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These 7 Behaviors Prove That You’re A Born Entrepreneur

These 7 Behaviors Prove That You’re A Born Entrepreneur

Have you always felt like you were destined for more? Like you were meant to strike out and do your own thing? That’s how I’ve always felt. I wasn’t much interested in fitting into society, but was more focused on how I could change it. My earliest memory of entrepreneurship was coming up with the idea to sell balloons to my friends at school. I seem to recall that I would sell them for $2.50. Unfortunately, I wasn’t as intelligent as I was ambitious. I still remember trying to cram a blown-up balloon into my school bag and wondering how I was going to fit in more than one. Fast forward about 20 years and I’ve still got that itch. The company I work for was recently acquired by a huge, billion-dollar corporation. It made me think: Do I want to subject myself to the whims of forces out of my control? The answer was “no”. I felt like I could be an entrepreneur, but I had to model myself after other people who have made it. Here are the seven behaviors I discovered that make people born entrepreneurs:

1.  Never felt as interested in buying things as I did in working out how they were being sold

No matter the craze: Apple products, mobile games, clothes, sneakers, or luxury goods, I couldn’t get sucked in. Instead, I watched on the sidelines as other people couldn’t help themselves and shelled out their hard-earned cash to buy something they couldn’t live without. I was more fascinated how companies and brands did this. What made them so attractive? How did their customers feel after acquiring their products? How did they make them feel this way? I was hell-bent on understanding this.

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2. An insatiable hunger to learn more about people and what makes them take action

I’ve always been interested in people and what makes them tick. There’s this quote which is often attributed to Einstein that I love: “Computers are incredibly fast, accurate, and stupid; humans are incredibly slow, inaccurate, and brilliant; together they are powerful beyond imagination. ”Our brilliance comes from our minds. They can sometimes fail us when we most need them to work, but they have already gotten us this far. Having said this, there are numerous “loopholes” which make us susceptible to triggers that can make normally very rational people behave irrationally. This fascinates me. It’s what makes people consider that something is a bargain if they see a “SALE” sign next to it, even though they may not know what the original price was. If it fascinates you too, then you could be a born entrepreneur.

3. Refusal to settle and accept that this is all there is to life

When I commute to work I try to block myself from the wave of dreariness that hits me every time I board the train. Everyone looks bored and is trying to distract themselves from the reality that they have created. When I surreptitiously peek at their phones it’s always the same culprits: Facebook, Candy Crush, Instagram, envy, instant gratification, and jealousy. This is not how life’s meant to be lived. I don’t have any of those apps on my phone. Don’t get me wrong. Some days I just want to forget the world and get lost in a game. The problem is when it happens every single day, without knowing it you’re conditioning your brain to get stuck in a rut. Once you’re there it’s hard to get out.

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Entrepreneurship is about getting out of your comfort zone every single day. The only thing that’s certain is that there will almost always be a new challenge to throw you off balance. If you don’t like that then the routine of a regular job probably suits you.

4. Have a high emotional intelligence

Being an entrepreneur is less about being smart and more about knowing how to manage your own emotions. Time and time again we see people who have no formal education coming out on top simply because they possess grit and the courage to keep the dream alive. While this might seem simple, it’s not easy. Think about Colonel Sanders trying to find a kitchen that would cook his Kentucky Fried Chicken. 1,009 times he was told “no” before he found a place that would accept his recipe, and now look at the legacy he has left: thousands of jobs and happy customers all over the world. He might not have considered himself an entrepreneur, but in every sense of the word, he was. Would you take 1,009 “no’s”? I’m not even sure I would. Think hard about this before you decide to venture out.

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5. Constantly having ideas of ways to improve existing products

I can’t help it. When I see products I have to analyze them and see whether they can be improved in some way, shape, or form. Sometimes it’s not even the product. It’s the marketing and advertising. If it’s done poorly and doesn’t accurately communicate the benefits it drives me up the wall. This circles back to a desire to understand people. If there’s no interest in people, there’s no interest in their problems. That’s reflected in the product. People don’t want something cool and shiny. They want their itches scratched.

6. Unafraid to lead, be unpopular, and buck the trend for the greater good

This is something a lot of people can’t handle. Too much of their self-worth rests in the basket of other peoples’ opinions. Of course, this is all in their heads; people will respect you more if you tell them “no” sometimes. The difference here is when you’re an entrepreneur and trying to change people’s opinions or behaviors, you’re doing it on scale which is exponentially more difficult. Entrepreneurs are about creating value through new concepts. Sometimes it takes months- maybe years- for acceptance of a concept. That’s why patience and perseverance in the face of rejection are important traits in entrepreneurs. If you aren’t able to do something by yourself for a period of time before it becomes popular, entrepreneurship may not be the right avenue for you.

