If you’re an entrepreneur, you want to make it to the top, right? While most of us say we want to “make it” in our chosen field, we don’t often dissect what that really means. The path is rarely, if ever, easy. Setbacks happen (a lot). Sacrifices become your best friend. Real money is at stake. People’s livelihoods. Lost sleep. Lost time. A hell of a lot of stress.
But in the end? It’s almost always worth it.
As someone who’s attempted to climb to the top, fallen, and climbed back again, I can give you some of my entrepreneurial lessons I’ve learned along the way.
1. Become acquainted…with yourself.
If you have a bustling social life, good for you. However, if you want to start your professional climb, be prepared to create a new definition around what being “social” really means. Maintaining an active social life is a serious commitment. If you realize that your professional journey can sometimes extend to a decade or beyond, you’ll quickly realize being social will have to be a constant balancing act between your personal and professional lives.
2. Get used to the haters.
Even though we have all kinds of fun sayings around “haters,” it’s still a grind to ignore negative backlash when you’re working toward any goal. It’s a distraction, and it’s often impossible to ignore the effect. But here’s the thing: if someone has time to give you a negative review, that’s on them, not you. If someone chooses to spend their precious time around something that you’re doing, then they probably aren’t taking action in their own lives. They are using that energy to focus on someone else. That’s their loss, not yours. Stay in your lane.
3. Find your outlet.
As much as I work, that can’t be my entire life. I have numerous outlets that allow me to take my mind off of work. One that I return to again and again is golf. (Trust me: it’s better to hit a little white ball than one of your employees.) Golf is my way of getting my frustrations out in a healthy way, so my family can enjoy quality time with the real me, not the stressed me.
4. Keep your eye on the prize.
Yes, we’ve all heard this phrase before, but it’s critical. Anything outside of your goal really is just noise, a speed bump, or hurdle. Once you aim toward a goal, you’re going to be met with endless distractions that push you away from it. Don’t let that happen. The more you feed into distractions or problems, the longer the journey becomes. Become a problem-solver and maintain action. Action gets you places. Whining about problems does not.
5. Never carry your frustrations from the day before.
No matter how bad your day was, leave it. You know that suggestion about never going to bed angry with your spouse? It’s the same with work. Every day is a clean slate (whether it feels like it or not). Check your emotions and mentally prepare for the next day. Get some sleep and wake up with that renewed vigor you’re going to need to move forward.
6. Buck the F up.
When shit gets hard, tell yourself over and over that this is what you signed up for. The road to the top is where the real growth occurs. So many people never evolve because they’re not challenged. The likelihood of being a legendary leader without having undergone serious personal growth is unlikely.
7. It’s not lonely at the top.
Those people who say it’s lonely at the top probably haven’t actually been there or never wanted to be there to begin with. My perfect summit is far from lonely. There are vacations with my families, more time and resources to live a healthier lifestyle, golf with friends (yes, a social life is now possible), and free time to give back to those less fortunate.
At the end of the day, if you’re doing what you love, you’ll take the good with the bad. The losses with the gains. The best advice is to know that when you’re at the top, you can and most certainly will fall, but once you’ve been there? You get to climb back up in an entirely new way.
A 20+ year entrepreneur with a no-B.S.-in-business attitude, Shaun Black has powered over $30 million in annual revenue with his trading and importing company, Diamond Produce, founded numerous successful local businesses, and remained on the cutting edge of national start-up industries for over a decade.
His experience as a grocer taught him the importance of exceeding expectations, one relationship at a time. Through systems, automation, and personal touch, his businesses deliver consistent retail-minded service. His “add value” approach to vendor and teams alike has paid dividends and been the driving force behind growth and profit.