If you’ve ever felt uncertain along your career path or in your professional life here are two words you need to embed in your vocabulary right now:
Entrepreneurial Mindset …
No, I’m not saying you have to start your own company, and that’ll be the cure for any and all challenges in your professional life. Not by a long shot.
I’m actually talking about cultivating, and living your life as though you are an entrepreneur, regardless of whether or not you start or run your own business. “What the heck?” I can hear you saying.
What I mean is this. Live your life much the same way an entrepreneur does even if you find yourself working for someone else. Bear with me before you write this off as yet another wacko sharing some nonsense advice.
There are actually a lot of people who adopt this attitude and have reaped great rewards for doing so. I first got this advice many years ago and it has served me well. And that of countless people with whom I have shared it with.
To fully make it work for you — you’ve got to better understand what entrepreneurs do, that most don’t so that we can contrast those things and see how you’ll benefit from adopting your own entrepreneurial mindset.
Sound intriguing? If not, stop now, as there’s no sense wasting your time. Want to learn more? Good! Read on…
First, let’s define what an entrepreneur is, at least according to what Google says it is when I just did a quick search:
“a person who organizes and manages any enterprise, especially a business, usually with considerable initiative and risk.”
I’m actually not crazy about the definition. In particular, the “considerable risk” part. I’m not saying that isn’t the case in some instances, but it certainly isn’t always, not by a long shot. Also, one could easily make the case that there can be a ton of risk associated with choosing a “traditional job” working for someone else as opposed to going your own route. For our purposes here we will stick to the general definition, and outline particular skills that entrepreneurs have, and you can benefit from applying in your life — whether you choose to work for yourself, someone else, or a combination of both.
Characteristics of the Entrepreneurial Mindset and Why You Should Develop Yours Even if You Never Work for Yourself a Day in Your Life…
1. You Learn to pay yourself first
As an entrepreneur whenever you make money, you pull a set amount out and put it into savings (at least you should). You know the value of having something setup for a rainy day. And you understand that unexpected “rainy days” can happen at any time. When you have savings you’re far better prepared for the unexpected. You’re far more prepared to weather any of life’s challenges that may come your way.
One more thought on the idea above: Not all entrepreneurs do this, but it also pays to keep your debt to a minimum, or at zero if you can swing it. I know there are plenty of folks who will disagree with this, but I’ve spent the better part of my life as an entrepreneur in some capacity — and I can tell you from my own experience that it is truly liberating knowing that if times get lean — there’s no added pressure that will come crashing down because of a debt load that’s looming on the horizon.
Certainly there are plenty of folks who choose to use debt to their advantage and I’m not saying it’s not an option — I’m just saying if you can avoid it it’s certainly worth exploring, and contrary to popular opinion plenty of people do just fine avoiding debt altogether.
2. Look at your skill sets as one of the most important things you have going for you
Don’t’ EVER allow yourself, or your skills to become stagnant. Invest in your ongoing professional & personal development. Every single day commit to growing.
Long gone are the days when you could settle into a career, learn what it takes to do that particular job, and think you don’t need to continue to learn new things. Even in the most mundane industry new things are happening. You’ve got to keep abreast of the latest happenings, and be a student of your industry and career field.
Make no mistake, we live in a time where we are rewarded for our production. Those who are seen as top producers are always sought out and in demand. If you think that’s unfair, well, I’m not here to argue the merits of what’s fair, and what’s not, I’m only writing this to help you put yourself in a position to benefit, and stay in-demand, regardless of what happens in the economy, with the company you work for, or your career field.
There is a lot of truth in the old saying “change is the only constant.” You can accept it, and prepare yourself accordingly, so you’re able to move and adapt as needed. Or, you can bemoan all the reasons why it’s unfair and simply be swept under by the wave of change that’s inevitable in these times where we are rewarded for our productivity, and the results we can bring to the marketplace, and or companies that employee us.
