The Critical Connection between Optimism and Entrepreneurship

If you are currently pursuing an entrepreneurial endeavor and are not optimistic about its outcome, please allow me, as your grossly underpaid business adviser to give you some advice. Don’t do it!

“Well thanks a lot for the encouraging words, Mr. Free Business Adviser Oh, and by the way….you’re fired!”

Not so fast, Mrs. Pessimistic Entrepreneur! Give me a chance to explain, and hopefullyHalf Fool even convert you from the Dark Side to the Light.

“Anyone with an entrepreneurial spirit is…an optimist at heart. The desire to start a business, in and of itself, is optimistic. It’s a belief that you can do something to improve your situation and make a positive change in the world.” Ara and Nick, the authors of “The Lemonade Stand” believe that optimism is so critical for an entrepreneur that they make it the first of 13 principles explored in the book.

Your perspective and attitude as you build a new business will be one of the greatest determinants of its success. It is often the enthusiasm and amazing determination of a business founder that inspires the first few customers to take a chance and pay for his or her services. If that spark is lacking when you approach people, don’t expect them to believe in something that you don’t.

So if you do have pessimistic tendencies, does that mean that you are doomed to be a business failure?! I, with all of the authority of a free business adviser, can confidently assure you that you are not.

Here are a few steps you can take to start improving your attitude and perspective:

1.  Consume the good stuff!

Captain Optimism
Your attitude affects far more than your business life. It even affects your late night superhero battles that nobody knows about.

This is not a plea to encourage you to start drinking expensive wine. If you are going to change how you think, you have to change what you hear and read. You can start by replacing your gansta’ rap (gangsters are cocky NOT optimistic) with great podcasts from very successful (and yes, optimistic) entrepreneurs.

I daily consume the wisdom of the EntreLeadership podcast, The Brian Buffini Show, The Ken Coleman Show, and others. I can do it when I’m driving or working outside, so it takes no time away from other projects.They are a lot of fun, allow me to learn from amazing businessmen and women, and I get a lot of great book recommendations. If you want some from me, feel free to ask. I always have a book with me, so any time I have to wait, I get to read.

2.  Put on a pair of “entrepreneur shades”
Have you ever presented a great idea to someone and all they did was tell you all of the

Persol
Just imagine that the word “Entrepreneur” is neatly placed on the side. My wife does my graphics and she ain’t here. I tried, but it looked pathetic. No, I’m not being pessimistic!

obstacles and reasons your idea won’t work? Don’t be that guy! Every business idea encounters obstacles. But instead of viewing those as road blocks, with your new fancy sunglasses, you will see them as detours. And with each detour, you have the opportunity to make improvements in your business.

I recently helped a homeless shelter start a recycling facility. Initially I wanted to start with electronics, but after one meeting with an expert in the industry, I knew it would cost a fortune and take a really long time. There are so many regulations and certifications needed! But rather than getting discouraged, I set that idea on a mental shelf, and pursued a far more simple type of recycling to start with.

And the electronics recycling? We now do that too. All of those “obstacles” were wiped away with a single signature, when a major electronics recycling company saw what we were doing, loved it, and allowed us to partner with them. See how this works? No obstacles, just opportunities.

3.  Trade in some of your “downers” for “uppers”
“Birds of a feather flock together,” your mom said. My mom said it too, and even though

Red Blue Pill
The attitude you have each day is ultimately your choice. The more you choose one, the more natural it will become.

it drove us nuts, they were right. Based on that, if you need a change of attitude, you might need a change of friends as well.

Start by finding someone who people love to be around and asking them out to lunch. An optimistic entrepreneur would be ideal. Then you can improve your perspective AND learn. (If you live near Joplin, Missouri, I like Tropical Smoothie Cafe, Red Onion Espressoria, and Chick Fil-A, in that order. 😉  )

The more positive influences you add in your life, the more optimistic you are going to become. And if you want to use your gifts and passions to change your family, your community, or even the world, YOU have to truly believe you can or you will never give it everything you’ve got.

 

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The Lemonade Stand

Have you ever heard of a child that was afraid to set up a lemonade stand because she might not sell enough lemonade? Me neither.

But as adults, probably the number one reason that men and women don’t start businesses and become entrepreneurs is fear.