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7. Great keeper of habits

Entrepreneurs are able to fall in love with boredom and compound consistent, hard work every day. Too often the romantic aspect of entrepreneurship is emphasized, while the hard work involved is overlooked. Yes, entrepreneurship can sometimes provide stomach flips but a lot of the work is also dull and uneventful. For example, you might do a lot of cold calling trying to find customers. Not only can this be nerve- wracking, it’s also dull. In the early days if it’s just you on your own, you might have to do a lot of the writing, coding, or designing yourself, which is hard work and can be monotonous. Entrepreneurship isn’t for people who can’t focus and stick to tasks. Keeping good habits is the fuel that supports the belief that you can create something worthwhile that will benefit society.

How many of these seven behaviors do you possess? Do they reaffirm that you are (or are not) a born entrepreneur?

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Last Updated on April 23, 2019

How to Set Stretch Goals and Keep Your Team Motivated

How to Set Stretch Goals and Keep Your Team Motivated

Stretch goals are a lot like physical fitness. When you adopt a physical sport such as running, continual practice leads to increased stamina, growth and progress.

While commitment to the sport improves performance, true growth happens when you are stretched beyond your comfort zone. I know this from personal experience.

For years, I was an avid runner. I ran with a variety of running groups in the Washington, D.C., area and in Columbus, Ohio, where I lived prior to moving to the nation’s capital in 2011.

While I was initially fearful about slacking off on my exercise habit when I moved to D.C., running enthusiasts in the area provided continual motivation, inspiring me to lace up my shoes day after day. Much to my surprise, many of the area’s running stores (including Pacers and Potomac River Running) boasted running groups that met in the mornings and evenings. So, it was relatively easy for a newcomer like me to connect with like-minded peers.

I was never a particularly fast runner, but I enjoyed the afterglow of the sport: being completely drained but feeling a sense of accomplishment; setting and reaching goals; buying and wearing out new tennis shoes. The sound of throngs of feet pounding the pavement in semi-unison is still enough to bring tears to my eyes. Yes, I sometimes tear up at the start of races.

Of all the groups I ran with, the Pacers Store group that met on Monday nights in Logan Circle boasted the fastest runners. I met up with the group week after week only to be the slowest runner. It was difficult to muster the courage to get up every week and meet the group knowing what was waiting for me: sweating and watching the backs of fellow runners.

Each time I joined the group, I was stretching myself without even realizing it. Instead of feeling like I was transitioning into a better running, for a long time I felt I was torturing myself.

Then something remarkable happened. I went for a run with a different set of runners and noticed my time had improved. I was running at a faster pace and doing so with ease. What was once uncomfortable for me I now handled with ease.

The reason I was becoming a better runner was because I was taking myself out of my comfort zone and challenging myself physically and mentally. This example illustrates the process of growth.

Fortunately, we can create situations that stretch us in our personal and professional lives.

What Is a Stretch Goal?

A stretch goal – as authors Sim B. Sitkin, C. Chet Miller and Kelly E. See detail an article “The Stretch Goal Paradox” in Harvard Business Review[1] – is something that is extremely difficult and novel. It is something that not everyone does, and it’s sometimes considered impossible.

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In general, you establish stretch goals by doing things that are difficult or temporarily challenging.

For instance, when I was first promoted to a senior communications management role, I knew I needed to beef up my relationships with media personalities. I set a goal to once a month book a day of media interviews in New York City – which is home to many media outlets, including SiriusXM radio, CNN, NBC News, HuffPost, VIBE.

This was a huge goal because it meant not only identifying the right people to meet with but convincing them to meet with me and my team. While I didn’t end up meeting the goal of doing a full day of media interviews in New York City, I met more people than I would have met had I not established the goal and instead stayed in the comfort of my D.C. office.

It is important to note that just because you establish a stretch goal doesn’t mean you’ll achieve the goal each time. However, the process of trying is guaranteed to provide some level of growth.

The Importance of Creating Stretch Goals

The beginning of the year is a perfect time to assess where you are excelling and where there is room for you to grow. I typically start the year by creating a yearlong strategic plan for myself.

I think about the things that are necessary to do and things that would be cool to do. I assess the people I should know and think through how to meet them. Then I ask myself if the goals are realistic and what would need to happen for me to achieve them.

Over time, I have learned that there are five things I can do to set stretch goals:

1. Get Outside of Your Head

If I exist within the confines of my imagination, I imperil my own growth and creativity.

If I examine my accomplishments and celebrate them in isolation of others’ accomplishments, my vantage point is limited.

I want to be comfortable with what I accomplish, but I also want to be motivated by watching others. In some respects, stretching is about expanding your network of friends, associates and mentors. These are the people who will propel or slow your growth and development.

Since two are better than one, I always value being able to share my progress with others, seek feedback and then map a plan for success.

