Worldwide, the data shows that the majority of start-ups go out of business within five years, and two-thirds are no longer operating ten years after being formed. What is it that makes some entrepreneurs successful, while so many others fail?
Mark Holtshousen, currently regarded as one of the leading executive and transformational coaches in South Africa and based at Cycan, believes that only a small number of people lead truly meaningful lives, which is why so few are successful.
“Most people really aren’t living, they’re doing time. Lives that are meaningful and that really work don’t happen by mistake. We don’t default into them. A life that matters is earmarked by passion, purpose, and power. These things should not just punctuate our existence. Most people have become so used to being comfortably miserable that they get surprised when magic happens in their lives.”
Holtshousen’s use of psychoneuroimmunology (PNI), the study of the interactions between psychological factors, the central nervous system, and immune function as modulated by the neuroendocrine system, has led him to work with people within a diagnostic framework created by Dr Ian Weinberg.
The framework consists of three triangles representing archetypes of behaviour: personal health potential, potential to experience enjoyment, and potential for healthy interaction with other archetypes.
When success becomes inevitable
When it comes to successful entrepreneurship, the Alpha archtype’s approach to life is key. Success is almost inevitable for them because they have identified what they do best with the least amount of effort. “This approach is in stark contrast to traditional CV-driven capabilities and competencies.
If you know what you do best and how you add value you’ll never feel threatened because you’re not competing for space – you own that space.” Happily, people do have the ability to shift the way they think and become more self-aware: you’re not condemned to be a Bravo archtype, while a Charlie archtype who becomes aware of their capabilities and competencies can transition into the other archetypes.
“Success comes to people who are highly self-aware. It’s that awareness that is key. It’s the essential first step toward maximising skills, improving judgement and identifying opportunities.”
An entrepreneur who sets out from a place of self-awareness utilises and leverages their natural passion. Yes, there do need to be critical context-specific events that take place to help get a business off the ground, but entrepreneurship is very often rooted in some kind of disaster or calamity, such as retrenchment or downsizing.
Many entrepreneurs are corporate refugees who leave the world of big business having become thoroughly disillusioned. But there are also those who are driven purely by the desire to do something different based on what they do well, and what comes easiest to them.
Why you need to cultivate awareness
Pointing to highly successful business founders like Richard Branson, who has no tertiary education, and university drop-outs Michael Dell and Mark Zuckerberg, Holtshousen says gift trumps expertise all the time.
“Entrepreneurs who discover their own talents at a young age do themselves a great favour because they short-cut the process to self-actualisation. In doing so, they manage to avoid the career trap that happens to many senior business leaders who find themselves on a trajectory dictated by the degree they chose to do in their late teens.
These people often have no idea where their gifts and competencies lie. Again, the key is to identify your natural talents – the things that are easy for you to do.
Great entrepreneurs have always been able to identify what they’re good at and to stick to it.” The lesson here is that if you have an entrepreneurial bent, identify your strengths and let your education be informed by that so that you leverage your inborn abilities.
Holtshousen says one of the simplest ways to develop true self-awareness is to listen to what people say about you. “In many instances, we don’t realise what we are naturally talented at because we do it without thinking.
These are unconscious competencies, which are really the most valuable if you want to tap into what will make you successful. It’s about being able to articulate and label what you might think of as simple common sense, but which actually defines for you the space that you alone own.”
All true entrepreneurs, he says, know what they’re unconsciously competent at and they’re able to access that early on in their lives. “It’s important to honour and respect your gifts. When you know what they are and you have named them, you can build a value proposition that you can take to market.”
Failure, on the other hand, often results from unawareness of those competencies. When you’re unable to label the uniqueness of the competencies you are taking to market, success will be difficult to achieve because you’ll be competing in a “me too” space, rather than a “me only” one.
“That is done by knowing what you excel at and building a business around that, rather than building a business first and then hoping that it resonates with who you are. That’s what made Steve Jobs such an icon. He was frustrated with the status quo and he understood how he was able to do things differently. He held this knowledge as sacred, he honoured it and built a business based on that, and not on a big idea.”
