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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

Start-ups: Creating A High Tech/High Touch Environment

Here are some practical tips for creating a ‘high tech/high touch environment’.

Dirk Coetsee

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In this fast-paced tech orientated world things are changing at a frightening yet exciting rate. It is so easy and so quick to create a tech start-up from anywhere in the world and office space as a requirement to start up has become obsolete, your garage will do. Yet because it is so easy and so cost effective for so many to create a start-up it is so hard to stand out amongst this entanglement of serial tech entrepreneurs and innovative start-ups.

The millennial generations’ general paradigm of thinking, which is more open –minded and entrepreneurial is slowly but surely breaking through the barriers of traditional business operations, mechanisms and methods, imbalances are created, however, when tech is the sole focus and people are forgotten in the process. As is so evident throughout history eventually by some means balance is sought in order to create equilibrium.

This writing serves as advice to all tech start-ups to seek balance from the onset in creating a “high tech/high touch” environment. A “High tech/high touch” environment can be defined as a balanced approach where both tech solutions, and of equal importance, team empowerment and inspiring leadership form a potent combination of enduring success.

Related: What Is Limiting Your Entrepreneurial Mindset

Technology by itself cannot solve everything but technology applied in unison with a strong people centred approach can be a powerful catalyst towards solving at least some of this worlds’ major challenges.

Although many factors such as for example fiscal discipline and other management controls play a vital role in your start-ups’ success do not forget to create an inspiring environment for your team within which they feel safe and united in purpose. Key to business growth is the individual growth of all team members and no stone should be left unturned in moving from a toxic and/or culture of complacency to a learning and growth culture.

Co-create an inspiring vision for your team and get their full buy-in. If you cannot do that you might have to put in more effort when it comes to your own leadership skills and/or “free up the future” of complacent and lethargic employees whom simply do not want to work hard to collectively actualise your business’ co-created vision.

Although very hard, it is worth the effort to only hire people that are passionate about and have integrity in what they do. If a sustainable and successful “high tech” environment is the aim ensure that it is underpinned by very smart hiring and training practises further enhanced by a good dose of inspirational servant leadership.

Generally speaking, everyone wants to feel part of something bigger, exciting, and inspiring. It is your responsibility as founder and leader to create a motivating and energetic business climate wherein every team member is empowered to execute at a rapid pace and with a “zero defect” mind-set. A team environment wherein everyone sincerely wants to be great at what they do and are energised by ‘small wins’ on the path to actualising the grand vision of the company is far more inspiring and sustainable as opposed to an environment where ‘subordinates’ are only managed and basically forced to do their jobs.

Related: The Anatomy Of Peak Performance

Sincerely care for your people yet maintain balance,as caring does not mean you treat them like children. Caring means taking great interest in both their career and personal development, and to be tough enough to eventually let those go that does not constructively contribute to a positive growth culture.

Here are some practical tips for creating a ‘high tech/high touch environment’:

  • Have a balanced approach in hiring. Hire for technical and people skills and ensure that there is a clear development and training plan for all team members that is reasonable and attainable.
  • Find your purpose as an entrepreneur and with great enthusiasm model that purpose at every juncture as to inspire others to find their purpose.
  • As ‘culture eats strategy for breakfast’ guard the positive and growth culture that you model as a leader with all your energy and remove anything and anyone from the aforesaid culture that is counter-productive to your business performance.
  • Sincerely care about and show that you care about each individual team members’ personal and career development.
  • Regularly put having fun and inspiration high on meeting agendas as we generally take ourselves too seriously.

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Start-up Advice

Why You Shouldn’t Quit Your Job To Start A Business

Rather than taking the plunge, consider dipping your toe in first

Yannick van den Bos

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As the world becomes more digitized and access to the internet is something we all enjoy, more and more of us want to quit our day jobs to start our own businesses. The word “entrepreneur” is thrown around a lot these days, with many people seeing it as a means to enjoy a whole new level of professional, financial and personal freedom.

It is not difficult to see why, either. Having the ability do what you love, when you want and on your own terms is certainly attractive, especially when you could potentially build it into a sizeable income. Don’t be too quick, however, to abandon your day job to pursue your entrepreneurial dreams. Many of today’s best-known entrepreneurs consider doing so to be reckless and unnecessary.

“Entrepreneurs” are rarely the modern-day maverick who suddenly decide one day to quit their jobs and pursue their dreams. After all, quitting a job to pursue business is risky, especially without having a safety net in place. In fact, the majority of people who decide to start an online business will fail within the first year.

Further, there is far more involved in transitioning from being an employee of others to becoming your own boss than you may realise. Changing your mind-set from that of an employee to an entrepreneur is a major key to successfully bridging that divide.

Related: 3 Key Law Areas To Know When You Launch That Start-up

If you operate with the mind-set of an employee — a person who is used to working for others and being paid by them – you will almost certainly fail. When you work for others, you do what they tell you to do. As an entrepreneur, you decide what the next best step is, and you execute that step in your day-to-day actions. The latter requires both a significant mind-set shift and major discipline.

At the same time, in our rapidly changing economy, you would almost be doing yourself a disservice not to start a business. But, how can you do so while working full-time?

Take the “hybrid path” to entrepreneurship

If you’re willing to sacrifice much of your free time now to reap the rewards later, you have what it takes to become an entrepreneur. Often called the “hybrid path” to entrepreneurship, many successful entrepreneurs started their business while still being employed full-time.

