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Start-up Advice

10 Harsh Lessons That Will Make You More Successful

Nobody said success was easy.

Travis Bradberry

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Everyone fails in life, and failure can be a crushing experience. The only thing that separates successful people from the rest is how they respond after they fail.

When facing obstacles, you have to decide if you’re going to let them be the excuse for your failure or if you’re going to make them the story behind your success.

“There is no failure. Only feedback.”  – Robert Allen

When you adopt the right attitude, failure is a great teacher. Failure interrupts your routine and gives you an opportunity to explore new solutions, but only if you have the right attitude.

Related: 4 Quirks Of Incredibly Successful Entrepreneurs

Psychologist Albert Bandura conducted a study that showed just how great a role our attitudes play in the face of failure. In the study, two groups of people were asked to complete an identical management task. The first group was told that the purpose of the task was to measure their management abilities. The other group was told that the skills required to complete the task were improvable and that the task was merely an opportunity to practice and improve.

The trick was that the researchers made the task so difficult that all participants were bound to fail, and fail they did. The first group – feeling like failures because their skills weren’t up to snuff – made little or no improvement when they were given opportunities to repeat the task. The second group, however, saw each failure as a learning opportunity, and they performed at progressively higher levels each time they attempted the task. The second group even rated themselves as more confident than the first group.

Just like the participants in Bandura’s study, we can either view our failures as reflections of our abilities or as opportunities for growth. The next time you catch yourself wallowing in the self-pity that often accompanies failure, focus on what you can control: your attitude.

Some of the best lessons in life are also the toughest to accept and to adopt the right attitude toward. These are the lessons that challenge your flexibility and willingness to learn. When we don’t embrace them soon enough, the lessons we learn turn out to be harsh ones.

Related: 5 Qualities Of Successful Entrepreneurs

1. The first step is always the hardest

first-step

When you want to achieve something important, that first step is inevitably going to be daunting, even frightening. When you dare to make that first move, anxiety and fear dissipate in the name of action.

People that dive headfirst into taking that brutal first step aren’t any stronger than the rest of us; they’ve simply learned that it yields great results.

They know that the pain of getting started is inevitable and that procrastination only prolongs their suffering.

2. Good things take time

Success, above all, requires time and effort. Author Malcolm Gladwell suggested that mastery of anything requires 10,000 hours of tireless focus.

Many successful people would agree. Consider Henry Ford, whose first two automobile businesses failed before he started Ford at the age of 45, or author Harry Bernstein, who dedicated his entire life to writing before he finally landed a best-seller at the age of 96. When you finally do succeed, you realise that the journey was the best part of it.

3. Being busy does not equal being productive

Look at everyone around you. They all seem so busy, running from meeting to meeting and firing off e-mails. Yet how many of them are really producing, really succeeding at a high level? Success doesn’t come from movement and activity; it comes from focus – from ensuring that your time is used efficiently and productively.

You get the same number of hours in the day as everyone else, so use yours wisely. After all, you’re the product of your output not your effort. Make certain your efforts are dedicated to tasks that get results.

Related: The First Step In Creating A Successful Start-Up

4. You will always have less control than you want

less-control

There are too many extenuating circumstances in life to control every outcome. You can, however, control how you react to things that are out of your control. Your reaction is what transforms a mistake into a learning experience and ensures that a victory doesn’t send your ego through the roof. You can’t win every battle, but with the right attitude, you can win the war.

5. You’re only as good as those you associate with

You should strive to surround yourself with people who inspire you, people who make you want to be better. And you probably do. But what about the people who drag you down? Why do you allow them to be part of your life? Anyone who makes you feel worthless, anxious or uninspired is wasting your time and, quite possibly, making you more like them. Life is too short to associate with people like this. Cut them loose.

6. Your biggest problems are mental

Almost all our problems occur because we time travel: We go to the past and regret things we’ve done, or we go to the future and feel anxious about events that haven’t even happened. It’s all too easy to slip into the past or jet into the future. When you do, you lose sight of the one thing that you can actually control – the present.

7. Your self-worth must come from within

When your sense of pleasure and satisfaction are derived from comparing yourself with others, you are no longer the master of your own destiny. When you feel good about something that you’ve done, don’t allow anyone’s opinions or accomplishments to take that away from you.

While it’s impossible to turn off your reactions to what others think of you, you don’t have to compare yourself with others and you can always take people’s opinions with a grain of salt. That way, no matter what other people are thinking or doing, your self-worth comes from within.

Regardless of what people think of you at any particular moment, one thing is certain – you’re never as good or bad as they say you are.

