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How to Be a Successful Entrepreneur (15 Powerful Actions to Take Today)

How to Be a Successful Entrepreneur (15 Powerful Actions to Take Today)

The allure of being your own boss, along with the no-ceiling income that comes along with it is hard for most people to resist. However, more often than not, the odds will be stacked against you and that’s why 9 out of 10 startups fail, according to Fortune.[1]

But what about the 1 out of 10 that have succeeded? Although there’s no single foolproof way to become a successful entrepreneur, success still leaves patterns and clues. Here are 15 powerful actions you can take today to make your entrepreneurship dreams a successful reality:

1. Identify your goals

Goal-setting may not be the most sexy-sounding task, but it’s one that’s crucial to your success. Just think, if you don’t know where you’re going, how are you going to know when you get there?

Setting goals can take a few basic forms for aspiring entrepreneurs:

Income goals

Your income is one of the first few and most important considerations when it comes to running a business because more often than not, you’ll need to give up something else to find time to delve into entrepreneurship.

Are you looking to become a millionaire in a few short years? Or are you gunning for a spot next to billionaires like Mark Zuckerburg and Warren Buffett?

Knowing upfront what your income expectations are will keep you accountable to yourself and other stakeholders in your company or your family back home.

With that being said, however, being overly focused on revenue can affect the way you run your business in negative ways. Be sure to do regular reviews to see if you’re on track.

Lifestyle goals

Entrepreneurship is not a 9-5 job. In most cases, there aren’t any fixed hours and you’ll typically end up working harder than you have ever worked before. The faster you realize that the better, so you can evaluate whether this may or may not be the lifestyle you want to live in the long term.

Various entrepreneurs instead decide to run lifestyle businesses where they work remotely from any location and are selective with the work they decide to accept.

If you intend to work remotely with a four-hour work week, the business that you decide to do will have to enable you to do that. At the same time, by balancing out projections with your income goals, you’ll get a much better idea of whether your decision is a feasible one.

2. Outsource tedious tasks

As an entrepreneur, you’ll likely be starved for time on a regular basis. Dedicating your time solely to high value tasks and outsourcing the rest will help you reclaim your sanity and grow your business faster.

A good temporary option is to consider hiring interns. This can be very beneficial for startups that are strapped for cash.

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Typically, internships are meant to give interns real-world working experience at a more conservative allowance. This lets interns learn the ropes without long-term commitment whilst business owners get to save a little bit of cash at the start.

Otherwise, you can also try hiring freelancers from Fiverr to help you in the areas that you do not specialise in. This can mean writing, designing or even video editing.

Although it may not be tedious per say, it does help you manage your time more efficiently by letting you work on your strengths.

3. Automate processes with technology

We live in an age where we can automate most processes using software and algorithms. Not only that, automation is fundamental in scaling a company’s marketing and also drives revenue – 60% of which are B2B buying process done online according to Forbes.[2]

A low-hanging function for automation is marketing. Email marketing software like MailChimp lets you configure autoresponders to send sequences of mails without any additional involvement after the first setup.

Automating processes is also extremely efficient as it helps handle repetitive tasks that can be too time consuming. What you want is to let your staff maximise their time spent working on more useful things.

Another example is a software program called ‘Rosie the Robot’, developed by the West Monroe Partners (WMP).[3]

This software program takes on cumbersome and manual tasks off, including the hiring system – where it uploads names, addresses, dates of birth and other employee information into several systems such as travel and expense, payroll and insurance.

This cuts down the process time taken – whereby a person takes half an hour to settle this task, it takes only five minutes for the software to do so.

4. Invest in design sparingly

Investing in branding and design might seem like an action that is reserved for much bigger companies or more season entrepreneurs, but it can increase profits exponentially when done right – even for smaller businesses.

A professional visual identity not only helps you appear more professional, but in the long run, new customers will find you more trustworthy and at times premium.

Naturally, you don’t want to go all out on branding by spending thousands when you first start. Instead, try using free online tools like LogoJoy or developing a single-page brand guideline[4] for the time being.

If you need to develop collateral, try using some free icons available online for your projects instead of paying for expensive stock imagery.