“…for most people, entrepreneurship ends in childhood. Why? Because as we get older, it

Lemonade Stand Book
This book is short, fun and insanely practical! Every aspiring entrepreneur should read it.

gets riskier.”  Ara Bagdasarian and Nick Gustavsson write in The Lemonade Stand: What Every Entrepreneur Should Know to Succeed in Starting and Running Any Business.

For a child, setting up a lemonade stand is fun! We enjoy the possibility of making some extra money, offering something refreshing to people on a hot day, and engaging with people when they stop by. It is an adventure with untold possibilities. I believe that entrepreneurship for an adult is even more exciting, and the fear most people have of it is largely due to misconceptions.

Here are some common misconceptions related to starting your own business along with my thoughts on how to correct them:

1. I have to take out a second mortgage on my home, or find millions in venture capital

CORRECTION: “Entrepreneurship” should be seen as a synonym for “problem solving”. If you see a problem that has not been solved, that is a potential opportunity for you to step in and solve it. And now with things like 3-D printing, the days of spending $30,000 to create a prototype are largely gone.

Lemonade-StandI am currently working on “solving a problem” and have a local 18 year old who knows CAD, owns a 3-D printer and is charging me $15 an hour to create my prototype! Once I have my prototype, I will take that to the company I want to distribute it and I will sell the item from the prototype, then have it produced. The whole process will cost me next to nothing.

2. I have to quit my day job, and then what happens if my idea doesn’t work?!

CORRECTION: There’s a reason “Don’t quit your day job.” is so common that it has become a saying. That’s because it’s very clear that it’s a dumb idea! Almost all ideas can be worked on late in the evening, early in the morning and on the weekends. As your idea gains momentum and starts producing revenue, maybe you can negotiate one day off a week from your normal job.

Once it consistently generates the same amount of income as you get from your “day job”, feel free to quit! But don’t do it too soon. Many jump ship prematurely, and endure  hardships unnecessarily. It is much better to build a business gradually in your spare time and never risk your family’s financial future, than to put yourself in a position where if it doesn’t pan out quickly you’re ruined.

3. I can’t possibly compete with WalMart! 

CORRECTION: You’re right! You would have a very hard time assembling that many people in one place who know basically nothing about what they are doing.

WalMart sells lots of basic stuff at a low price. You’re not going to do that. You’re going to solve a problem that has not yet been solved. The second you do that (and do that exceptionally well) you have differentiated yourself from EVERY business out there. If you don’t stop there, but keep iterating (creating newer, better versions of your product or service) even if someone does try to compete with you, they won’t be able to keep up.

There are risks associated with starting your own business. But if you’re wise about it, those risks can be minimized. Setting up a lemonade stand as a child was a blast, and opening a business and solving problems as an adult is even more fun. You are no longer just quenching someone’s thirst, you are making people’s lives better! Now get out there and solve some problems!

(Like learning about business, personal development, and how to use your life to make a difference? Enter your email in the “Subscribe” field on the right and you’ll get my concise, helpful and very entertaining posts in your email Monday thru Friday when I write a new one! 🙂  )

The Power of Your Thoughts

Most of the time our thoughts are on auto-pilot. But what would happen if you autopilotdeliberately sat down at the controls, grabbed the steering wheel and flipped auto-pilot into the “Disengage” position?

“As a man thinketh in his heart, so is he…” is a line written by King Solomon, who is said to be the wisest man to ever walk the earth. You could also listen to the slightly more contemporary Earl Nightingale who said, “You become what you think about.”

Our thoughts have the amazing power to determine our actions. But what if you are thinking about yourself, or a version of yourself, that does not yet exist?

Do you think a world class Olympic athlete ever became such without first thinking about becoming one? What about an amazing businesswoman, a world renowned chef, or a famous architect?

Thinking ManIn each of these categories (and people in any other category for that matter) individuals spent years envisioning what they wanted to become. They dreamed of becoming the best at what they loved. And it was those thoughts that helped determine their actions, and those actions ultimately led to who they became.

You are no different. If you are not who or where you want to be right now, do not let that discourage you. Start using the amazing power of your mind, think hard about who you ultimately want to become and what you want to accomplish. Write it down and read it out loud daily. Let yourself begin to envision what the new “you” looks like. Do that consistently for 30 days, and I guarantee you will witness a profound change for the better!

