In the first installment of this three-part series, I wrote about the metamorphosis of an executive into an entrepreneur. I shared some insights on how budding entrepreneurs can take charge of their life.
In the second part I would like to take you through some basic skills that every entrepreneur must master in order to be successful.
Make friends with uncertainty
Most people around you live their lives knowing that things are certain and predictable. They know they have a job, a salary, and a career ladder to climb (albeit slippery). This is how most people live their lives.
If you find yourself becoming busy but not productive, start by creating a "not-to-do" list.
For entrepreneurs, things are quite different. Taking risks, doing stuff other would fear to do and making decisions on things that are new to you—it is all normal. Being able to make friends with uncertainty and accepting it as the "default" is the smartest thing you can do.
Don't be busy, be productive
Great results come when you spend time focusing on doing the right things, in the right way, for the right business reasons and with the right level of focus. Focus is the secret—and stands for staying on course until you're successful.
Working smart is all about output and outcomes. You have a limited number of hours in a day, spend them wisely. Dedicate your time, energy and mind to tasks that are aligned with your goals. If you find yourself becoming busy but not productive, start by creating a "not-to-do" list.
Surround yourself with people smarter than you
Make sure you hang around with people who you can learn and grow with. Hire people smarter than you. Keep challenging yourself and be open to new thinking, ideas and paradigms. Sometimes no matter how hard you try, you get people who drag you down. This is toxic, and you must take action by removing such people from your ecosystem. It's brutal, but necessary.
Life is too short to associate with people who are negative, uninspiring or demotivating. The longer you stay around them the more you become like them. Let them go.
Only say yes to things that really matter to you
Saying no is liberating. If you find it hard to say no it is likely you will take on excessive stress, become irritated and even face depression. This makes it challenging for you to own or take charge of your life and career. Learn to say no. It will allow you to breathe. Many find it hard to say no, and see it as a loss of opportunity, or feel they may offend the recipient. Avoid vague responses like "I am not sure I can", or "I don't think so." Be clear. Be decisive, yet polite.
Think positive even when the chips are down
You are going to face massive uncertainty as an entrepreneur and your fair share of problems—not once, but repeatedly. This can take its toll and cause you to doubt yourself. It happens to us all, but it is a passing phase. Aim to pass it as quickly as you can.
"What could happen" or "What if" will distract you from doing the real stuff—strategising, planning and executing.
The more negative thoughts you have—and ponder over—the more power you give them. Most of our negative thoughts are just that—thoughts, not facts. When negative thoughts start to take over, take a deep breath, stop and write down what you are thinking. This disturbs the process and gives you time to reflect on the positives of your life and career—think about all the moments where you achieved and succeeded and were recognised for it. It gives you time to put things into context and realise how irrational your thoughts were.
Don't sweat the small stuff
You are in charge of your life and career and will do what it takes to achieve your dreams. The routes you take to your destination will be ever-changing. There is stuff within your control, and stuff outside it. Remember, you can only change the present by taking action and not pontificating over the millions of possibilities. Worrying is your enemy. Keep it a billion miles away. "What could happen" or "What if" won't help you focus on getting things done, here and now. Instead it will distract you from doing the real stuff—strategising, planning and executing. In the wise words of Bobby McFerrin: "Don't worry be happy."
Get sleep, exercise and eat healthy
Sleep is the key to longevity—a healthy mind, body and attitude. During sleep, according to a study described in the BBC, "your brain eliminates toxic proteins from its neurons that are by-products of neural activity when you're awake. Your brain can perform this task only while you're asleep." Remember, sleep equals regeneration. Erratic and inadequate sleeping patterns can lead to loss of focus, reduced memory and also stress. I hear many entrepreneurs say, "I'll sleep when I am dead." Not recommended! It is important to get enough sleep to remain in a peak state of performance.
Also, your body needs movement. Physical exercise fuels the endorphins and gets you feeling great. A consistent exercise regime will make you feel fitter, stronger, taller and certainly more confident. You'll take this into your life and career and experience the benefits first hand. Schedule your exercise to make certain it happens, or the days will just slip away.
This is part two of a three-part series of important lessons for executives to keep in mind as they embark on their maiden entrepreneurship journeys.