“Part of my evolution as an entrepreneur has been to realise the importance of not losing focus. I have a list of 13 key things that I’m focusing on this year. Every day I look at that list and remind myself that these are the most important things for 2017. Everything, unless it’s an urgent operational issue, must link back to one of the 13 things on my list, or I don’t do it. That’s how you push the needle.” — Jonathan Liebmann, founder, Propertuity, which has a property portfolio in excess of R1 billion.
What’s the secret to success? Some would argue that insanely successful people possess traits like having a vision, showing gratitude, being honest, learning from failure and having a high emotional intelligence.
While these traits definitely play a role, the real secret to success comes down to science, particularly advancements in neuroscience, and how you can condition your brain to achieve your dreams and goals.
The neuroscience of success can get complicated, but it’s really about how your brain functions in three different areas: Reticular activating system (RAS), the release of dopamine and your memory. If you’re not a science person, I’ll try to make this all as painless as possible.
The Reticular Activating System
Located at the base of the brain where it connects with the spinal cord, there’s one of most important parts of the brain: The reticular activating system.
RAS influences cognition and is basically a filter for the roughly eight million bits of information (subconsciously) flowing through our brain. In other words, it eliminates the white noise. When a message gets past the RAS filter it enters the cerebrum and is then converted into conscious thoughts, emotions or both.
As Ruben Gonzalez, author of The Courage to Succeed, explains, “Even though the cerebrum is the centre of thought, it will not respond to a message unless the RAS allows it. The RAS is like Google. There are millions of websites out there, but you filter out the ones you are not interested in simply by typing a keyword.”
So, what messages get through? Pretty much just the ones that are currently important to you. For example, if you’re focused on preparing for a speaking engagement, your RAS is going to filter in the thoughts that are going to make your presentation a success, such as the tools and resources you’ll need to deliver a memorable speech.
As Gonzalez adds, “This means the more you keep your goals ‘top of mind,’ the more your subconscious mind will work to reach them. That’s why writing your goals down every day, visualising your intended outcome and regularly saying affirmations is so important. Doing those things truly does help you to focus your subconscious mind on what’s important to you.”
Dopamine feedback loops
While RAS can help you focus on your desired outcome, the release of dopamine is what makes success feel good.
Mark Lukens, founding partner of Method3, wrote, “When we succeed at something, our brains release chemical rewards; the most important of which is the neurotransmitter dopamine, a chemical best known for the role it plays in addiction and drug use.”
Dopamine, despite this negative association, “is a natural part of how our brains function, producing the sensation of pleasure whenever you taste coffee or chocolate, or when you achieve a big win.”
Thus, it makes sense that “dopamine is strongly connected to motivation, driving us to repeat the behaviours that create that rush, even when we aren’t experiencing it.” The dopamine response is short-term but since our brains remember how awesome it was before, we strive to seek it out over and over again.
That’s when dopamine loops enter the picture. After you’ve experienced repeated success, your pleasure reduces.
“This can drive us to seek out ever-greater thrills,” adds Lukens. It’s why video game players are constantly engaged, it’s the reason why you check your phone every minute after updating your Facebook status, and it’s what motivates us to accomplish more.
For instance, if your goal was to acquire three new clients within two weeks, your next goal would be to acquire six new clients in one week. Everything else is the same, except the more challenging, and rewarding task of doubling your clients. As an added perk, this helps you weed out the work and goals that aren’t motivating you or your team.
Neuroscientists who have studied the way the brain retrieves memories can also determine success.
Think about that for a second. That time you went mountain biking and had a nasty spill? That was a bad experience that might discourage you from mountain biking again, at least for the foreseeable future. The same is true of business failure. You are more hesitant about taking that risk again.
Scientists have found that we can edit those bad memories to remove the negative associations. In fact, this memory therapy is used to treat PTSD sufferers. You can also edit good memories to propel you towards success.
To weaken bad memories, bring that memory back and then let it get smaller and dimmer, like you’re watching a small black-and-white TV fade out. Then insert new details that scramble the memory. For instance, think about the time you bombed during an investor pitch. Now imagine that your audience was dressed in something that made you laugh. Do that five or ten times and that memory will make you chuckle.
To strengthen memories, recall the good memories as bright and loud as possible, like watching a movie in an IMAX theatre. Keep reminding yourself how that experience made you feel. Use that to motivate you.
Related: The 5 Secrets Of Business Success
Hacks to rewire your brain for success
You can rewire your brain to become more successful. In fact, according to neuroscientist Michael Merzenich, it takes just 30 hours of training based on specific neuroscience techniques to improve your memory and cognition, speech patterns and reading comprehension.
I know. That may sound like a lot. But, that’s just an hour a day for a month to achieve life-long success. I think that’s totally worth it. And, most of this training involves simple daily tasks.
