Very few ancient philosophies can be traced back to an entrepreneur, but one can: Stoicism. Around 304 BC, a merchant named Zeno was shipwrecked on a trading voyage. He lost nearly everything.
Making his way to Athens, he was introduced to philosophy by Crates of Thebes, a famous Cynic, which changed his life. Within a few years, Stoic philosophy would be born. As Zeno later joked, “I made a prosperous voyage when I suffered shipwreck.”
Since then, Stoicism has been a source of guidance, wisdom and practical advice for millions. It’s been used by everyone from Marcus Aurelius and Seneca (one of the richest men in Rome), to Theodore Roosevelt, Frederick the Great and Michel de Montaigne. More recently, Stoicism has been cited by investors like Tim Ferriss and executives like Jonathan Newhouse, the CEO of Condé Nast International. Even football coaches like Pete Carroll of the Seattle Seahawks and baseball managers like Jeff Banister of the Texas Rangers have recommended Stoicism to their players.
Below are five Stoic exercises and strategies, pulled from the new book The Daily Stoic, that will help you run your business, and find clarity, effectiveness and serenity.
Find The Right Scene
“Above all, keep a close watch on this — that you are never so tied to your former acquaintances and friends that you are pulled down to their level. If you don’t, you’ll be ruined. . . . You must choose whether to be loved by these friends and remain the same person, or to become a better person at the cost of those friends . . . if you try to have it both ways you will neither make progress nor keep what you once had.” — Epictetus, Discourses, 4.2.1; 4–5
Jim Rohn’s widely quoted line is: “You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.” James Altucher advises young writers and entrepreneurs to find their “scene”— a group of peers who push them to be better. Your father might have given you a warning when he saw you spending time with some bad kids: “Remember, you become like your friends.” One of Goethe’s maxims captures it better: “Tell me with whom you consort and I will tell you who you are.”
Consciously consider whom you allow into your life – not like some snobby elitist but like someone who is trying to cultivate the best life possible. Ask yourself about the people you meet and spend time with:
- Are they making me better?
- Do they encourage me to push forward and hold me accountable?
- Or do they drag me down to their level?
- Now, with this in mind, ask the most important question: Should I spend more or less time with these folks?
The second part of Goethe’s quote tells us the stakes of this choice: “If I know how you spend your time,” he said, “then I know what might become of you.”
The Art of Negative Visualisation
“We say that nothing happens to a wise man against his expectation. . . nor do all things turn out for him as he wished but as he reckoned — and above all he reckoned that something could block his plans.” — Seneca, On Tranquillity of Mind 13.2–3
We often learn the hard way that our world is ruled by external factors. We don’t always get what is rightfully ours, even if we’ve earned it. Not everything is as clean and straightforward as the games they play in business school. Psychologically, we must prepare ourselves for this to happen.
If it comes as a constant surprise each and every time something unexpected occurs, you’re not only going to be miserable whenever you attempt something big, you’re going to have a much harder time accepting it and moving on to attempts two, three, and four. The only guarantee, ever, is that things could go wrong. The only thing we can use to mitigate this is anticipation, because the only variable we control completely is ourselves.
The world might call you a pessimist. Who cares? It’s far better to seem like a downer than to be blindsided or caught off guard.
You know what’s better than building things up in your imagination? Building things up in real life. Of course, it’s a lot more fun to build things up in your imagination than it is to tear them down. But what purpose does that serve? It only sets you up for disappointment. Chimeras are like bandages – they hurt when torn away.
With anticipation, we have time to raise defenses, or even avoid them entirely. We’re ready to be driven off course because we’ve plotted a way back. We can resist going to pieces if things didn’t go as planned. With anticipation, we can endure.
We are prepared for failure and ready for success.
Never Do Anything Out of Habit
“So in the majority of other things, we address circumstances not in accordance with the right assumptions, but mostly by following wretched habit. Since all that I’ve said is the case, the person in training must seek to rise above, so as to stop seeking out pleasure and steering away from pain; to stop clinging to living and abhorring death; and in the case of property and money, to stop valuing receiving over giving.” – Musonius Rufus, Lectures, 6.25.5–11
A worker is asked: “Why did you do it this way?” The answer, “Because that’s the way we’ve always done things.” The answer frustrates every good boss and sets the mouth of every entrepreneur watering. The worker has stopped thinking and is mindlessly operating out of habit. The business is ripe for disruption by a competitor, and the worker will probably get fired by any thinking boss.
