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Are you an introvert who would love to start a business, but feel you’re held back by your quiet, reserved nature? Extrovert tendencies, such as being outgoing networkers, action-oriented, and risk-takers, are often named as desirable qualities for an entrepreneur to have, but that may be due in part to what author Susan Cain calls a cultural bias rather than a template for business success. According to Cain, we live in a “society that favors action over contemplation.” She says this bias stems from our Greco-Roman roots and was solidified as we moved from an agricultural to industrial society. Does this mean that introverts can’t be successful entrepreneurs? Not at all.

You Aren’t Limited By Your Personality Type

Extroverts and introverts both have their strengths and weaknesses. Having a clear understanding that you aren’t limited by your personality is one of the most important things to keep in mind. Introverts have many excellent qualities that bring a lot of value to a business, such as the ability to focus for long periods of time, critical thinking, and high observation skills. Since they process things internally, they tend to have ideas well fleshed out before acting on them and lead from a focused place.

Focus on Your Strengths 

You may not be gregarious or a networker, but maybe you have a keen mind for analytics and marketing. Most introverts tend to be good listeners, which can help you learn exactly what a client is looking for and allow you to offer products or solutions that are a perfect fit. Instead of focusing on the things you don’t feel good at, find a way to market the skills you do have. These will bring you, and your customers, far more value than trying to be a square peg in a round hole.

Budget Your Energy and Set Boundaries

One of the trickiest things about being an introvert is how draining the day can feel. While extroverts thrive on activity, many introverts have limited energy reserves and can quickly become exhausted or overwhelmed. Determine what you can handle. Can’t do two or three meetings in a day? Stretch them out throughout the week. Balance low energy activities with ones that you find more draining.

Outsource Tasks

Introvert or extrovert, you’re only one person, and chances are there will be some tasks that are not your forte. Learning to recognize that and allow yourself to be comfortable with assigning the task to someone better suited to it will be good for your business and your energy levels. A successful business owner will have both introverts and extroverts on the team and understand how to assign them to tasks according to their strengths.

Utilize Technology

Tech is a lifesaver for many introverts as it allows them to take a bit more time to collect their thoughts and put them into words. Many companies now rely on social media as a primary form of customer service, and it can be a beneficial tool for introverts to thoughtfully perform customer interaction, outreach, and complaint resolution. Email and instant messaging can reduce your face-to-face time, and allow you a little longer to reply. E-commerce can be a useful way to sell products without resorting to high-energy sales. Utilizing tech can keep your energy reserves up while also handling day-to-day business.

Some of the most successful people today, like Bill Gates, Warren Buffet, and Mark Zuckerberg, describe themselves as introverts, proving that it’s your drive, not your personality type, that dictates success. While starting up a business may not feel 100 percent comfortable for the introverted, there’s no reason to tell yourself that it can’t be done!

 

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.

 

 

Universities incentivize student and faculty on-campus entrepreneurship

Have you noticed that many innovators leave college early? Or, they begin making their groundbreaking innovations after graduation? Colleges have noted this, too.

The Morrill Act of 1862 granted land and resources for higher educational institutions focused on agricultural and technical studies. These public and land-grant colleges include leading universities focused on research, including the University of California and Pennsylvania State University. In a recently released position paper, these colleges attempt to contribute and remain engaged in a fast-paced economy.  Though their approaches are different, one element that is crucial is supporting university-based innovation and entrepreneurship.

Show Me the Money

Many schools already have policies to pay faculty or students when they make a research breakthrough that is commercialized. Yale, for instance pays 10 percent to inventors after a number of expenses are deducted. One of the main ways to spur entrepreneurial growth in universities is to evaluate these royalty split policies. University innovators are likely to hide key findings when universities take most or all of the royalties from innovations. Low or no royalties cause innovators to either leave their institution or give up their ambitions entirely. By more generously sharing revenues, universities can spur innovation and create a dynamic entrepreneurial spirit.

Similarly, entrepreneurial growth is slowed by traditional “walls” built between departments and even individual professors. One way to break down these walls is the establishment of technology transfer offices. These offices increase institutional capacity to turn discoveries into market-ready products. They can also make donors aware of university opportunities for product commercialization, startups, and venture formation. Opening communication within the entire higher educational environment— alumni, management, faculty, and students—encourages cutting edge innovation.

In response to student loan debt, another recommendation is to establish scholarships and financial aid opportunities for student innovators. This will inspire students, who are increasingly aware of the long-term negative effects of student loan debt, to stay in school and innovate. The study also proposes developing internal prizes and endowments to encourage faculty entrepreneurial education and activities. Additionally, universities can incentivize faculty innovation by connecting their accomplishments to promotion and tenure.

Incubate or Perish

Research-focused university campuses should be highly productive incubators for business development resources, according to the paper. It is imperative for universities, which house state of the art research facilities and attract the brightest students and faculty, to be engaged in entrepreneurial efforts to stay relevant and to continue to contribute to the national and global economy.