Implement these eight simple hacks to achieve life-long success.
1. Exercise and meditation
Exercising releases endorphins, which can help with problem solving and boost creativity. Meditation can help you achieve inner calm and break down any mental barriers or limitations.
2. Consume a diet rich in omega-3s and healthy fats
These can help keep dopamine levels in your brain active, as well as increase cerebral circulation.
3. Precision affirmations
“We’ve all heard of affirmations: Repeating positive statements to ourselves in order to believe them,” writes John Assaraf, the CEO of NeuroGym.
“While that may sound good in theory, there is often a severe lack of specificity that can hinder results.” Instead, “make a clear, definitive statement about yourself as if it is already true, your subconscious mind takes over and will act in accordance with that belief.” This “will imprint these beliefs into new neural pathways.”
4. Say your ‘Chief Aim’ every morning and evening
Based on Napoleon Hill’s Think and Grow Rich, “A definite ‘Chief Aim’ is a specific, clearly-defined statement of purpose,” writes Dr. Julie Connor. “It has the power to guide your subconscious mind. It transforms your attitude from pessimism into positive expectation.” Write down your own ‘Chief Aim’ and say it out loud every morning and evening. When I started my invoice company, I started every day by saying that I would become the best at this. Not quite there but getting there.
5. Get plenty of sleep
Get between 6,5 and eight hours of quality sleep every night so that you’re more attentive and focused.
6. 15 minutes a day
Carve out 15 minutes of your day to learn something new or master a skill you already have. It will have a positive impact on your brain.
7. Remove yourself from negative and stressful environments
According to Robert Sapolsky, a neuroendocrinology professor at Stanford University, “Stress can not only be stopped, but reversed once the source, psychological or physical, is removed or sufficiently reduced.” In other words, the physical environment around us plays a very important role in the health of our brains.
“Visualisation is a powerful tool to retrain your subconscious mind, because it allows you to feel and experience a situation that hasn’t happened yet — as if it were real,” writes Assaraf. In short, “If you are able to genuinely ‘see’ yourself as financially successful in your mind, your subconscious will process that as reality.”
Don’t Victimise Your Mind: The 6 Keys To Develop Yourself And Your Business
This writing offers six keys to self and business development.
“Plan your work and work your plan” – Ann-Marie Heidingsfelder
Considering the plethora of permutations within the self and business development fields it is truly hard to develop yourself and your business. The good news; however, is that it is possible for all to achieve fulfilment and sustainable business success should we consciously choose to and act on our choice with a mountain of good old-fashioned ‘grit’ to underpin our efforts.
This writing offers six keys to self and business development:
1. Find your purpose
It is highly probable that a number of readers might roll their eyes when they read again that they have to find their purpose and brand such a suggestion as cliché. Well the thing with clichés are that they are mostly true but they require investigation and reflection beyond surface judgements and thoughts in order to have true practical meaning in your life.
Finding your purpose for yourself personally and for your business means that you attach a lot of positive and transformative meaning to what you are doing. This meaning transcends yourself and adds value to society. Having sincere purpose is a source of inspiration and can get you through severe challenging times.
2. ‘Stack’ your inspirations
I prefer the term inspiration over the use of the word motivation. Motivation is as fickle as your will power and is finite. True inspiration mainly fuelled by a strong and enduring sense of purpose has the power to help you overcome the most challenging circumstances.
For the purposes of enduring success and fulfilment you need to connect the dots between whatever inspires you which will create a powerful and symbiotic effect that will give more meaning, confidence and improved results to what you are doing.
In practical terms this means to:
- Listen to music daily if music inspires you.
- Workout daily if well-being is a source of inspiration to you.
- Read the work of others daily if knowledge inspires you.
- Sing in the shower if your own singing inspires you.
- Meditate daily if seeking within for answers inspires you.
- Sleep deeply and at least six to eight hours if deep rest inspires you.
- Look at images of great works of art if art inspires you.
- Daily look at your written Vision and goals.
- If dancing inspires you dance every day.
The above are just a few examples of what might inspire you. You need to ‘stack as many inspirations’ as possible in one day in order to experience a great day.
3. Unlearn the victim mentality
The victim mentality presupposes an inclination towards a life of excuses and justifications however valid or invalid they appear to be. Several ancient teachers have taught us to look deeper into our own trials and tribulations and shift the paradigm of suffering them to honestly learn from them and become stronger as a result:
“I take pleasure in my infirmities” – St Paul
“The wound is where the light seeps in” – Jalal ud din Rumi
Reflect on the challenges in your life purely from a learning perspective and stop assigning blame to others or even yourself. Changed behaviour is the only true apology. Past guilt and less than desirable past results can weigh us down within a state of fear and anxiety within the present moment.
