If there are aspects of life that have fascinated me, these are the areas of business, entrepreneurship, mindset, success (whatever that is), and the general human quest for passion and purpose in life.
Why are we here? What makes me feel alive? What makes me feel whole? Can I have it all? How do I get out of my comfort zone and do that which I fully love and am called to do? Is there more to life than just paying the bills?
These questions have led me to read tonnes of literature on the same, take courses to do with the mind and by extension, the brain and how it works, connect with the mind and business leaders on the same, and immerse myself fully as a self-study in the pursuit of true entrepreneurial business success. The experience, though cathartic has been nothing short of frustrating, excruciating, and traumatic in turn. What did I learn? Success does not lie in isolation. It is embedded in a bouquet of pain, tears, fear, and loss. That is just the way it is.
So, some quick definitions: when I talk about the business success I am referring to the communal impact of a business beyond personal or family subsistence or survival. I am talking about a positive debt business ( paying debt on time and in full and getting a greater return on investment from its loans) a business that is growing, scalable across countries, has a truly unique product or delivery, and a committed and buying customer base and more so, a business that has been around for more than the cursory 10 years. It has survived.
A successful business to me is one that has a predictable monthly profit and a varied asset portfolio that can sustain its operations and staff for up to 3 years without having to sell a single product or service in that period alone. It is possible. I have met owners of such businesses. Like you, I was part baffled, jealous, envious, and in doubt.
We seek this type of business when we set out on our entrepreneurial journey. We dream of it and fashion our social media posts and pictures around this imagery. But the sad fact is that very few of us will truly experience it because such business success is less an experience and more an ordeal. And who loves pain?
In my 7 years of running a business so far, I have mentored hundreds of entrepreneurs each year. I have sought what makes them tick. I have been fascinated by why so many fail and remain down. Some of the reasons that consistently appear on my radar are things like :
1. Lack of patience. Patience is a lost art. Not because we have become too quick and needy but more because the environment around us is moving so fast technologically and socially. Even in our best endeavor to be calm and gradual in our pursuits, there is a constrictive, suffocating need for us to move on, move fast, never settle and never rest.
2. Financial pressure to sustain a lifestyle. And I do not mean a luxurious lifestyle either. Although granted, all this is relative. But the truth is right now, with a World more geared towards commercialism and a need to buy, buy, buy...it is hard for us to differentiate between what we want and what we need. The focus on getting this stuff increasingly keeps our business focused on subsistence and survival rather than global impact. An inward-focused business eventually implodes and is forgotten over time.
3. The war of the genders. I know I will get some flack for this so I will not overstay my visit on this item but think about this for a moment: how many friends, or couples who are business partners do you know who let an amazing business die because of the need to selfishly demonstrate superiority over the other? The need to fill a societal norm of one gender bias over the other has killed many a business from within. Words are said, actions taken - that cut deep and negatively alter a brand altogether. More often, permanently.
4. Lack of obsessive focus or willingness to sacrifice. Seems mundane or obvious right? But think of this: the true world of business or entrepreneurship is not suits, champagne, tall buildings, money and business trips. That is a curated image Hollywood has fed you over the years.
Business success is a road of failures (each bigger than the last), punctuated now and then with nuances of success. Few people can live like this. Few people have a mind that can allow them to live in such a World even when the financial returns can be massive. A sustainable monthly paycheck is much more bankable especially when children and a mortgage are thrown into the fray.
Settling for a job that offers a steady income is not wrong, I have been employed in the past and had a wonderful time of it. But the stark reality is you cannot build your successful business, as I have defined it, and be employed. You cannot serve two masters.
That said, there is an even more confusing game at play in your subconscious mind. It is a game where you confuse movement with progress. Where you read all the books, attend all the training, and speak all the lingo but still do NOT experience any growth or impact. Where you are stuck in your head and are living in a World of all talk, no action. I have written about how the mind plays tricks on us in a past blog accessible here.
