Wow, 2018. It’s safe to say that this year is a big year for me. October marks the ten-year anniversary of starting my business, and on June 17th it’ll be ten years since I was laid off (not that I’m keeping track or anything!). In fact, there’s something special that’s going to be happening on June 17th, 2018—but I’ll save that for later.
But . . . ten years. What a journey it’s been! Over that time, I’ve moved from focusing mainly on my own business to becoming a coach and teacher for others getting started in online entrepreneurship. I’ve had the opportunity to guide so many smart, committed people starting their own businesses from scratch. I’ve also seen several of my friends go on to become very successful entrepreneurs—as well as a few who were once very successful but had to start over for some reason and rebuild their success.
Through all of these examples, I’ve learned just how important mindset is for the success of an entrepreneur. In fact, I’d say it’s probably the most important thing. You can have the best products, you can have all the right marketing strategies, you can have the right customers . . . but if you don’t have the right mindset, none of that stuff matters.
In this post I want to share five essential truths that I’ve learned about mindset over the course of the last almost-decade of being an entrepreneur. Three of them even come with brand-new videos I recorded. Check them out as you’re reading, and subscribe to my YouTube channel to be updated whenever I release new videos.
So, here are the five biggest things I’ve learned over the past ten years about entrepreneurship and mindset. I’m excited to share them with you now. Let’s do this!
#1: You Were Meant for This
The number one thing is this: If you’re reading this right now, it means you were meant for this entrepreneurial journey. There’s a reason you’re here, why you’re doing what you’re doing. There’s a reason you’re working so hard, experimenting, doing the research, and building a business. You have a deep and powerful drive for it—and if you didn’t, you wouldn’t be here. Maybe that drive stems from being unhappy with your current job and wanting something more, whether it’s on the side or full-time. You know there’s something more out there for you.
A lot of people question themselves. They say, “Well, I don’t know if I’m cut out for this, or, “I don’t know if I was meant to do this.” But when you adopt that mindset, it keeps you from committing fully. Full commitment is what’s required. You need to have that mental commitment to going all in—not necessarily with your time, but with your attitude. If you ever question yourself, always remember why you started on this journey in the first place. What is it deep down about making this change that excites you? What are the opportunities that lie in front of you? Always remember: This is something you were meant to do.
#2: Failure Is a Part of the Process
I grew up in a household where I was trained to try and be as perfect as possible. I was near perfect through high school and even college, getting a 4.2 GPA, graduating at the top of my class, magna cum laude from UC Berkeley in architecture. I grew up in a household where I came home from school with a 94% on my math test, and I was asked, “What happened to the other 6%?” I wasn’t necessarily congratulated, although I was, but I felt like the stress was on what I had missed and not the rest of that I had gotten right. And so, I experienced one of the biggest failures in my life when I got let go.
This is sadly common. We live in a day and age where we are expected to be perfect. I recently watched a video of Neil deGrasse Tyson speaking at a college graduation, talking about how we prize knowledge over the process of learning, and memorization over ingenuity. Neil gave the example of a spelling bee. A person who spells “cat” correctly, “C-A-T,” goes on to the next round. If the next person goes up and tries to spell it “K-A-T,” it’s incorrect. It’s really close! But it’s still incorrect, and they’re out of the competition. Then, if someone else comes up and spells it “Q-Z-V,” they are equally as out as the person who spelled it “K-A-T.” Even though the “K-A-T” person was really close, much closer than the “Q-Z-V” person—and they had arguably spelled it just as correctly, if not more so (if you look at the pronunciation guide in a dictionary for the word “cat,” you’ll see “/kat/”!).
As Neil says, our society is too focused on “the right answer.” We’re too focused on the what, and not the how, the process of learning. We’re too focused on perfection rather than good enough, even though good enough is often good enough! The person who spells it “K-A-T” is going to feel like they’ve failed, and they are viewed as being on the same level of failure as somebody who got it completely wrong.
And when you’re trying to become an entrepreneur, this is something that can be really dangerous. The need to be perfect, to avoid failure, comes into conflict with what it actually takes to be successful. Because if you’re worried about perfection all the time, you’re never going to get anything done. The quest for perfection is going to delay you from doing what you need to do to actually run a business. As Seth Godin says, “Just ship.”
In entrepreneurship and in life, we’re sometimes afraid of failing and making mistakes because we feel like those mistakes will ruin us. The thought of that big fat red “F” marker on the paper scares a lot of people. So we study harder, and try to avoid failure as much as possible. But when you’re an entrepreneur, failing is good! The faster you fail, the better you can learn. This is why in my book Will It Fly? failing is a crucial part of validating your business idea: Seeking out conversations in which people can poke holes in your business model is the part of the process. Pre-selling your items so that when you don’t sell anything, you can go back to the people who said they were interested but didn’t buy to learn what you need to do differently.