Direct your energy towards actionable solutions to challenges as opposed to diluting your finite energy reserves by overthinking on past negativity.
4. Unlearn the desire to always be right
Do not get stuck in the perpetual cycle of frustration caused by you thinking that everybody thinks or should think like you. Yes, you are mostly right but only within the realms of your own perspective.
Be open to other alternatives, truly listen to opinions and learn from others. Instead of holding on to an opposing view for the sake of defending your ego and the desire to be right attempt to ‘connect the dots’ between opposing philosophies and find the common ground between them. This attitude builds relationships and slowly but surely builds bridges between enemies.
5. Unlearn your need to ‘do something in order to get something in order to be something’
For most an expectation is to do well at school, then university, find a great job and build a family. All of this has to be done to truly be someone in society. A key and paradigm shifting realisation for me in life was that ‘you don’t get what you want but what you are’ – This means that you attract both your empowering beliefs and your limitations of who you are to yourself not what you want.
Therefore if you want more love in your life, first be more loving. If you want more money first truly develop an abundance mentality and not only pay lip service to the idea of abundance.
6. Take swift and confident action, daily
Procrastination is the top enemy to success. Overthinking leads to more anxiety. Yes think but do it rapidly and effectively by asking and answering key questions such as:
- Will this serve my purpose?
- Will this be worth it?
- What are the potential risks and what can I immediately do to counter act them?
- Does this resonate with me and does it align with my values and mission?
- How can I build capacity for this?
If I am unsure I should immediately take action on quickly finding out more and then execute. Procrastination reduces productivity by a great deal and builds your level of anxiety.
How To Leverage Your Skills To Start A Side Business
Start a service-based business with knowledge you have acquired over the years.
According to the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor 2016 report, more than 25 million Americans have initiated entrepreneurial ventures. Being an entrepreneur is synonymous with being a risk taker, and one of the best ways to minimise this risk is by starting on the side, from home. In fact, according to the same report, more than half of U.S. entrepreneurs start and operate their businesses from home.
Many aspiring entrepreneurs fail to start a business due to lack of funds and business knowledge. The truth is, in most cases, none of that is required. Entrepreneurs get rewarded for solving people’s problems exactly the way employees get paid for their services. Starting a business is about creating value by solving problems and addressing needs, therefore, capturing an opportunity to serve others and getting compensated for your work is entrepreneurship in its purest form.
Especially for service-based businesses, this does not require a website, marketing campaign, business plan, round of investment funding or any other assets but your existing skills, knowledge and a laptop.
In my experience mentoring entrepreneurs with different backgrounds and visions, I found that most aspiring entrepreneurs worry too much about their 100th customer when they haven’t even acquired their first. Most entrepreneurs worry about growth stages before building a foundation.
This article shares three simple steps to help you clear your thoughts and focus only on the activities that matter in the beginning of a business venture.
1. Define your service
The key is to stick to your area of expertise. While you may have plans to start a thriving business with many products, services and customer segments, thinking too big too soon will have failing consequences. The challenges entrepreneurs face trying to run before they walk is overwhelming, and this causes failure.
What is it that you do today? This will be your service. If you were hired to do a job, chances are you are good at what you do. If you are a social media marketer, other companies need your services and consulting. The same applies to project managers, designers, programmers, teachers, engineers, researchers, assistants, scientists, coaches, speakers, etc.
Grab a piece of paper and write down your solution – “I offer X.” Before defining your ideal customer, start by writing down your service. It’s fine if your solution is as general as, “I offer social media, consulting, accounting or research services.”
Defining your ideal customer in the next step will help you become more specific and targeted.
2. Define your ideal customer
Service providers are often challenged with the ideal customer definition. This is understandable because virtually speaking, using some of the services mentioned earlier, many companies of different sizes need project management, design, programming, teaching and coaching services. Focusing on the ideal customer doesn’t just save time and money in finding and serving the customer but more importantly, it helps in the outcome of your contribution and your results. An ideal customer is “ideal” because you know how to help them get results. They need people like you.
The ideal customer definition process starts exactly like service definition. Start with the company that trusted you to do a job — your existing or previous employer. Chances are, many similar companies need your help and expertise. You may want to avoid serving your employer’s competitors, however, using them and their needs as a benchmark will quickly help you identify similar companies in different categories or industries.
No matter how competitive your space is, the barriers to acquiring the first customers will still be much lower than learning a new skill to serve customers in less competitive industries. Stick to your background. Especially in the beginning, focus on customer segments with the least players. The bigger the company, the longer the sales cycle. In this case, even if your experience is in helping Fortune 500 companies scale, you may want to focus on smaller companies with similar profiles and help them grow as big as your current or previous employers.
Your value proposition combines service and ideal customer definition. I help [ideal customer] with [your service], and I do it differently or uniquely by [how are you different].
