Archives For Focus

Foreword

One thing I have learned is that for the most part, people express the same idea but they express it in many different ways and with many different words. It is the details in the expression, the words, and combination of words used, that give a story its colour, its texture, and brings it–and its lessons–to life.

We are unique combinations of our beliefs, values and life experiences. Differences notwithstanding, we, and our experiences, are important. Therefore, there is value in compiling and sharing these stories and the multitude of ways in which ideas are expressed. Combined, these stories weave a wonderful tapestry that exemplifies just how rich and beautiful life can be.

And who knows? An inadvertent remark or detail in the retelling of a story can stand to attention and have an impact in the world of a reader. And with that exciting possibility, perhaps the most valuable thing I can do is create the space where the stories of those whom I admire and respect can be shared.

Below are people that I have come across on my own life journey whom I deeply admire and respect. Whether it be their tenacity or courage, or relentless drive or passion, each individual generously reveals a different lens in response to the questions I regularly pepper them with.

As we continue on our sharing over this anthology, I will share tidbits and anecdotes as to why I hold them in such high esteem, and what I love most about them. In turn, I hope that you do too.

Have you experienced burnout? If yes, what have you learned?

There were days where putting one foot in front of the other to come to the office in the morning was almost too much to bear, and when I did get to the office I spent far too long staring at the computer screen not doing much.

Andrea Grisdale, Founder and CEO at IC Bellagio, Board Member at Entrepreneurs’ Organization. Bellagio, Lake Como.

Absolutely yes. I experienced burnout 8 years ago and I remember it well. The biggest “thank goodness” at that time was that I had a coach at the time who helped me navigate what I was experiencing.

I was exhausted, fed up, lacked energy, and was overall in a negative state of mind and being. There were days where putting one foot in front of the other to come to the office in the morning was almost too much to bear, and when I did get to the office I spent far too long staring at the computer screen not doing much.

In spite of this, I felt I could not walk out on my team when we were on an “all systems go” mode in the middle of travel high season despite knowing in my heart of hearts that I needed a break.

Thankfully my coach at the time invited me to look at the situation differently and helped me craft my communication piece to my team, clients, and partners to advise them that after many years building the business, I was now at the point where I could step away from the office for a month to take a much-needed break.

To this day I can still remember how anxious I was hitting the send button.

The reaction I got was amazing. There were so many beautiful emails wishing me a well-earned rest, asking me to promise not to worry, and assuring me that they would go above and beyond to “do me proud” and make sure the business was as great if not better when I returned. And this is exactly what I found.

Taking a month away from emails, traveling, appointments, and feeling like I had to do things was the best thing I ever did. I would never hesitate to do this again should I feel it the right thing to do.

I have since learned to delegate, step away—even a couple of hours earlier than normal—without feeling guilty in any way, and understand that working crazy hours is not the way life is meant to be.

A healthy work-life balance is crucial to my success and my future and that of the business. If I am going to be the leader of the business that I want to be, it’s my responsibility to make sure I show up 100% always, and only I can put myself in a position to make that happen.

A business will always take everything you give it and want more. Set your boundaries and focus on the long game.

Ben Ridler. Founder at RESULTS.com. Auckland, New Zealand.

This is one that I’ve lived and learned from.

Entrepreneurs have appalling health stats. Start a business and expect to shorten your life by 10 years or so. Mental health stats are worse with two-thirds of us having one diagnosed mental health issue and some having 2.

After leaving my last business which was 4 years of major stress, my body shut down, I took time out to recover and learn and was fortunate to be living with a health genius, Dr. Vanessa Ingraham, a lifelong health researcher and born into a medical family. Amongst her many qualifications, she’s a naturopathic doctor with a fellowship in anti-aging and regenerative medicine.

As I got more interested in the health of entrepreneurs and my own health journey, Dr. Ingraham and I extensively researched having a business to support the health of entrepreneurs. The business never launched but as part of it, I completed year-long training as a health coach with the BulletProof Training Institute and as a human potential coach.

I have just turned 50, am in the best physical and mental shape of my life, and am getting ready for the intensity of another global play in the B2B software-as-a-service space. Here are a few of the key learnings in no particular order.

1. Doctors are traditionally sickness experts and not trained in nutrition, supplements, mindfulness, circadian rhythm, etc. Their primary role is to treat symptoms.

2. You need to take responsibility for your own health. No one else can do it.

3. What we do is stressful and you need healthy release valves. Alcohol is not a health release valve and it’s a poison consumed at the levels that we consume it at.

4. The gym won’t affect your weight. It’s what you eat and drink.

5. Fat is not the enemy; sugar is. The recommended food pyramid is bad science and has been long disapproved.

6. Good nutrition and health is a way of thinking. It’s adopting a philosophy and strategy, not tactics or magic pills.

7. Mindfulness is easy to do and easy not to do; like goal setting. It is the most beneficial thing that we can do if we choose to only adopt one new habit.

Most entrepreneurs sacrifice their health for their business then something happens and they are in the hands of the sickness industry. If one is serious about having a long career as an entrepreneur, one needs to learn how to manage stress and find healthy ways to release and take ownership of one’s own health. I’ve seen many of us go by way of heart attack and cancer—both lifestyle diseases—and I’ve done a lot of damage to my health with years of high stress, alcohol, an average diet, and extreme exercise.

Now I train very little, walk a lot, and my weight has been stable for 4 years (it used to fluctuate 10 kgs every year). I don’t diet, I eat amazing food, and I’ve slowly managed to get my hormones back into balance. I’m a biohacker, I track my own medical data, get blood tests done regularly, sauna, and get outside in the sun every day that I can. It’s not rocket science but rather mainly common sense. Look at how people live in blue zones and you’ll get the idea.