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5. Get online, or be forgotten

In today’s digital market, if you’re not online, you don’t exist. Even traditional businesses can benefit greatly from leveraging digital marketing and developing a strong online presence.

Start by getting yourself a hosting account for your company’s website domain, register all the name-brand social handles before they get snapped up by others and begin to populate these platforms with content.

What made a real difference for me in the early stages of developing my business was purchasing my own domain from platforms like NameCheap or GoDaddy. This provided a contact point for interested customers or collaborators to reach out to me directly via a simple contact form.

If you’re not so much of a techie, consider using platforms like SquareSpace or Wix to get started quickly without any programming experience.

6.Use videos to market your business

Almost 5 billion Youtube videos are watched everyday. Aside from that, we’re seeing a rise in video productions used on a variet y of social platforms like Facebook, Instagram, Linkedin and more. Research has also shown that videos have been proven to increase retention by 80% when used correctly.[5]

If you aren’t yet leveraging on videos for your business, some ways you can consider are:

  1. Informational videos that educate your target audience to help them get what they want.
  2. Product-specific videos to expound on the benefits of your services or offerings.
  3. Timely statistical videos that piggyback on current news for relevance.

7. Conduct an Initial Coin Offering (ICO)

This might not apply to every business, but if you’re working with a strong technical team with blockchain ambitions, this could be a worthy consideration.

Initial Coin Offerings are quickly becoming one of the most popular ways to raise funding rivalling even venture capital. It’s quick, loosely regulated (as at 2018) and can potentially solve your cash problems.

The only drawback is that you’ll only be able to receive funds in cryptocurrency which you’ll then need to convert into fiat.

8. Write a blog

Starting and writing a blog is one of the easiest ways to get noticed online. Regularly sharing useful and valuable information to your prospective customers via your blog can potentially increase traffic to your site as well as aid in building authority for your brand.

A popular strategy that involves writing for blogs known as ‘guest posting’ is not only a great way to drive traffic to your blog from other platforms, it also helps you rank on Google’s search rankings. The only catch is that you’ll have to earn a spot by pitching your own stories.

At the same time, there are other platforms like Medium and Linkedin with their own pool of users where anyone can publish content. Consider syndicating content from your blog on these platforms in the early stages to build a following and take your content much further.

With the rising popularity and efficacy of content marketing as a strategy, its no wonder thousands of business owners have benefitted from it as a long-term strategy.

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9. Build an email list

Any seasoned business owner will tell you that your list or database of contacts is one of the most valuable assets you can have. It’s important that you store the contact information of qualified individuals that might be interested in your products and services.

This is so you can reach out to them consistently using email marketing software like MailChimp, which can keep your sales pipeline full and your income steady.

Developing a nurturing cycle – a series of emails for new subscribers that opt-in to your email list will increase your chances of converting them into paying customers by maintaining top-of-mind presence and developing deeper relationships.

10. Try networking

They say your network is your ‘net worth’. Networking is a give-and-take exercise that requires you to be authentic, sometimes daring but most importantly, always resourceful.

Getting connected to prolific individuals or magnates in adjacent industries can accelerate the growth of your business with opportunities that you may not have gotten, if you had not put yourself out there to meet new people.

Try heading to your local casual networking meetups or to a more formal conference with a purpose: meeting people that you can help and the ones that can help you.

11. Develop a personal brand

If you are the face of your business, you’ll do well by investing in developing a personal brand. This means that if people trust you, they’ll by association, trust the business.

A great example of someone who’s successfully done so is Neil Patel – someone who’s spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on growing his personal brand. He has built a strong audience, consistently writes contrarian thought pieces and has also delivered massive value to his followers.

Although it can be a daunting experience when it comes to building a personal brand starting from ground zero, here are some simple yet helpful tips to make your journey as seamless as possible:

  • Decide what you stand for as a brand.
  • Decide what you don’t stand for as a brand.
  • Develop content for your social channels that are helpful to your audience but also communicate your stance on topics related to your expertise.

12. Model after your competitors or differentiate

This might sound counterintuitive but your competitors with a longstanding business can be useful references for the way you run yours.

