As an entrepreneur, you are the center of your startup. The more you understand yourself, the better you will lead your team, customers, investors, and other stakeholders. The ‘How to Become a Successful Entrepreneur’ is a key question, you should often elaborate on. Learn about ten states of mind that are crucial in your search for good answers.
People always say you should live everyday as though it’s your last. I sort of have taken the opposite track, where I think you should live everyday as though it’s going to go on forever. You should treat people like you’re going to see them again in the future. You should start working on projects that may take a long time. And so I want to live everyday as though it’s going to go on forever. — Peter Thiel
You might wonder how to become a successful entrepreneur?
I believe that the best way to become a successful entrepreneur is to develop yourself. It’s the best way to personally grow.
Yet, you must choose yourself. You won’t be chosen.
As an entrepreneur, if you DON’T continually personally grow, improve and learn, your business and startup will fail.
Please let me share 10 entrepreneurs ideas why it’s important to decode your personal values, identify your talents and finding a personal mission that drives you crazy — positively speaking. It’s what makes most entrepreneurs and Startup Founders successful (think of Google, Apple, Facebook, AirBnb, Dropbox, Slack etc).
It’s what makes most entrepreneurs and Startup Founders successful (think of Google, Apple, Facebook, AirBnb, Dropbox, Slack etc).
How to Become a Successful Entrepreneur?
A successful entrepreneur is successful because
- Financial independence
guide him and provide a deeper sense of fulfillment and peace in life.
Let’s go through each of the entrepreneur ideas on how to become a successful entrepreneur.
A successful entrepreneur is driven by passion and almost childish curiosity to learn every day. He is fond of constantly mastering new challenges. It’s not only about acquiring knowledge but more about mastering ‘soft skills’.
By working on himself, the most successful entrepreneur gets to know himself much better — his fears and worries, ambitions and cry for love and recognition.
The most successful entrepreneur develops a courage to face his fears and find successful ways overcome them.
Entrepreneurs openly discuss often overlooked or sensitive topics. They want to learn. They want to grow personally. Tabus mostly hinder you from doing so.
Hence, there are hardly any tabus among entrepreneurs. Money, Religion, Politics — are all topics you’re trained not to touch upon at regular business meetings. Entrepreneurs … phew … if they want to talk about these issues, they simply will.
That doesn’t mean, however, that you have to become an entrepreneur before you can challenge social conventions. Everyone can and should do this.
Still, I found the courage to question life and to follow personal dreams almost exclusively among entrepreneurs, artists and other ‘creative’ professions. Other people love to talk about it, but they don’t act.
A successful entrepreneur searches for people that inspire him because he knows:
The beauty of life is often shown to him by others.
The great thing about being an entrepreneur is that you can choose the people you work with. You can develop unique friendships. You can develop new dreams together. You can pursue a shared vision altogether — one that is far greater than any individual who is part of it.
Live a fulfilling life — full of fun and challenges — together, as a team.
A successful entrepreneur comes up with a mission and makes people believe in it.
Fame and money are great, but they won’t motivate you forever. A successful entrepreneur follows a personal mission. That’s one of many reasons they choose to start businesses in the first place. Some entrepreneurs prefer a long-term and ‘organic growth approach’ to life (hint: bootstrapping vs venture capital).
In our fast-paced lives, it is easy to lose yourself more each day — as it often happens to me. Follow, instead, a larger goal and find your own mission as a successful entrepreneur does. Don’t rattle. Stay on track. Amazing things will follow.
If you want to be successful, you have to find a mission. Hence, discover what deeply drives you.
How? Start a side project.
If you found a purpose, live each day as if it will never end as Peter Thiel pointed it out.
Being an entrepreneur helps you discover your real value’s — easier and quicker. Because as an entrepreneur, you are not relaxing in a jacuzzi but swimming in the wild ocean — facing your fears, discovering your passion, and embracing your true talents.
All of our actions as humans are based on our values and beliefs. Most people are not aware of them because they simply don’t think about them.
On the contrary, a successful entrepreneur knows his values.
What’s important to you? Is it honesty? Objectiveness? Bravery? Love? Trust? Fearlessness? Peace? Warmth? Wisdom? Confidence? Security? The list could go on forever!
