If you had a time machine and could go back to tell your younger self the most important lessons they’d need to know to succeed, what would you say? There are plenty of life and business lessons we all learn eventually, but if you start out with certain skills at the beginning of your entrepreneurial journey, you’re ahead of the curve.
Since I don’t have a way to teach my younger, ambitious self the skills I’ve learned through experience, I can instead teach them to others. Whether you’re an ambitious young entrepreneur with a dream to fulfill or someone much further along on their journey, these skills are things we all need to practice and revisit on occasion to ensure we’re on the right track.
1. Develop your vision and stick to it.
If you’re an entrepreneur, chances are you’ve never been short on vision. We’re visionaries, after all. But I want you to take a step back and look at your goals from a different perspective. Your vision is more than just what you want to achieve.
Instead of asking what you want to do, ask yourself who you want to be.
I recommend thinking about the qualities you want to have and the values that are important to you. Just as many businesses have a list of core values they follow, each person has their own core values, whether they realize it or not. When what you’re doing doesn’t align with your values, it won’t feel right. It might be a feeling of dissatisfaction, emptiness, or malcontent. It’s not enough to just do something that doesn’t contradict your values—you must actively pursue what matters most to you. It’s key to your happiness, your motivation, and ultimately your success.
One of the best ways to solidify your vision is to write a personal values statement. This can be as simple as a bulleted list describing the values you wish to uphold, what matters to you, and the kind of person and entrepreneur you want to be. “I will” statements can be particularly powerful here to reinforce the ideas you write.
Once you’ve developed your personal values statement, keep it someplace where you can review it regularly and remind yourself of what’s important.
2. Overcome your fear of success
Everyone struggles with the fear of failure, and as entrepreneurs, we’re no strangers to failure. It’s one of the most common motivational messages in the business world: failure is often positive. Don’t be afraid to fail. We’re prepared to fail and get back up again. But what we’re not always prepared for is success.
The truth is that in many ways, failure can feel safer than success. Failure is easier. If you try something new and fail, nothing really changes. You often remain where you are, doing what’s most familiar to you, even if you’ve lost time, resources, or a bit of dignity in the process. However, if you try something new and you succeed, then things change. You have to adapt to your success. It often means new responsibilities, learning new skills, and having to push yourself in new ways. It might even mean giving up something else that’s important to you to make time for your new successful endeavor. Perhaps you even feel as though you don’t deserve a successful outcome, or struggle with imposter syndrome, feeling like your successes are not truly your own.
Many entrepreneurs struggle with a fear of success, and it’s something we need to talk about more, because it often holds us back from achieving our goals. It can cause you not to take important risks or opportunities. By learning to recognize this fear and when it’s affecting you, you can look at a situation and assess whether you’re making a decision because you fear failure, or because you fear success. You might be surprised how often it’s the latter. When you acknowledge the fear, you can rationalize it and set it aside to make the best decision.
3. Foster your own curiosity.
Curiosity is key to learning. We learn better when we’re curious and attentive and when we ask questions. Tapping into this tool will help you grow in the area you desire.
I believe entrepreneurs are naturally curious people. Every new endeavor is a learning process. Being a life-long learner is a valuable skill and mindset that will help you in every area of life. There’s always something more you can learn, and every person you come in contact with can teach you something.
There are plenty of resources for learning all around you—all you have to do is ask questions. Learning to ask good questions will help you gain important information, identify key points, and make better decisions. Start by asking more questions, and you’ll quickly begin to ask better questions as well—questions that will propel discussions, solve problems, and inform your decisions.
4. Become an expert collaborator.
Many entrepreneurs fall into the mindset that they have to do everything on their own. But that attitude won’t get you very far. The business world is built on relationships, and learning to work well with others is imperative to your success. Even if you’re already a friendly and likable person, it can still be a challenge to learn to collaborate well. True collaboration means sharing responsibility, credit, and leadership. It requires humility and a willingness to help others, even when you don’t see the immediate benefit to yourself.
By building strong relationships, you’ll set yourself up for a better future. Not only does this help your reputation, but it makes people more inclined to work with you, which can help you close business deals, find high-quality employees, and discover new opportunities.
The reality is that you can’t do everything yourself. You need to rely on others to help your business succeed. That often means giving up many of your responsibilities so you can focus on more important tasks and trusting others to handle those tasks well. If you set an example for collaboration and create an environment built on trust, teamwork, shared responsibility, and shared leadership, you’ll have more effective teams to skyrocket your business.These lessons often come through experience for many of us, but by focusing on them, you can give yourself a boost on your entrepreneurial journey. Start by redefining your vision in terms of who you want to be rather than what you want to achieve. Recognize when your fear of success is getting in your way, and step around it. Ask questions of everyone around you to learn as much as you can. Continue to ask questions to build better relationships and become an expert collaborator. You might be surprised at how much of an impact these skills can make on your business and on your own happiness, motivation, and personal success.