For example, I help professionals leverage their skills to launch service-based businesses by providing them with a clear roadmap to paying customers, and I do it uniquely through a tested and proven framework that aims to minimise costs and reduce time to acquisition while bringing clarity and trust in the entrepreneur’s journey.
3. Define your acquisition channel
This step is simply about connecting the first two steps. In other words, how do you convey your service to your ideal customer? Use this as a rule of thumb. Your first customers are hand picked. Yes, social media, SEO, funnels, affiliate marketing and all other marketing strategies can help, but you must get your hands dirty to close your first customers quickly.
When you start and don’t have proof or case studies, people will invest in you, therefore, presenting and selling yourself is your best bet. From experience, here are the two best channels to accomplish this goal.
- Cold emailing, including using the power and network of LinkedIn. Drafting a personalised email or message that goes directly to your potential customer’s inbox is one of the best ways to grab their attention, especially when you are addressing businesses. Keep your message short, mention an interesting fact about their industry, comment on one of their recent posts or accomplishments, and present your services and how it can help them drive results.
- In-person events, especially smaller conferences, meet-ups or social events. Defining your acquisition channels is essentially about finding a way to signal your availability to your ideal customer. Local and national events are a great way to build personal relationships that can soon turn into business partnerships. Spend time developing and nurturing relationships and the rest will follow naturally.
Finally, and above all, the world needs your skills and expertise, and people are ready to compensate you for your contribution. We are all entrepreneurs in one way or another. Entrepreneurship is about creating value through solutions. You do that already, so it’s about time you capture other opportunities on the side or full-time.
This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.
5 Healthy Habits Businesses Should Adopt In 2019
Here are five beneficial habits your business should adopt in 2019.
When we think of adopting healthy habits, we usually think in terms of our bodies or our personal lives. But as an entrepreneur, shouldn’t you be adopting healthy habits for your business too? After all, like our bodies, businesses perform better – and are better able to withstand the occasional storm – when they’re functioning at an optimal level. So how does the concept of “health” translate in a small business context? Here are five beneficial habits your business should adopt in 2019:
1. Streamline your cash flow
You can have all the impressive clients you want, but if they’re not paying you on time (or at all), your cash flow will suffer – making it very hard for your business to function. Similarly, if you don’t strategically keep money in your business (for example by only paying bills when you need to), you can also run into trouble. Since cash flow is so important to a healthy business, take a high-level view of the money that’s coming in and the funds going out on a regular basis. Then, make sure that the two work in tandem, so that your bottom line stays as stable as possible.
2. Apply the KonMari method
Author and organising consultant Marie Kondo has exploded in popularity in recent years, and her 2011 book, “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up” has been published in 30 countries. In a nutshell, the KonMari method is all about keeping only those things that spark joy in your life – whether it’s clothes, books or furniture. The result, Kondo believes, is a happier, calmer, more contented life.
You could apply this principle to business too. For example, which clients are more trouble than they’re worth – and conversely, which ones give you joy that you could find more ways to work with? Or, what services does your business provide that your heart’s really not into – and which ones are you passionate about? This mindset could apply to almost any business context, from a branding refresh to streamlining your service offering, or even just clearing the clutter from your office.
3. Use tech to get organised
Admin tasks can often be overlooked in a small business, because employees are typically wearing so many different hats: they’re salespeople, account managers, the HR department and more. But if you let the admin slip, your business can suffer, and this can spill over into your dealings with customers. Luckily these days, there’s lots of tech available to help you with almost every aspect of business administration, from invoicing and budgeting, to timesheets and project management. Most of these are available at a minimal cost (or even free), so they don’t require a huge outlay. Making this small investment can pay for itself many times over in helping your business run more smoothly.
4. Get the pipeline rolling
The key to keeping your business healthy is to keep the momentum going, which means keeping the flow of new customers. Even if you’re in a comfortable position right now, you never know what’s around the corner in terms of your industry, new competitors or the economy in general. That’s why it’s important to keep stoking your sales pipeline by looking for new leads all the time. Be proactive: go to networking events, ask to be introduced to companies you want to work with, or even just try and upsell to existing clients.
5. Keep your people healthy
When it comes to the health of yourself and your employees, the personal and business worlds definitely merge. After all, if you or your employees are constantly sick, they can’t be giving their best to your business. Several medical schemes, such as Fedhealth, have a medical aid offering specifically for corporates and their employees. Besides helping to lower absentee rates and improve productivity, you’ll also boost employee morale by the improved benefits you’re offering.
By adopting just a few healthy habits within your business, you’ll make sure that in the long run, it’s as successful as it can be. It works the other way too: A successful business will have a positive impact on you as the business owner – you’ll enjoy going to work and be happier in general, which will go a long way to keeping you healthy too.
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