Turning a university into a makerspace, in which people with shared interests and ambitions work on innovative projects, is necessary as we step forward in the 21st century. Figuring out ways to encourage students, faculty and alumni to work together is the way to build these spaces.  

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.

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.

Sleep is good for everyone, CEO and baby too

Brandon Frere famously made himself a promise that when he ran his own business he would never set an alarm clock. How did he know that getting enough sleep was a wholly rational decision that was both good for him, and—because he is responsible for hundreds of employees and thousands of clients—good for those around him?

Feeling Lonely and Isolated? Take a Nap

Recent research from UC Berkeley shows that sleep deprived people feel lonelier and less inclined to social engagement. Unrested people live with the same sort of isolation as those with social anxiety. Even worse, well-rested people feel lonely after a brief encounter with a sleep deprived person. This creates a sort of social isolating virus that infects wider and wider circles.

Another study by the Rand Corporation quantified the loss to the American economy due to sleep deprivation at $411 billion per year. This is counted in terms of 1.23 million lost working days. Only Japan has worse per capita numbers. Even more serious, those who slept less than six hours per night were 10 percent more likely to die than those who slept between seven and nine hours.

There are many reasons why some people sleep less than others:

  • Age: Brain function responsible for regulating sleep begins to decline as early as 35 years of age
  • Genetics: A gene called “CRY1” regulates circadian rhythms. One variation of it causes longer circadian cycles, leading to less sleep
  • Career: Night and swing shifts are extremely harmful to healthy rest
  • Weekends: Sleeping late on the weekend can cause disrupted sleeping the rest of the week.
  • Relationships: Those in committed relationships are 20 percent more likely than single people to sleep seven hours or more per night.
  • Education: The higher level of educational attainment, the more you sleep. Over 70 percent of those with a college degree or higher sleep at least seven hours per night.

Why We Sleep

In Why We Sleep: Unlocking the Power of Sleep and Dreams, neuroscientist Matt Walker argues that lack of sleep takes a toll on everyone, from military fighters and first responders to airline pilots and truckers. It is also associated with increased risk of Alzheimer’s, depression, anxiety, obesity, stroke, chronic pain, diabetes, heart attacks and more.

As a sleep consultant to the NFL, NBA, and numerous Fortune 500 enterprises, Walker is certain of the links between a good night’s sleep and optimal performance, on the playing field and in the conference room.

All of these studies seem to point to something that Frere knows intuitively: that allowing the body to get the sleep it needs is essential to how we operate and interact in the world, that a good night of sleep is one of the healthiest therapies we can give ourselves.

Sleeping until your body says it’s time to wake up is good for the body and good for business. It also saves you all that time hitting the snooze button.

ikigai concept to show purpose

Many entrepreneurs want to find their work’s purpose but don’t know how to describe it. The concept of ikigai, may be an elegant way of expressing what people look for when they want “purpose.” Ikigai can also be used as a planning tool to find the motivations of different goals or entire businesses. Ikigai is composed of four questions, are you doing what you love? Are you doing what the world needs? Are you doing what you can be paid for? Are you doing what you are good at?

What You Love

An entrepreneur may want to start at the top of the circle and consider what they love to do. Entrepreneurs don’t need to produce something that is loved, but the act of producing should be something they are passionate about. If a person is doing something that they love then they may be able to take on harder challenges. The more an entrepreneur cares about the business, the more they’ll be able to learn and persevere from those challenges. When work isn’t so trying, passion can make every day a little better.

What the World Needs

Fulfilling customer needs is at the heart of a business, but fulfilling employee, and personal needs are just as important. When a business tries to fulfill a need, It needs to make a strong argument on how it fills that need. Once an argument is strong, it should be obvious. Discovering how to make a business strong and obvious may reveal ways that the business can be improved. When a business is stronger and more obvious it is more likely it will fulfill the need it was created for.

What You Can Be Paid For

After being certain a business fills a need, an entrepreneur should sure people cares enough to buy what their business is selling. Money is a necessary system at the heart of a business, and most businesses won’t function without a good monetary plan. If someone loves the business but isn’t willing to pay, then the business may not be worth pursuing. Some turn their business into a hobby until it can make money. By using a little creativity, most endeavors can find a market.

What You Are Good At

Finally, a person should do what they are confident in doing. This shouldn’t stop someone from trying new things. It may be wise for an entrepreneur to perform tasks that are outside of their comfort zone. An entrepreneur may want to spend more time measuring whether a new task is possible, and deciding what skills are required. By measuring, it becomes possible to find out just how good a person needs to be to solve difficult tasks. If an entrepreneur needs to try something they are bad at but gets better through attempting the challenge, then that may be best of all.

Thinking with ikigai may be a good way to measure a business’ emotional value. By thinking with ikigai entrepreneurs may be able to figure out what causes people to care about their work.