Finally, remember that a business will always take everything you give it and want more. Set your boundaries and focus on the long game.

The old adage that if you do what you love, you’ll never work a day in your life, isn’t quite the whole truth. The whole truth is that you’ll never stop working.

Jamie Skella. Chief Operating and Product Officer at Mogul, Former Chief Product Officer at Horizon State. Melbourne, Australia.

The old adage that if you do what you love, you’ll never work a day in your life, isn’t quite the whole truth. The whole truth is that you’ll never stop working.

Yet, indeed, it doesn’t feel like a “job”. These kinds of scenarios have never led me to burnout. My lived burnout experiences have been the result of politics.

There are many good reasons that many entrepreneurs dislike the organizational complexity cliff that occurs at about 30 staff, regret establishing a board, or even wish they’d stayed private. (Elon Musk famously regrets taking Tesla public.)

That’s not to say you shouldn’t do any of these things, but it’s important to go into them understanding what the ultimate costs of this kind of success can be… with the biggest price of all being that it might not remain something you love.

Doing something you don’t genuinely love, a lot is the clearest path to burnout.

A passionate life is like a candle. When it burns, it is so captivating and we are drawn to the flame. It is in that flame that we are captivated and when we focus too much on it, everything else dims in comparison, and yet we draw closer still. If we are not careful, we eventually get too close and we burn ourselves.

Kym Huynh. Founder at WeTeachMe, Former President at Entrepreneurs’ Organization. Melbourne, Australia.

When I share with others what type of life I want to live, I oft state, “I want to live a life that is extraordinary in every sense of that word, and to live life as passionately as one can.” I apply this philosophy to every aspect of my life including entrepreneurship, and at times it has been to my own detriment.

A passionate life is like a candle. When it burns, it is so captivating and we are drawn to the flame. It is in that flame that we are captivated and when we focus too much on it, everything else dims in comparison, and yet we draw closer still. If we are not careful, we eventually get too close and we burn ourselves.

I have learned that passion is very much a tool that we wield. And like all tools they can be wielded to aid us in our goals and pursuits, or they can be wielded incorrectly and hinder or harm us more than it helps us. And so when I look at our I have utilized the tool of passion in my life (or any other tool for that matter), I also look at how I mitigate against its adverse effects. Often, the mitigation is in: (1) rest; and (2) making sure that all 4 areas of my life are balanced; personal, family, business, and community.

I worked weeks with only 2–3 hours of sleep because sleep was a hindrance to my success. Suddenly, I started making mistakes. I was tired during the day, and I struggled to make decisions.

Raymond Chou. Founder and CEO at Infront Consulting APAC. Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

Burnout is something I experienced multiple times. To mention the words “multiple” makes me cringe in personal disappointment. Burnout is not fun because we get unmotivated, tired and our ability to think straight is impaired.

I burned out in the moments when I had a string of deadlines and felt that I had the responsibility of getting everything perfectly done. Even if a teammate completed the work, I still needed to be the one to put the cherry on the top and scrutinize the entire cake.

I worked weeks with only 2–3 hours of sleep because sleep was a hindrance to my success. Suddenly, I started making mistakes. I was tired during the day, and I struggled to make decisions. This general lack of productivity lasted weeks. The worst part? I sacrificed my health.

I learned the hard way that life is a marathon and not a sprint. We can push hard but we need to listen to our body and take rests.

I learned to have yin and yang; a balance of life. We work hard but we must also rest. I make sure now I get in a 30-minute high-intensity interval training session or a 5 km jog every day. I take time to read something that grows my mind, and I am diligent with my supplements.

Without health, we can’t do all the things we dream of doing. Health is the center of everything.

It took me a long time to realize that all the stress I felt was of my own design.

Ron Lovett. Founder and Chief Alignment Officer at Connolly Owens, Founder and Chief Community Officer at Vida Living, Author at Outrageous Empowerment. Halifax, Nova Scotia.

I’ve certainly had burnout throughout my entrepreneurial career and it’s taken some time for me to reflect on why.

I experience most of my burnout during the time I owned a private physical security company.

Back then I was an entrepreneur with all the answers. Thinking you have all the answers causes everyone around you to ask lots of questions. As I starting to build the business, it was very challenging to keep up with the demands of those around me combined with wearing multiple hats in the business. It took me a long time to realize that all the stress I felt was of my own design.

The point of burnout and escalating business challenges forced me to allow others to have the autonomy to answer their own questions. This culture transformation was the first step and allowed me to step back from the day-to-day so that I could move to a different role of guidance and strategy. That was a journey in of itself and for another time. However, I can tell you that I’ve never looked back nor experienced burnout since getting the company culture right.

To me, business is a game that is meant to be enjoyed, and it is a game that I learned to play as a child, and that enjoyment has never left me.

Tony Falkenstein. Founder and CEO at Just Life Group Limited, Founder and CEO at Just Water, President at Entrepreneurs’ Organization. Auckland, New Zealand.

To me, business is a game that is meant to be enjoyed, and it is a game that I learned to play as a child, and that enjoyment has never left me. The circumstances have changed, but so they changed when I went from the sandpit to play snakes and ladders, from riding my bike to playing Monopoly, or from crossword puzzles to computer games.

I often wonder how people can burn out from business; it is just playing a game. However, I do understand that we are not all born the same way. I personally don’t need a holiday, as my work is like being on holiday. I recognize that most others don’t operate the same way, as they play the game too intensely and emotionally.

