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Maybe you hate your job, or maybe you see opportunities where others see problems. Are you an entrepreneur? Have you seen the entrepreneurial signs?

There are entrepreneurial signs, sure. Business leaders are a little bit, well, different. Do you think you’re one? Below are two separate types of entrepreneurs. Which one are you? And which type has the best chance of making it?

Entrepreneur Type #1

You were the kid with the lemonade stand that got bigger and more ambitious every year. Or, you had a way of grabbing someone’s attention before they could slam the door in your face—hawking magazines, cookies, or candy door-to-door. Maybe you were someone who just saw the world differently: diving headfirst into software, science, or math problems like a baby otter into water.

Entrepreneur Type #2

You’ve always been nagged by a great idea for a business, an innovation so brilliant you haven’t run it by anyone, because you can never be too careful. Or, you want to open a coffee shop at a corner with no competition for blocks in either direction, but you don’t like people or even, truth told, coffee very much. Or, you work in a job you hate and dream of being your own boss, and jump at the first entrepreneurial opportunity that comes up, without knowing much about the industry or running a business.

What’s the main difference? Type #2s see a single, narrow opportunity—for themselves usually. Type #1s see the world as an opportunity. That’s not to say that all Type #1s will succeed and that all Type #2s will fail. Economic winds push opportunity unsteadily, and it’s hard to say what mix of personality and ideas will be successful.  

Need more help? How many of these boxes can you check off?

  • You tried 9 to 5 and it made you insane.
  • “I know more than my boss” isn’t a mere belief, it’s imprinted in your DNA.
  • You’re too busy seeing opportunities to see problems.
  • You were raised in a family of entrepreneurs.
  • When you dive into something you don’t come up until you’ve figured it out.
  • Solutions. They’re, like, your thing, man.
  • After a month at a new job, you’re a truly awful employee.
  • You connect with people and they naturally look to you for advice.
  • Job security makes you feel nervous, itchy and in urgent need of an exit.
  • Driven 24/7 to eat better, get stronger, play harder, and be better.

The Game Changer

Of course, some of these are the classic traits for business leaders, while others might just be characteristics of bad employees. But, big combinations of these traits sort of scream: entrepreneur.

No one is saying that strengths can’t make up for weaknesses. Leadership and an ability to connect can be learned for those who are expert solution builders. But there is little hope of future business success for undriven, non-creative people who mostly hate their jobs and the people around them.

There is one thing we haven’t mentioned yet, the game changer—passion. Passion can get an entrepreneur through the bleakest moments. Only those who are all-in, and fully committed and driven, can take the next step, make the next phone call, and close the next deal when the bank account is shot and it’s dark and rainy outside. When most people are ready to walk away, the entrepreneur is just getting started.  

Entrepreneurs distinguish themselves by linking together qualities such as being positively engaged, true grit, and open to change and learning

No knock on business owners, but not all people who own businesses are entrepreneurs. Like entrepreneurs, business owners risk more, take on more responsibility, and have more control over their work lives than employees. The difference, then, is the motivation. Entrepreneurs are not simply trying to make a living, but measure themselves by their achievement and success. As Peter Drucker, one of the founders of modern management, says, an entrepreneur is “someone who always searches for change, responds to it, and exploits it as an opportunity.”

And though not every entrepreneur is the same, there are core elements that many share. These qualities link together, forming chains of strength that entrepreneurs use to pull themselves forward. Here are a few:

Proactively Engaged

Successful entrepreneurs have the vision to initiate actions, playing offense instead of defense. Instead of doing the bare minimum, or even underperforming, they outwork, outhustle, and outthink their competitors. This proactiveness has entrepreneurs looking ahead to where they want to go, versus constantly being stuck in regret over where they’ve been.

True Grit

Is life a series of obstacles or learning opportunities? Your answer to this question might tell you if you are truly an entrepreneur. In your effort to build solutions to market needs, you will face endless vexing and seemingly unsolvable issues. If you rage and resist these challenges, you might want to find another line of work. Entrepreneurs are consistently adaptable and resourceful. This allows them to persevere when most are ready to quit, thriving on adversity that make them better and stronger individuals.

And Change

Though everyone knows that the world is constantly shifting, most try to build a wall against it, yearning for predictability in a flood of transition. Real entrepreneurs actually embrace change, because that is where opportunity exists. Charles Darwin noted that species’ survival depends not on strength or intelligence, but on adaptability. Entrepreneurs view change as a positive and know that their ability to respond and adapt gives them an edge in every situation.

