One of the first vacations I ever took as an adult was to Mexico. I was newly married and didn't have much money, but my wife Rachel and I rented a condo at a bargain price and took off for some fun in the sun.
I wasn't quite sure what I was going to do with my life in those days, but I concocted a scheme south of the border that in retrospect seems proof positive that I'd head in an entrepreneurial direction.
Lightning struck in a flea market, when I saw a display of knockoff Ray Bans. It occurred to me that I could sell them in the States for a nice little profit, which would make up for the cost of the trip.
I bought them all. Once home, I built a sandwich board, covered it with the fake Ray Bans front and back, and headed to a local mall, where I put on the sandwich board and began walking up and down the sidewalk near a busy entrance.
I looked so absurd that a guy screamed "Loser!" at me as he drove by. I didn't really mind--what mattered was that people were buying the sunglasses. I earned a couple hundred bucks in an afternoon, and retired the sandwich board forever.
Swallowing your pride for the sake of a sale is definitely one way to cultivate the entrepreneurial spirit. But there other ways, some not so obvious, to wake up your inner businessperson without ever leaving the country.
These three goals should be etched into every entrepreneur's mind in 2019:
1. Read, read, read.
Bill Gates plows through 50 books a year. Steve Jobs read everything he could get his hands on. Oprah endorses hundreds of titles through her book club, and it's clear she's devoured each one.
These entrepreneurs stand out for their braininess, success, fascinating personalities, and seemingly endless energy. I'm convinced that they possess these qualities in no small part thanks to reading, a practice which keeps your mind alive, alert and hungry, and which opens your brain to new ideas and your heart to inspiration.
Take a glance sometime at the reading lists of the folks mentioned above. They're incredibly diverse, covering topics that range from business to politics to religion. I can relate: Studying brain science helps me run my company as much as books about running companies.
Grab your library card or Kindle and compile your own reading list. Study or listen to books while you're in line at the grocery store, driving to work, waiting for your flight--there are all kinds of gaps in your average workday that you can fill with this invaluable habit.
2. Teach yourself to care about people.
Entrepreneurship is about providing a service. Successful entrepreneurs know how to spot fundamental human needs that aren't quite being met. I'm convinced that this is as much about empathy as opportunity.
Ask yourself daily whether you're enriching the lives of those who matter most to you. Are you adding value to their existence by your existence? If the answer is no, there's a good chance you're not prepared to do the same thing for a client.
The fact that you care about these people provides a built-in source of stamina and encouragement. Start with your inner circle--those family members and friends whom you can't go a week without talking to--and work outward from there.
Make a phone call when you don't feel like it. Find a delicious recipe online and invite someone over for a home-cooked meal. Keep track of birthdays and anniversaries. Each of these acts of service has a direct analogy in business, and your customers and employees will reap the rewards of what you learned from personal relationships.
3. Get your act together.
This one seems obvious, but you'd be surprised how many would-be entrepreneurs harbor the naive belief that they can launch the next Amazon--the ultimate model of stable, clockwork efficiency--while their own lives are anything but.
Business owners juggle lots of day-to-day tasks. Dropping a single one of them can bring the entire performance to a crashing halt. Along with conceiving, creating and marketing a product or service, they deal with the less exciting but every bit as crucial job of keeping the lights on and the bills paid.
If your personal credit is in the tank; if you can't make heads or tails of your bank account; if budgeting is a headache, scheduling a chore, and taxes a living nightmare, you might want to consider turning things around at home before you open up shop.
You don't have to be perfect at any of it. I certainly wasn't when I founded my first company, and I managed to survive. You'll experience much less agony, though, if you get disciplined about financial basics right now instead of waiting for a rainy day.