What do you think?

Do you agree or violently disagree with anything shared in this article? Or do you have any of your own stories that you want to share? Pop them in the comments and I will personally reply.

Call to action 

My goal is to help 1,000,000 people. My wish is to have these articles shared 1,000,000 times through the various social networks. For this reason, I provide this collection online for free and all I ask of you is this: If any of these articles have helped you in any way, please take a moment to share on social media, email to someone you think will find benefit, or print and leave it on the desk of someone whom you believe has the motivation, but lacks the tools to take themselves to the next level.

Don’t miss out on any new articles. Subscribe via email using the form at the bottom of this post and I’ll have the articles delivered straight to your inbox. Alternatively, you can also follow me on my various social media accounts: FacebookInstagramLinkedIn, and Twitter.

One thing I have learned is that for the most part, people express the same idea but they express it in many different ways and with many different words. It is the details in the expression, the words, and combination of words used, that give a story its colour, its texture, and brings it–and its lessons–to life.

We are unique combinations of our beliefs, values and life experiences. Differences notwithstanding, we, and our experiences, are important. Therefore, there is value in compiling and sharing these stories and the multitude of ways in which ideas are expressed. Combined, these stories weave a wonderful tapestry that exemplifies just how rich and beautiful life can be.

And who knows? An inadvertent remark or detail in the retelling of a story can stand to attention and have an impact in the world of a reader. And with that exciting possibility, perhaps the most valuable thing I can do is create the space where the stories of those whom I admire and respect can be shared.

Below are people that I have come across on my own life journey whom I deeply admire and respect. Whether it be their tenacity or courage, or relentless drive or passion, each individual generously reveals a different lens in response to the questions I regularly pepper them with.

As we continue on our sharing over this anthology, I will share tidbits and anecdotes as to why I hold them in such high esteem, and what I love most about them. In turn, I hope that you do too.

What is failure in its greatest sense?

Failure to me means not taking that risk at all

Adam Massaro, Partner at Akerman LLP. Denver, Colorado.

Failure to me doesn’t mean taking a risk and not achieving the desired outcome. Failure to me means not taking that risk at all.

When you embrace risk, you have the opportunity of learning something invaluable about yourself (or others).

Failure, therefore, is knowing that you had the opportunity to move forward or fix a problem, but not taking the steps to do so.

Failure is not living your days the way you want to live your life

Arnie Malham, Founder and President of BetterBookClub.com, Author and Speaker at Worth Doing Wrong. Nashville, Tennessee.

To look back on life (at any age) and realize you have more money than friends, more regrets than adventures, or more hate than love might all singularly qualify as failure. From my perspective, the culmination of all three might be the trifecta of failure in the game of life.

But life comes at you fast and failure on a daily basis might not be so easy to spot in ourselves. I’d submit the argument that failure, much like success, accumulates over time. It accumulates in the seemingly small daily choices of life. Our diet and exercise (#YoungerNextYear), our reading and conversations (#CompoundEffect), and how we prioritize our most valuable asset, our attention (#Indistractable).

The uncomfortable truth is this: how we live our days is how we live our lives. Therefore, failure is not living your days the way you want to live your life.

Failure is not living a life with intentionality

Finnian Kelly, Founder of Intentionality, Inc., International Keynote Speaker, Area Director for Entrepreneurs Organization. Aspen, Colorado

Failure is not living a life with intentionality but living a life by the conditioned state of your societal, cultural and familial influences. Failure is when you operate in a default mode and where you don’t fully live in the present and enjoy the wonder that is life.

No success in life can compensate for failure in the home

Kym Huynh. Founder at WeTeachMe, Former President at Entrepreneurs’ Organization. Melbourne, Australia.

I am of the belief that no success in life can compensate for failure in the home.

The wonderful thing about life is that we have agency i.e., that we have the ability to choose, to craft a vision or determine our destination, to make intentional decisions that move us closer to our vision or destination, to reflect, learn and course-correct as we go, and to hopefully one day be at a place where we are at peace with our past, content with our present, and hopeful for our future.

Therefore, I suggest that life is not chance, but premeditation.

And with the basis that no success in life can compensate for failure in the home, we have within us the ability to build connected and successful families by giving the following: (1) love; (2) dedication; (3) patience; (4) sacrifice; (5) service; and (6) commitment.

P.S. Having a successful family is infinitely more fun than having a successful business.

Failure in its greatest sense is not trying, not starting that business, not approaching your crush, and not giving your idea an honest try

Randall Hartman, Founder at GROUNDWRK. Denver, Colorado.

One hears a lot of gobbledygook about failure in nearly every business success story and inspirational speaking event etc. For example: “My failures taught me insert-important-business-lesson),” or, “My failures made me the person I am today.”

In my opinion, failure in its greatest sense is not trying, not starting that business, not approaching your crush, and not giving your idea an honest try. The inaction is something you live with for the rest of your life and may be one of your greatest regrets when it’s too late.

If you are not failing you are not growing. I think this is particularly true for entrepreneurs.

Richard J Bryan, Founder at The Bryan Group Inc., Keynote Speaker and Author. Denver, Colorado.

I like the quote by Richard Branson, “If you are not failing you are not growing”. I think this is particularly true for entrepreneurs.

I remember needing to close a loss-making business and lay off all the staff in my home town of Bristol when I was 28. It was a harsh lesson about what can happen if one gets things wrong, but I learned a huge amount in the process that made me stronger going forward.

