We love studying the practices of successful entrepreneurs. We mimic their morning routines, steal their strategies, and try all the tools they tout. These are valuable insights, but there’s more we can learn from elite startup founders. While we’re busy absorbing their methods, we should also examine their mindsets.
To find success as an entrepreneur, you need to know what to do — the steps to take and strategies to employ. This is your map, telling you how to get where you want to go. But directions are no good without a means of transportation — a motor, as I like to call it. And when it comes to success in entrepreneurship, your motor is your mindset.
Mindset might sound like a complicated word, but it’s really just a collection of beliefs. In this post, I’ll reveal 3 beliefs that can make you a smarter, more resilient entrepreneur.
Belief #1. Success never happens without failure.
When I was writing my book Quitterproof, I interviewed an entrepreneur named Cory. Today, Cory has multiple employees, a business that grosses over $7 million every year, and a side coaching businesses that does almost $1 million per year — he’s even spoken at Harvard Business School. But in the course of our conversation, I learned that after Cory dropped out of high school, his first 10 businesses failed. When I asked him what inspired him to keep trying, he told me,
“After pawning my stereo to pay rent, I read a book about how to generate wealth. The author mentioned 9 out of 10 business fail. I remember thinking, ‘Wait a minute, so all I need to do is start 10 businesses, and one of them will succeed.’ I didn’t feel like I was failing. I was just doing research. I knew I was going through the same process all the most successful entrepreneurs I know and respect have endured.”
Success isn’t a “one in a million” opportunity. Cory believed it was one in ten. He wasn’t trying to beat the odds, he was simply trying to play them. This gave him the perspective to keep trying until he reached his goals.
Belief #2. Creativity is overrated.
When we picture a successful entrepreneur, we tend to imagine someone bringing a radically new idea to life. But there’s a difference between being an entrepreneur and an inventor. An inventor’s goal is to dream up the next big thing. An entrepreneur’s goal is to launch and grow a successful business that solves problems for customers, creates jobs for employees, and brings value to investors (not to mention the founders).
Mark Zuckerberg didn’t invent social networks. He just built a better Myspace. EveryPlate didn’t invent meal delivery kits; they just found a way to offer them at a much lower price. Netflix didn’t invent movies; they simply packaged them inside a subscription model.
Starting a successful business is hard enough. Don’t make it harder by ignoring the lessons you can learn from established companies. Instead of staring at a blank sheet of paper, trying to divine the next brilliant idea, increase your chances of success by looking to successful startups for guidance. Simply knowing there’s demand for your product gives you a massive advantage over other startups.
Also, don’t fall into the trap of abandoning an idea just because someone beat you to it. Instead, look for ways to differentiate and compete. Challenges like these are terrific opportunities to flex your creative muscles.
Belief #3. Success comes from doing — not thinking about doing.
It’s easy to feel like you aren’t ready to pursue a big goal like starting a business. You might think you aren’t smart enough, or feel you’re lacking in skills and experience. You might want to wait until you’ve read more books, listened to more podcasts, or attended more conferences. There’s nothing wrong with any of those things. But know this: doing is a powerful form of learning.
When you learn by doing, you can hone in on the exact areas where you need to improve, try out new ideas right away, and receive immediate feedback on your performance in the form of real results (or their absence).
So don’t be afraid to start before you feel ready. Many obstacles can’t be predicted anyway. The sooner you reach them, the sooner you can learn how to overcome them.
The Big Picture: Mindset Matters
Too many entrepreneurs focus on external challenges, not realizing that many of these roadblocks would seem smaller and less threatening with the right beliefs in place.
I’ve given you three empowering beliefs to help you begin to build a motivating mindset, but you should also address the limiting beliefs in your life. One of the best ways to do this is to pause during times of stress and try to identify the hidden beliefs that are leading to self-doubt or fear.
You can work backwards by filling in the following blanks:
I’m feeling these feelings, because I’m thinking these thoughts, because I believe these beliefs.
It takes practice, but over time, doing this can help you identify the areas where your mindset needs to improve.
And in a world where information and opportunity are so readily available, it’s the people with the right mindset who tend to reach their goals.
Kyle Young is marketing consultant for startups and the author of Quitterproof: The 5 Beliefs of Highly Successful People. He has also written for Fast Company, CNBC, and the Harvard Business Review.