Learning is Earning

An entrepreneur unwilling to learn is like a river without water: empty and with nowhere to go. A deep understanding of every facet of business and life is essential and is the only way forward. A hunger for new ideas identifies you as an entrepreneur. Every facet of your business requires knowledge, and a willingness to learn is the only way to gain that crucial knowledge.

Feeding the Machine

An entrepreneur willingly sacrifices any activities that don’t nourish the brain with quality content. Wasting time with gossip or social media is ditched. Instead, entrepreneurs favor inputs that build knowledge and experience. Personal time sustains the body and mind. Feeding the machine requires the commitment of the whole person, body, mind, and spirit to building solutions in shifting, challenging environments.

Passion

All of your energy, motivation, and hard work are fueled by your passion. If you wake up every morning, fired up about what you’re doing, passionate to thrive and succeed, then you are a true entrepreneur. If you spend your days thinking about retirement, or a beach, or some other escape from the moment at hand, then you might want to consider retiring to that beach. Entrepreneurs’ hearts beat with their lifeblood of building and achieving.

Accepting, being ready for the bolt out of the blue is the path to a better life, according to Dan Millman in “Way of the Peaceful Warrior.”

“There are no ordinary moments,” says Dan Millman in “Way of the Peaceful Warrior.”

According to Millman, when moments are layered with meaning, infused with life, they cannot be ordinary. They are only tired and mundane if you see them that way. If you live them that way. Every day, you have challenges. You have stuff thrown at you. You are working diligently toward one thing but, hey, here comes something completely out of the blue.

Here Comes That Bolt

The phrase “out of the blue” comes from an old English poem, in which a bolt of lightning strikes from out of a clear blue sky.

In an ordinary life, in an ordinary moment, you don’t accept things out of the blue. You resist, and get angry and frustrated. You have your plans and this out of the blue thing, whatever it is, doesn’t fit in. But if you treat every moment as extraordinary, then you know things are coming out of the blue. Acceptance. Not lamenting, not inviting. Lightening just is. You just are.

And, since you are no longer resisting, you are aware as the bolt is coming toward you. You better understand its power and presence. And the more you do this, the more you can see other things coming at you, too, no matter what color the sky is. It can come out of the yellow, red, purple, or chartreuse. It doesn’t matter!

“Better to Make a Mistake with Your Full Force…”

In “Way of the Peaceful Warrior,” Millman also says: “It’s better to make a mistake with the full force of your being than to timidly avoid mistakes with a trembling spirit. Responsibility means recognizing both pleasure and price, action and consequence, then making a choice.”

Millman has been around a long time. In fact, he is still doing handstands when he feels like it. Just because it feels good. He is over 70.

This is the spirit to bring to your life. Whether you are at work, exercising, recreating, or just being with your family. You should be all in. All the time.

And this is the spirit to foster in all your efforts. Ask everyone to join you on this journey. You are here to help people, to spiritually enrich the lives of those you serve and those around you. To substantively make lives better. And don’t be misled, this is no walk in the park. The reason people shy away from lightning strikes is that they can be scary, demanding, and uncomfortable. But you can’t do anything hidden away, as Millman says, “trembling” and “timid.”

So ask yourself, and everyone gathered around you, to be in each moment with the “full force of their being.” To be a peaceful warrior. To be aware and alive.

Even when lightning strikes.

Because, in life and business, that tremendous eruption of electricity is where all the good stuff is: the best ideas, the greatest strategies, all of the raw, unharnessed energy.

It’s exactly where you need to be.

Industry conferences might be the perfect place for CEOs to discuss mental health issues associated with business leaders.

Strong handshakes and powerful keynote speeches. News of disruptive trends and insurgent strategies. The latest technological advances. As dynamic and demanding as they are, industry conferences aren’t normally known as places to make human connections and discuss mental health. 

But at least one founder and CEO, Erin McKelvey, sees that as just another unhealthy industry standard in need of unsettling.

Mental Health Struggles

In a recent article in Entrepreneur, McKelvey points to studies that show that entrepreneurs are more likely to feel isolated and alone. While depression affects about seven percent of the general population, a study, Touched With Fire, reports that 30 percent of entrepreneurs have lifetime histories with depression. They also had much higher rates of ADHD, substance abuse, and bipolar diagnosis. And even asymptomatic entrepreneurs had higher rates of close relatives who experienced these mental health conditions.

Suffering at these higher rates, what is an entrepreneur to do?

