace mindfulness.
15. They establish rituals that lead to success.
There’s a big difference between a ritual and a routine; successful people understand why rituals are vital to their success. Here are some key differences.
- Going through the motions with minimal engagement
- Often they are viewed as tedious and meaningless
- Externally motivated to complete or maintain
- Focus on completing tasks
- Fully engaged in the process
- Viewed and meaningful and vital to success
- Internally motivated to complete
- Focus on the performance of the tasks
Don’t try and rely on willpower, your vision, or even your goals. Instead, develop focus on developing rituals into your daily routine. These rituals will become habits, and these habits will guide you toward success.
“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.”
I highly recommend The Power of Habit. It’s a great read on the power that habits have over our lives and how to create new habits in your life.
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