Action step: Every day take a minimum of 30 minutes to learn a new skill. Not some random thing, but rather something that will help you advance in your current career, or business, and or something that will allow you to transition into another line of work that you might enjoy — or that would be in demand at a later date. There are plenty of low cost, and free ways to do this. Here are a few specific ways to learn daily. Watch videos on Youtube, consider a Lynda.com account (owned by LinkedIn at the time of this writing). There are many other places to learn skills like that from online. Use a feed reader, and subscribe to your favorite blogs. You can also visit those sites, and blogs directly.
The point is you want to spend at least 30 minutes each day keeping up with your industry. If you aren’t getting better everyday then you could be falling behind. It’s worth the commitment it takes on your part to be an industry expert. You can do it if you will commit to mastery — and this is how you attain that in your profession.
Here are some resources you can explore for learning and advancing your skills:
Lynda.com – According to their website they offer over 5,600 courses in Business, Technology and Creative Skills taught by industry experts. I’ve taken some of these courses and found them to be worthwhile. It’s also worth pointing out that after completing the courses they give you a certification that can easily be shared on your LinkedIn profile.
Use a feedreader to stay on top of your industry, and or cultivate new skills and expertise. Personally, I use Feedly, but there are plenty of other feed readers — or similar services you can choose from. Just do a search and you’ll be overwhelmed with choices. While Feedly makes it easy for me by keeping sites and blogs I want to follow in one place, you can always choose to just bookmark your resources and check them daily. Really, it’s whatever works for you. Whatever you decide — make it a regular part of your routine.
Khan Academy – If it can be learned, you can just about guarantee you can learn it here. There are many free courses and subjects you can learn about using this resource.
I could write an exhaustive list of tools for keeping on top of your skills, but instead I’ll stop with what I’ve already shared. Anything else will just get in the way of you actually getting started. Remember that the application of what you know needs doing is the difference maker in getting ahead.
Before we move on I want you to repeat after me… “I’m not entitled to anything.”
Now that that has fully settled in let’s get back to what you can do to foolproof your professional life.
3. Know your numbers
I’m not saying you have to be a math whiz. Personally, I was horrible at math in school, and it’s far from something I consider a strength even today. Thank goodness for calculators and spreadsheets! The numbers I’m talking about is what it costs for you to exist. Or in terms of your business, what it costs you to run the business, and still bring enough in for whatever profit you want to make over and above your costs.
Again, just because you may not run a business — by being entrepreneurially minded you will still know what it costs to live, be able to save, and do whatever else you happen to deem worthwhile. Knowing your numbers is one of the most important aspects of the entrepreneurial mindset that you can grasp. When you learn to control of your finances you will find that life is a whole lot less susceptible to any unexpected challenges that will pop up in life. While I could have combined this with #2 on our list, Paying yourself first, I really felt this skill deserved its own space. It really is that important.
4. Set goals and be very action oriented
If you don’t know what success means to you you’re not likely to just “luck” your way into it. Some people do, but that’s just not something you want to leave to chance. Instead, write down your vision, and a plan for what you want to accomplish. After you have it written down, write out why exactly achieving it is important to you. In vivid details include what your life will look like. Who will be impacted and how your life will be as you work to accomplish your plan.
You can think of this as your “why” — it’ll be an important fuel source as you move in the direction of your goal. If you do it right it really will help to keep you moving forward. Finally, you need to create an action plan around your goals. You want to break down daily actions that you will take which will move you forward to the attainment of what you want to accomplish. Every day you will go to this list and work it. At the end of each day check in and review what you got done. Plot out what you need to do the next day, or the following week.
Your action plan is ongoing. It’s an incredibly important part of the equation. Without it you run the risk of becoming one of the many people who run through life dreaming, but never actually getting anywhere — not because they lacked the ability, but instead because they never actually acted on what they knew needed doing.
In my book titled, It’s Your Life, LIVE BIG, I share a detailed plan called Goal Cards — which has a strong action component to it. If you don’t already have the book, you might consider getting yourself a copy and putting that strategy to work in your life. Or just craft your own plan based on what I shared above. Whatever you choose, implement it in your life. Don’t put it off. The quality of your life, and those closest to you may very well depend on it.