Failure is to not be the best to the people I care about, to never discover what my personal potential is, and to let happiness elude me in lieu of ego-driven activities

Ross Drakes, Founder and Creative Director at Nicework, President at Entrepreneurs’ Organization, Keynote Speaker, Host of One More Question Podcast. Johannesburg, South Africa.

The first is to not be the best to the people who I care about. So often we get distracted and stressed and take it out on those people who matter the most. Family and friends should not pick up the burden of the business.

The second is to never discover what my personal potential is. I am not talking about living to the standards of others but to live to ones that I myself define.

The first is to let happiness elude me in lieu of ego-driven activities.

It’s when we neglect the ability to reframe the negative as opportunities for insight and inspiration that we fail

Stu Swineford, Founder at Relish Studio, President at Anabliss, Partner at Forty105 LLC. Denver, Colorado.

Failure is not living up to one’s full potential, and accepting setbacks as permanent. Every moment holds opportunity for growth and discovery. It’s when we neglect the ability to reframe the negative as opportunities for insight and inspiration that we fail.

What do you think?

Do you agree or violently disagree with anything shared in this article? Or do you have any of your own stories that you want to share? Pop them in the comments and I will personally reply.

Call to action 

My goal is to help 1,000,000 people. My wish is to have these articles shared 1,000,000 times through the various social networks. For this reason, I provide this collection online for free and all I ask of you is this: If any of these articles have helped you in any way, please take a moment to share on social media, email to someone you think will find benefit, or print and leave it on the desk of someone whom you believe has the motivation, but lacks the tools to take themselves to the next level.

Don’t miss out on any new articles. Subscribe via email using the form at the bottom of this post and I’ll have the articles delivered straight to your inbox. Alternatively, you can also follow me on my various social media accounts: FacebookInstagramLinkedIn, and Twitter.

Foreword

One thing I have learned is that for the most part, people express the same idea but they express it in many different ways and with many different words. It is the details in the expression, the words, and combination of words used, that give a story its colour, its texture, and brings it–and its lessons–to life.

We are unique combinations of our beliefs, values and life experiences. Differences notwithstanding, we, and our experiences, are important. Therefore, there is value in compiling and sharing these stories and the multitude of ways in which ideas are expressed. Combined, these stories weave a wonderful tapestry that exemplifies just how rich and beautiful life can be.

And who knows? An inadvertent remark or detail in the retelling of a story can stand to attention and have an impact in the world of a reader. And with that exciting possibility, perhaps the most valuable thing I can do is create the space where the stories of those whom I admire and respect can be shared.

Below are people that I have come across on my own life journey whom I deeply admire and respect. Whether it be their tenacity or courage, or relentless drive or passion, each individual generously reveals a different lens in response to the questions I regularly pepper them with.

As we continue on our sharing over this anthology, I will share tidbits and anecdotes as to why I hold them in such high esteem, and what I love most about them. In turn, I hope that you do too.

What was your first entrepreneurial project? What was your biggest learning?

I had to learn to accept and work with differences in thought and methodology, reset my brain to embrace diversity, and to see the differences as opportunity and not a challenge

Andrea Grisdale, Founder and CEO at IC Bellagio, Board Member at Entrepreneurs’ Organization. Bellagio, Lake Como.

The first entrepreneurial project was becoming a tour guide in Italy. Italy was a country that was not my own, I was taking exams in a language that was not my own, there was non-stop paperwork, complex protocols, and never-ending answers that were not set in stone or black or white.

Back then, I wanted everyone to work in a way that was aligned with my brain and work methodologies. Experience in the field taught me that accepting other people’s way of work can bring the same, if not better, results.

I had to learn to accept and work with differences in thought and methodology, reset my brain to embrace diversity, and to see the differences as opportunity and not a challenge.

You don’t know what you don’t know, and if I had known the enormity of the task ahead, I may have been too frightened to go for what was in both by my heart and my gut

Daniel Dickson, Managing Director at Amarco Enterprises. Sydney, Australia.

My first entrepreneurial project was one that I was unaware would take me on a 23-year journey.

I, and my business partner, saw an opportunity to secure a distribution agreement for a product and service that we are passionate about, and we pursued the international headquarters located in the United States for 5 months before receiving the horrible fax message (yes a fax) that the idea of us being a distributor was no longer being entertained. They thanked us for our time and recommended that we continue our purchases through the normal distributor.

We were devastated because we were near-obsessed, and had formulated a clear plan on how we could make this venture work. I woke up at 11.30 pm one evening, went to a 24-hour printing business known as Kinko’s Printing, and I sat there with my 1 GB laptop and wrote my first business plan. I subsequently printed it, bound it, and by 11 am that same morning my sister (who was travelling to the United States) had it in her hand to present to Headquarters.

One thing I learned is that you don’t know what you don’t know, and if I had known the enormity of the task ahead, I may have been too frightened to go for what was in both by my heart and my gut; the knowledge of what we could achieve together.

My sister—naturally we did not present her as my sister—presented the case on behalf of our company, said that they needed to consider this business plan, and that we are not taking “no” for an answer. Headquarters agreed to a face-to-face meeting and subsequent training but with no promises. For the next 6 weeks while we prepared to go to the Los Angeles-based Headquarters, we borrowed $120,000 (23 years ago) against my parents house so that we could make the launch of this in Australia as big as we possibly could.

In that 6 weeks, we expanded on the business plan, hired the staff that we did not have, and invested in the infrastructure and resources that we also did not have. The preparedness that we put into the plan, combined with the enthusiasm and passion, enabled us to pull the entire thing off.