Get an overview here and do the following five steps — NOW:
- Choose 20 values.
- Limit your selection to five values.
- Speak to friends about their values.
- Ask your friends and family what they value about you.
- Decide on five values and visualize your five values daily (Tip: Use your diary, desktop/smartphone background for visualizing).
Pro tip: If you don’t have time NOW, mark your calendar and commit to a time to identify your values. Don’t forget to link to this article to keep track of context. Write ‘done’ in the comment section and email me your values and you will get a little gift. Promised.
Just like your values, you also want to discover your talents! A successful entrepreneur always focuses on his STRENGTHS. He knows what he is good at and what he is bad it. He selects business partners and team members accordingly ALWAYS to put his strengths to work and don’t be discouraged by his weaknesses.
Just face it! Everyone has weaknesses.
What are your strengths? Presenting? Writing? Leading teams? Getting things done? Solving conflicts? Judging? Analyzing? Visualizing? Executing? Structuring? Acting? Selecting? Prioritizing? Teaching? Researching?
Find an overview here and do the following five steps — NOW:
- Choose 20 strengths.
- Select five strengths.
- Speak to friends about their strengths.
- Ask your friends and family what strengths they think you have.
- Decide on five strengths and visualize your five strengths daily (tip: diary, desktop/smartphone background).
- Alternatively, you can also use the following two tests: Enneagram Institute or 16 Personalities.
- Book recommendation: StrengthsFinder 2.0 by Tom Rath.
Pro tip: If you don’t have time now, mark your calendar and commit to a time to identify your talents. Don’t forget to link to this article to keep track of context.
Like a pro athlete, a successful entrepreneur defines business and personal goals — daily, weekly, monthly and yearly — and goes after them each day. The most successful entrepreneurs visualize their goals and adjust them.
From my own experience, I know that setting goals is an art — not a science. That’s why I focus on process and routines instead of goals as successful entrepreneurs do.
I consistently set my goals too high and am then disappointed when I don’t manage to meet them. In the beginning, it pressured me a lot because I thought, “I am failure” (and who knows, maybe I am. But I don’t think so.)
While constantly chasing my to-dos, my life seemed to pass by… This chasing attitude is wrong. A successful entrepreneur knows that goals are important. But it comes down to progress and the journey he faces — less about daily, little to-dos.
I’m working hard to internalize that. I find it very hard to be patient and persistent. A successful entrepreneur works hard every day to move his stuff forward. His actions are guided by his desire to make stuff happen must always be in line with his values, talent, and mission.
A successful entrepreneur understands the difference between focus (effectiveness) and productivity (efficiency) and uses these concepts in his favor.
I am, however, struggling with this. It’s damn hard always to be focused and productive – but I am very sensitive to improving them. Because focus and productivity are skills to be mastered for life.
Timothy Ferriss describes them well in his book ‘4-Hour Work Week’. He was the first one to open my eyes and show me that 14-hour workdays are stupid. Many people think that working long hours is the highest form of hard work! Tim, however, believes that it is a form of laziness.
It’s lazy to avoid thinking about what tasks have the highest impact on your progress (read: being effective) and how to properly do your duties (read: being efficient). Hence, he advocates the so-called Pareto Principle and Parkinson Principle. Great helpers for living a healthy and balanced (entrepreneurial) life.
By the way, what do you think is more important? Being effective or being efficient? Always aim at … right … being effective.
Effectiveness is doing the things that get you closer to your goals. Efficiency is performing a given task (whether important or not) in the most economical manner possible. Being efficient without regard to effectiveness is the default mode of the universe.
It may sound counterproductive, but doing more hours doesn’t mean that you get better results. Many entrepreneurs don’t realize this. They sacrifice their health.
Nevertheless, most of them strive to be productive as much as they strive to learn. Two traits that I didn’t find while working in corporations. I enjoyed reading Tim’s post about ‘Productivity” Tricks for the Neurotic, Manic-Depressive, and Crazy (Like Me)’. Even Tim Ferriss doesn’t get up every morning when the alarm rings.
