I’ve studied a lot of entrepreneurs throughout my journey as a business owner, and learned that there are a few obvious qualities you must possess if you want to become successful.
Characteristics such as persistence, leadership, and having an open mind are just a few. But, over the course of my decade as an entrepreneur, I’ve learned a lot about one quality in particular that several entrepreneurs prioritize and practice. It’s one that I didn’t really think was that important until I started practicing it myself.
What I am talking about exactly?
In this chapter, I’ll discuss why gratitude should be one of your most cherished qualities as an entrepreneur, and how you can cultivate it—along with another crucial connected quality, humility.
[Disclosure: Some of the links in this chapter are affiliate links, which means if you make a purchase after clicking the link, I will earn a commission at no additional cost to you.]
How Gratitude Helps Us Become Better Entrepreneurs
Becoming an entrepreneur is not easy. I remember several times in my first year after getting laid off, wondering to myself why I was even trying. I wanted to give up at least a dozen times, and even after my business started taking off, there were several moments in the journey that led me to question if it was something I could keep up.
In fact, even after I was making over five figures a month, I got scared and applied for an architecture job here in San Diego, just because I didn’t think I was good enough to keep my business going. Thankfully, I didn’t impress the company enough to get a job, because soon after I realized that entrepreneurship is what I was meant for.
Thankfulness and gratitude have become an incredibly important ingredient in keeping my energy levels high, my projects moving forward, and ultimately, my success progressing.
Sure, we hear phrases like “look on the bright side” or “glass half full” and think they’re just empty expressions, but there is some science behind focusing on these mantras. Multiple studies have shown that simple gratitude exercises can result in reduced depression and an improvement in overall well-being.
A recent study even demonstrates that the more we practice gratitude, the more we are wired to think positively. What’s cool is that it’s self-perpetuating: the more we practice gratitude, the more conscious we are to it, and the more we can enjoy its benefits.
But, you shouldn’t need science to realize all of this. Doesn’t it seem clear that the more grateful you are, the happier you’ll be, and vice versa? Sounds obvious, but when you’re in the day-to-day tasks of working on your next project, or trying to get your company off the ground, it’s hard to find those moments. We can all relate to that struggle.
That’s why I encourage all of us to practice gratitude on the regular, and even try to put it on the schedule.
How to Practice Gratitude
It may sound weird to think that gratitude is something that must be practiced, but a regular and consistent reflection on what we’re thankful for helps us think positively about where we are and to keep moving forward.
There are two moments during the day when I think about what I’m grateful for: in the morning right after I wake up, and at night, right before I go to bed.
To make this easy on me, I have a daily reminder in my Five-Minute Journal that prompts me to think about these things:
In the morning:
I highly recommend the Five-Minute Journal for those who haven’t experienced it before.
Prior to getting my hands on my first Five-Minute Journal (thanks to Hal Elrod for the gift!), I knew I was grateful for things in my life, but after opening the journal and practicing personal development every single day, I got to write down and actually pay attention to the exact reasons why I was grateful.
At first, it was easy, and I’d write down things like “my family,” “my business,” and “my health,” but after a couple of weeks and trying hard not to duplicate what I was grateful for, I started to be thankful for a lot more of the little things.
These are things that I often take for granted, like having easy access to a pharmacy when my kids are sick, to the person who let me go first when we arrived at the stoplight at the same time. And when times got tough, like they often do, I could open up my journal and see these small moments of gratitude and remember that there are good things happening all the time.
I hope you consider using a journal like this to help you ritualize your gratitude practice. I use the journal daily. It’s done so much for my mental state of mind in preparation for each day. It helps me immensely, and I know it will help you too.
And obviously, you don’t NEED a journal like this to practice gratitude. Just remind yourself of the same questions when you wake up and before you go to bed. What are you grateful for, and what made today awesome? Try this out for a week starting today, and you’ll find that you'll be a lot more motivated, things will bother you less, and you’ll ultimately become more productive! Give it a shot!
