Less than 3 years ago, frustrated by my lack of success, I made the decision to start reaching out to and learning from successful people.
There was just one problem: I barely knew any. So I did the only thing I could think of, and that was to start a blog.
With a blog as my platform, I started interviewing successful people. It took me over a year to find my groove (I had absolutely zero online marketing experience before doing this), but eventually the blog became a podcast, and the podcast became a community.
As I write this article, I’ve had the privilege of interviewing over 60 successful entrepreneurs from all over the world. Their collective stories and advice have rewarded me with an education on business and success unlike anything that is taught in a classroom.
Here are 7 important lessons on business and success I have learned from this journey:
1. Success is 90% failure.
Some people define success as doing everything right – as getting the result they want. They view failure as something to be avoided at all costs. They try to create a perfect plan, and they only take action if they are confident that their plan is going to work. They try to avoid failure, thinking that by avoiding failure they will achieve success.
One of the things I’ve learned from interviewing so many successful individuals is that they’ve all experienced failure, and their failures often preceded their successes. This led me to conclude that a person’s failures actually serve as the stepping stones to their successes. Therefore if you avoid failure, by default, you also avoid success.
Stop worrying about failure and stay focused on your results. When you get the result you want, you might call that success. When you don’t get the result you want, you get the feedback you need to change your strategy.
Don’t be afraid to take action with no promise of success. It’s better to take the wrong action and pivot than to not take any action at all. Expect 90% of what you try to not work. Sometimes you have to learn what doesn’t work in order to find what does.
2. Hire help. Great people are not as expensive as you think.
We live in a global, digitally connected economy. This means that we all have access to a global talent pool of incredibly skilled individuals for very competitive rates. Even if you’re not a business owner, do yourself a favor and hire help as soon as possible. You’d be amazed how much of your precious time you can get back if you leverage the time and expertise of others.
Whether for a specific project, or on a long term basis, it isn’t hard to find the right people for the job and it isn’t expensive either. I currently manage a full time virtual assistant and doing so takes only a few minutes of my time per week. I also hire contractors and freelancers for specific tasks and projects on a regular basis.
3. Don’t get too attached to your ideas. Test them before you invest in them
I once met an individual who told me they had a ground breaking idea for a new business. There was just one problem: they refused to tell anybody what their idea was because they were scared someone would steal it. This person failed to recognize that ideas, by themselves, ideas have little value. The real value comes from execution.
There is no shortage of ideas in this world. Many of us have ideas on a daily basis. Are all of them good? Absolutely not. Until an idea is actually implemented, there is no way of knowing how valuable it really is.
Testing an idea on a small scale to see what result it creates is much wiser than investing time, energy and resources pursuing something only to discover that it doesn’t work. Let go of bad ideas early and quickly. More ideas will always come to you.
4. Stop networking. Start building relationships
In the context of business, networking is typically defined as “interacting with other people to exchange information and develop contacts, especially to further one’s career.” It’s a pretty straight forward definition, and yes, networking can yield many benefits. The problem is that most people haven’t been taught how to do it properly.
The typical approach to networking consists of attending conferences or events in your industry, delivering your “elevator pitch” to everyone you meet and giving out and/or collecting as many business cards as possible, hoping that those connections somehow turn into employment or business opportunities. This has become one of the least effective ways to build a strong network.
Become genuinely interested in the people you meet. Encourage them to talk about themselves. Ask them about their current projects, and find out if there are any challenges they are currently facing. Offer a helpful suggestion, idea, or an introduction to someone else who can help them. Give without any expectation of receiving. You’ll soon discover that when you selflessly add value to others, they will gladly return the favor at some point in the future.
5. Model other successful people but don’t try to be them
Regardless of which industry you’re in, there will likely be other people who are ahead of you and who you consider to be more successful than yourself. This is perfectly fine. In fact, one of the most efficient ways to succeed in any industry quickly is to learn the principles and model the strategies of those who are already successful. But always remember one thing: you are not them.
Learn and apply what has worked for others to see if it will work for you, but never try to be something that you’re not. Remember that you are unique. Do what feels true to you. Always be authentic. Don’t get caught up in comparing yourself to other people. No one succeeds overnight. We all must start from where we are and with what we have. Respect the journey that other people have travelled, but remember to stay focused on your own.
6. Results speak louder than credentials
I definitely respect the dedication of people who invest several years obtaining degrees and credentials to advance their careers, but the harsh reality is that credentials alone have almost no bearing on the level of success a person attains. In fact, many highly qualified individuals often find themselves without work or beginning careers in new industries for reasons that were beyond their control.
We live in a results-based economy. To ensure your success regardless of which industry you are in, you must acquire any and all skills that will enable you to get results. If you’re an entrepreneur, you must learn how to get results for your business. If you work for someone else, find out what result they want and help them get it.
Many of the successful entrepreneurs I have interviewed barely made it through high school and yet no one questions their intelligence or skills. Why? Because they have a track record of tangible, hard won results. A track record of positive results speaks louder than any credentials you print on a business card or a resume.
7. The journey is the reward.
The final lesson that I’d like to share with you is to enjoy the journey. The trouble with ambition is that it causes us to chase the future, often at the expense of appreciating the present. Pause and reflect often. Praise yourself for how far you’ve already come. Stay focused on the outcomes you want, and respect the process required to create them.
Set big goals not because of what you will get when you achieve the goal, but for what it will make of you in the process. The person you become as you achieve your goals is more valuable than the goal itself.
“The ultimate reason for setting goals is to entice you to become the person it takes to achieve them.” – Jim Rohn