You have no doubt heard the famous maxim that “a journey of 1000 miles begins with a single step,” attributed to Lao Tzu. It is the mantra for the ever-critical skill of self-starting. Fighting procrastination and beginners' blocks, however, is not the subject of this article.
I lead off with this quote because it has corollary, “the remaining journey of 999.9999 miles requires yet another step, and another, and another ...”
When it comes down to it, the “journey,” is not really something tangible – it is really an abstraction for thousands upon thousands of smaller, discrete, more humble actions. While this should seem obvious, it's not how we often conceptualize the goals on an entrepreneur journey. This might be the wiring of our mammalian brains – we evolved for grasping at fruit, not for grasping at business success (whatever that looks like).
What this means is that we have to supply a hack – we use big abstract goals only as a basic guide to what we mean to achieve, and then we focus most of our thoughts and energy on habits. One of the common reasons for entrepreneurs to fail is that they become overwhelmed by investing too much into big, amorphous milestone when they really need to focus on making their daily actions as consistent and effective as possible.
That's all they need to do.
OK, it is not really that easy, as there are countless micro-activities that you can optimize. No one has time to go over them all. However, we have provided you with the top 5 ways to start prioritizing "habits" rather than "goals":
1. Take care of yourself physically
Can you be a successful entrepreneur when you get two hours of sleep a night, wake up every day with a hangover, have stress levels that would make emergency room medics feel lucky, and drink 5 times the recommended daily dosage of caffeine? There is no doubt that some people have, but the odds were massively stacked against them.
Our daily health habits among our most basic – it's one thing that entrepreneurs and non-entrepreneurs share. Not only does a good foundation of diet, sleep, exercise, and substance control give you the energy and mental clarity you need, it primes you to build good habits in every other walk of life. See the book The Power of Full Engagement for an excellent treatment of this topic.
2. Don't stop improving
There are many names for this: Kaizen, Constant & Never-Ending Improvement (CANI), Sharpening the Saw. Whatever you decide to call it, you need to set aside time every day on routines that will make the smaller aspects of your enterprise almost automatic and effortless, allowing you to perform at the highest levels. You must also adopt the mindset of “eternal student”- even when you are the best in the world you can still paradoxically be better!
A strong example of this is the phenomenon of Code Kata, tiny program exercises that are meant to take a short amount of time but help programmers to keep their problem solving skills sharp and unconsciously run though all of the motions that they use to complete their more substantive project tasks. Another example is ongoing professional training. If you are, say, a real estate professional in Canada, do you have any reason to ignore the many courses and resources offered by the Real Estate Institute of Canada (REIC)?
3. Learn the art of delegation
Our goal is to keep you moving at a pace that will get you far. The surest way to break down prematurely is to fail to recognize that:
- you are only a single human being,
- you only have 24 hours in the day,
- you are not a master of everything.
Too many entrepreneurs have been sidelined by overloading themselves and either being too proud or too inexperienced to delegate.
You may, for instance, be wary of how you present your personal brand. But why would you spend most of your time trying do design packaging when there are groups like SLC Custom Packaging?
4. Understand your value and the value of everything else
Delegation is not just a factor in how to prevent you from burning out - it also ties into the arithmetic of how entrepreneurship works.
One of the best illustrations of this is the concept of “$10 an hour work.” An entrepreneur gets to decide how to spend his or her time, and many, at least initially, spend it on tasks for which a W-2 worker would get a little over minimum wage. This adds up over time – why spend an hour working to earn $10 dollars when you can hire someone and spend the same amount of time earning $100-$1000 dollars? Recognize the value of your time and your skills and you will not only have more consistent financial success, you will also have more time to recharge.
Part of recognizing your value is also maintaining an “abundance” mindset rather than a “poverty” mindset. Though you obviously want to maintain a cost-effective ship, you also will sabotage yourself with stubborn pecuniary preoccupations. Embracing quality can have a positive effect on how you carry yourself and can also let your clients know that you are successful (if you are eating instant ramen every day it does not give your potential customers a good feeling about you). So if you are doing temporary business in Chicago, do not feel bad about staying in lush accommodations such as Pinnacle Furnished Suites.
5. Know when to cut losses
It should be clear by now that much of what applies above also applies to athletic competition. This gives us a pretty powerful visualization – when someone weight trains, and begins to feel abnormal pain or discomfort, that is the right time to stop. Period. There is no shame in giving up because the person is not actually giving up - they are practicing the very valuable skill of cutting losses. No matter how much motivation the person has to keep going, if they do they will sabotage themselves overall.
You may, in the course of the entrepreneur journey, feel through pure pride that certain actions mark you as a failure. This can include killing off an under-performing segment of business of even firing your clients. However, do not let the negative feeling get the best of you in these situations as it is just one of the many practices that you need in order to uphold your steady stride.