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2. Focus on a Couple Areas at a Time

When setting goals, it is important to focus on a couple of areas at a time. Most of us are only able to focus on a few things at a time, and if you feel you are unable to tackle all that is before you, you may simply disengage.

I see this in so many areas of life:

When people get in debt, if they believe the debt is insurmountable, they refuse to look at incoming bills for fear of facing down the debt. Unfortunately, many businesses go awry when setting stretch goals.

In “The Stretch Goal Paradox,” Sitkin, Miller and See note:

“Our research suggests that though the use of stretch goals is quite common, successful use is not. And many executives set far too many stretch goals. In the past five years, for example, Tesla failed to meet more than 20 of founder Elon Musk’s ambitious projections and missed half of them by nearly a year, according to the Wall Street Journal.”

Goal-setting is like a marathon, not a sprint. It doesn’t all need to happen at the same time, and pacing is extremely important if you want to get to the finish line. It is better to focus on a couple goals at a time, master them and then move on to the next thing.

3. Set Aside Time Each Year to Focus on Goal-Setting

When I was a managing director for communications for the Advancement Project, I spent the first part of every year facilitating a communications planning meeting.

The planning meeting began with the team members assessing the goals the team had established in the preceding year, and whether those goals were realistic or not. If we failed to meet certain goals, we broke down why that happened. From there, we brainstormed about possibilities for the current year.

For instance, one year we set a goal of pitching and getting 24 opinion essays published. This was audacious because no one on the eight-person team had the luxury of focusing exclusively on editing and pitching opinion essays to publications around the world. We would need to focus on pitching in between the rest of our work.

We hit this goal within the first eight months of the year. Remarkably, in total, we ended up getting 40 opinion essays published that year, which was an indication that our original goal was too low. We upped the goal to 41 the next year, and amazingly, we hit 42 published opinion essays or guest columns.

From this experience, we not only learned what was feasible, we also learned the power of focus.

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When we focused as a team on getting the commentary on our issues out in the public domain, we were successful. The key in all of this is that there was a ton of discussion around which goal we’d pursue and why.

Equally important, as a manager, I didn’t set the goals alone; the team members and I established the goals collaboratively. This ensured buy-in from each individual.

4. Use the S.M.A.R.T. Goal Model to Set Realistic Goals

S.M.A.R.T.

is a synonym for specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and time-bound. For the sake of this article, the realistic portion of the acronym is most important.

While you want to set audacious goals, you want to ensure that they are realistic as well. No one is served by setting a goal that is impossible to accomplish.

Failing to meet goals can be demoralizing for teams, so it’s important to be sober-eyed about what is possible. Additionally, the purpose of setting goals is to advance and grow, not depress morale.

For instance, my team would have been discouraged had I begun the year asking it to pitch and place 40 opinion essays if we didn’t already have a track record of placing close to two dozen essays.

By using the S.M.A.R.T. formula, we were able to achieve all that we set out to do.

5. Break the Goal up into Small Digestible Parts

I am a recovering perfectionist. As a writer, being a perfectionist can be counterproductive because I can fail to start if I don’t see a clear pathway to victory.

The same is true with goal-setting. That’s why I join Lifehack’s fellow contributor Deb Knobelman, Ph.D., in noting that it is critically important to break goals into bite-sized chunks.

When I had a goal of doing daylong media meetings in New York City, I had to think through all the barriers to achieving that goal and all the steps required to meet the goal.

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One step was identifying which reporters, producers and hosts to engage. Another step was writing a pitch or meeting invitation that would capture their attention. Another step was thinking through the program areas I wanted to highlight and the new angles I could offer to different reporters.

Since reporters want to cover stories that no one else has written, I needed to come up with fresh angles for each of the reporters I was engaging. An additional step was thinking through who from my team I’d take with me to the various meetings.

I was clear that, as a talking head, as public relations reps are sometimes called, I needed the right spokesperson in order to land repeated meetings with different outlets.

A final step was thinking through what I needed to bring to each meeting and which reports, videos and testimonials would buttress our claims and be of interest to media figures.

As I walked through what was needed to bring my goal of doing daylong meetings to reality, I realized that not only was the idea within reach, but I was excited to tackle the challenge.

From that point until now, I have learned to break down goals into smaller parts and tackle the smaller parts on the path to knocking the goal out of the park.

The Bottom Line

These are my recommendations for setting stretch goals, and there are a ton of other resources to support you in the workplace and in your community.

For instance, LinkedIn’s Lynda.com platform has a wonderful suite of leadership development videos, including ones on establishing stretch goals. This is a paid resource but may be worth the investment if you lead a team or want to invest in tools for your own growth and development.

Featured photo credit: Avatar of user Isaac Smith Isaac Smith @isaacmsmith Isaac Smith via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] Harvard Business Review: The Stretch Goal Paradox

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