After coming back from our training in the United States, we executed on the $120,000 launch. We spent the entirety of the money in 7 days with not one guaranteed account on our books. We had media, we had PR, we had celebrities attend our launch, and within the next 18 months we opened 118 accounts with a 3‑staff business.

Fast forward 23 years and we now have nearly 300 high functioning accounts, a team of 40, and we have undertaken some amazing initiatives that allow our company to be one of the leaders within our industry. I look back at the lessons learned and know that if I knew all the things that were ahead, I may not have enthusiastically jumped into. However, the knowledge and passion we had for something that we felt was underdone was enough to fuel the creation of a team, a following, and an amazing client base, and a business.

I look back with a smile and a warm heart when I recognise the saying “fake it till you make it” has so much more relevance than what people give (with a caveat). Our moves were well-calculated, we knew our numbers, and we threw our inhibitions to the air and recruited like-minded, passionate people.

Greatness requires passion not just for the monetary ends, but for the means that gets you there

Jamie Skella. Chief Operating and Product Officer at Mogul, Former Chief Product Officer at Horizon State. Melbourne, Australia.

I left school at the age of 15 to pursue the running of my own small business. I created custom PCs for consumers, built networks for small businesses, and developed websites for anyone that needed one.

I learnt two key things in those early years of business. The first lesson, unsurprisingly, is that focus is essential. Spreading myself too thin meant a lack of specialisation and a lack of ability to effectively market myself as a credible expert, given the breadth of services being offered.

The second lesson was a reinforcement of the need to shed offerings that I didn’t love: while you may be good at something without loving it, you’ll never be truly great at it unless you do. Greatness requires passion not just for the monetary ends, but for the means that gets you there.

I decided then and there that I too wanted to be drunk with power

Kym Huynh. Founder at WeTeachMe, Former President at Entrepreneurs’ Organization. Melbourne, Australia.

I was 8, and there was a girl in school who always had extra pocket money to buy treats at the canteen for herself and all her friends; Sunnyboys that was a gift from heaven on a hot day, frozen oranges cut in half that felt like the first taste of water after a long day exposed to the desert sun and heat, salt and vinegar crisps that we would squash into crumbs so that they would last longer as our fingers grew tainted with salt and grease, Red Skins that would glue your teeth shut and colour your tongue a velvet red, and addictive sherbert lolly bags known as Wizz Fizz and would send you to the highest happiness peaks known to children aged 6–8. Oh how I envied the power she yielded every time she walked around the school yard with those golden $1 and $2 coins!

I decided then and there that I too wanted to be drunk with power.

I discovered at home towers of paper; white, beige, granulated and patterned, and spent my recesses and lunchtimes selling these sheets of paper to my classmates at 50c — $1 a pop depending on the perceived rarity of the paper in question. This venture lasted just under 1 week and I had secured enough funds that would make me king of the playground indefinitely, until I was called into the Principal’s office; to which promptly brought an end to “Kym & Associates Paper Co.”.

I learned a few things:

  1. Your world changes when you have resources at your disposal i.e. the $1 or $2 coin, and sometimes, the resource is a lot closer within reach than we think it is (it didn’t take long to acquire $1 and $2)
  2. People purchase based on relationships and whether or not they like you, even if the product is widely available
  3. The sale comes from the ability to market the product in a way that makes it interesting and unique
  4. Business longevity is a concern when the business is built on foundations that are contrary to rules and regulations #outlawlogic

The acceleration of success doesn’t come by choice, but rather, it comes when we have NO choice

Raymond Chou. Founder and CEO at Infront Consulting APAC. Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

I was 14 years old and my first entrepreneurial project involved selling cookies, that my mum baked, at school. Years earlier my parents separated, and the income that dad supported us with was really never enough. So I told my mum that I wanted to help.

Selling cookies in school wasn’t easy. My friends didn’t really have enough money to buy an entire box, so my teachers bought the cookies in support. Knowing that I couldn’t rely on just my teachers’ support, I floated the idea that my friends could buy an entire box if they pooled their funds.

Unfortunately, soliciting sales at school was frowned upon, and I was called up to the Headmaster’s office a total of 5 times. I consider myself blessed to be left off the proverbial hook with warnings in what I can only assume is the understanding of the Headmaster, who understood my intent behind this venture.

There were 3 key lessons here: the first being that the acceleration of success doesn’t come by choice, but rather, it comes when we have NO choice. It’s during times of crisis that we are pushed to move. And so we move.

The second being that if you have a way for people to get what they want and make it easier for people to get what they want, they will buy. My friends could not afford an entire box of cookies, and if I had fixated on my go-to-market strategy, I would never have sold any boxes of cookies. It was when I educated my potential customers that they could pool their funds, the deal was done.

Finally, if you ever get caught selling cookies at school, a good story will help.

Sometimes, one needs to look at opportunities from different perspectives to uncover value and opportunity

Ron Lovett. Founder and Chief Alignment Officer at Connolly Owens, Founder and Chief Community Officer at Vida Living, Author at Outrageous Empowerment. Halifax, Nova Scotia.

The first entrepreneurial venture I did pertains to when my mom used to take us skiing in the United States. On these trips I purchased baseball hats bring back to Canada. I learned that I could sell them for the same price that I bought them, for but with the United States/Canadian exchange rate, I would make 30% profit. This was my first lesson in arbitrage.