Mostly, until now, entrepreneurs have had to gut it out. As founders and leaders, entrepreneurs have cultivated facades of invulnerability and strength. Even as they crumble inside.

McKelvey, after struggling to understand the suicides of a close friend and two colleagues, found that connection and empathy were keys. She opened up to colleagues at a conference and, communicating honestly and vulnerably, made deeper, important connections with her peers. Validated and understood, she was ready to face the stigmas associated with depression and entrepreneurship.

Foster Intimate Discussions

Her conclusion is that industry conference keynotes could focus on dealing with everyday stresses and how to develop coping skills. Also, conferences could arrange seating that encourages smaller groups, two to four people, to foster more intimate discussions. Finally, event planners can motivate honest, real talk with discussion cards and questions, such as:

  • Tell us about a wrenching decision you had to make last week with an employee or colleague.
  • How do you manage your work-life balance? Is there such a thing?
  • Do you feel like you can let down in front of your organization?
  • Do you feel like you need to be a superhero all the time, every day?

Touched with Fire also recommends destigmatizing people with mental health differences by understanding the strengths and weaknesses associated with entrepreneurs. It is crucial they are informed about mental health vulnerabilities associated with risk-taking innovators and leaders. With empathy and understanding, entrepreneurs can continue to create economic value, generate jobs, and create social and market solutions while moderating their suffering.

In red, scratched, thick lettering reads "discrimination" against a white background.

Denying a problem exists just because it isn’t a personal problem only harms those that do experience the struggle. Problems like discrimination and harassment are often one of those problems that people try to dismiss. Sometimes it’s because microaggressions are just that, micro and all too easily brushed aside. Or the problem could be denied because it wasn’t personally witnessed. But ignoring problems like sexism and racism harms those experiencing it and aids those who are getting away with it.

False accusations of discrimination aren’t as common as the loud voices shouting about them would have everyone believe. Saying that isn’t meant to lighten how serious of a problem that false accusations are. But there are people who would go on about how false accusations are the worst part of discrimination, which detracts from the problem at hand.

For people experiencing the discrimination, the worst part is often seeking help, and then not being believed. It usually shuts off the idea of any future attempt of seeking help, creating a toxic environment. In the workplace, it is the job of those in charge to make sure that this sort of thing doesn’t happen, and that accusations are taken seriously. It’s important to handle the situation carefully and tactfully, and ignoring the problem won’t make it go away. Rather, it just may take it away from view. Different levels of discrimination and harassment should have corresponding consequences according to severity, be it a written notice, sensitivity training, or employment termination if severe enough. Different industries are more prone to specific types of discrimination and harassment. As a business owner, it’s important to rise above a set standard and treat everyone fairly and respectfully.

How do you move forward after a devastating loss?

Call it what you will. Hitting the wall. Crashing into a ceiling. Having the bottom fall out from under you. It doesn’t matter what direction it comes from, failing is a painful, devastating experience. For entrepreneurs who often have their lives wrapped up personally and financially in their businesses, failure can be difficult to overcome.

On one level or another, failure is certain. Yet everyone deals with defeat differently. And some find it very hard to move on.

If you have found it tough to gain forward momentum after a reversal, what is stopping you? Here are a few ideas on what might be happening and how to get back on track.

Hitting the Books

Have you been so focused on day-to-day activities that you haven’t kept up with industry knowledge? Is there a weakness in your foundational understanding? One great idea is to go back to the books and resources that are the bedrock of your expertise. Are they still relevant? If so, re-examine them, and, like watching a great movie a second time, allow new ideas to surface. Also, if you sense those resources are no longer applicable, seek out new ones to fill the gaps.

Another way forward, especially when you have hit bottom, is to reset your goals. Working without overall personal and business objectives is like being adrift on the open sea. You might end up on a beautiful island, but you’re likelier to have wind and current leave you in the doldrums. Take the time to become very clear on where you are going and how you plan to get there.

Going it alone is a possible downfall for anyone, especially entrepreneurs used to shouldering the responsibility for their organizations. It may be time to return to a mentor, someone who inspired and taught you along the way. Don’t let fear of admitting defeat stop you from contacting an important resource. If they are a true mentor, they will have themselves tumbled down mountains and have astute observations to help you climb back up.

