I. You in the First Place
If we understand entrepreneurship as a means to delivering value, we must realize that all starts and ends with self-improvement.
When I improve not only my skills, but also my body, my mind, my inner harmony, and my relationships, I provide myself with certain long-lasting value. Simply put, I become a better person. A person who is, or is on the way to be, strong, competent, and well adapted to create value for others.
Maintaining a healthy lifestyle would then be the obvious and essential first step. Paradoxically, herein many ambitious entrepreneurs fail. Often, they achieve material success and build prosperous companies, yet their physical constitution insidiously degenerates to the point where they are no longer able to lead a quality life. Or operate their businesses as effectively as they would wish to do. Besides, permanent pressure takes a heavy toll on their ability to deal with stress adequately without restoring to various medications, stimulants, or sedatives.
We hear those stories all the time. People suffering from exhaustion, depression, insomnia, eating disorders, alcoholism, drug abuse, chronic pain, hormonal imbalance, or cardiovascular diseases are a norm rather than an exception.
Stress develops into a normal, not abnormal, state. Mental and communication abilities suffer. Conflict becomes the common modus operandi. Pain never seems to leave.
The most important part of your business is you. The key ingredient to your success is you. Also, sometimes the problem with your business is again you.
Therefore, healthy body and balanced mind are your first and foremost instruments to build and run a sustainable enterprise. Far more important than smart ideas, money, or the right connections.
Because even the most sophisticated ship loses its sense without a helmsman.
Yet, human beings are extremely resilient so it’s quite easy for them to ignore this fact for a while, sometimes even for long years. If you aim at the “plan, execute, and succeed” track — as fast as possible and at any cost — you still have high chances to make it. How fit you will be to lead, innovate, maintain essential relationships, or even enjoy proceeds of your success and the related comfort, that’s a question for you to answer for yourself.
Business schools and formal entrepreneurial trainings rarely teach how to take care of yourself. In the best case, they advise you to target the needs of your potential customers (which in itself is perfectly fine). Number of leads, increase in revenue, jobs created… these are all quantifiable. And sacrifices need to be made.
As a self-taught entrepreneur you are driven to learn loads of things from scratch at an insane pace. You need to prove yourself and move others have faith in you. Hence, your personal well-being is habitually at the very bottom of your priorities list. You tend to conclude that every extra hour dedicated to sleep, sports, fun, friends, or even family is an hour lost at the expense of faster growth.
It’s also possible that you are not able to tell what your body and mind need to function properly. If that’s the case, then you should start working on it right now. Unless you learn to cater to your own, you will never be good at identifying basic needs of other people.
Maybe you willingly pay no attention to your health and mental state, while firmly believing it’s the right way to go. And hoping that one day you will be able to catch up. Remember though, the longer you treat something with neglect, the harder it gets to repair the damage done.
If you fuel your diesel car with gasoline, it won’t take you far. If you drop your phone on a hard floor, it may never turn on again. If you spill hot coffee over your laptop, you may lose essential data.
All this sucks. But not as much as if it is your most vital working tool that turns defective.
Take care of yourself. Only then will you be able to help others, too. And helping others will in turn make you a better person and a much better entrepreneur.
II. Learning is a Gift
Imagine an infinite black wall that separates you from the rest of the world. There is only one pin-sized hole through which you can observe what is on the other side. You can’t see much at the beginning but every time you learn something new, the hole gets a tad bigger.
It expands slowly, but the more you see, the more motivated you are to learn.
Every day you discover things to marvel at, and you can’t get enough.
When you talk to people whose peepholes remain small, you struggle to understand each other. Sometimes they hate you. Often they listen to you because you come up with original ideas and solutions to their problems.
That’s why you never stop learning. You want to keep broadening horizons of your mind. If you stopped, the hole would start shrinking. And that would be the end.
The world is changing every second. But true entrepreneurs like to always stay a few steps ahead. They are those who envisage what the future could look like. They keep their skills and knowledge up to date. They come up with new solutions to old problems. They approach difficult situations in innovative ways. And to avoid stagnation, they constantly foster their creative thinking.
You can master a new language or sport, you can learn to communicate better, you can improve your time management skills. There are no limits, whatsoever. Every new skill adds a new facet to your identity.