We should apply the same ruthlessness to our own habits. In fact, we are studying philosophy precisely to break ourselves of rote behaviour. Find what you do out of rote memory or routine. Ask yourself: Is this really the best way to do it? Know why you do what you do.
The Start-up of You
“But what does Socrates say? ‘Just as one person delights in improving his farm, and another his horse, so I delight in attending to my own improvement day by day.’” – Epictetus, Discourses, 3.5.14
The rage these days is to start your own company – to be an entrepreneur. There is no question, building a business from scratch can be an immensely rewarding pursuit. It’s why people put their whole lives into doing it, working countless hours and taking countless risks.
But shouldn’t we be just as invested in building ourselves as we would be to any company?
Like a startup, we begin as just an idea: we’re incubated, put out into the world where we develop slowly, and then, over time, we accumulate partners, employees, customers, investors, and wealth. Is it really so strange to treat your own life as seriously as you might treat an idea for a business? Which one really is the matter of life and death?
Don’t read the news today
Today you will be tempted – pressured even – to stay abreast of current events. To watch the news, to read a few articles, to check the stream of real-time events on Twitter. Resist this impulse.
Remember what Thoreau said: “To a philosopher, all news, as it is called, is gossip, and they who edit and read it are old women over tea.” Remember what Epictetus said, “If you wish to improve, be content to appear clueless or stupid in extraneous matters.”
Unless you’re a hedge-fund manager or a journalist, most of the breaking news out there is utterly irrelevant to your life (to say nothing of it being endlessly manipulative, exploitative and often incorrect). And considering all the things you could have been thinking about and doing instead, following it comes at a cost. A cost which is paid by you and your family and the world around you.
Don’t watch the news today. Focus on what’s in front of you. Exist solely in the present moment.
Your career is not a life sentence
“How disgraceful is the lawyer whose dying breath passes while at court, at an advanced age, pleading for unknown litigants and still seeking the approval of ignorant spectators.” – Seneca, On the Brevity of Life, 20.2
Every few years, a sad spectacle is played out in the news. An old millionaire, still lord of his business empire, is taken to court. Shareholders and family members go to court to argue that he is no longer mentally competent to make decisions – that the patriarch is not fit to run his own company and legal affairs.
Related: The Best Advice You’ll Ever Get
Because this powerful person refused to ever relinquish control or develop a succession plan, he is subjected to one of life’s worst humiliations: The public exposure of his most private vulnerabilities.
We must not get so wrapped up in our work that we think we’re immune from the reality of aging and life. Who wants to be the person who can never let go? Is there so little meaning in your life that your only pursuit is work until you’re eventually carted off in a coffin?
Take pride in your work. But it is not all there is.
This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.
3 Dangerous Entrepreneurial Myths You Need To Ignore
This terrible advice won’t actually get you anywhere.
We’ve all heard the numbers about how hard it is to build a long-lasting business. While there are many factors at play to get there, without effective marketing and sales a business cannot survive.
Unfortunately, there is a multitude of dangerous and destructive marketing advice swirling around the heads of vulnerable entrepreneurs. Like vultures seeking their next meal, “gurus” pontificate nonsense that these hard-working business owners follow, only to discover that what they tried doesn’t work.
Often, once the damage is done, it is too late for them to do anything else about it.
If you want to not only survive, but thrive, here is some of the terrible advice you need to start ignoring:
1“You need to be everywhere”
I’m sorry, but how do these people sleep at night without the use of narcotics? “Experts” spew out dribble to make headlines saying you need to get on Snapchat, get on Periscope, do YouTube Live … be everywhere! They’ll say you need to get on this platform or that social media network. Oh, and use LinkedIn Live! And make sure to post on Instagram three times a day and Facebook twice a day. And don’t forget those Facebook Lives. Make sure to do them every day.
ACK! Just writing that paragraph stressed me out. How the heck are you supposed to be on all of those channels, never mind doing it all effectively, and still run your business? Of course you can’t. And you shouldn’t. (Unless self-torture is your thing, in which case have at it. There are books about that, but I’m not giving any titles because I’d have to Google them and then I’d be retargeted by the ads and that would just be gross.)