The Power of Routine

Your daily routine will ultimately determine your destination. W.H. Auden, the playwright, poet and author said, “Routine, in an intelligent man (or woman, of course) is a sign of ambition..”

Most of your major achievements in life will not be made in giant leaps. Rather, they will be accomplished little by little as you make tiny steps in the right direction. You do not get in good shape by going out and impulsively running a marathon, and you do not become an expert by spending all day reading a single book on a topic. Routine Collage

The more positive aspects you include in your regular routine will allow you to make consistent progress in the areas you prioritize. I am, unfortunately, a rather slow reader. But I do not let this stop me. I always have a book with me and I read very regularly, typically in the morning and evening, but also when I get stuck in a waiting room or in line. As a result, since I have been keeping track, I have now read over 600 books on all different topics, from cover to cover.

To harness the power of routine, take a little time each day to begin with something inspiring, regularly exercise, and crack open a book on a topic of interest or related to your work. Keep at it for a while, and before you know it you will get in better shape, people will start asking you what you think on various topics, and you will in general become a better person. Such small but very consistent steps are how legends are made.

The Shotgun or Sniper Rifle: Scattered vs. Focused

Are you going in a million directions every day, or are you laser-focused? It’s most likely the former, because unless you have deliberately gone through a process of focusing your life, our default mode is disorganized.

Essentialism Energy

However, there there is a step-by-step process for transforming your life from the image on the left to the image on the right. In Essentialism by Greg McKeown, he takes you through the following steps and covers much more:

1.  How to choose the things that are most important in your life

Essentialism Book

2.  How to say “No” to the things that are not the best use of your time

3.  How to decide where you can have the greatest impact

4. How to execute in that area

Don’t let other people make decisions for you. Take the time to choose what is most important in your life and start moving in that direction!

A Life Lesson from Zorro….?

If you saw him performing with his lifelong friend Lenny Kravitz, you would assume he Zoro and Lennywas just like any other world class rock star….and boy would you be wrong!

Zoro the Drummer is an anomaly, an outlier, an exception. You get the point. And his story is nothing short of phenomenal! Growing up in abject poverty to a single Christian mother, he discovered his passion for drumming at the age of 6. He then spent his life pursuing his passion relentlessly, while never leaving his Christian roots behind.

Zoro“Your days are limited, but your good deeds are not,” Zoro said in an interview with Ken Coleman, the host of the Entreleadership podcast. He not only knows that truth, but he lives it everywhere he goes. Zoro orders inspirational books by the thousands and gives them away, along with extra autographed drumsticks he keeps on hand, to fans everywhere he goes. He is also an author, (his most recent book Soar: 9 Proven Keys for Unlocking Your Limitless Potential will soon be in my library) speaker, fearless evangelist and has his own ministry (http://www.zoroministries.org/).

“What is your point?!” you ask.

It is simply this (and I think Zoro would agree). Whatever gifts or talents you possess were not given to you for your enjoyment. They were given to you to provide a platform unique only to you, so that you can use them to bless and encourage others.

For years, I have been an entrepreneur, starting many different kinds of businesses. But

Worthshop Gang
This is a crew of workers at a recycling facility I helped start to provide jobs for the homeless.

making money never has been enough for me. It is only in the last few years that I have pinpointed my sweet spot, that place where I love what I am doing and have the greatest impact. I use the business gifts God has given me and I have worked to develop to help non-profits and ministries to develop entrepreneurial ventures to fund themselves and provide jobs, especially for the homeless. I also love teaching what I learn to others, which is why I started writing consistently.

Where you are and what you can do are not incidental. They are both a part of God’s plan for your life, and as soon as you recognize that and start looking for opportunities to bless others, your work and your life will take on a new level of meaning and fulfillment!

*You can meet Zoro and hear his amazing story here: https://www.entreleadership.com/podcasts/207-zoro-the-drummerwhy-the-world-nee

Render Your Customers Speechless, and They Won’t Stop Talking About You!

Surprised girl

I like to be organized….very organized, in fact. I also like to help others do the same. I have undertaken multi-month long organizational projects for clients that would make most people’s head explode. From storage areas in massive mansions to piles and piles of architectural prints at a lavish estate, to me it is actually fun.

This desire to be organized has led me to the study of the best minds in personal productivity and goal setting. From the classic Brian Tracy, to the amazing book “Getting Things Done” by David Allen and the person who received the award as “The Most Organized Man in America”, Dr. Alex Lackey. In fact, it was a line by Dr. Lackey saying that you need “one list, one planner, one place” that led me to search for the perfect planner.