Related: 10 Successful SA Women Entrepreneurs’ Top Advice On Balancing Work And Family

8. Not everyone will support you

not-everyone-will-support-you

In fact, most people won’t. Some people will inundate you with negativity, passive aggression, anger or jealousy, but none of this matters, because, as Dr. Seuss said, “Those that matter don’t mind, and those that mind don’t matter.”

We can’t possibly get support from everyone, and we definitely can’t spend our time and energy trying to win over the people who don’t support us. Letting go of the opinions of people who don’t matter frees up time and energy for the people and things that do.

9. Perfection doesn’t exist

Don’t seek perfection as your target. It doesn’t exist. Human beings, by our very nature, are fallible. When perfection is your goal, you’re always left with a nagging sense of failure that makes you want to give up or reduce your effort.

You end up spending your time lamenting what you failed to accomplish and what you should have done differently, instead of moving forward, excited about what you’ve achieved and what you’ll accomplish in the future.

10. Fear is the number one source of regret

When all is said and done, you will lament the chances you didn’t take far more than you will your failures. Don’t be afraid to take risks. I often hear people say, “What’s the worst thing that can happen to you? Will it kill you?” Yet, death isn’t the worst thing that can happen to you – the worst thing that can happen to you is allowing yourself to die inside while you’re still alive.

Related: 10 Uncomfortable Deeds That Will Make You More Successful

Bringing It All Together

Successful people never stop learning. They learn from their mistakes and they learn from their triumphs, and they’re always changing themselves for the better.

This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.

Award-winning co-author of the best-selling book, Emotional Intelligence 2.0, and the co-founder of TalentSmart -- a consultancy that serves more than 75 percent of Fortune 500 companies and is a leading provider of emotional intelligence tests, training and certification.

Start-up Advice

Put On Your Wellies: It’s Time To Wade Into Risk

Entrepreneurs aren’t all leaping into the unknown like lemmings off a cliff, but they do need to consider it…

Chris Ogden

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You’ve had a great idea. You’ve looked into its development. You’ve recognised that it has potential beyond just what Auntie Mabel and Mike From The Grocer think. And you’ve clearly nailed a pain point that can make money. Now it is time to take the risk of running with it.

Every big idea comes with risk. You can’t step out into the world of entrepreneurial thinking and business development without it. Your idea may fail. It will also be time consuming, demanding, hungry for money, and hard work. It is unrealistic to expect that your project will leap out into the world and be an unmitigated success.

It is also unrealistic to assume that it isn’t worth taking this risk.

There are steps that you can follow to ensure that your risk is managed so you aren’t blindly leaping off that cliff…

Step 01: Do your research

No, canvassing your neighbours, friends and family is not doing research. You need to know that your idea will appeal to a broad market and that it will have significant legs. This may sound like daft advice, but you would be surprised how many people think an idea will take off just because Susan in Accounting said so.

Step 02: Understand the costs

Projects are hungry for money and investment. Realistically work out your budgets and how much it will cost to take your project off the ground and then stick to it.

A calculated risk is a far better bet than one that shoots from the hip and hopes for the best. You can also use this as an opportunity to draw a clear line under where you will stop investing and end the project. If it keeps eating money and isn’t getting anywhere with results you need to be able to walk away.

Step 03: Know when to walk away

As mentioned before, this can be defined by a line you’ve drawn in the proverbial sand (and budget) but no matter where you draw this line, you have to stick to it. Often, when time, money and energy have been poured into a project it can be incredibly hard to walk away.

You think ‘but I have put so much into this, just one more’ and then it gets to a point where the ‘just one more’ has taken you so far down the line that walking away feels impossible. Leave. Learn the lessons. Apply them to your next project.

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Start-up Advice

Mind The Gap

The entrepreneur’s guide to finding the gaps and building the right solutions.

Chris Ogden

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Innovation may very well be the key to business success but finding the gap into which your innovative thinking can fit is often a lot harder than people realise. Some may be struck by inspiration in the shower, others by that moment of blinding insight in a meeting, however, for most people finding that big idea isn’t that simple. They want to be an entrepreneur and start their own high-growth business, but they need some ideas on how to find that big idea.

Here are five…

1. Network

It sounds trite but networking is actually an excellent way of picking up on patterns and trends in conversation and business problems. The trick is to note them down and pay attention. Soon, you will find patterns emerging and ideas forming.

2. Look for pain

Just as networking can reveal trends in the market, so can spending time reading. The latter will also help you find common business pain points. These are the touchpoints that frustrate people, annoy business owners, affect productivity, or impact employee engagement.

