One of the most influential people in my life, a mentor of mine, taught me that a person should never judge their wealth by the amount of money they make, or how "successful" they are. A person should judge their wealth based on the amount of people they have positively impacted.
I believe that wholeheartedly.
If you chat with enough entrepreneurs and goal-oriented people, you begin to find that there are two categories of hustlers: there are those who hustle externally, always chasing the next trophy to measure the weight of their success, and there are those who hustle internally, constantly challenging themselves to become better--and to truly impact people for the better.
Someone I was recently connected with who I felt really exemplified this positive approach to entrepreneurship. Brandon Steven is a business-minded hustler with a lengthy list of accomplishments and successful companies under his belt--such as his chain of award-winning car dealerships.
But Steven's true measures for success have been philanthropic. In 2007, he received the prestigious National Man of the Year award from the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. Shortly after, he and his brother, Rodney, created Genesis Foundation for Fitness & Tennis (GFFT), a non-profit teaching young people the skills to build positive habits, confidence, and the importance of physical activity. The purpose of GFFT has been to sponsor local athletes that may not have the means to participate in their favorite sports.
I asked Steven to share some insight for aspiring entrepreneurs, specifically how to stay focused on the important, positive things that can benefit people for the better:
"I've seen attitude cause people's lives to crumble, and I've seen attitude turn people's lives around," said Steven. "Attitude, to me, is more important than past experience, than education, than money, than circumstance, than failure, than success, giftedness, or even skill. Attitude is what makes or breaks a company, a church, a home. The remarkable thing though is we can always change our attitude. We cannot change the past. We cannot change the inevitable. But we can always change our attitude."
This is strong advice coming from someone who has experienced plenty of success, and very much speaks to the importance of attitude in staying grounded.
When you set out to inspire others to get behind your vision, your attitude is everything. It is why people believe in you. It's why people support you, or work for you. Attitude, as Steven said, is one of the few variables in the complicated equation that is "entrepreneurship" you can control.
It's on you to control it to the best of your ability.
Only those who have beaten down doors, climbed over obstacles, swam through challenges, and overcome their greatest fears truly know the meaning of "persistence."
"Nothing in this world can beat a persistent drive. I have been told, time and time again, 'NO.' I just don't hear it. I cannot tell you how many times I have been told 'NO.' Banks, buyers, sellers, etc. But every time someone tells you no, is an opportunity for you to say 'YES.' You have to say 'YES' to yourself, over and over again. You have to stay true to your vision. That's how you learn the true meaning of persistence," said Steven.
This is something I can very much relate to, this idea of challenges being opportunities. As Ryan Holiday's hit book would suggest, "The obstacle is the way." When I was seventeen years old, nobody believed professional gaming would ever become a "real thing." I was told, time and time again, that video games were nothing more than a waste of time. Well, Inc Magazine just named Riot Games as their 2016 Company of the Year. And I just published my first book, Confessions of a Teenage Gamer, talking about what that experience was like, watching the gaming bubble burst, back when nobody ever thought it would ever become anything big.
"Some of the best advice I ever received was from my boss, though I had overheard the advice being given to a friend and coworker. My friend was arguing with his spouse and my boss told him that he was always going to be able to out-communicate his spouse--since he communicated for a living and she did not. Whether he was right or wrong in the argument was not the point. Likewise, winning or losing was not the point either. 'You don't have to attend every argument you're invited to.' People lose, in life and in business, when they constantly try to be 'right.' They might win a few small battles, but they will end up losing the war--and missing the bigger picture," said Steven.
This is important advice to hear, especially for young and aspiring entrepreneurs who are just beginning to enter the competition that lives within business. It can be so easy to lose perspective along the way, and forget we are all humans out there doing our best to build something of value. When that is forgotten, in the small moments and the big ones, a huge disconnect occurs. We are no longer operating for the betterment of each other. We become selfish, and in the end, we all lose.