So remember, there are no overnight successes, and you might have to fail a lot before you succeed. When you realize that even some of the most successful people out there didn’t do it overnight, and often faced tons of rejection, you learn to appreciate the hard work, patience, and persistence needed to make it as an entrepreneur. If you let failures stop you, you’re going to let a lot of people down, including yourself and the people you could be serving.
In case you’re still scared of failure, I wanted to share this next video, “9 Successful People Who Were REJECTED 138 Times.” It features several people you might recognize who failed a lot but forged ahead and found success over time. I won’t give them away right away, so try to play along and guess each person before I reveal them. There are some big names on this list, and I think you’ll be pretty surprised when you learn what they had to go through before they became successful.
#3: It’s Never Too Late to Begin
With my courses now, especially Smart From Scratch, I get a lot of messages from new entrepreneurs who are feeling disillusioned. They’ve done their research, and they’ve seen how much competition is out there for their business idea—and they think this is a bad thing. They feel like they’re too late to the game. But there’s actually a big advantage in being late! When you do your research, you can find the holes in the market, see what your potential competitors are not doing well, and start to carve out your own unique positioning. You also know that because of the simple fact that there is competition out there, there’s a market out there for the kind of business you want to start. This gives you a chance to listen to the market and create something different and better.
Also, when you start out small, you have the ability to more easily connect with people, to have close and meaningful interactions that help you cultivate raving fans much more quickly. You can create a more personal connection with your customers, something that’s harder for larger companies to do.
Finally, some people consider themselves too old to start a business—but that’s simply not true!
I address this fear, that it’s too late to get started, in the next video, “I’m TOO OLD to Start a Business…” If you ever think it’s too late to begin starting a business, whether because of your age or because of competition, what I share in this video will show you the real truth behind this faulty assumption. I talk about Richard, who at the age of 52 told me he felt like he was too old to start a business. I helped Richard break down that myth and realize why you’re truly never too old to get started at anything.
So stop making age or timing an excuse. Maybe you wish you’d started earlier, but that’s just fear of missing out, and it’s something we all deal with from to time.
#4: It’s All in Your Head
When you start off on an entrepreneurial path, you encounter things that you just haven’t experienced before. And you start to do what I call “weird entrepreneur math.” We start to put more importance on some numbers and not others, even when it doesn’t make sense to. What am I talking about? I’ll explain everything in the next video, where I talk about some of the numbers that trip up entrepreneurs who are starting out. I’ll tell you which numbers you should ignore, and which ones you should pay attention to if you want to be successful.
By the way, if you’re enjoying these videos—and I hope you are—simply go to smartpassiveincome.com/youtube to subscribe!
#5 You Can’t Do This Alone
Entrepreneurship can be very lonely. That’s why it’s really important to connect with the right people, build the right relationships that will sustain you.
I love to meet people, and I love to help other entrepreneurs meet each other. For all of my courses, I hold meetups for my students, and I encourage them to set up their own private meetups, too. I also love meeting people at conferences. I think conferences are one of the best ways to connect with awesome people who are on a similar path to you. Even if you’ve never been to a conference, I encourage you to go out there and find one this year that fits you and your business. The connections you make at these events can be a game-changer.
As a matter of fact, I’ll be speaking at a number of events this year, and I’d love to meet you if you can make it to any of them! Here are some of the highlights on my schedule:
- Feb 26: Traffic and Conversion Summit, San Diego
- Feb 28–Mar 2: Social Media Marketing World, San Diego
- June 29–July 2: Craft In Commerce, Boise
- July 23–26: Podcast Movement, Philadelphia
[Full disclosure: I am an affiliate for Social Media Marketing World and Podcast Movement.]
You can find the full list of my speaking engagements on my Speaking page.
To recap, these are my five truths about the entrepreneurial mindset:
- You Were Meant For This
- Failure Is a Part of the Process
- It’s Never Too Late to Begin
- It’s All in Your Head
- You Can’t Do This Alone
Finally, I’m running a little contest! When you enter the contest at SmartPassiveIncome.com/coffee, you could be one of three (3) winners to receive:
- A 1-on-1 virtual chat over coffee to discuss whatever you’d like: your business, personal life, if you are stuck on something and need help, or want to run an idea by me.
- To promote anything you want (business name, social media handles, “hi, mom!”, etc.) and be featured in an upcoming YouTube video that I’ll post on the Smart Passive Income YouTube channel.
PLUS, you can earn additional entries by subscribing to my YouTube channel (10 additional entries) and referring friends to sign up (3 entries for each friend), or following me on Instagram (1 entry)!
So be sure to enter the contest today!