On reflection, the key lessons I learned from this venture are:

  1. Sometimes, one needs to look at opportunities from different perspectives to uncover value and opportunity
  2. There are advantages in being able to provide products to people that they cannot normally get their hands on themselves
  3. Store your inventory in a safe place; a hard lesson I learned when my dog stumbled upon my baseball hat collection and bit the tops off all of them

Even when you are under time pressure, don’t sign any agreement without reviewing it carefully and preferably with legal advice

Tony Falkenstein. Founder and CEO at Just Life Group Limited, Founder and CEO at Just Water, President at Entrepreneurs’ Organization. Auckland, New Zealand.

Maybe not my first entrepreneurial project, but certainly my first entrepreneurial real business.

I was working for Polaroid as a Finance Manager, and was amazed at the cost an agency charged for placing employees. So I thought I would start a personnel agency, but stay at Polaroid until the new business was making enough money to employ me.

I hired 2 mature sales ladies who had experience selling medical insurance and had the attitude I was looking for, and I called the business “Vogue Personelle”. I’m quite proud of the branding; I utilised the French tricolour in my logo, and placed Vogue magazines at reception.

We had been in operation for 2 months, and I was thinking in another month I would hand in my notice to Polaroid, but then I got offered the job as General Manager which effectively would make me the youngest General Manager in the Polaroid empire. I decided to sell the business fast, and I got screwed by another larger agency, who not only got the business for virtually nothing, but also took the incoming fees from the placements my team had made.

My learning: even when you are under time pressure, don’t sign any agreement without reviewing it carefully and preferably with legal advice.

What do you think?

Do you agree or violently disagree with anything shared in this article? Or do you have any of your own stories that you want to share? Pop them in the comments and I will personally reply.

Call to action 

My goal is to help 1,000,000 people. My wish is to have these articles shared 1,000,000 times through the various social networks. For this reason, I provide this collection online for free and all I ask of you is this: If any of these articles have helped you in any way, please take a moment to share on social media, email to someone you think will find benefit, or print and leave it on the desk of someone whom you believe has the motivation, but lacks the tools to take themselves to the next level.

Don’t miss out on any new articles. Subscribe via email using the form at the bottom of this post and I’ll have the articles delivered straight to your inbox. Alternatively, you can also follow me on my various social media accounts: FacebookInstagramLinkedIn, and Twitter.

The word “entrepreneur” actually sucks. Being an entrepreneur is not cool. Building something successful is cool.” — Alex Louey

Being an entrepreneur is hard. You have no money and it’s a struggle. It’s hard but if you continue, and you persevere, and you keep on pushing to find different angles, you will succeed. With your ideas, don’t be precious about them. The reason why my business partner, Nick, and I work together well is because we are not precious about our ideas. In business, there is no place for egos.” — Alex Louey

Culture and values are actually the most important part of our hiring process. If we have two candidates and Candidate B is less skilled but has an awesome personality, will be a benefit to the culture and there is drive, we’ll go with Candidate B, even if Candidate A is a superstar. The team doesn’t win with one person.” — Alex Louey

Just because a customer says, “I want this done,” or “I want it by then,” doesn’t mean we say “yes”. If we can’t achieve what the customer wants, then we can’t create the desired experience, and so we need to make our expectations clear. The hardest thing to do is to actually say “no”. For too long I was surrounded by people who said, “Yes, Shan,” and that didn’t help. It may stroke your ego temporarily but it won’t help. I now look for people who say, “You know what? It’s not gonna fly. Not today. Maybe next week but not today.”” — Shan Manickham

Putting together a bunch of core values, that’s a piece of cake. Get a whiteboard, get everyone to put up their concepts and ideas, pick the most popular, put a few emojis up, and bang you’re done. That’s easy. The next thing you need to do is believe in them and get them instilled so that they are being used on a daily basis to make a decision within your business. And once that happens, things become a lot easier.” — Shan Manickham

A key thing is believing in the people that work for you. If you’ve selected the right people, you got to believe in them. You’ve got to be able to hand over reigns. It probably feels like you don’t want to hand over the reigns and you probably feel like you can do a better job but at some point, you have got to be able to say, “I’m gonna hand this over. I’m gonna believe in you. I’m gonna put the right measures in place.” So you’re going to trust and verify, but you’ve got to start with the trust first. Verifications come later.” — Shan Manickham

I don’t think you will ever know if it’s the right move, but I think you can make it the right move. You can sit there and do a lot of research, it all tells you the right stuff but if you can’t execute on it, all that research means nothing. Did I know the moment? Absolutely, not.” — Alex Louey

With thanks to

Alex Louey is the founder of Appscore, the team behind Yarra Tram’s famous Tram Tracker app. Alex knew nothing about building apps when he went into business, but he knew all about project management. He recommends working with your strengths and surrounding yourself with people who can do things that you can’t.

Shan Manickam is the MD and owner of warehouse solutions business Cross Docks Australia. Shan tried to go into the business through a management buyout which failed, but it pushed up the price for the buyer, so they sacked him. That was enough to put a fire in his belly to form his own company. He recommends hiring for culture rather than skills.

About Masters Series by WeTeachMe

Masters Series is a show about inspiring entrepreneurs, creative thinkers, and visionary dreamers, and the stories behind how they built their companies.

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Question of the day

What was your favourite quote or lesson from this episode? Please let me know in the comments.

Foreword

One thing I have learned is that for the most part, people express the same idea but they express it in many different ways and with many different words. It is the details in the expression, the words, and combination of words used, that give a story its colour, its texture, and brings it–and its lessons–to life.

We are unique combinations of our beliefs, values and life experiences. Differences notwithstanding, we, and our experiences, are important. Therefore, there is value in compiling and sharing these stories and the multitude of ways in which ideas are expressed. Combined, these stories weave a wonderful tapestry that exemplifies just how rich and beautiful life can be.