Take a leaf from their strategies to acquire more customers and grow your bottom-line. More often than not, you’ll find that they’ve made all the mistakes that you can avoid to get to their current method of operation. Consider:

  • How they do marketing – how do they gain awareness and more customers?
  • Their brand messaging and how they communicate to the public
  • The way they price their services

Naturally, there may also be a lot of things your competitors are doing wrong. Do well to avoid those pitfalls –with the benefit of hindsight– and you’ll get ahead of them one day.

13. Form strategic partnerships

Partnerships are one of the fastest ways to grow your business without using too much of your own resources. The best partnerships are ones where partners have similar target audiences but don’t directly compete with each other.

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These strategic partnerships could come in the form of co-marketing efforts where you organise campaigns together, ultimately sharing cost and contact database for promotion.

Another basic way to collaborate with partners is to develop referral programs – if your partner refers a successful sale, they’ll get a kickback commission and vice versa.

14. Improve your public speaking

Public Speaking is a skill that legendary investor Warren Buffett advocates for people to learn in order to boost their careers and success in life – and it is with good reason.

Being able to speak well and articulate confidently on stage can mean increased trust and visibility for your business on the right platforms.

Try offering an educational session at a local business association full of your target audiences. You’ll be surprised at how much traction you can get when attendees start to recognise you as a thought-leader on your subject.

You can also take a look at my detailed guide about public speaking to learn more tips:

The Ultimate Public Speaking Tips to Hook and Impress Any Audience

15. Manage your cash flow

One of the biggest killers of businesses is badly managed cash flow, where customers don’t pay on time coupled with high regular expenses in your business.

Work with an accountant to forecast spending and keep a close eye on your accounts receivables. That way, you’ll get to avoid a messy time where you’re short on cash not because you don’t have the business, but because you failed to collect payment on time.

The bottom line

These tips should be enough to get you started, but growing a company is a big undertaking not meant for the faint of heart.

Hunker down, apply what you learn and you can get that much closer to your own success as a new entrepreneur!

Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

Reference

More by this author

Eugene Cheng

Eugene is Lifehack's Entrepreneurship Expert. He is the co-founder and creative lead of HighSpark, offering presentation training for companies.

How to Learn Business as an Aspiring Entrepreneur 10 Most Successful Entrepreneurs (And What to Learn from Them) Why Leadership and Management Are Two Sides of a Coin 12 Foolproof Tips for Entrepreneurs to Be Successful in a New Venture How to Be a Successful Entrepreneur (15 Powerful Actions to Take Today)

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Last Updated on July 13, 2020

15 Ways to Set Professional Goals (Examples Included)

15 Ways to Set Professional Goals (Examples Included)

It’s hard to describe the frustration you feel when your professional goals keep falling flat. You’re floundering and you’re not where you want to be professionally, which bleeds into your personal life and causes you to get upset and sad easily.

You need a system, a way to set goals that makes them attainable 100 percent of the time. When you establish your system, it takes the guesswork out of goal achievement and makes it a matter of completing specific steps.

Where would you be right now in your life if you had followed such a system from the beginning of your professional career and stuck with it? Would you be owning and running your own business, would you be working for a company you love, or would you be independently creating great work that keeps you in high demand?

This is where it gets good. The following tips will cover the most actionable ways to set professional goals (with professional goals examples included). If you follow these tips and do your absolute best each step of the way, you’ll have no choice but to launch into a new, exciting period in your professional life.

Start with tip number 1 — this tip is essential to any and all of the other tips on this list. Although you’re starting with 1, this is not a linear list. You can take each tip by itself and run with it, or you can implement as many as possible — the choice is yours. That said, the more action you take, the closer you are to making tip 1 a reality.

Ready to grasp the very essence of what it is to succeed? Keep reading.

1. Identify What You Love — and Make a Statement

This is it — the single most important word is not career, it’s love. Your primary, overarching, life-defining career goal must center around what you love.

You figured out what you love when you were young, and then somewhere along the way you lost it in the noise, the pressure, and the clutter of everyday life.

Billions of people exist on this Earth, and things aren’t what we wish they could be because we succumb to fear instead of doing what we love.

How can you take what you love and serve this love with your career?