Give Yourself the Gift of Time

You may also have to review your time management. The only person who can give you the time you need to succeed is you. For some, that might mean cutting back on personal time-wasting habits such as social media or television bingeing. For others, it may mean making difficult decisions to create revitalizing personal time such as exercise or meditation. The Dalai Lama wakes at 3:00 am for two hours of meditation each day before his day begins. Tim Cook, Apple CEO, famously gets up at 3:45 for personal time. The idea is that taking time to rebuild and reset is absolutely essential for getting your career back on track.

Once you begin taking these steps, you will find that the setback has made you stronger and more knowledgeable. Of course, when you are down it is hard to imagine, or hear someone tell you, that it is all going to be okay. That is why it is important to begin by taking practical, steadying steps as you begin moving forward again.

 

 

Caucasian man standing in front of other business people in wood paneled room, giving a presentation.

The great balancing act of being a business owner has a lot of factors to it. One of the most important balances is making a business functional, and still keeping the workforce happy. With how many people it often takes to keep a business running, it also tends to mean there’s no one right answer to keeping people happy. But there are some basic ideas that business owners can try out as a starting point.

Try thinking first of what you always hated having happened at work before you became your own boss. Sometimes, less than desirable events have to happen for the sake of the business, but maybe they don’t have to be as awful. Maybe there’s easy access to refreshments when employees have to work late. Or, perhaps if employees from one department have to do work for another department that is less desirable or extends for a longer period of time than what would be expected, think of ways to show their effort is appreciated. Maybe once the special project is complete, let everyone involved have a small break. Yourself included, because being in charge isn’t easy.

As a business owner, it’s important to remember that you’re not the sole member of the team. Making an environment positive enough to bring out maximum productivity often means listening to others. It helps to encourage employees to bring problems to either a manager’s or your attention. That way they’ll likely feel more comfortable with bringing problems for consideration early on, rather than waiting for it to become intolerable. Communication in general is a great way to keep cohesion in a workplace, even if the subjects aren’t always pleasant.

There’s always something that has to be added to the mix of keeping a functioning and thriving workplace. Ask what your employees think, and try some new things. The next best idea may just be waiting for someone to speak up.

Radical Vulnerability: Small surfer on a giant wave

What is vulnerability? Though it can mean different things to different people, it essentially comes down to being brave enough to be yourself. And that means being your whole self, including weaknesses and strengths. All the energy you spend projecting an image of strength and invulnerability becomes a mask that insulates you from the real world.

If you are an entrepreneur, you don’t want anything getting between you and the real world. That’s where all the solutions are.

The Emotional Impact of Being Authentic

Being authentic is what helps you connect emotionally with your team. Truth and authenticity are at the foundation of vulnerability. If you show your team your humanity, your genuine heart, they will know that you trust yourself and that they can trust the organization.  

One way to do this is to illuminate your flaws rather than try to hide them away. Be willing to admit mistakes. Understand your strengths and weaknesses and be willing to get support where you need it. This means, instead of projecting confidence, being confident enough to be uncomfortable.

It also means having the ability to be self-aware. Often, the people and situations that bother you the most, the ones that really electrify the negative feedback loop in your brain with repetitive thinking, are places you need the most work. For example, maybe you label someone as a bullshitter. That person really bugs you, and you hate doing business with him. If you look inside, maybe you will see there is a part of yourself that is willing to be less than honest in certain high pressure situations. Maybe you’re the bullshitter! If you take steps to deal with that then you won’t have to plug in and give energy to every dishonest person you run into.

Shame Is an Organizational Virus

When you are willing to look at your own flaws, your team can admit their own mistakes. Everyone makes errors. Why not let them live in the open where they can be learned from? Shame is a terrible organizational virus that mutes voices, making team members less bold and less able to suggest big ideas.

Of course, you work in a demanding environment, and being vulnerable and willing to accept who you truly are does not mean you are willing to accept mediocrity. In fact, it’s the opposite. When you challenge yourself and your team to be fully vulnerable and driven while building solutions for clients, you build an organization that has the best chance of dynamically moving forward. Being a radically vulnerable leader is the optimal strategy to becoming a successful business leader.

Four photos show a woman reading, a mother hugging her child, a successful business meeting and a man working out. These are all ways to connect the dots.

Fortune magazine released their 40 Under 40 list recently with a diverse list ranging in race, gender, nationality, and industry. Notable influencers that were given the honor include filmmakers like Jordan Peele, who was the first black screenwriter to win an Oscar in the screenplay category in 2018, and Executives like Dhivya Suryadevara, 39, who was the first female Chief Financial Officer of GM. What makes these visionaries amazing isn’t their skin color or gender. Instead, they are being celebrated for the obstacles they have had to overcome. Below is wisdom from another thought leader, who has empowered over 50 million people from 100 countries through his work. Tony Robbins has a roadmap to almost every subject area relevant to CEOs, artists, executives, and more. Below are pieces of advice from Tony that could help inspire you to become as influential as Jordan Peele or Dhivya Suryadevara in your circles.