5. Know when you are most productive, and work on your most important tasks during peak times
Most people assume that everyone needs to be an early riser to be super productive. While lots of people are, and at this point in my own life I get up early that wasn’t always the case for me. When I was younger, and just starting to write and build the community website, that’s now GetMotivation.com, I used to find working late into the night (and during the mid day) to be the time I was most productive.
If you do a bit of research you will find that there are plenty of people who work all sorts of varying hours, and swear by their productivity during those times. So experiment some and identify the hours you’re most productive. Once you know the times, show up and put the work in. Nothing worthwhile is going to magically show up, you have to work towards its completion, but as you do you will see it manifest in your life. Once you have identified the times you are most productive, and need to be working, there are some rules that will help you get more done out of your time.
Take the time to keep an actions list so you’ll know exactly what needs to be done. We covered this above so I won’t rehash it, but make sure you do it. If you don’t you’re going to waste time having to plan your next move, versus being able to just jump in when it’s time to get to work. So make sure to plan your actions list ahead of time. Assuming you have done that, you can just grab your highest return on investment item on your action list and work to complete that item first.
Realize that not every action is created equal. While they may all be important, some will yield a greater result for having completed them. Do those first. If you find that you don’t complete your entire list for the day, simply review the items on your list, hold the ones you deem worthy to still complete, and if you find that any are no longer necessary, as can often happen upon reflection, just remove them.
When you work your actions list you are able to break down what can appear complex into something that’s controllable, and no where near as difficult as it appeared to be starting out. It sounds pollyannaish but the saying “inch by inch it’s a cinch” is very true. As you work through your actions list each and every day you will find that you’re moving ever closer towards attaining the larger goals and dreams you’ve set.
Another important thing is to keep your work area free from distractions. The less distracted you are, the easier it will be for you to be fully present in your work. I know everyone sees themselves as a great multitasker in this day and age. I’ve made the claim on more than one occasion too. But there’s a lot of research out there that says even if we can do several things at once, we aren’t at our best, when doing so.
I’m not going to try and make the argument for or against multitasking here, I bring it up in the hopes you’ll just consider that you might just find things a lot better blocking the distractions, and focusing on a deeper level at the task at hand. When I’m writing for example, I find that to be absolutely true.
If I have one of the social networks open in my web browser or some other program I can easily find myself running down that rabbit hole and the next thing I know I haven’t been doing any writing at all. Again, multitask until the cows come home if you feel that’s your thing. I’m just saying at least test to see if you might not get a better result doing the idea I’ve suggested here.
Feed your subconscious. The subconscious mind is pretty powerful. That’s putting it mildly. To put it plainly, the conscious mind is thinking of all the things you’re currently aware of, like what you just read that I wrote. The subconscious mind could be described as the things that are below the surface, you aren’t necessarily aware of, but could still be running through your mind.
Say for example, you have a test coming up. You studied for it, but at the moment have decided to take a break. While you’re conscious mind might be focused and thinking about a completely different thing, your subconscious mind might be working in the background to make sense of all the items you studied for the test. This is very simplified example, and I would recommend you take some time to research it deeper.
In the meantime, here is a technique you can use for feeding your subconscious mind and making it go to work for you behind the scenes. This is something I do myself, and so you may not get the same mileage out of this ideas that I have. Give it a try and see how it works for you.
Take whatever project or task you are working on and simply repeat the problem to yourself prior to going to sleep. Don’t stress over it. Just repeat to yourself whatever it is. Then simply release the thought. I find that when I come back to whatever it is that I did this exercise with seems to have a new insight around it. In most cases there’s a solution for whatever it is I’m working on. I do this when I am writing.
Say I want to write on a particular subject. Prior to writing it, I’ll feed my subconscious mind whatever it is I want to work on. Either take a nap, or if it’s bed time, go to sleep. If neither of those two things work, I’ll clear my mind in some other way. Basically, I just let my mind move on to other things so that whatever it is I’ve put into my subconscious mind, it has time to just do its thing, without my interrupting its process for working on the challenge I’ve fed it. Inevitably when I come back to the task or project I find that I’ve gained some new insight around it.