Be the Panado that fixes these pains.

3. Luck

luck

This is probably the most annoying of the ideas, but it is unfortunately (or fortunately) very true. Luck does play a role in helping you capture that big idea. However, luck isn’t just standing around and random people offering you opportunities. Luck is found at networking events, it is found in research and it is found in conversations with other entrepreneurs.

4. Luck needs courage

You may have found the big idea through your network, a pain point or pure blind luck, but if you don’t have the courage to take it and run with it, you will lose it to someone else.

Being bold in business is highly underrated because most people assume that everyone is bold and prepared to take big leaps into the unknown. However, not all brilliant entrepreneurs were ready to throw their family funds to the wind and leap into an idea – they were courageous enough to figure out a way of harnessing their ideas realistically.

5. Pay attention

This is probably one of the most vital ways of finding a gap in the market. Often, people are so busy that they don’t really pay attention to that niggling issue that always bothers them on a commute, or in a mall, or at a meeting. This niggling issue could very well be the next big business opportunity. Pay attention to it and find out if that issue can be solved with your innovative thinking.

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Start-up Advice

5 Things To Know About Your “Toddler” Business

As you navigate this new toddler phase of your business, here are five things to bear in mind.

Catherine Black

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Ah, toddlers. Those irresistible bundles of joy bring a huge amount of energy, curiosity and fun to any family – but there’s also frustration and worry that comes with their unpredictability, as they grow and start to become more independent. If you own a business and it’s successfully past its “infancy” of the first year or so, it’s likely it will also go through a toddler stage of its lifecycle.

Pete Hammond, founder of luxury safari company SafariScapes, agrees with this. “Our business is now three and a half years old, and we’ve found that we’re not yet big enough to justify employing a large team of people to handle the day-to-day admin tasks, yet we still need to grow the business as well,” he says. “As a result, our main challenge is finding the time to step back and see the bigger picture. Kind of like when you are raising a busy toddler and you spend most of your time running after them!”

As you navigate this new toddler phase of your business, here are five things to bear in mind:

1. This too shall pass

Everything in life is temporary – and that goes for both the good and the bad. It’s as helpful to remember this when you’re facing the might of a toddler temper tantrum, as it is when you’re facing throws of uncertainty in your business. If your new(ish) venture is going through a rough patch in its first few years, it can be easy to think about giving up – but don’t. As long as you have an overall big idea that you believe can add value to your customers, keep pushing through the rough parts until you come out the other side.

2. Appreciate what this phase brings

The toddler years mean that the initial newborn joy is officially behind you. But these small humans also bring their own kinds of joy, as you watch them learn new skills, say funny things, and give affection back to you. While your two-year-old business may not hold the same exhilaration for you as it did during those first few months, there are now different things to appreciate about it: Maybe you’re expanding your product range, or employing new people who can take the workload off you.

3. Establish boundaries

Toddlers thrive on boundary and routine – and your toddler business will too. As it grows into a new phase, try and establish limits in terms of the type of clients you want to work with and the type of work you’ll do. It’s also a good idea to make a decision about the hours you’ll work and when you’ll switch off, which will help you establish a good work-life balance.

4. Take a break

Every parent with a toddler needs a break every now and then, even if that means a walk around the block (on your own!), a dinner out with friends, or even a few days away. The same is true for a demanding small business: every so often, remember to take time out to rest properly, where you switch off your laptop and completely unplug. You’ll return much more inspired and resilient to deal with the everyday uncertainty that it brings.

5. Give it space to make mistakes

While the unpredictability of a young business can be stressful and tiring, it’s also a time for trying new things without the risk of huge consequences if they don’t quite work. After all, it’s much simpler to change your USP if you’re a small business employing a few people, rather than a big company where 50 people are relying on you for their salary, or where you’ve received a huge amount of investment capital. While you may fail in some of the things you try with your business (in fact, this is almost guaranteed), see it as a toddler that’s resilient enough to pick itself up, dust its knees and keep moving forward.

During this phase of business growth it’s also essential to have the right type of medical aid cover. There are medical schemes such as Fedhealth which has a number of medical aid options and value-added benefits to ensure that your health and wellness is taken care of too. After all, the healthier you and your staff are, the more productive your business will be – during the toddler (business) stage and beyond.

While this phase can be frustrating, it’s a sign that your business is growing and adapting, rather than remaining in its infancy, and that can only be a good thing! So embrace the difficulties, learn from them, and watch as your business strides forward confidently into the next exciting phase.

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