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6 Steps To True Entrepreneur Success

6 Steps To True Entrepreneur Success

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:

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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:

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“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.

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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.

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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

Featured photo credit: http://getrefe.tumblr.com/ via 67.media.tumblr.com

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Last Updated on April 17, 2019

10 Essential Soft Skills That Will Help Advance Your Career

10 Essential Soft Skills That Will Help Advance Your Career

What’s the secret of professional success? Some of it lies in the mastery of your discipline and all the technical skills you have to carry out your job; but a much bigger part lies in the soft skills list you possess.

Soft skills are your people or relationship skills—how well you get along with others and your ability to communicate and collaborate—as well as the personal characteristics you bring to the job, such as optimism, a can-do attitude and the motivation to work hard. These skills are not always easy to point out, but their absence can cause serious problems and negatively affect the whole work atmosphere.

They say that hard skills will help you get the job, but soft skills will help you get along—and get ahead. With that in mind, here’s the top-10 essential soft skills list to help you advance your career.

1. Communication Skills

Communication skills are hands-down the most sought-after soft skill that bosses want, and this one ability covers a lot of ground.

To communicate well, you have to listen carefully, interpret the context of the conversation, express yourself clearly, persuade others of your point of view, check your body language and use an engaging presentation style that won’t intimidate or bore your audience. That’s a big ask!

Your personality traits can influence the way you communicate with others. For instance, some people get straight to the point and center their arguments around facts and logic; others are cooperative and sensitive to how others feel. Both these approaches are equally valuable but there can be misunderstandings if you don’t understand where the other person is coming from.

Taking a comprehensive personality test can help you understand why you communicate the way you do and where your blind spots are. It can also help you understand other communication styles is so you can tailor your communication to the person you’re dealing with.

After all, connecting with your conversation partner is the hallmark of good communication.

2. Flexibility

Change is an essential part of any business. Companies need employees who are flexible enough to work with new initiatives, open to new ideas, and generally are able to tough it out when things don’t go as planned.

Research has found a link between job performance and flexibility over the long term because there will be times when you have to step outside your routine and rise to fresh challenges that didn’t exist before.

Being flexible doesn’t mean you have to hop into a new task or job role like an expert. Rather, it’s about showing you’re willing to accept new responsibility and learn different things.

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Bosses look for people who are prepared to step outside their comfort zones and are open to alternative solutions when their first idea doesn’t work.

3. Being a Team Player

Working on a team can be challenging but learning to do it well can definitely help you get ahead in your career. Employers look for people who can negotiate, cooperate and manage conflicts with other people to achieve a common goal. That includes the ability to build lasting relationships with customers and clients.

What makes a good team player? Essentially, it’s someone who knows the goal and knows her role. Employers look for evidence that you know your strengths, your responsibilities and how you can best contribute to the team, then put those skills into action by sharing ideas and communicating in a respectful manner. That’s the definition of being a good team player.

This is another area where taking a personality test can help you get ahead. When teams work together, each member brings a unique set of skills and qualities to the group. Research has shown that different combinations of personalities affect how teams collaborate and how productive they are.

Knowing who you are, and how you work on a team, can drive new insights and open the door to better teamwork.

4. Positive Mental Attitude

There are plenty of things you can’t change at work, like the people you work with or the fact that the printer is broken again. The one thing you can change is how much you let these things bother you.

Bosses like people who are calm, rational and upbeat—those who diffuse tensions in the workplace, not get all grouchy and go around slamming doors.

Studies show that people who maintain a sunny disposition have better relationships at work, are happier in their jobs and make better decisions than those who whine and complain. Some suggest that a positive mental attitude can also make you live longer—which means it’s beneficial for every area of your life![1]

It’s not always easy to keep a “glass half full” mentality when work is stressful and the deadlines are piling up. But there are some things you can do to help maintain a positive attitude. Laughing at your unfortunate circumstances keeps the work environment positive, and taking “sanity” breaks can help you keep your cool in high-pressure situations.

Managers look for positive mental attitude in a team member that is ready for a promotion, so it really does pay to keep your cool in challenging situations.

5. A Strong Work Ethic

People with a strong work ethic are committed to the role, persevere when things get tough and are inspired by challenge. These people are ambassadors for the organization, and will always be seen as top talent and ideal candidates.

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If you can exhibit this skill, then expect to be seen as a great candidate, eligible for new opportunities and positions throughout your career.

Since a strong work ethic can mean different things to different people, it helps to show specific examples of your exceptional work ethic during a performance appraisal or interview. For instance, you might talk about:

  • A time when you persisted in the face of challenges and did not shy away from hard work.
  • How you volunteered to help with projects even though these tasks did not form part of your job description.
  • The networking, workplace learning and skills betterment you’ve undertaken, which shows ambition and drive (people with a strong work ethic have those qualities in spades).
  • How you own your mistakes and never, ever point the finger of blame at others.