You may have a far better explanation for why what I’ve suggested works, and if you do by all means share it with others in the comments below if you would like. Give the idea a go. I think you’ll will find it to be helpful. It certainly works well for me.
6. Give your absolute best to serving your customers
This one is a no brainer. If you’re in business for yourself you know the customer needs to be taken care of and served well. You’re very aware that they don’t have to stay with you and can find another place to shop, or vendor to work with if you aren’t able to deliver what they need. If you’re wondering how this equates to you, especially if you work for a company or someone else, consider this. As an employee, your number one customer isn’t only the customers of the company you work for — I’d also suggest to you that it is the very company you work for. If you can adapt that attitude it can change the way you see the relationship between you and the organization you work for in a dramatic way.
For starters it should make it clear that you want to bring your best to your work, just as you would if everything relied on your serving your customers in a great way. It all comes down to your ability to serve and produce great results for the company you work for, just as it would if you were in the position of working for yourself, and you knew that your ability to retain customers was solely dependent on how well you took care of and produced for the clients that you worked with.
This is a freeing way to see things because it becomes about you continuously looking for ways to go above and beyond, and whenever possible over deliver in the work you do. And there is one thing I have found to be true. Whether you think someone is taking notice or not, those who go above and beyond — and commit to developing the best in themselves and bringing their best self to the task at hand always get noticed. It doesn’t mean that it’s going to always play out exactly the way we might think it will, but things do eventually always work out for the best. It’s an attitude you want to keep in mind. It will pay great dividends as you move along your career path. Not to mention you will enjoy your day to day routine a lot more.
Seeing your employer as your “most important customer” also helps to separate your identity from your job. I want to be very clear here. While want to be absolutely committed to giving your best to your customer and or employer, you can also separate the fact that your entire reason for existing professionally isn’t wrapped up in the particular company (or customer) you happen to be working for, or with. If, for whatever reason you change positions or employers, just as you would if you had to stop working with a customer, you wouldn’t take it personally, you would go back out, prospect, and find your next great opportunity.
It’s very easy to take it personally when you’re let go from a job, or a customer decides to go in a different direction. If you are able to accept it, rather than get stuck in it and take it personally, hard to do at times I’ll readily admit, the quicker you will be able to move forward and the better off you will be. Often, it isn’t personal anyway, and when you get a bit of time behind the break up you come to realize it was best for all involved. It just takes time to see that, which can make it especially difficult if we don’t have another customer, or job with which to focus our time and energy towards.
7. They don’t put all their eggs in one basket
Entrepreneurs understand that even though they can do everything right, their customers may still decide to work with someone else, so the smart ones don’t rely solely on one customer for their entire livelihood. The time they spend with each client gets their priority, but they diversify by having more than one customer to fall back on should, for whatever reason either party decide working together is no longer a fit. If you’re wondering how this applies to you because you don’t work for yourself, consider that you might also need to diversify your income sources in some way. I’m not saying you have to go out and start your own business. At the same time I’m not saying you shouldn’t. In fact, lots of people run their own businesses while working another job. What I a suggesting is that you figure out a way not to have all your financial eggs tied to one basket. Here are some suggestions. I want to point out that this is NOT financial advice in any shape, form, or fashion. I don’t know your personal situation — but perhaps the ideas presented here will help you decide what’s best for you — and spur ideas on how you might create some diversification among your streams of income.
Strategies for creating multiple streams of income
– Get a side hustle, or do some freelance work. If the thought of starting a full blown business is intimidating just look at it like you’re going to pick up some side work from time to time. There’s no reason it can’t morph into more of a regular business at a later time if you decide that’s something you want to do. For now, just keep it simple, do some side work, and cash the checks folks are willing to pay you to help them. This can be anything, something as simple as babysitting, tutoring people in a subject that you’re proficient in. Remember me saying how I wasn’t very good at math growing up? Well, when I was in school my parents paid for me to have a math tutor. There’s a real need in this area, particularly with many people living in either single parent homes, or families where both parents work. Finding time to help the kids with school work can be hard to come by. People are more than willing to pay you to help if this is something you can do.
