While luck certainly plays a part, success is usually the result of making a number of smart choices.
And so is happiness.
Here's a guest post from Ryan Robinson, an entrepreneur and marketer who teaches people how to create meaningful self-employed careers. (His online courses "Launching a Business While Working" and "Writing a Winning Freelance Proposal" can teach you how to start and grow your own business while working a full-time job.)
Without question, the world's most successful entrepreneurs are also some of the happiest people.
They work hard, usually much harder than most. While that's certainly a differentiating factor in determining their level of success, the core of what motivates them to work so hard goes much deeper than just waking up early or staying up late.
What truly sets people like Richard Branson, Elon Musk, and Mark Cuban apart is their ability to persevere, learn from their mistakes, and reinvent themselves many times. In their own ways, they're all fiercely competitive and motivated beyond belief to accomplish their goals.
Each and every one of these self-made billionaires has failed. Sometimes miserably. Yet these failures taught them unforgettable lessons that would go on to define who they became. Coming from someone who has created a product that nobody wanted, I can attest that some of life's most meaningful learning experiences are buried within our failures.
It's difficult to gather the courage to start your own business. It's even more challenging to rise from the ashes of a failed business, dust yourself off, and try again. However, you have to do it. If you're going to make your dreams a reality, there's no other option.
These incredibly successful entrepreneurs all made very important decisions early on in their careers that perfectly positioned them for achieving greatness. Through examining their habits, characteristics, and motivations, we can analyze the decision-making processes that have helped them rise to top.
Let's take a look at some of these influential decisions:
1. View failure as not an option.
When sharing insights on how Elon Musk quickly learned so much about rockets during the early days of SpaceX, co-founder Jim Cantrell noted, "The one major, important distinction that sets him apart is his inability to consider failure."
Elon Musk literally does not consider failure a possibility. It is not in his vocabulary. Sure, there may be many attempts that will result in setbacks along the way to achieving his ultimate goal of making mankind a multi-planetary species. However, each failure is but a lesson to be learned, and reignites his passion and drive to push forward in pursuit of his greater purpose.
As soon as you make the commitment to becoming successful--no matter what--your entire point of view on life will shift to one of taking advantage of every opportunity that comes your way. A failure of any magnitude is nothing but a speed bump along your journey to the top. When I created a product nobody wanted, I picked myself up, reinvented, and kept going...because there is no other option.
2. Be passionate.
Without passion, you're destined for failure amidst all the challenges you'll experience on the road to success. Your work needs to be something you love in order to outperform your competitors in the long run. In fact, you owe it to yourself not to pursue work that leaves you feeling anything less than ecstatic with some level of regularity.
Don't expect to be completely in love with every aspect of your job or even your own business. When it comes to running the finances, taxes, and managerial facets of my business, I sometimes think I could fall asleep at my computer screen. However, when I'm creating content and connecting with the people I've helped, I'm reminded of how much I love what I do.
If you follow your curiosity, engage your interests, and seek answers to the questions that matter most to you, there's nothing that can stop you from being the best in your field.
Tips for discovering your passions:
- Follow your curiosities. I learn an incredible amount of powerful lessons through testing new ideas with my own online course business before those tactics make their way into my job as the marketing lead at CreativeLive. Because I'm very passionate about helping other entrepreneurs find a quicker road to success, I share all of my own successes (and failures) on my blog. The feedback and conversations I've had with other entrepreneurs have led me to spend hundreds of hours researching and sharing insights on topics I never thought I'd become an expert on.
- Engage your interests. What are your hobbies outside of work? Chances are, your enjoyment of writing, making music, teaching, or helping others can be turned into a profitable and meaningful business that benefits other people. I love writing and teaching others based on my own personal experiences, and following these interests has rewarded me with a business I've built on a foundation fueled by passion.
- Seek answers. Soon after I graduated from college, I got the idea for my second business. I was consumed by the challenge it presented. Since I was working a full-time job that took about 50 to 60 hours of my time each week, I found it very difficult to get traction. So I started looking for tips and researching how other entrepreneurs have gone about starting a business while working. When I didn't find many valuable resources on this topic, I realized it was actually an incredible opportunity to use what I had learned to help others on the same journey.
3. Pursue meaning.
Is there a greater purpose to what you do besides simply chasing the highest financial return? Discovering true meaning in your work is what makes it so much more than just a weekly grind. If your work is meaningful, not only will you be more likely to stick with it in the long run, you'll have more clarity, drive, and happiness in all aspects of your life.
Look no further than Blake Mycoskie, founder of Toms, to see the best modern example of a wildly successful business built upon the foundation of pursuing something much bigger than the founder. Because of his one-for-one business model, which delivers shoes to children in need around the world, Toms is valued at over $625 million and has given out over 35 million pairs of shoes.
Perhaps you're motivated by helping others, finding the answers to your own most burning questions, or furthering the causes of mankind. When you tie your success to something more meaningful than your own personal goals, you'll be much more motivated to press on in the face of adversity.
4. Work harder (smarter) than anyone else.
Jeff [yeah, me] shared with me the best advice he ever received from his father. It was to always do what other people won't. Are you willing to beyond your competitors to outwork and outsmart everyone else in your space?
Every professional athlete, entertainer, and business mogul Jeff has interviewed has put literally thousands of hours of practice into becoming the best in their fields. On their rise to the top, they forego partying and binge-watching Netflix and instead take advantage of every opportunity they can to perfect their skills and build meaningful relationships for their careers.
It's not just about the sheer quantity of how much you practice, though. Scientists have never been able to agree upon a "magic number" for the amount of hours it takes to become a true expert on any topic. You must be thoughtful, persistent, and seek learning opportunities in everything you do. Only then will you achieve true greatness.
5. Rigorously prioritize.
"Is what I'm doing right now the absolute most effective use of my time?"
All of the world's most successful entrepreneurs know the value in only spending their time doing things that get them measurably closer to accomplishing their goals. They ask themselves this question religiously when embarking on new projects.
This prioritization extends far beyond just how they allocate their time and dives deeply into uncovering who should be doing what within their businesses. Whenever possible, they don't waste their precious time on tasks that aren't within their core competencies--they hire people or bring in partners to complement their abilities, so they can focus on delivering the most value they can.
Sure it may be fun for Tim Cook to write a company blog post detailing a new product release, but is that something that will drive the most possible value for Apple's shareholders?
It's simply not possible to give 110 percent all of the time and stay motivated, engaged, and passionate about achieving your goals. Balance, and a healthy amount of down time, is consistently cited as one of the most important components of the entrepreneur's healthy routine.
A recent study by Stanford University showed that productivity per hour drops off so sharply after 55 hours in a workweek that there's really no point in working anymore after that point. You need your weekends and some dedicated time throughout your day to rejuvenate and replenish your energy.
Taking time off from work is equally important on the weekends and evenings, to adequately prepare yourself for a better week ahead. I use my Sunday evenings to spend 30 minutes prioritizing and breaking down the top five goals I want to accomplish during the coming week.
That lets me start my Monday mornings with a plan of action instead of starting my week in a reactive mindset.