The satisfaction you can reach with material pleasures, on the other hand, is indeed limited. Even if you wake up tomorrow with thousand times more money, it’s unlikely that you will feel thousand times happier. So we should not think about learning merely as an instrument to achieve a specific goal — to receive better grades or to attain a promotion.
Learning is a nurturing process that helps you grow from a teeny wrinkled seed to a stout and graceful tree.
The greatest gift of life is that we can become whoever we want, at any age. And the best thing is that we don’t need anyone’s sanction.
III. I Want Vs. I Need
To build a great business, we need to give value.
Why? What does it even mean?
When you give value, you make someone’s life better. You solve their problem. You provide what they want. You offer what they need.
Our needs range from the basic, physical ones (food, water, air, sleep, sex, warmth, safety…), to emotional (affection, attention, empathy, security, pleasure, esteem…), social (communication, sharing, belonging, recognition…), to intellectual (learning, creativity, problem-solving…), and spiritual (faith, hope, love, harmony, purpose…).
Sometimes people know precisely what they want. Sometimes they have no clue. But they always have needs. Although they may often struggle with formulating exactly what these needs are.
Take a man who desires the latest model of a sports car and is willing to pay a hefty price. On the surface, it may seem that he doesn’t really need it. There are two others in his garage and we conclude that he is simply a vain show-off. Yet, there is always a need lurking at the rear. What he needs can be acceptance by his peers (social need). It can be pure pleasure from driving faster than ever (emotional need). It can be attention of attractive women (emotional and social need). It can be a sense of accomplishment (emotional need).
Or take a woman who donates all her savings to a charity in Uganda that delivers free lunches to primary schools. Some may admire her for being a noble altruist. Some may sneer at her for being crazy. If we ask her, she will respond: “I just wanted to help!” Then we dig deeper and discover that she has always lacked a sense of purpose in her life (spiritual need). Her self-esteem is also not the most solid one. Deep inside, she is thirsty for approval and acknowledgment of her good deeds (emotional and social need). All in all, her act of philanthropy will make a few children less hungry (physical need).
People have needs. And we all possess certain knowledge, skills, and abilities to fulfill those needs. By doing so, we not only improve the world around us, we become more efficient and successful in our work and business activities.
So work with this. Identify a specific need that is shared by a sizable proportion of the population. Deliver a product or service that directly satisfies this particular need. And finally, make this product or service better, less expensive, or more accessible than any of its substitutes.
Sustainable businesses focus on creating value, which in turn means improving people’s lives and having a positive social impact. That’s why good entrepreneurs listen and observe. They don’t always give people what they want. They do their best to meet their needs.
IV. Almighty Triumvirate
When you accept the fact that the world you have created in your head is not real and that any obstacles that prevent you from being successful in life are those you have fabricated yourself, many doors will begin opening in front of you. New solutions, new opportunities. Newly found inner harmony.
You wake up every day determined to work on yourself so that you can lead a fulfilling life and help others improve their own. You keep your eyes and ears open to make your mind and emotions work for you, not against you. You slowly get rid of the garbage you have accumulated over the years. The false presumptions, beliefs, and grievances that hinder your reasoning, spur bad emotions, and all in all hurt your soul as such.
All three major parts that constitute your being (body, soul, spirit) are inseparably linked. If the soul suffers, the body is ill, and the spirit muted.
When you manage to control harmful thoughts and emotions, your body becomes naturally healthier and stronger, often much more so than by using some miracle pills or various medical treatments. When you start ignoring limitations you’ve imposed on yourself, your spirit will awaken to help you live up to your potential. And having these three working in unison, you will not only reveal but also feel what your purpose as a human is.
Purpose is the most important thing to encounter within your lifetime, besides love. Purpose gives transcendent meaning to your actions. Love makes you feel wanted and connected.
Both purpose and love are manifestations of one thing: “I belong”.
When we experience these two, things make sense. Our decisions, choices, even our mistakes. And the business we build doesn’t hinge on success or failure. It has its definitive purpose in itself. It creates value. It has positive social impact. It is worthy.
The concordance of our individuality and our reality stands on 4 pillars:
We learn, we develop, we grow. The better we are, the better we help others grow. And the more we give, the more we receive.
When we tap into our purpose, our knowledge, skills, and energy help us achieve exactly what we need to achieve and what we want to achieve.