And who knows? An inadvertent remark or detail in the retelling of a story can stand to attention and have an impact in the world of a reader. And with that exciting possibility, perhaps the most valuable thing I can do is create the space where the stories of those whom I admire and respect can be shared.

Below are people that I have come across on my own life journey whom I deeply admire and respect. Whether it be their tenacity or courage, or relentless drive or passion, each individual generously reveals a different lens in response to the questions I regularly pepper them with.

As we continue on our sharing over this anthology, I will share tidbits and anecdotes as to why I hold them in such high esteem, and what I love most about them. In turn, I hope that you do too.

What’s something you wish people knew about what it’s like being an entrepreneur?

There’s more to being an entrepreneur than drinking champagne

Andrea Grisdale, Founder and CEO at IC Bellagio, Board Member at Entrepreneurs’ Organization. Bellagio, Lake Como.

I wish people could understand that being an entrepreneur truly means being 360°. In other words, it’s not all drinking champagne, being surrounded by amazing people, and having a team of people working “for you”.

The amount of energy that is required, the number of sleepless nights one endures, the constant questions that inhibit our minds, the constant search to improve and to do better, and the sense of responsibility that an entrepreneur carries on their shoulders are aspects that most people do not see nor understand.

Entrepreneurs top most health statistics on the wrong side

Ben Ridler. Founder at RESULTS.com. Auckland, New Zealand.

Being an entrepreneur is a privilege which affords us a lifestyle that most people think they would love. What many don’t understand is the personal cost.

Entrepreneurs top most health statistics on the wrong side; particularly for mental health where our numbers are appalling. Two thirds are diagnosed with a diagnosed mental health condition, and nearly half diagnosed with with two mental health conditions. We also have higher rates of heart attacks and cancer than most of the people who work for us.

Stress and diet are the two biggest contributors to the state of health in the western world, and as entrepreneurs, we need to be cognisant of the impact of stress, and do everything that we can to offset it. This ranges from diet to mindfulness, and exercise to knowing how to switch off. The way I see it, there is no point in being successful financially, and not having good health.

Having been in this game for a long time now, learning to manage stress and understand the role it plays in health has been a big part of my journey. Full disclosure, I thought I was handling it OK, and by OK I thought that drinking a bottle of wine each night and having a “blow out” on the weekends was “business as usual”.

After exiting my last venture, I decided to focus on health and relationships before rushing into my next venture. In that time, I changed my relationship with health, money and ultimately myself. Learning why we need release valves and choosing ones that were better for my health was a big move. Moving away from alcohol also made me learn to deal with emotions instead of charging on and ignoring them.

Learning about sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems and how to not stay in a stressed state for long periods was also lifesaving; my way of operating was not sustainable.

The sad fact is that few entrepreneurs have long careers because it’s a brutal, life-shortening role and comes with huge cost. For example, with COVID-19, many entrepreneurs have to let people go, and making those tough calls isn’t something we do without it taking a huge toll on ourselves (as well as the people it impacts).

Ultimately, redefining success and creating a vision for myself that was not about what I could attain but who I could become, and the values that I will live, has been a journey. As I head back into the world of business, I’m excited about testing this new approach to managing energy and health as part of my journey to be the best that I can be.

The mind of an entrepreneur is a gift and a curse

Daniel Dickson, Managing Director at Amarco Enterprises. Sydney, Australia.

I wish people understood the sheer amount of thought pattern processes and activity in the mind of an entrepreneur, and the way they see opportunities when other don’t. It’s the gift, and at the same time the curse, of an entrepreneur.

There are approximately 70,000–80,000 thoughts that adult humans have each day. I often feel that there are 140,000 thoughts that go through my mind before lunchtime, so I think the biggest thing is how to understand and harness that the energy and enthusiasm of an entrepreneur who often don’t put time against capabilities and abilities to perform tasks in that time i.e. they often overcommit and often complete things up to 75%.

The mind is more flighty, and definitely more scattered, but the part of the brain that triggers fear around risk is often more relaxed in an entrepreneur and, although they will be calculated, they are still stronger risk-takers than others.

You’re working 80+ hours a week for yourself so that you avoid working 40 or so hours for someone else

David Fastuca. Founder at Ambisie, Founder at Locomote. Melbourne, Australia.

Being an entrepreneur means you’re basically working 80+ hours a week for yourself so that you avoid working 40 or so hours for someone else.

So whatever you’re doing, make sure you really care about the problem you’re solving because you’re going to be tested many times throughout your journey.

What distinguishes entrepreneurs from non-entrepreneurs is their appetite for risk

Jamie Skella. Chief Operating and Product Officer at Mogul, Former Chief Product Officer at Horizon State. Melbourne, Australia.

People often believe that entrepreneurs are more ruthless, or more creative, or more driven, or more intelligent, or are otherwise “ideas people”. Yet, the key difference between entrepreneurs and non-entrepreneurs is simply their appetite for risk. What are you willing to risk to become your own boss? To pursue a new idea?

After all, your endeavour may fail. It will in fact fail 9 out of 10 times. The odds are stacked against you.

In the meantime, you’ve sacrificed time with friends, job security, perhaps even the stability of your marriage. So, is what you’re passionate about worth that sacrifice, even if it all ends up failing? That is what it means to an entrepreneur, and that is what separates everyone else from them.

Kym Huynh. Founder at WeTeachMe, President at Entrepreneurs’ Organization. Melbourne, Australia.

If you change the way you look at the world, your world will change

Being an entrepreneur gives you countless opportunities to practice making conscious and intentional choices in: (1) keeping things simple; and (2) choosing how we approach problems/reach to events.