There’s another attribute that’s a close cousin to gratitude. This quality protects us from some of the negative energies that can seep in and wreck our entrepreneurial dreams: humility.
How to Not Let Fame and Fortune Go to Your Head
No matter what you do—whether you’re an online entrepreneur, author, anything, or anyone—fame and fortune, or just the possibility of fame and fortune, can be a dangerous part of your journey. If we want to be acting with honesty and integrity, this is definitely something we need to be mindful of.
Ego Is the Enemy
In his book Ego is the Enemy, Ryan Holiday illustrates this concept well, and explains how the ego can be a huge obstacle to success and fulfillment.
Fame, fortune, the ego: These are super important topics because all of us, no matter how much success we’ve had, can stumble and lose momentum (or sometimes lose everything) in our pursuit for fame and fortune. It’s our egos getting in the way, and we can’t let that happen—for our families, our customers, our businesses, and ourselves.
Maybe your moment will be a few months down the road, a few years from now, or tomorrow. When you do find the success you’re seeking, it’s important to remember that we are all vulnerable to the alluring pull of fame and fortune. It’s a trap, and sometimes we don’t even see it coming before it’s too late. That’s a scary thing. Which is why being mindful of it can help us in the long run.
My Worst Nightmare
I’ve been very lucky in my journey, and as I talked about in chapter 6, I’ve received so much support along the way, including from my amazing SPI audience and my family. Fortunately, this has allowed me to avoid the arrogance and desire for fame and fortune that typically comes with success. I’m so grateful for that.
But it’s interesting. Sometimes, when people discover me for the first time through my website and come across the income reports that I used to do monthly, their immediate reaction is that I’m cocky, and that whatever amount of success I’ve had has gone to my head. As people who’ve followed me on my journey know, though, that’s not the case. They know that my income reports, for example, are about much more than money. They’re about my journey, the process, and, above all, the lessons I’ve learned through both my successes and failures. I’ve always been transparent and humble about that, and honest about the mistakes I’ve made.
This won’t ever change. It’s who I am.
My worst nightmare is about looking back on my life twenty or thirty years from now and seeing that I’d been making decisions based on my own drive for fame and fortune. It’s to realize that I’d let my ego control me, making decisions with money as the primary motivator, and putting others aside to serve my own selfish needs. I imagine this and cringe to think that my kids would see me as that kind of person. I couldn’t ever let that happen. It’s my job as a father to set a good example, and that person is so far from who I would want them to become.
We’ve all seen it happen before: people are changed by success. Some for the worse, while others are capable of staying humble and keeping a healthy perspective. But either way, change is a necessary part of growth. When you scale a business, for example, things have to change as you grow and succeed. You have to adapt to all the change that’s happening around you.
As Ramit Sethi says, “What got you here won’t get you there.”
That’s true, but you shouldn’t change as a person deep down. You should always be kind, you should always be open to criticism, you should always listen to others, and you should never let success get in the way of being true to yourself and to the journey you’re on.
My Early Run-In With the Dangers of Fame and Fortune
I have a story to share. I’m not going to mention any names, but when I first started my online business, there were a number of other people who were also starting online businesses. Early on, I became really close friends with some of those people. We were starting out together in a way, so it was natural to connect and commiserate about our experiences. We were in the same boat together, studying the currents and learning to row.
Some of those people ended up becoming very successful, building software companies and other information product businesses, and making six figures a month a lot sooner than I did.
Sadly, though, fame and fortune changed who some of them were for the worse, and I’m not friends with those folks anymore. They started to communicate and represent themselves in ways that I knew weren’t how they used to be. It was hard to see, because it was obvious that they were in it for the money, and were putting other people’s feelings aside, including my own, in order to gain more success. A lot of them became cocky and just didn’t rub me the right way, so we went our separate directions.