Of course NOT! But most of us think that highly successful people ALWAYS do EVERYTHING right. As if they are PERFECT. BUT where does this notion in society come from that super successful people always deliver? They don’t. They also allow slack.
Embrace that. Don’t be too harsh on yourself. Everyone is lazy and needs time off. That’s fine. My two cent — because I have a hard time accepting that I can’t outperform daily….what about you?
What are your experiences? Please share them in the comment section below.
Seven values that drive a successful entrepreneur
For a successful entrepreneur, learning, people, mission, values, talents, goals, and productivity are the primary drivers of actions. It’s like cooking. If you want to cook and enjoy a great meal (—hopefully not alone), you’ll need to choose the right ingredients in advance.
It is similar to starting your own project that might turn into a company. Your mission gives you a direction and helps you to make the right decisions. It is your Entrepreneurial Recipe. Your goals urge you not to get lazy. Your values and talents are the ingredients for your (entrepreneurial) actions.
—It’s your Entrepreneurial Action Guide.
—It’s your answer to the question on ‘How to Become a Successful Entrepreneur’
If you continually learn, you will grow and finally be successful — living a healthy, balanced and mindful life! I really believe in this because it’s cause and effect. The universal law of progress and therefore success.
Wait a second … there are three more entrepreneur ideas
Depending on the form of your business, there are three more points. BUT they rely on the type of business you build (lifestyle; offline; startup; software; social or corporate — to find a description of the six different kinds, click here).
In my experience, you won’t be able to leverage the three points as a startup (co)-founder.
BUT more so as a successful freelancer (designer, software developer, consultant, coach etc.) or a ‘lifestyle entrepreneur’.
Freedom can mean many different things. It could mean choosing your place of living, your projects, the people you work with, the goals you work for.
Freelance work and small companies can offer you everything.
In his book ‘4-Hour Workweek’, Tim Ferriss recommends to define exactly how much you need to live your perfect life (‘dreamlining‘).
Try it and you will see: You don’t need much money to live a great life. You’ll be surprised how little you need if you don’t strive to buy and own stuff.
Welcome and embrace our sharing economy.
It can be a great foundation to start offering services as a freelancer because it frees us from financial pressure. The need to make a lot. The need to show off. The need for approval.
The less we care about ownership, reputation, approval and money, the greater our lives become.
I know… I know… — This is general advice, but it does take us back to financial independence, I think.
Once I became a freelancer, I realized that freedom and financial independence go hand in hand for a healthy life. It helps a lot to follow a morning routine instead of racing into an office. It’s f*cking stupid to be driven by ‘face to face time’ leaving the office only after your boss does.
You simply can’t live a conscious life that way. It’s unhealthy and not fulfilling. Besides that, I had to learn that my health is MUCH more important than my entrepreneurial progress. Never ever sacrifice health over progress. For a few days when you have a pressing deadline, it’s O.K.
BUT don’t always push. Also, allow yourself to rest and relax. Allow time for yourself. Plenish your body — otherwise your mind always takes over and occupies your life. That leads to disaster.
A little mind hack helped me to exercise more and put more emphasize on health.
Whenever I exercise, I think of it as work done. One hour running = one hour of work. One hour meditation = one hour work. You might believe that it’s cheating or lying to yourself. It might be true for you. It isn’t true for me. This hack helps me to exercise guilt free of losing time for work while exercising.
—Bottom line: Do whatever you want to make you more productive. Sometimes little things can have a significant impact. Quick tip: Get Ramit Sethi’s life hacks here. And always remember: More hours working does not necessarily mean achieving more and getting better results. Unfortunately for some, fortunately for most — the opposite is mostly true. Which category do you fall into?
Exercise: Your ideal life
Additionally to Tim’s dreamlining method, answer the following questions to get yourself closer, to your perfect life. Again — I encourage you to set time aside and go over these issues another time — if you don’t have time NOW.
- If I give you 1 Million Dollars, what would you do every day?
- What would you do differently from yesterday?
- Describe two excellent days — One that is designed to get stuff done and one that is designed to relax!
- Then answer: What makes a great week? What makes a great year?
I intentionally avoid the word perfect. What / who is perfect anyway? I believe that even in thought experiments we should not be misguided by outcomes that are unachievable and unrealistic. These illusions make us unhappy and not present.