On obsessive focus, it has been scientifically proven that thanks in part to social conditioning from how we interact with technology, our ability to focus intently has evolved from about 6 minutes at a time to a couple of seconds. We are overwhelmed with information and underwhelmed with unique and creative inspiration. This state of scattered focus prevents us from building something truly meaningful or long-term. So one would rather have numerous side hustles and business concerns over that one thing Jack Canfield calls a BIHAG (Big Hairy Audacious Goal).
5. Call it: a new form of socialization and feeling of entitlement, an over-emotional reaction to outward opinion, the overdependence on public opinion, comparison to others, F.O.M.O - Fear of Missing Out or just plain keeping up with the Joneses. We have all felt it in some size, shape, form or the other..
I love the internet, I love social media. Opportunities abound. We are closer as a race, more connected. But what gets to me is HOW we are connecting. We seem to be becoming less hardy, and overly sensitive. You cannot be too careful about what you say on these internet streets. Everyone is on edge with the emotional intelligence of a child at pubescence.
The hard truth is that the World does not care. It does not. The World of Business and entrepreneurship does not care. Despite all the parliamentary bills passed and prayers said, the World will slap as hard today as it did 40 years ago. Shit will still happen. To be successful in business we cannot expect the World to soften as we soften. And by the World, I do not mean human beings, no. Life is bigger than us.
The business mind needs to be calloused in how it responds to challenges, failure, defeat, and frustration - much more than the average human being. Once these are responded to differently, success surely but gradually sets foot.
6. An unclear business plan or road to growth will definitely be a recipe for failure. I do not care about your view of business plans. If you have no map then any road will get you where you are going. You may experience some progress for a while without a business plan but failure, permanent and swift will come.
The reality is nothing good ever comes easy nor quick. Even your Apples, Googles, Facebooks, Ubers, and Airbnbs had earlier stories of failure and years of darkness in isolation as the founders battled their own personal feelings of self-doubt, inadequacy, incompetence, and pursuit of true passion. Many a failure preceded their 'BIG IDEA'. And guess what? They still continue to fail and learn from their failures in spite of what we choose to see of these companies.
So what to do? Where do we go from here?
All is not lost for the entrepreneur or the aspiring businessman/ lady looking to attain real sustainable business success and willingness to learn from failure. Here are a few things one can start doing to get their mind right and business matters in order:
1 - The first thing one needs is to develop a healthy state of isolation from overwhelm brought on by over-dependence on social media. This dopamine fast is key to grounding your subconscious mind and giving you greater clarity in pursuit of your business goals.
2 - Next you need to schedule moments of isolation during your dopamine fasts and actually get comfortable with the idea of being bored, of doing nothing: no television, books, socializing. Nothing.
3 - After this, we need to be clear about what we are doing during this state and track the success of this thereof. I usually use my downtime or moments of grounding to meditate, reflect on nature and just attain a sense of calm. Remember: focus and awareness are key to your business success. What you are trying to attain is an increase in your ability to focus in a very fast-paced World.
We are also trying to gradually stop focusing on what the crowd is saying or doing, as unfortunately not much of it is true and only serves to create greater anxiety within us and scatter our focus all the more.
4 - We need to get comfortable doing uncomfortable things and these uncomfortable things need to be part of our daily routine, what I call 'rituals': waking up early, cold showers, dieting, exercise - consistently. The stuff that everyone else is not willing to do in a disciplined manner. Beyond the latent results, we will also be telling our minds we are their masters and not the other way around.
5 - Find a REAL business coach and mentor. Someone who has already been where you want to be.
6- Get into a group of like-minded individuals to help you locate your area of calling and passion and hold you accountable for the same. Use this community to network, grow and attain referrals.
It is time to turn words and thoughts into meaningful action!
Do not confuse movement for progress.
The author, Jan Okonji is an entrepreneur, speaker, coach, and Founder of the Pan-African accelerator BGS – Business Growth Solutions.
Jan is passionate about helping employees transition safely into entrepreneurship whilst turning their great ideas into profitable businesses and has helped entrepreneurs collectively grow their revenue to over $ 10 Million in the course of running BGS.
Get in touch with him and book a personal session HERE