I researched, read reviews, read comparisons, and finally…oh yes finally…I found it. And it has changed my life. I would not be writing this if I hadn’t purchased it, literally. It’s called “The Simple Elephant” and it contains everything I was wanting in a planner, and yet it is still “simple”. It doesn’t take me much time to examine and set goals, plan and prioritize my day, be encouraged by my progress, and pray for my “business challenger’s” own goals. (Charles, our phone meetings are golden!)

Since that little blue book is now such a beloved part of my daily routine, I want it to stay

Simple Elephant
The Simple Elephant is available at Amazon as well, where it is the #1 best selling planner! It might just be the best $20 you ever spend. Here it is: goo.gl/wDgkcY

in pristine condition, so I wanted a slip case. I went to their website, but didn’t see one. So I decided to contact the company. If I wanted one, surely I am not alone.

I sent a message through their website (https://papercode.me/) describing how their product has helped me tremendously, how much I enjoy it, and asking if they offered a slipcase for The Simple Elephant planner.

This is the part of my story that brings me to the first point in how to blow your customer’s minds and turn them into raving fans. It is this:

1. Do Something Completely Unexpected

Frankly what I expected was to be mildly disappointed. But the response I received blew my mind! Allow me to share an excerpt:

…the slip case is such a great suggestion.  I’ll definitely keep it in mind for future developments.

Since I absolutely ADORE my customers, especially the ones who reach out to me – I would like to purchase you a slip case.  Any slip case you can find that works for you, just send me the link and consider it my gift to you.
Hope to hear back from you!
At your service,
Jen
Owner, Papercode
I honestly couldn’t believe it! I was the first person up in the house and couldn’t wait for Nicole to get out of bed so I could tell her about it. It had such an impact on me that I am spending some of my very precious R&R time on a Sunday afternoon writing about it, when I could be outside riding horses, swimming, or continuing work on the kids’ “tree mansion” as Nicole calls it.
When you do business, take some time to think about something your client would never see coming that would bless his or her socks off!
2. Turn a Negative into a Positive
Nice Bill
THIS is a bill with Nicole’s magic touch applied to it!

Nobody likes getting a bill in the mail….right?! Wrong. Most people don’t, granted. But when you do business with Nicole and me, you might just change your tune. My wife possesses a certain skill set that allows her to turn an annoying bill into a jaw-dropping work of art.

Your script may look like you wrote it with your toes, as mine does. But you can still do something unique, using your imagination.
One of Nicole’s Tootlepip aprons got shipped to China, when it was supposed to go to Canada. Oops! We didn’t give it a second thought. We shipped another one immediately. Weeks later, we got the original back, and the customer was so thrilled with our handling of the situation that he purchased more aprons! (See how this works!)

3. Transform the Mundane into Magnificent

Apron
This Valentine’s Day present would have definitely been missed!
Typically when a package arrives, it has a packing slip. If the company is more thoughtful, you might get a note thanking you for your purchase. But in the Phillips companies, we LOVE people and therefore LOVE and greatly appreciate our customers. But more importantly, we want them to FEEL loved and appreciated.
I will let a recent customer tell you about it.
“Nicole, I received the pen and I couldn’t not write you to say this, that the card you sent me is so beautiful and well made, it is the nicest card I have ever received in the whole of my life.”
She even took multiple pictures of it and included them with the message. I can guarantee you she has shown others that card. And you know what? She can’t do that without telling others about our business. Pretty sweet, huh. It’s also a lot of fun!
Thank You Card
I just asked, and Nicole said it took her about 3 minutes to create this personalized card. Well worth it!

Apply this principle in your own way and in your own industry and see what it does to your business. Send out birthday cards to your customers, or a gift card to her favorite restaurant. How about a book? I love sending people books! Your customers will turn into a new team of marketers on your behalf.

Making money is definitely an essential part of business, but I believe that business can and should be so much more. It is about one human being serving another human being well and improving their lives. Applying these principles will not only blow your customers’ minds, but it will also fill you with joy and energy, allowing you to do business far more passionately. And passion, my friends, is very contagious!

(Have you ever blown your customers’ minds? If so, how?! We’d love to hear it!)