Research has shown that those who kept their day jobs while starting their businesses were 33 percent more likely to be successful than their risk-taking counterparts.

Leveraging your full-time job in the early days of your business, allows you to build on firmer financial ground, increasing the likelihood that your enterprise will last and thrive through the initial stages.

Related: What You Need To Know About The Lean Start-up Model

In addition, being entrepreneurial within your existing job allows you to build the necessary skills and traits you will need as you transition from your employee to entrepreneurial role.

Being impatient and chasing short-term gratification by quitting your job and going all-in, is risky and often ill-advised. Building slowly and steadily for the long-term is often the wisest course of action.

Today, it’s more important than ever to start a business

Still, with all that being said, the time couldn’t be more right to start your own business and become self-sufficient. Unlike in years past, having a job no longer guarantees financial security.

Rapid developments in technology and the ever-increasing digitization of our world puts creative and business-building tools in the hands of everyone. Whether you have skills to market or a great idea for a product, you too could be the next Bill Gates or Elon Musk.

Even if you set your sights a little lower, consider what skills you have that others would gladly pay you for. Figure out what you can charge per client, and how many clients you would need to completely replace your income. Unless you’re already earning seven figures, you’ll soon realise that the numbers are not that daunting.

Related: 6 Resources For Start-ups Looking For Funding

I was able to build my first business through affiliate marketing With affiliate marketing, you don’t have to create your own product. Rather, you earn a commission by promoting other people’s products.

Though the thought of running your own business, spending your days working on something you’re passionate about, and choosing how and where you spend your time is enticing, realise there are days if not years of sleepless nights, cash flow shortfalls and mind-set hurdles between you and your destination.

By building your business while working full- or part-time, you will have the cash flow in the short term to get your enterprise off the ground. Once your business begins bringing in an income which rivals that of your day job, then and only then should you consider whether to pursue it full-time.

Building a business is not for the faint of heart. But, if you’re willing to work crazy hours, delay gratification and learn from your failures, you can build both a business and life like few others. After all, “Life is too short to be living somebody else’s dream.”

This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.

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Start-up Advice

How To Survive 150 Straight Rejections

And come away smarter, tougher, and more successful.

Joe Keohane

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Sam Sisakhti had an idea for an e-commerce company called UsTrendy. It would sell clothing made by talented, unknown fashion designers from around the world — acting as a marketplace for great styles that could not be found anywhere else.

It didn’t matter that he had no experience in fashion or building a brand, or that he had just quit his first job out of college after only four days. What mattered was that he believed that this idea could be huge. And to get it there, he figured, he needed to raise money. A lot of money.

Initially, it seemed easy. On their very first pitch, Sam and his associate landed a $500 000 offer. “Crazy,” he says. But there was a catch: The VC required them to move to Silicon Valley to receive the money. Sam’s right-hand man didn’t want to move. Sam decided he’d just do it himself.

Related: Beauty Of Failure: The Art Of Embracing Rejection

So he moved, failing to understand that investors buy into a team, not just an idea. He promptly lost the funding. No matter, he thought. He’d just get more money

Thus began Sam’s real journey. He started pitching to anyone and everyone, regard-less of their field of expertise. It went badly. By his count, he was rejected around 150 times in a row over 18 months. Worse, he kept revising his business plan based on their feedback, reducing it to an ever-changing muddle that made it even harder to sell.

This beating culminated with a meeting with a VC who, humiliatingly, was a family friend. “He threw my business plan in the trash, right in front of me,” Sam says. “And I just remember thinking, Man, what am I doing?”

Entrepreneurs hear a lot of nos. In fact, it’s probably the word they hear more than any other, especially starting out. It can come in torrents. It can get crushing. The key, as Sisakhti learnt, is twofold: To survive it, and to learn from it.

And here’s what Sam realised: He needed to stop pitching. Not every business needs funding, nor is every business ready for funding.

“I was spending all my time pitching, and I wasn’t spending any time building the business,” he says. So he scaled back. “I went from wanting to create the next Amazon to just saying I wanted to grow a business organically,” he recalls. “I just wanted to pay for a modest, middle-class lifestyle.”

Freed from the ceaseless need to fundraise, Sam drew on his natural creativity and resourcefulness. He’d always thought he needed funding to help recruit young designers. But now he started to get creative. He recruited them right out of design school — using student brand ambassadors to get around rules about recruiting on campus. Soon he had a thousand. Then he linked up with London Fashion Week to do a show for emerging designers. He pitched a design competition, and that got him 3 000 more, along with a bunch of press coverage.

Related: Motivation-Boosting Tips From 8 Of The Greatest Entrepreneurs

Now he had inventory,  revenue, and exposure. He was feeling good. One night, over dinner, Sam sent a magazine piece to mega-investor Tim Draper, who had rejected him twice already. Fifteen minutes later, Draper responded, saying he wanted to talk. Eureka.

“I think the reason he was interested was that I’d shown I was going to do this with or without the money,” Sam says

He even got a little cocky. “I told him that it’s just a matter of time: ‘If I have your money, I’ll get there faster, but if I don’t, I’ll still get there. And then the valuation’s just gonna be that much higher to get in.’”

Draper invested $1 million in a first round, then came back for a second round. In total, UsTrendy has raised more millions since, grown by 300% annually in its first few years, and worked with more than 20 000 designers from more than 100 countries. It has attracted more than two million followers on social media and other digital media channels.

Now when Sam reflects on all those no’s, he thinks not of rejection — but of how it changed him. How it showed him the way. “It was awesome,” he says.

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