  • Create a statement, a single sentence that encapsulates your overarching career goal. Make it specific.
  • Write the love-of your-life career goal sentence down and pin it to the wall where you’ll see it every day.
  • Make sure this sentence informs all your other objectives.
  • Make sure your primary career goal is the result of what you love to do.

Example:

“Be a successful nonfiction author: Write nonfiction content — books, poems, essays, blog posts — to help people realize the priceless importance of love and the imagination, and get your content published.”

2. Don’t Just Create SMART Objectives — Be Ultra-SMART

Now that you have your ultimate career goal nailed to the wall, it’s time to get SMART. That is, use the SMART acronym to create objectives:

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Achievable
  • Relevant
  • Timed

Your SMART objectives are micro-goals that fit all of the above criteria. They are not nebulous, vague, and tough to complete. They are daily objectives you know you can handle, and they’re necessary.

You have to complete SMART objectives in order to meet other, tougher goals, which ultimately contribute to your main goal.

So how do you make your SMART objectives ultra-SMART? Push yourself. Don’t settle for the same level of output every day. Don’t hold yourself to low standards. Think about quality and do your absolute best.

Example:

SMART: “Today I will write 500 words about the power of love between 10am and 2pm.”

Ultra-SMART: “Today I will write 500 words about the power of love between 10am and 2pm, and will find 3 accredited, scientific sources to backup my argument.”

Note that “Ultra-SMART” is not about writing more — more isn’t necessarily better, and if you’re just starting out, may not be achievable; rather, ultra-SMART is about focusing on quality within a reasonable framework.

3. Identify an Absolutely Essential Stepping Stone and Step to It

No one realizes their ultimate goal without finding a job that will push them in that direction. Jobs pay, and you need money to survive, but you don’t want a job that has nothing to do with your career goal. Pinpoint a job that is like an apprenticeship for what you ultimately want to do.

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Example:

When famous author Neil Gaiman delivered his commencement address[1] — which, by the way, is phenomenal — to University of the Arts in Philadelphia, he said something that makes perfect sense:

“I wanted to write comics and novels and stories and films, so I became a journalist, because journalists are allowed to ask questions, and to simply go and find out how the world works, and besides, to do those things I needed to write and to write well, and I was being paid to learn how to write economically, crisply, sometimes under adverse conditions, and on time.”

Note that Gaiman’s goal was to be a creative writer, but he took a position in journalism, which isn’t creative writing; it’s about facts, writing them well, and having discipline. For Gaiman, journalism was a stepping stone towards achieving his overarching goal.

4. Get Really, Really Good at Crafting Your Resume

You’re not going to settle, and there are multiple stepping stones towards your final destination. But here’s the clincher:

Crafting a great resume is about more than landing a job.

Crafting a great resume is about learning how to think from someone else’s perspective. If you can imagine what someone else wants to see in a great resume, you can view other things from their perspective too, and that’s important in the professional world.

To do a resume the right way, consider the mistakes you should avoid:[2]

  • Avoid disorganization: Provide your name, work experience and corresponding titles, education, relevant skills.
  • Avoid irrelevant information: Consider the position you’re applying for carefully and focus on information relevant to it.
  • Avoid length: A one page resume with just the right wording is a thing of wonder.
  • Avoid showy fonts and words: Be basic but let your personality shine through.
  • Avoid sloppiness: Check for typos, misspelling, and grammatical mistakes.

Example: Here’s a great resume example, courtesy of Shayanne Gal from Business Insider:[3]

    5. Ask Yourself the Most In-Depth Questions

    Throughout your educational career, you heard teachers say, “There are no bad questions” or something to that effect.

    It’s true; however, this mantra ignored the fact that some questions are better than others.

    Asking, “How can I do x in a unique and interesting way?” is better than asking “How can I do x?”

    You can set professional goals that you might accomplish, or you can set professional goals you’re highly likely to accomplish because you went in-depth with your questions. This goes very well with SMART goals. Specificity and detail are the hallmarks of achievable goals.

    Example:

    Say, for instance, you’re at the point where you feel you can start your own business from home. The Hartford offers pertinent questions you should ask before doing so:[4]

    • Will your house accommodate your business?
    • Can you find work-life balance?
    • When you interact with customers, how will you showcase a professional image?
    • Are there city zoning ordinances you need to consider?
    • Do you have the insurance and tax liabilities covered?