I’m in constant amazement with: (1) how prone people are to making things more complicated than they need be; and (2) how quickly people get bogged down with the little details i.e. things that won’t matter in 10 years’ time.

On simplicity: The act of keeping things simple, is complex (and dare-I-say the ultimate sophistication). Simple problems require simple solutions. Complex problems require even simpler solutions. This type of thinking is rare.

On how we look at problems: The idea–that things that can signal the end of the world to one person and can result in what I call “analysis paralysis” or “constipation via contemplation” can be inconsequential to another–is an intriguing one, and speaks to the idea that how one looks at the world is how one experiences the world. For example, where one sees obstacles and problems, another sees opportunities for learning and growth. In the former, life is a struggle. In the latter, life is a journey of learning, expansion and growth.

How you look at the world is how you experience the world. In other words, if you change the way you look at the world, your world will change.

No one sees the grind, the long nights at the dining room table while the partner and children sleep, and the hours glued to the computer screen while friends are out having fun

Matt Woods. President at Coastal Mountain Excavation. Whistler, Canada.

As an entrepreneur, you have a blank canvas to build your future. You have the freedom to create a lifestyle and business you’ve always dreamed of, and once you’ve been at it for a while, you really get to see what you’re made of.

Having a normal job and being an employee for some people is enough i.e. working 9–5 and going home to the family at the end of the day and leaving your work behind is enough. For an entrepreneur, however, it’s never enough. The thrill of the hunt, and working and grinding like you’ve never known possible is so ultimately satisfying that it makes all the long days and nights worth the struggle.

For me any challenge or roadblock is just another opportunity to buckle down, problem solve, and work my way through any situation that in the past I would have considered impossible. It’s the ultimate opportunity to prove to yourself who you really are, show yourself what you’re made of and what you’re capable of.

The sense of accomplishment, of self-satisfaction, of gaining confidence, of leading people, and of building something together is incredibly rewarding. It’s not the destination that matters at all, it’s the journey and the lessons learned along the way that really teach you what the human brain and body can endure for an extended period of time.

There is also no such thing as an overnight success. Most people think entrepreneurs have a great idea and somehow, boom, overnight, they’re incredible wealthy and successful. No one sees the grind, the long nights at the dining room table while the partner and children sleep, and the hours glued to the computer screen while friends are out having fun.

It’s all the toiling, the will and the fight that entrepreneurship gifts you. Sometimes it’s really hard to appreciate it, but you need the experience, the wins, the losses, the grit, and the determination to see it through to completion that allow you to look back and be extremely proud of yourself.

Entrepreneurs are the crazy ones

Raymond Chou. Founder and CEO at Infront Consulting APAC. Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

Many people start their entrepreneurial journey reading about someone successful in a magazine article or Facebook post, and think to themselves, “I want to be rich and time-free like him/her”. And then once the business starts, reality hits EXTREMELY HARD because they discover that the two things they don’t have are: (1) money; and (2) time. Ironic isn’t it.

And then there are some that start their business because they have a different driver, motive or purpose, and no matter how hard things get, they keep on keeping on.

Steve Jobs once said: “Entrepreneurs are the crazy ones. The ones who push the boundaries. Who don’t say no. Who never seem to die.”

Entrepreneurship is tough! On many days most of us will say, “This is not worth it,” because it affects not only ourselves but everything and everyone around us. But those of us who are successful push forward because in some way, we want to change the world; even just a little bit.

We work 16 hours a day so we don’t have to work 8 hours a day

Ron Lovett. Founder and Chief Alignment Officer at Connolly Owens, Founder and Chief Community Officer at Vida Living, Author at Outrageous Empowerment. Halifax, Nova Scotia.

We work 16 hours a day so we don’t have to work 8 hours a day.

Entrepreneurs can see the future well before others

Tony Falkenstein. Founder and CEO at Just Life Group Limited, Founder and CEO at Just Water, President at Entrepreneurs’ Organization. Auckland, New Zealand.

One estimate is that non-entrepreneurs make up 92% of the population. Even if it is a little less or a little more, the fact is that most people are non-entrepreneurs, and think very much the same way. Non-entrepreneurs do not realise that entrepreneurs think so differently.

Entrepreneurs can see the future, well before others even start the process. So, entrepreneurs see the end result and go backwards to the start position, while non-entrepreneurs start at the beginning and work through a process.

The entrepreneur’s mind is like a computer insofar as it does the analysis so quick that it arrives at the end result within seconds. Once non-entrepreneurs understand this, they can go through the process from the beginning, as a check on the entrepreneur’s end result (when they work together).

I’ll caveat this with stating that the entrepreneur’s end result is not always right, so the non-entrepreneur’s check is important, but it shouldn’t slow down the entrepreneur moving forward.

What do you think?

Do you agree or violently disagree with anything shared in this article? Or do you have any of your own stories that you want to share? Pop them in the comments and I will personally reply.

Call to action 

My goal is to help 1,000,000 people. My wish is to have these articles shared 1,000,000 times through the various social networks. For this reason, I provide this collection online for free and all I ask of you is this: If any of these articles have helped you in any way, please take a moment to share on social media, email to someone you think will find benefit, or print and leave it on the desk of someone whom you believe has the motivation, but lacks the tools to take themselves to the next level.

Don’t miss out on any new articles. Subscribe via email using the form at the bottom of this post and I’ll have the articles delivered straight to your inbox. Alternatively, you can also follow me on my various social media accounts: FacebookInstagramLinkedIn, and Twitter.