It is impossible to spend even half an hour on each major network and still get any work done. Forget about focusing on measurement, profit and return on investment. They don’t mention that on purpose, because then these crazy-pants suggestions would really make no sense. But, then these “experts” would stop making the headlines, so they keep serving up spoiled advice for the poor folk who chow down and then get sick on it.
Don’t allow yourself to fall victim to their plots of deception. Demand strategies that value your time and produce results in a significant and measurable way quickly.
2“It takes money to make money”
I didn’t take the easy way out. I am part of a group of scrappy entrepreneurs who have a lot of hustle and heart and little/no/negative funds. I didn’t come from family money, and the big banks certainly weren’t lending to businesses like mine.
The only way I was going to get a big pile of cash was if I won the lottery. And since I’ve only played about four times in the last decade, the chances of that happening were slim. What I had to find was the same thing you most likely want – a solution to predictably bring in customers when there is no marketing budget to play with.
The worst are who I call the “Ferrari Marketers.” They rent a sportscar for an hour or two, hang out in front of it and then sell us shiny object strategies that they haven’t even used in their own business.
They are abhorrent, hideous and dangerous. Not only are they crooks stealing the money of the people who are seeking a solution from them, but they may prevent really talented people who have a gift/service/product/offer to share that can help someone else from ever reaching them.
Did I mention they suck?
But, once you discover a game-changing system, you are responsible for implementing it. You can’t be distracted by shiny objects any longer.
As Jack Welch says, “Good business leaders create a vision, articulate the vision, passionately own the vision and relentlessly drive it to completion.”
Don’t allow yourself to be enticed or distracted by fads or the “latest and greatest/not greatest” new social media strategy, channel or tactic.
Once you uncover how to truly get results, be strong-willed and stubborn. Repel any idea, strategy or initiative that requires you to keep spending money to make money. If you keep throwing dollars and time at a goal, hoping and wishing that it will work, yet not tracking or measuring the results and scaling accordingly, then you cannot expect results.
Start measuring, tracking and demanding results from your time and money, rising above others and landing in the successful minority that thrives instead of survives.
This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.
5 Mindset Changes You Must Make When Going From Employee To Entrepreneur
As one prominent author wrote, “Entrepreneurs don’t finish when we are tired. We finish when we are done.”
Thousands of people dream of the day they can quit their jobs and escape the 9-to-5 life. In fact, Gallup found that 87 percent of the employees it surveyed worldwide did not see themselves as engaged.
But quitting your job and starting your own business is only half the battle. You need to prepare to be an entrepreneur. Besides getting your finances in order and having a plan in place, you also need to prepare your mind.
Your habits dictate your success, and if you’re still stuck in that 9-to-5 mindset, your endeavors will fail. You must adopt an entrepreneurial mindset and start thinking the way the world’s top leaders do.
Being an entrepreneur is very different than being an employee, and the way you envision it may be completely off base. Here are five changes you must make to your thinking in order to prepare yourself for the realities of being an entrepreneur.
1Train your mind to think outside the box
Once you leave your office job, you’re no longer confined by corporate life. That means you need to open your mind to new possibilities – possibilities that may not have been an option in your old life.
In an article for TIME magazine, Warren Buffett, CEO of Berkshire Hathaway, said, “People will always try to stop you doing the right thing if it is unconventional.” In short, others may not see your vision, but you can’t let that stop you. You need to be creative with your business, offer something new and be different to be successful.
2Develop both short-term and long-term vision
Albert Einstein once told the New York Times, “A new type of thinking is essential if mankind is to survive and move toward higher levels.”
That new type of thinking needs to be focused on a strategic goal. You must have a vision for your company – an idea of where you’re going and how you’ll get there.
As an entrepreneur, you are the leader of your company, and your team members are looking to you to show them the path to success.
What’s your plan? You should be able to see the big picture as well as all of the steps it will take to reach your main goal. Then, you must communicate that vision to those on your team and ensure they each understand their individual roles in the plan.
3Let it all fall on your shoulders
Becoming an entrepreneur can be scary. Your success is now completely dependent on the work that you do. You can no longer fall back on a salary or benefits.
As an employee, if you had a bad day at work, you were still paid your salary, regardless. But as an entrepreneur, if your business isn’t successful, you won’t make any money. Plus, you now have others relying on you for their livelihood.