If you’re a creative type that’s also a skills that’s in demand. You say you can develop websites? Awesome, just start letting people know you’re available for projects.
There are almost unlimited opportunities to earn extra income in the way outlined here. Just get creative, think of things you are willing to work on. And most importantly get started letting others know you’re looking for work in this area.
– Ask for referrals. Make it a point to regularly let people know you’re open for projects, and when you find work give your absolute best. Be sure to ask people you have worked for to recommend you to others that might need similar help. To them that you rely on referrals to get the word out about what you do, and that you would appreciate their help in sharing your name.
Don’t skip on asking for referrals. In most cases people will be happy to spread the word about you, assuming you did a great job, but they have to be instructed and reminded on how best to help you. Don’t hope they will refer you, instead ask them to do so.
– Other areas you can explore are buying and selling items on eBay, Craigslist, even in the regular old newspaper (you know, those print publications that most cities have). You might even have garage sales. The sources you choose to create income can be as elaborate or simple as you want. The main thing is to create multiple sources of income.
It’s worth making sure that no matter how many income streams you end up creating, that you make sure you give ample time to each. Especially if you are committed to working for an employer. Keep your integrity in tact and don’t rob them of the time you owe them. Don’t work on your side projects or business during the hours you are supposed to be working for the company or organization that has hired you. If you know it’s OK that’s one thing, but if you’re unsure — then listen to that voice in your head that’s telling you it doesn’t feel right. If the tables were turned you wouldn’t want anyone doing that to you. Plus, it’s just not right. Be present not only in your primary job, if you have one, but when you’re working on your freelance work or side business, be fully committed to it. Don’t just dip in and out of those activities. To succeed in them you need to dedicate regular time and effort.
It’s worth pointing out that some people end up growing their side business into something that eventually replaces their current career. While others stay perfectly content in their present career, all the while fully engaged in other projects and ventures. It isn’t that one is better than the other. It’s whatever works for you — just do something to diversify your income. In doing so you’ll not only create greater financial security through an increase in income and diversification, but you will also experience personal growth from developing the skills necessary to succeed in whatever project or side work you happen to be working on. Again, there are near endless options to choose from — just choose something and give it a go. Doing so can have an incredible impact on the life you lead.
8. When it’s time to pull the trigger, take action!
While you don’t want to act haphazardly, you need to make sure you don’t get caught up in the planning phase to the point that you never launch your great idea or venture. It requires balance for sure, but nothing happens without taking action.
The great thing about being action oriented is that even in the event that things don’t workout as planned — you can learn from it, adapt as needed, and if necessary get right back to work on whatever it is you have deemed worthy of your time and effort.
Planning is fine, but you must be aware that over planning to the point that one never actually gets started is a real challenge. Be a person of application and action on the ideas you believe to be worth pursuing and you’re going to be far better off than those who haven’t developed this most important entrepreneurial characteristic.
We have discussed a lot here. If you are anything like me, and seeing as how you read this article you are, at least to some degree, there may be a tendency to read posts like this, but not fully absorb and apply what we learn. Instead, we collect information — we’re readers and learners which is great. The challenge though, is at times we don’t fully apply what we learn — because we are moving to the next big article or idea. Therefore, I want to encourage you to print this article. Keep it nearby and dip back into it often. Look at ways in which you can apply the ideas in it. As you do so, explore what’s working. What’s not. Where changes and adjustments need to be made to get a better, or different result.
I want you to look at your life as a test lab. You have a lot more control on how your life looks than you may think or give yourself credit for. If you can work on the ideas I’ve shared, and be an active participant in your life’s journey you will be amazed at the freedom and ability you have to craft a BIG Life for yourself. I’ve always appreciated these simple words from Jim Rohn, who said, “If you don’t like how things are, change it! You’re not a tree.” Simple words, but very true.
My hope is that from this day forward you will begin to see yourself as an entrepreneur — or at least embrace the entrepreneurial mindset and adopt many of the characteristics which I have shared. As someone that has lived their life with them firmly rooted in my life I can tell you doing so can have a profound impact.
It’s Your Life, LIVE BIG!