Want to be successful in business? There are scores of books, lectures, and articles that can teach you exactly how to do it. Or can they?
In my experience consulting hundreds of small business owners around the world, I’ve found one consistent theme among the individuals who achieve big goals, and it’s not the amount of time they’ve spent studying how to be successful. It’s a positive mindset and strong attitudinal direction about their future.
Yes, success is all in your head.
Success Starts and Ends With You
Several years ago I hosted a webinar for small business owners. The objective was to share their successes and failures, and the goal was to come away with best practices they could implement on their own. On the call, I publicly congratulated one of the attendees on achieving a new monthly sales goal, setting a new benchmark in his industry. I said, “Next time you talk to Peter or someone on his team, tell them congratulations for the great month and be sure to ask them what they’ve done to get there!”
I was surprised after the conference by the polarity of two phone calls I received later that night. The first was a guy from a small city in the northwest. He said, “Mark, you’ve got to give me Peter’s phone number! I cannot believe they landed that much revenue last month. I need to know what they are doing to make sure our team is on the right path! Thanks for the helpful call tonight.”
His takeaway from the webinar was that he could learn more from his peer, and then apply those learnings to his own business. He was grateful for the advice.
The second call was from a man with a much longer resume in a large suburb in the northeast. “You know what,” he began, “you’re a real jerk. Here we are, day in and day out, busting our tails out here and only squeaking out a modest profit last month. And then you go and get on this webinar and tell us about someone else who is doing so much better than us; it’s embarrassing. You should be ashamed of yourself for making us feel so dumb.”
His takeaway from the webinar was vitriolic and prideful. He believed that what he was doing was good enough, and he never needed to improve, so he didn’t.
I checked back a year later to find that the first caller, with a smaller footprint, had continued to grow his sales and profitability. The second business owner, with a more sophisticated operation, had let his business fade until he eventually sold it with a marginal return.
Regardless of your place in life, or your current abilities, there’s always room to improve. Likewise, there’s every chance to fail when you’ve become complacent.
How Our Thoughts Affect Our Reality
So much of life is determined by our view of it, that is, whether or not we have a fixed or a growth mindset; that’s the main takeaway from Carol Dweck’s 2006 book Mindset: The New Psychology of Success. With a fixed mindset, our situation is just what it is and we’re only a vessel cast about on the sea of life. With a growth mindset, however, everything we experience is just a lesson that we can use to adapt ourselves, to improve, and to grow.
You’re likely familiar with the Henry Ford quote, “If you think you can do a thing or think you can’t do a thing, you’re right.” How you think about your current situation will ultimately dictate how much further you can go.
A simple daily practice of mindfulness or meditation may help keep you focused (Calm and Headspace are two great apps to facilitate this). Or, if you prefer, documenting a goal with a simple notepad or journal is a cost- and time-effective way to implement this progression.
If you agree, consider following that through and watch your thoughts become your actions, your actions become your habits, and your habits become your reality.
The Possibilities Are Endless
Fortunately, the above principles to achieving your goals extend far beyond small business ownership. A simple mindset shift can help start you on the right path toward achieving any number of goals: believing you have the ability to change.
Don’t begrudge someone else for being more “successful,” whatever you’ve decided that means. Don’t make excuses that prevent you from making meaningful changes in your life.
Start with where you are, and consider where you want to be. Say it in your head, say it out loud, and then write it down on paper. Amazingly, the way to achieve most of what you want is to set your mind to it.