    6. Use a Digital Assistant to be Insanely Efficient

    Executives and bosses have personal assistants to help them with scheduling, organization, and other time-consuming tasks.

    You may not be at the point in your career where you can afford to hire somebody, which is why it helps to have a productivity assistant to help you be more efficient.

    Use an app to keep track of mundane scheduling and other minute details so you can free up your mind for creativity.

    Example:

    See this list of task management apps . Out of all of them, Any.do has one of the best interfaces, and it will give you the reminders you need to stay on task.

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      7. Create a Vivid Mental Picture

      Discouragement can and will happen — it’s a part of life, whether professional or personal. Don’t wait until you get discouraged to visualize yourself doing well.

      Practice your mental picture of success even at the times when everything is going so well it’s unbelievable, but you’re not quite at the end-point yet.

      When things aren’t going well, it’ll be the much easier to remain in a positive mind-state because you practiced being there.

      Example:

      Social scientist Frank Niles provides a perfect example of goal visualization:[5]

      “Former NBA great Jerry West is a great example of how this works. Known for hitting shots at the buzzer, he acquired the nickname ‘Mr. Clutch.’ When asked what accounted for his ability to make the big shots, West explained that he had rehearsed making those same shots countless times in his mind.”

      Note that West visualized sinking the exact shots; again, specificity matters.

      8. Express Your Professional Goals Positively

      This goes directly with the visualization process. Goals can seem like chores, which is why it’s important to use positive, proactive wording when you’re vocalizing or writing things down.

      Through positive expression, you’re training your brain to take a certain path whenever you think about your professional goals. This translates into forward, positive momentum whenever you take action.

      You’re more likely to take action if you associate that action with positive thoughts and feelings.

      Example:

      Instead of, “It isn’t that hard to type 500 words in 4 hours,” say, “I like taking advantage of the time I set aside to zone in and really have fun with what I’m doing.”

      Note that the specific goal — 500 words in 4 hours — is implied because you already know it.

      The point of this statement is to associate a feeling of enjoyment with commitment and focus.

      9. Build Your Network with Passion and Purpose

      A professional network will help you hit those stepping stones necessary to achieving your ultimate goal. But you don’t want to network with just anyone.

      Build a network with other people who share your passion, build it based around your specialty, but also look for people from outside your usual sphere who can help you gain a different perspective.

      Demonstrate your passion by helping other people, and listen more than you talk.

      Example:

      Find a mentor — it’s perhaps the most critical networking move you can make. MileIQ provides some examples of where to start:[6]

      • The SCORE Business Learning Center
      • Small Business Development Centers
      • Women’s Business Centers
      • Veteran’s Business Outreach Centers
      • Minority Business Development Agency
      • A trade association through your SBA district office

      10. Benchmark a Competitor Like a Boss

      If you’re freelancing or running your own business, this one is particularly applicable to you.

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      Is there an exemplary freelancer or small business owner with whom you’re impressed? Analyze what this person has done to get where they are, find a metric to serve as a benchmark of their success, and aim to do better.

      Example:

      Benchmark social metrics — say, for example, you’re writing an article on cryptocurrency for a finance website. Buzzsumo[7] provides a tool you can use to benchmark the number of social shares a competitor has earned for this topic:

        11. Master Time Management

        Here’s the thing about professional goals:

        You must master time management to accomplish them. Understand how much time to set aside for each objective; and when you’re working on objectives, use your time not just efficiently, but mindfully.

        That means immersing yourself in the activities that are essential to completing objectives. Focus on what works best to achieve your desired outcome.

        Example:

        Life and business strategist Tony Robbins recommends “chunking your goals,” otherwise known as compartmentalization:

        • Write down tasks you need to get done during the week.
        • Group different tasks together based on their categories, e.g. “Consult SCORE about a mentor” and “talk to Ted about job opportunities” would be categorized under “Networking.”
        • Set aside time for each category.
        • Work on the tasks for a single category during a specific chunk of time.