Think big, but start small and … well … realistic.
More extreme approach
A more radical approach to identifying your ideal life, is to answer the following question:
- Suppose you only had 12 more months to live. What would you do differently from yesterday, last week and last month?
—PLUS pro tip: Ask yourself these questions MONTHLY!
Your answers will change over time. Track them in a diary. This way you will come closer to what you really want. That’s my experience. Maybe it can be yours, too.
Please do the following as a personal development task: Copy these questions. Go to your calendar of choice — NOW. And paste the questions into a 30-minute timeslot that automatically repeats monthly. Set a reminder for the last Sunday of each month.
Go. Now. Don’t wait. Set yourself up for success and transformation … two big words that always start with a single step.
Did I say GO already?…
I mean it. By doing this, you are setting yourself apart from your lazy colleague, fellow student or startup friend. Please do. It’s for you and I care about you because I am convinced it helps.
My ideal life — Danny’s answers:
Let me pick two of the questions and answer them here.
- If I give you 1 Million Dollars, what would you do every day?
- What would you do differently from yesterday, last week and last month — if I only had 12 more months to live?
One million dollar question
I would not change what I am doing right now. I am deeply driven to make StartupGeist successful for my readers. For you! More people should live the life they’ve always wanted.
I believe that can be achieved by being an entrepreneur. It’s a great way to do so. Most people, however, don’t have the right mindset and values to unlock their talents and real potential. Of course, it takes time — BUT every journey starts with the first step.
I want more people to realize their entrepreneurial dreams. AND I want more entrepreneurs to pursue a more focused, productive, healthy and mindful life. I lose focus, have unproductive days and drift away as most entrepreneurs do. I believe that starting a company, startup or freelancing job doesn’t necessarily need to be extremely stressful — when we apply the right tools and the right mindset.
That’s why I am driven to compile and share startup best practices and success principles with you — that I call ’The StartupGeist’.
The StartupGeist allows you to pursue your entrepreneurial dreams.
How would I use one million dollars?
I would hire one or two people to accelerate the progress of StartupGeist. But I am also adamant that I wouldn’t overhire as everything is still so unclear and undefined. I am just starting. It’s not the right time to heavily invest in people and overspend financial resources (even if someone would gift it to me).
I would, however, invest in friends and like minded people to allow them to leave their jobs — if they want — to pursue their entrepreneurial dreams.
Similar to what Peter Thiel did with his Thiel Fellowship by encouraging students to leave University and purely focus on their startup, I would like to give small grants to would-be starters and learn from their progress. What is holding them back? How can they be accelerated?
To ultimately put this knowledge into an applied learning app and course for students who want to acquire the StartupGeist.
Welcome to Entrepreneurial Life Long Learning!
What would I do differently from yesterday, last week and last month — if I only had 12 more months to live?
Firstly, I would be sad for a few days. Most likely grieve in self-pity. I am not ready to die yet — I deeply want to give something back in life with StartupGeist.
It is much bigger than I am. It’s not about me. It’s about students becoming entrepreneurs and making a positive change on this planet.
After grieving (hope this would end quickly), I would get back to work.
Considering I am dying, I would probably work hard to find ambassadors, mentors and thought leaders to buy into the idea of StartupGeist to ensure it ‘stays’ alive when I am gone.
P.S. Please feel free to share your answers in the comment section below. I’m curious to see how your ideal life looks like too.
- Peter Thiel: You Are Not a Lottery Ticket | What Works at Work
- Tim Ferriss: The 4-Hour Work Week | “Productivity” Tricks for the Neurotic, Manic-Depressive, and Crazy (Like Me)
- Steve Jobs: ‘Stay Young. Stay Foolish.’ — Stanford commencement speech, 2005
- James Altucher: Choose Yourself!
- Paul Graham: What We Look For In Founders
Next on StartupGeist
- About Danny Holtschke: Awakening the Entrepreneur Within (1/3)
- About Danny Holtschke: Awakening the Entrepreneur Within (2/3)
- About Danny Holtschke: Awakening the Entrepreneur Within (3/3)