The three archetypes
The archetypes, Alpha, Bravo and Charlie, are partly drawn from a Y-axis that represents “passionate, purposeful energy input” while the X-axis represents the “spectrum of environment integrated in the participant’s subjective world view,” or how inclusive they are. Holtshousen says every individual has the potential for each archetype, but we have one archetype that is dominant in our lives, determining how we function.
1. The Bravo Archetype
Traits: Ambitious, aggressive, insensitive, judgemental, greedy
Drives: Need for recognition; fear of failure
This is an archetype obsessed with their own needs and driven ambitiously to achieve these needs. The first drive is essentially one of fear – fear of failing to achieve the objectives. The second drive is one characterised by the need for recognition and adoration.
This archetype has integrated only ‘own needs’. Therefore everything that lies outside of self-interest – the subjective world-view – is judged to be unimportant and of inferior value. This archetype is thus insensitive to all that lies outside of their interests.
“Most business leaders are Bravos,” says Holtshousen. “These are high-performing, highly ambitious, motivated people, but they tend to be driven by fear – fear of being ignored, fear of failure, fear of being deprived or losing. Their motivation tends to quite negative, which is alarming if you consider that Bravos populate the upper echelons of most companies.”
The Charlie Archetype
Traits: Unmotivated, poor self-esteem, poor self-image
Drives: Hypochondriac, diminishing others’ successes
Once again, ‘own needs’ is important. The difference between the Bravo and Charlie archetypes is that while the Bravo archetype has experienced success, the Charlie archetype has only experienced very limited success and gratification. The Charlie archetype therefore emerges from a heritage of futility.
This futility results from continued failure to experience success and gratification despite the repeated attempts in this regard. A point is reached where subjectively the Charlie archetype believes that no amount of energy input will result in any meaningful result. This mind state is termed hopeless-helpless and is associated with self-destructive chemistry.
Two noticeable drives of the Charlie archetype include hypochondria and the need to diminish the successes of others. The former reflects the need to be noticed and acknowledged while the latter results from a situation in which the Charlie archetype, having never really experienced success and gratification, finds it difficult to share an environment with successful individuals.
The Charlie archetype therefore sabotages the successes of others to lessen the pain of failure.
“Charlies are entrapped individuals who typically have low self-awareness and little belief in their capabilities. They’re often the result of a childhood lived with no rewards. This doesn’t mean that they’re not capable. Vincent van Gogh is a great example of a Charlie who was extremely talented, yet had no sense of his own resourcefulness.”
3. The Alpha archetype
Traits: Confident, self-sufficient, non-judgemental
Drives: Personal development, environmental development, enjoyment
This is the benchmark archetype. In this archetype we find a healthy purposeful energy input together with a very broad base reflecting an environmental integration well beyond ‘own needs’. In this way, the Alpha archetype reflects a significant surplus of resilience in terms of wellness and performance.
Their broad environmental appreciation rules out the development of insensitivity or judgmentalism which is found in the Bravo type. The Alpha type is driven by the need for personal development and fulfilment as well as enjoyment. There is very little fear of failure in this confident and self-assured individual.
“The Alpha is the ideal archetype. In society, it’s represented by people like Nelson Mandela and Desmond Tutu. In business, great entrepreneurs and businesspeople like Mark Shuttleworth, Clem Sunter, and Michael Jordaan are representative.
This is the ideal space to occupy if you want to achieve maximum success in your life – that means living a life of self-actualisation that is driven by passion, purpose and power. An Alpha has achieved maximum fulfilment and is gratified, has fully integrated social, recreational and work environments, and is not threatened by anyone.
It’s interesting to note that because Alphas are not fear-driven, companies tend to prefer employing Bravos. Alphas do, however, make the most successful entrepreneurs because they have the benefit of absolute freedom in their lives.
They understand their unique value proposition, and that frees them from the need to ever feel threatened. In today’s economic climate, that’s an enormous achievement.”