I’ve been self-employed my whole working life. It suits me. I’m not afraid of hard work and I quite like money. But my career has been a game of two halves. The first half was played at a furious pace, as befits a young man with big ideas. It was fun, I made a lot of money, but it didn’t end well.
The second half has been more measured, it’s still fun and…so far, so good. The big difference is that I’m personally in a much better place now. I’m happier, more at peace with myself and more fulfilled. And much, much less stressed.
So what’s changed? Well, change was forced on me. I took a hammering on a deal and I lost everything. Home, business, confidence – the lot. And I realized that what had gone wrong wasn’t an arbitrary decision here or a bad break there, it was much more fundamental.
However you choose to define “success” the essential foundation is mindset. Mine wasn’t just wrong, I hadn’t taken the time or the trouble to get it right in the first place. Big mistake. To borrow a phrase from Benjamin Netanyahu, I was trying to build a pyramid from the top down.
Working on my mindset – my attitude and approach – has brought me renewed success. A more sustainable, empowering, holistic success. As I see it, the blueprint has 6 essential steps:
1. Understand That Your Life Won’t Change Itself
When your life isn’t what you want it to be it’s hard to hide that fact from yourself. Put another way, if you wonder whether there’s something better out there, that’s a sign that there’s something amiss in your life as it is. A better life requires change, and that change can only be made by you. Insanity, according to Einstein, is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.
2. Resolve to Act
Knowing you need to change is the easy bit. Making the change is the bit that takes courage. Just remember that you’ve brought yourself to this point. You wouldn’t be here if you didn’t know that you want, or need, to change. Anger, or frustration, at the course of your life is simply evidence of your failure to resolve this conflict. Shakespeare knew this as long ago as 1604. In Measure for Measure he has Lucio tell us:
“Our doubts are traitors, and make us lose the good we oft might win, by fearing to attempt”.
So resolve it. The biggest regrets you’ll ever have are the things you didn’t do, not the things you did.
3. Believe in Yourself
When I crashed and burned I lost the material things in my life. But I didn’t lose my skills, or my work ethic. And although my confidence took a knock I remembered Kipling:
“If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster, and treat those two impostors just the same.”
More recently, Arianna Huffington (of Huffington Post fame) understood the true nature of setbacks:
“We need to accept that we won’t always make the right decisions, that we’ll screw up royally sometimes – understanding that failure is not the opposite of success, it’s part of success.”
Self belief, whether you’re starting from scratch or starting again, is an essential, indispensable element of a successful mindset. It’s a characteristic found in all successful entrepreneurs. If it doesn’t come naturally (and it often doesn’t) it can be developed just by changing the way you think.
That process can be learned – there’s a host of excellent material available online – as can the other things you need to know but currently don’t. Self development is possible for, and available to, anyone who wants it.
4. Understand That It’s Not Just About The Money
We all need money. Most, if not all, of us like money. It’s why we go to work, after all. It allows us to do the things we want to do, as well as the things we have to do. Whether we define happiness as simply freedom from worry or something more exotic or expressive, in our pursuit of that happiness money is pretty essential. But it isn’t everything. It really isn’t.
In my “first half” career I measured success only in terms of profit. I don’t mind telling you I made a lot of it. I was doing seven figure deals as a matter of course, I changed my car every four months, I travelled by helicopter and I reckoned, at the time, that I was doing well. Was I happy? Er, No… Believe me, the novelty of these things wears off pretty quickly but in the meantime I had no freedom and no time for me or for those close to me.
I was the classic victim of my own success. I’d created a monster and it got to the stage where the monster was controlling me and not the other way round. And then it bit me, hard. I’m older and wiser now. I recognize that happiness – sustainable, proper happiness – is an alloy of different elements.
Time is a finite resource and it has to be allocated between those elements, of which work is only one. The others, for me, are family, education and entertainment. Yours may be different but the principle applies to all. When the balance is right, even work is a pleasure. And your life, as a whole, is happy and fulfilled.
5. Be in a Relationship With Your Business
Like any meaningful human relationship, your relationship with your business requires constant attention. Relationships don’t just happen, they have to be built and developed. Even the strongest, longest marriages take effort, every day. Dedicate the time and care your business needs and the rewards will follow.
Particularly at the start, those needs will be substantial. Building momentum in a new-start business is labour intensive and will encroach on the other elements of your personal happiness, for a time. But remember that the effort you put in at the start is an investment not only in your business but in your future life.
And when you’ve built that momentum and all is running smoothly, don’t get complacent. Constantly assess, and re-assess, the needs of your business on an ongoing basis. At the same time, assess and recognize your own needs in the context of your work/life balance.
This is particularly important if you work from home. Fail to do this and everything, not just your business, will suffer. I speak from experience. More than this, assess your business in the context of your motivations, your goals and your ambitions. If they are no longer compatible, go back to #1…
6. Take, And Enjoy, The Rewards
Enjoy your success. Reward yourself. Take holidays and enjoy all your free time. Personal enjoyment is the fuel for motivation and sustains the essential dynamic of your relationship with your business. Fall out of love and divorce beckons.
“Success is not the key to happiness. Happiness is the key to success. If you love what you are doing, you will be successful. – Albert Schweitzer
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