For many entrepreneurs, a typical day feels like a high-wire balancing act. The heavy load of responsibility makes you feel more like you’re just steps away from being the main entree instead of the successful and happy owner of the restaurant.
In this article, I debunk three common myths I hear all the time about what it takes to be a successful entrepreneur. My thoughts are based on 30 years of being an entrepreneur and intended to help expedite your entrepreneurial success.
Myth #1: You Must Have Passion to Be Successful
I’m calling “bullshit” on this first myth. It makes for a great sound bite but in reality, it’s just not true.
Having passion about what you’re doing might help get you out of bed in the morning but in and of itself, it’s not going to make you successful. What makes entrepreneurs successful is properly focused ideas, effort and activity.
What I’ve personally experienced and watched over the years is that you don’t have to be passionate about what you’re doing to be a successful entrepreneur. Of course, passion can help, but not for the reasons you may think.
Being passionate about your job, project or goals can keep you motivated. Mistakes, disappointments, and failures will happen. When they knock you down to the ground, passion makes it easier for you to get up, dust yourself off and keep moving forward. But so will many other factors like drive, dedication and the need to pay the bills.
Years ago my next door neighbor and his partner sold their startup company to Microsoft for $100M. These two very smart guys were passionate about the end game (selling their business) but not all that much about the particular company and product they spent three years developing and building. Being efficient entrepreneurs was simply a means to an end. And guess what, there’re 100 million reasons why there’s nothing wrong with that.
A related article you may interesting: “Passion And Vision In Business Are Overrated” by Charles Kiefer
Myth #2: It’s OK To Fail
Many young entrepreneurs buy into the mantra “fail often and fail fast” and when I see this it just makes me smile. It’s crazy when you think about it. If you fail too often and fast, you’ll quickly find yourself out of money and out of business. Investors and clients like winners, not losers.
Successful entrepreneurs make smart decisions based upon facts, business trends, and market conditions. The good ones add an additional element into the mix often times referred to “gut instinct.”
While it’s OK to fail now and then during the entrepreneurial learning and growing process, successful entrepreneurs make it a point never to fail twice at the same thing. Read that last sentence again because it’s an important lesson to learn.
Learning from your mistakes is great, but it’s better not to make mistakes in the first place. Mistakes cost time and money. Avoid failure and mistakes whenever possible. When they happen, and they will, embrace the experience, learn from it and then move forward. Most entrepreneurs simply give up after a couple of failures.
A related article you may find interesting: “Why Silicon Valley’s ‘Fail Fast’ Mantra Is Just Hype” by Rob Asghar
Myth #3 You Must be Kind and Helpful to be Successful
When it comes to business, there’s nothing wrong with adding value and helping others. And when needed, there’s also nothing wrong about being a shark and closing deals. It’s a very tough and competitive world out there. The strong survive, and the weak get eaten up and go out of business.
As a lawyer and entrepreneur, I’ve helped hundreds of people start their businesses. I’ve invested in a few. I’ve watched and experienced both success and disappointment.
Some very smart and bright people, with great ideas, products and services failed because they were too nice. They let other people, including their competitors, walk all over them and before they knew it they were out of business.
This probably isn’t what you want to hear, but don’t shoot the messenger. I’m just being real and sharing advice that often gets buried beneath all the hype. While it’s always important to be kind to people and tough on issues, many unsuccessful entrepreneurs are afraid, for whatever reason, to be tough on issues.
Think about the last time you watched the television show “Shark Tank”. The Sharks, who by most standards, are successful entrepreneurs, don’t give money to every single person who appears on the show. They ask the hard questions about supply, demand and profits.
I understand that “Shark Tank” is a television show produced to entertain a certain audience, but I’m using this show as an example because it does slightly pull the curtain back and shows you how entrepreneurial business decisions are made.
Over and over I’ve watched one or more Sharks like and respect someone, and even want to help someone, but they pass. They avoid the deal because it’s just not a good business idea or opportunity for them. When they feel this way, they have the ability to separate the person from the issue (except Mr. Wonderful), look the other person in the eye and tell them “no” to the offer.
When it comes to building and running a business, you too need to be tough and learn how to say the word “no”.
Having said all that, I do try to default to being kind and helpful every time and you should too. It’s just the right way to do business. But don’t let this default fool you. My client’s best interest always comes first and this takes priority over being helpful and kind to opposing counsel (my competition).
With this in mind, I leave you with this wonderful quote by Ralph Waldo Emerson, “You cannot do a kindness too soon, for you never know how soon it will be too late.”
Jon Mitchell “Mitch” Jackson
Mitch Jackson is an award winning California Trial Lawyer and in 2013 was named one of California’s Litigation Lawyers of the Year. In 2009 he was also recognized as one of Orange County’s Trial Lawyers of the Year. When he’s not in court trying cases, Mitch enjoys showing professionals, business owners and entrepreneurs how to use social media and live streaming to disrupt, hack and improve their professional relationships, businesses and practices. Connect with Mitch on Twitter @MitchJackson and Snapchat (CA_Lawyer) and law firm JacksonandWilson.com. Mitch’s live streaming videos are shared at Streaming. Lawyer and his popular weekly talk show is TheShow.live