Those people, who allow fame and fortune to cloud their judgment and become arrogant and selfish, aren’t the type of people I want to be friends with. Going through that experience has been an important one for me, because it showed me that anyone can be changed by the singular pursuit of money and fame. Even though I’m sad I’m not friends with those people anymore, I’m happy I went through that experience, because it showed me that even the best of us sometimes can’t see it coming, and reminds me that we all need to put support systems in place to make sure that it doesn’t.
6 Ways I’ve Managed to Keep My Head on Straight
We all have stumbling blocks. It’s part of the journey. The key is to maintain your focus, stay grounded, and remember who you are. There are six important ways that I’ve managed to do that, and keep my head on straight in the process. I hope they’ll be helpful for you, too.
Let’s jump into it:
1. Solicit Support from Others
I talked about this in chapter 6, but you can’t go it alone. Over my journey, I’ve gotten amazing support from the people in my audience, my mastermind groups, other entrepreneurs, and my friends and family.
You will not succeed if you try to do everything yourself. It’s just not going to happen.
Which brings me to point number 2, which is to…
2. Remember Where You Came From
Remembering where I came from is really important because it reminds me of the journey I’ve taken—each joyful and each painful step along the way—and that it wasn’t always like this. Thinking about this brings me back down to earth and reminds me that many people have gone through or are currently going through a similar journey.
I’m very fortunate that I get invited as a guest on so many great podcasts where I get to retell my origin story of how I got laid off and came to be where I am today. It’s very important to me, and I love telling that story.
A lot of people actually say, “Pat, I’m sorry. I want to share your story with my audience, but I know you’ve told this story a thousand times. You mind telling it once more?” But I never mind telling it again because it always reminds me of how far I have come since that day. It always reminds me that it was not easy, and that obstacles and challenges are part of the process. Thinking about that keeps me on track.
Remembering where I came from is really important, so I would recommend that all of us reflect and remember our origin story, and try to tell it as often as possible. It will help you remember just how hard things were, and it’ll keep you humble as you move forward. Some of you are in that journey right now, so appreciate the fact that you are creating your story at this very moment. Exciting!
3. Adopt a “Failure Is an Option” Mindset
I talked about this at length in chapter 7, but it’s worth mentioning again here.
“Failure is an option” is a phrase that was used often by Adam Savage and Jamie Hyneman of MythBusters. I love that show, and I love this philosophy. I actually went with my son to watch MythBusters live (it was so awesome!) and they made a big deal out of this idea, focusing on teaching kids that failure is okay and part of the learning process. That is, after all, what science and experimentation is all about, and what life is all about.
I grew up in a world where if I came home with a 96 percent on a test I was often asked, “Well, what happened to the other 4 percent?” I tried to be perfect all the time, but now that I’ve adopted the entrepreneurial mindset and learned that failure is actually a part of the process, it has become an option that I’m not afraid to risk.
Without the freedom to fail, you’re not giving your journey the full effort it deserves.
Without mistakes, we don’t learn and adjust the next time around. Plus, failing and a willingness to fail are powerful ways to keep yourself grounded. It helps you realize that you’re not perfect. Nobody is perfect. As someone who is here as a representative of other entrepreneurs and a guide in your entrepreneurial journey, I think it’s important for me to fail, be open about my failures, and also show you how I learn from my failures.
So get out there, be courageous in your journey, and be willing to fail!
4. Be Smart with Money
My philosophy about money is always to save more than I spend. That’s personal finance 101. In the online world, we’re very fortunate because we can put certain systems in place to help us with our income generation and spending. Now and again, my wife and I talk about what we purchase, and we’re pretty strict about what we spend our money on, with very few splurges. We do spend quite a bit of money on vacations (hello, Disney cruise!), because those experiences and the memories we create with our kids are really important to us.
Material-wise, there’s only one thing that I purchased that may not have been necessary, and that’s my Tesla.
It is definitely an expensive car, but it was sort of a reward to myself for what I’d achieved over the previous few years. Also, in my continuous pursuit to become more like Marty McFly, it’s the closest to the Delorean I think I’m ever going to get!