For help with building a strong work ethic, check out these tips: How to Build a Reliable Work Ethic

6. Public Speaking

Who’s terrified of public speaking? Pretty much everyone, since public speaking is America’s number one fear, ahead of death at number five and loneliness at number seven.

Yet, according to Warren Buffett, mastering this one skill you could increase your personal value by 50 percent.[2] That’s huge!

If you’re not natural at public speaking, you’re in good company. Buffett had to work hard to overcome his stage fright and once dropped out of a public-speaking course before it started—because he was afraid of public speaking! He eventually realized that he needed to build up his confidence by just doing it; over and over in front of small groups.

For a more structured approach, Toastmasters International teaches public speaking and leadership skills through a variety of pathways. Membership of this non-profit looks good on your resume but the real payoff will come when you can put your newfound skills to use on the job or in the interview room.

Or, you can check out this advice: The Ultimate Public Speaking Tips to Hook and Impress Any Audience

7. Integrity

From a manager’s point of view, the two integrity skills that will set you apart are:

  • Always doing what you say you will do
  • Owning an error instead of minimizing or hiding it

…even when no one is around to check up on you.

There are lots of people who have climbed the ladder without scruples, but they are not the people who others trust, respect and support when promotion time comes around.

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Behaving with integrity is a safe and consistent way to enhance your reputation and achieve your professional goals.

8. Managing Your Time

Phone calls, texts, Slack pings, meetings, huddles, side projects, multitasking—we are busier today than any generation before us. There’s no denying the workplace is an incredibly distracting place to be.

A lot of us have traded effectiveness for busyness which we wear as a badge of honor, both as a proxy for productivity and to show our value to the company. But what bosses want, what they really, really want, is someone who actually gets stuff done on time.

Time management is not merely the art of being on time, but of managing your time so you focus on the projects that really matter and add value to the business. This means prioritizing well, sticking to schedules, delegating, and not getting distracted by tasks that are easier to perform or less important. It means planning ahead and learning when it’s appropriate to say no.

Time management can be a tough skill to maintain, but not a difficult one to pick up. Monitor your actions for a few days—how long do your tasks take to finish? What’s interrupting you? What causes you to lose focus? Once you have the answers to these questions, you can set a schedule for yourself to make sure you’re spending your time wisely and this valuable asset is never wasted.

These 20 Quick Time Management Tips to Super Boost Your Productivity are also great to try.

9. Assertiveness

In any workplace, you typically will find people with the following conflict styles:

  • Passive: Those who go out of their way to avoid conflict.
  • Passive-aggressive: Those who express their negative feelings through actions rather than words.
  • Aggressive: Those who respond to conflict in a hostile and rude manner. These people get their opinion heard but they won’t make any friends in the process.
  • Assertive: People who stick up for their rights while still respecting the rights of others.

Managers look for assertiveness above all other styles because it allows decisions to be made without conflict or alienating people.

How do you use this information for yourself?

It starts with understanding your personality so you can anticipate how you will react when conflict arises and address your own shortcomings. Then, you can start influencing the team for top results, and securing your own career advancement in the process.

Learn how to be assertive and gain respect:

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How to Be Assertive and Stand up for Yourself the Smart Way

10. Creative Thinking

LinkedIn recently analyzed over 50,000 skills that employers search for when looking for candidates to find out what skills are currently in demand.[3] Taking the number-one slot on the 2019 soft skills list was creativity: the ability to solve problems and think outside the box.

Creativity is about bringing fresh, and sometimes unorthodox, ideas to the table. This helps companies to innovate, and companies that do not innovate will not survive very long.

How do you showcase your creative thinking skills? The golden rule is to participate.

Be brave and share your ideas during group brainstorming sessions. Volunteer to run a society, networking event or recruitment drive. Ask “what if” questions: “What if we add this information to the client welcome pack?” “What if we eliminate step 3 from the process?”

These activities demonstrate that you’re prepared to go beyond “business as usual” towards creative problem solving—an ability that will serve you every day, all throughout your career.

You can learn to unleash your creativity power:

What Is Creativity? We All Have It, and Need It

Final Thoughts

The good news? Every item on this soft skills list can be learned. Although you may feel lacking in certain areas, taking an inventory of your strengths and weaknesses will allow you to focus in on the areas that you’ll benefit from developing.

So take an inventory of your personality, skills, and talents. This will give you a baseline for your communication style, attitude to change, conscientiousness and more. You can then identify your weak areas and develop strategies for improving your team-building, assertiveness and conflict skills.

The better news? The effort is worth it. Developing your soft skills opens the door to a new job or a promotion, and helps you succeed once you get there.

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Featured photo credit: Rachael Gorjestani via unsplash.com

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