        12. Identify Your Strengths and Weaknesses — and Get Strategic

        As you move toward accomplishing your primary career goal, you’ll note that different objectives fit into different categories, and you’re better at some categories than you are others.

        Once you know what you’re good at, focus on it. Spend as much time as you can concentrating on your strong-points.

        When it comes to your weaknesses, ask for help.

        Forbes contributor Elana Lynn Gross reveals that asking for help the right way can advance your career. “Ask targeted questions that will allow you to set your strategy,” Gross says.[8]

        Within any category, work on what you’re good at first, and then ask your network for help with blind spots.

        Example:

        Christine Wallace, VP of Branding and Marketing at Startup Institute, told Fast Company how she ended up dropping her first venture:[9]

        “I took a train from the Valley up to San Francisco and met with two mentors, who agreed that it was the end of the road for Quincy [Apparel]. After it was all over I spent three weeks straight in bed. Then after 21 days of sleeping, crying, I put on my big girl pants and rejoined the world.”

        In Wallace’s case, she needed to ask her mentors for help to understand when to move on.

        Don’t be afraid to ask for advice when something isn’t working.

        13. Take Advantage of Awesome Resources at Your Disposal

        When it comes to setting professional goals, tunnel-vision and short-sightedness are big problems for many of us.

        We think there’s only one way to complete an objective. The truth is there are multiple ways to approach any problem.

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        This implies taking a moment to step back, view your objective from a distance, and survey your options. Think differently, use your imagination, and do a thorough search — online and off — for resources.

        Example:

        Get a library card, scour the shelves, AND crowdsource ideas from social media — you may find something unexpected.

        14. Be a Brand That Stands Out

        Believe it or not, your brand is a very important part of your overall career goal. There are two aspects here:

        • How you appear via any published format
        • How you appear in person

        It’s more important to have a quality brand than it is to be prolific, so don’t publish anything — on social media or elsewhere — that you will regret.

        You will make mistakes in your endeavors, and in fact it’s important to take risks and make mistakes.

        There are good mistakes. Good mistakes are the screw-ups that show you’re striving toward your goal. Anytime you set an objective, think about how it aligns with brand and overall goal. In other words, know when to say “no” to projects that don’t compliment your brand and overall mission.

        Example:

        View yourself as a thought leader, be one, and make content that showcases your thought leadership:[10]

        • Videos: Post on YouTube, your website, and social media
        • Podcasts: Learn how to start podcasting.[11]
        • Workshops or meetups: Look for a community space and invite others to join you in discussion.
        • Blog posts and newspaper op-eds: Share your knowledge and opinions.

        15. Steal Ideas from Your Competitors

        This is the one truth that’s hard to stomach. Great ideas come to those who steal. You may not be sure of your next step, your next objective, and time is precious.

        Observe what other great professionals are doing, capture the core of their objectives, make them your own, and craft them into something new.

        Example:

        Steve Jobs, the visionary behind Apple, fully endorsed the Picasso quote, “Good artists copy, great artists steal.”[12]

        In 1989, Xerox sued Apple for stealing ideas and incorporating them in the Macintosh and Lisa computers, but lost the lawsuit. That’s because Apple made something new.

        Here’s a simple way to go about this. Say you’re writing about freelancing, and the Freelancers Union blog is one of your top competitors. Pop the URL into Buzzsumo. You’ll see that the top articles are about taxes:

          In that case, you can write a “Definitive Guide to Taxes for Freelancers” or “Definitive Guide to Tax Breaks for Freelancers.”

          It’s About Passion and Practicality Combined

          Your primary career goal must be about what you love to do. Otherwise, why would you want to do it?

          To reach your goal, you must make small, practical steps. Don’t expect everything to go perfectly along the way, and don’t eschew hard work that isn’t exactly exciting.

          Too often, we get caught up in the excitement of the dream, and when the step-by-step isn’t nearly as exciting, we quit.

          Learn how to do the boring, rote tasks with joy because you’re doing them to achieve greatness.

          Always remember why you set out on a mission to begin with, and let your brain follow your heart.

          More Tips for Setting Professional Goals

          Featured photo credit: rawpixel via unsplash.com

          Reference

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