Some of you may be thinking, “But, Pat, it’s a Tesla! How does this factor into your goal of not letting fame and fortune go to your head?”
Well, it’s simple. Yes, the Tesla X is an expensive vehicle, but it’s also super practical in the sense that it’s larger, so it can fit the whole family. (Some have even called it the “World’s Least Boring SUV”). It’s also an all-electric car, so it has zero emissions, which is important to me and my family. And, because I’ve built a business online, I’ve put in a system to be able to pay for it gradually. Instead of dipping into money we’ve already saved up for retirement or for our family, I created a few webinars to promote some products that gave me an extra bit of recurring monthly income to cover the lease.
5. Give Your Audience the Attention It Deserves
Some people would say that I’m “internet famous.” I’m really humbled by this, but I also don’t really consider myself famous. Not even for the internet. How about “influential”? I can live with that. I do go to a lot of online business conferences where I run into a lot of people from my audience. People often come up to me at conferences to say hello and ask me to sign books. (I even signed a Kindle once, which was kind of fun.)
Even as a mildly influential person, I’m always surprised by the volume of attention I get at conferences. I still pinch myself every time it happens because I’m thinking, “Hey, I’m just a regular guy. Why are people coming up to me asking for my signature or wanting to talk to me?”
This kind of attention is interesting, and I’m so appreciative of it, but it’s an experience that I will also never totally get used to.
On the other side of it, this attention helps remind me that I have helped people create their own online businesses, and that counts for a lot. I’ve been so grateful to have had the opportunity to impact others’ lives in a positive way. Every so often I’ll have people come up to me, or send me a note online, telling me about how what I’ve done has helped them. It’s an awesome feeling. I love to hear those stories, but I never hold myself higher than others. When I experience those moments with people, I consider myself a little further along in the journey. I try to remember that I’m not better than anybody else. I’m just someone who has taken the action necessary to get me where I’m at today. My job is to help others take that same action.
I’m not going to lie; it’s awesome to be recognized. But it is something that I don’t need and I don’t necessarily want. I love the fact that I can go to conferences and be a “rock star” for a few days, and then come home to find that nobody recognizes me when I’m out and about. I just make sure that if people do recognize me and come up to chat, I give them all of my attention and the respect they deserve. When I’m at conferences, I also give people as much time as possible. If people want to chat, I’m there for them, and I never walk away.
After my keynote speech at a conference a few years ago, I spent four hours in the lobby just to make sure I spoke to everyone who wanted to chat. I did that because I was in their shoes when I first started. It goes back to remembering where I came from. I was the one who stood in line for hours to talk to people who I really respected. That made a big impact on me then, and I want to do the same for others.
The final way I guard against fame and fortune going to my head is . . .
6. Remain Open to Criticism
I’m always looking to improve, but I know just how fragile being in the public eye can be. At any moment, anything I do could have a dramatic effect on the trust and credibility I’ve built with my audience. That trust and credibility, and the relationship that comes with it, is the most important thing. Without you, as I mentioned at the start, I couldn’t make this work. Your constructive criticism is a crucial part of my growth, and my ability to keep a level head when it comes to fame and fortune. So, I’m always open to constructive criticism.
I know that everyone’s voice matters, as long as it’s coming from a place of respect and honesty. Name-calling, even if it includes a pun, is no good. But if it’s criticism that is honest and open and respectful, I’ll always try to understand it, and make changes if it makes sense.
I hope that what I’ve shared in this chapter will help you prepare for what’s to come as you become more successful (and you will!) and start to navigate the dangerous waters of fame and fortune.
Okay, we’re in the home stretch. There are just two chapters left, but they’re really excellent ones, so stay with us! We’re about to start wrapping up this epic guide by collecting some key tips for developing an amazing entrepreneurial mindset. Think of it as a cheat sheet for all the guidance we’ve covered in the first eight chapters!