Take Care of Your Body and Mind

Tony recommends reading 30 minutes a day to boost mental growth. But he doesn’t suggest reading only your favorite graphic novel or romantic fiction. Instead, he wants you to read something that will make you think critically. In his own words, “Scrolling through social media doesn’t count.”

Don’t just exercise your brain. Get your heart pumping, too! He suggests, at a minimum, exercising 5 days a week with your heart racing for 10 minutes. What you do to get your body moving is up to you, and be sure to consult with a doctor if you have any health concerns. Combining physical and mental exercise will go hand in hand in your personal development.

Expand Your Sphere

You may find yourself tempted to lower your self-worth by associating with people you think are at your level or lower because they are comfortable to you. But this won’t help you grow. Find people who have what you want, and associate with them. It’s up to you whether this means a casual “hello” and slowly building up to more small talk, or straight up asking them for their advice on your mutual fields. As Tony says, “if you play someone at your level or below, you never stretch yourself. No stretch, no improvement….Yes, staying in an environment where you feel like you’re not good enough can be tough, but hold on – it’ll pay off in the long run.”

In Giving We Receive

Try to help someone every week for 2–3 minutes, or break it into 10 minutes per month. It’s that simple. Tony recommends providing food, conversation, or your problem-solving skills. You could also try to be kind when you’re stuck in traffic. For example, let cars into your lane when they need to change lanes. Or return the grocery cart for the elderly person who cannot return it. Tony’s “secret to living is giving. It’s truly the secret for how to feel happy.”

The power of now when overwhelmed in business and life

At some point or another, most people have felt completely overwhelmed in their business and personal lives. It is completely normal and human to feel disoriented and completely alone in the face of a setback, yet it remains uniquely devastating for each individual who faces failure and loss. Even though you know everyone goes through similar challenges, for you it is happening on a grand stage and is monumental in scope and duration.

It will not take much imagination to think back to a time you felt this way. For most people, it is something that can be recalled in vivid detail, as if a camera has recorded every nuance of light and language. Though it can’t possibly be true, it seems like it often happens on a dark, rainy day. Or maybe that’s just how the soul feels.

Taking Personal Inventory

There are, of course, dozens of ways to respond to business and personal destruction and trauma. One imperative step to take is to take a personal inventory. Where has your energy been leading up to the failure? Have you been grasping at things you can’t change such as rethinking the past or putting all your energy into some future hope or goal? Maybe you are not being present enough in your business efforts or your personal relationships? Maybe both.

Eckhart Tolle’s “The Power of Now” talks about committing to the present moment, to spend less time looking back and projecting forward. The author urges you to commit to the moment that is in front of you.

For those in business, there are opportunities lost by not being present. Every time you are lost in a past conversation or challenge other than the one that is right in front of you, there is a possibility you are going to miss something important. You need to have keen, piercing vision, and every single piece of missed information, or dropped data, is going to weaken your vision. Anything that goes unseen might just make it impossible to succeed.

Getting punched in the face is part of what happens when you take on big challenges, but you would never walk into a boxing ring thinking about your last failure. You have to be totally present and alive to see the punches coming in order to know when to defend and when to strike.

What Does It Mean To Be a Human Being?

Think about what it means to be a human being. You come into this world naked with nothing, and you leave it the same way. Tolle says the secret of life is to “die before you die.” 

It is imperative to become aware of who you are in any given moment. You have to awaken to your subconscious responses to any given situation, and then to let go of them. When you become aware of your emotional responses, you acknowledge them without letting them make decisions for you. You miss critical things when you don’t.

“Be at least as interested in what goes on inside you as what happens outside. If you get the inside right, the outside will fall into place,” says Tolle. Even if it is raining outside, it doesn’t have to cloud your mind, your soul and your decisions.

The way to be a true entrepreneur is to be open, honest, and vulnerable in the moment right in front of you. Energized, aware, and alive, you live in the moment, in the now. Then, all of your personal and business growth can happen organically, steadily and slowly from that place.

So be humble and open to learning every day. Surround yourself with people willing to be challenged, who are authentic and open and alive. And build ways to make the lives of your clients, employees, friends, and family better. Step into the now.