Ryan Farley is a typical example of corporate employee-turned-entrepreneur, quitting a fast-paced finance job to start lawn care marketplace LawnStarter Lawn Care. “I was used to working extremely long hours in the corporate finance world,” Farley told me. “I thought that would have conditioned me well, but nothing can prepare you for this amount of stress.
“It’s pretty common for founders to have the stress get so bad it affects your physical and mental health,” Farley continued. “But you have to press on, and you’re better off for it.” Prominent entrepreneurs like Brad Feld and Mark Suster, have expressed similar sentiments.
Working for yourself also means you need to be your own motivator. You no longer have a boss hounding you to get your work done. You need to stay organised and focused, and you’re going to have to be comfortable with hard work and long hours.
4Get ready to be a jack of all trades
As an entrepreneur, you can’t say “That’s not my job.” Every job is your job now. There’s no one else to pick up the slack but you. You need to make sure everything in your business continues to run on track, and that may mean doing work you aren’t used to doing. You may need to be the accounting department, IT, marketing and more in addition to leading your company.
Entrepreneurs wear many different hats and are constantly learning new skills and working hard. If you think becoming an entrepreneur means you get to sit back and kick your feet up, you’d better stick to your day job.
5Be flexible, focused and positive
Attitude is everything in business. You can’t let challenges get in the way of your dream. Entrepreneurs need to be optimistic and stay focused on their goals. Your passion must drive you.
As Steve Jobs once said in an interview with the Smithsonian Institution, “Unless you have a lot of passion about this, you’re not going to survive. You’re going to give it up. So, you’ve got to have an idea, or a problem or a wrong that you want to right that you’re passionate about; otherwise you’re not going to have the perseverance to stick it through. I think that’s half the battle right there.”
This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.
Passion Is The Key To Entrepreneurial Success
Marine Louw chose to leave the relative security of a professional corporate career to go out on her own 28 years ago. What lessons can we learn from this successful entrepreneur as we kick off our feature on women in business?
It’s important that we understand what motivates an individual to start a business, because the small business sector is the biggest current employer of labour, and is widely considered to be our best chance of tackling our current high levels of unemployment.
According to BANKSETA, small, medium and micro enterprises (SMEs) are estimated to provide employment to up to 60% of the South African labour force. No surprise then that the National Development Plan says that “most new jobs are likely to be sourced in domestic-orientated businesses, and in growing small and medium-sized firms.”
And yet, despite their importance to the economy and society as a whole, the truth is that entrepreneurs have to overcome many challenges – and 70% to 80% of them fail. South Africa, in particular, has one of the highest failure rates for new businesses.
In other words, creating and sustaining a successful business is rare.
With an Honours in Industrial Sociology and a Higher Diploma in Education, Marine Louw could have built a corporate career. Instead, some 28 years ago, she elected to build her own company in the fashion sector. Her company, Bonufusion, imports high-end ladies’ fashion from Europe and wholesales the garments to boutiques around the country.
The unique value proposition is that the garments are imported in small quantities to maintain exclusivity. Garments are often modified here with perfect finishing touches, and to suit local tastes.
Marine explains her motivation for leaving behind the safer corporate world: “It was key for me to find my passion, completely believing in my talent and abilities and then choosing to create a business where I could live my passion.”
She also makes it clear that to a certain extent she was actively retreating from a workstyle that did not appeal to her, especially corporate red tape and the time wasted in meetings. If you are running your own business, she says, there are no boundaries or ceilings, and you can choose how you spend your time – in her case, growing the business, selling and keeping customers happy.
When it comes to obtaining finance, the entrepreneur’s passion and commitment are also paramount, Marine believes. The entrepreneur is the business, so the financier will be investing in him or her, essentially. “It’s up to you to be so passionate about your dream that you will inspire the investor to invest not just in the business opportunity, but in you as a person,” she explains.
This passion and commitment are also essential to overcome the inevitable setbacks and challenges that will arise. “In all circumstances, maintain a positive attitude – yes, it’s hard to achieve, but it can be done,” she advises.
Marine says that a key success factor in any business is networking based on word of mouth referrals from happy customers. Customers that are happy are always ready to share the good news that they have a supplier that delivers.
“Good service, great product and a positive attitude equals good business. It will only happen if customers believe they are dealing with a reliable business,” she says. “There are four key points to remember when you start out: Find your passion, believe in your ability, work 24 hours a day when necessary, and be prepared to give everything up to live your dream – or don’t bother to start!”
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