While there are many factors that come into play when building a business, I believe that most important ones have nothing to do with innovation, balance sheets, finance or marketing. The most important over arching variable to your success in business is you.
Success, however you choose to define it, is a continual work in progress. Ask anyone who’s made lots of money if they are “there.” Even though we’ve been sold on the idea of making it big, most often you’ll find there is no there for truly successful people – it’s not when I make my first million, it’s not when I get my fiftieth employee, it’s not when I land on the cover of the industry publication. Success is simply a road to travel in an attempt to create a more compelling and enriching future. But, as with all roads, there is a direction you must travel to keep moving towards your destination even if, like the far off horizon, that destination keeps moving away no matter how quickly you move towards it.
In my own journey I can tell you there are three factors that have both led me and, at times, held me from advancing towards my picture of success. Some of the most fruitful work I can do is centered on improving in these three areas.
1) Who I am
This a pretty big one and I won’t propose any prescriptions here, but I have found that when I commit to working on my core beliefs about what’s possible, what I’m driven to give to the world, how I want that world to experience my gifts, I have very little trouble taking action that’s in line with who I am. The really beautiful thing about working on things like internal passion and purpose is that your progress comes out so authentically in all manner of external interaction. When people can genuinely feel that you care about what you are engaged in you are an incredibly convincing salesperson – without actually trying to sell anything.
This is an area that most everyone must practice. You must develop habits that force you be conscious of who you’re being. For me, writing my thoughts on paper each morning, spending time meditating and revisiting simple passages that serve to remind me of the version of my best self keep me focused on this practice.
I’ve also developed a series of questions that I can roll through before anything I do in an attempt to bring the right intention to every situation. Simply stopping and asking yourself why your are doing something, why it’s important and what a great outcome would look like is a great way to center yourself prior to making a large presentation to a group or meeting to discuss a new project with a staff member.
2) Where I’ve been
This doesn’t have anything to do with travel, although I suppose it could. For me this is all about leveraging what I’ve experienced, what I’ve learned, skills I’ve acquired, and what I intentionally expose myself to in an effort to learn more. We’ve all been exposed to a life time of lessons, some serve us well and some hold us back, but it’s how you use this mixture and enhance this mixture and overcome elements of this mixture that defines success in many areas of business and life.
I didn’t do particularly well in school, but my brain is kind of wired to learn new things, dig into new subjects and explore topics seemingly unrelated to my field of work. I read some portion of about twenty books a month, subscribe to at least one hundred blogs and still get seven or either magazines delivered in my mail box.
Lifelong learning, exploring and simply tuning your brain to pay attention to everything that’s going on around you is another key factor in moving towards success.
3) Who I hang out with
There are many studies that offer validity to the notion that what you believe, how you act and even how much earning potential you have has a great deal to do with the people you surround yourself with. Now, this can work for you or against you. Parents, school friends and social setting initially influence most people. As you venture into business you soon realize that customers, vendors, mentors and even competitors can play a big role in the success of your business.
When you’re first getting started you may attract customers that mirror your sense of self worth or doubt, but as you begin to grow you’ll soon learn that you must raise you own expectations to the level where you insist on working only with people you respect and admire. I belong to two mastermind groups and I get to hang out for full days with people that have already achieved many things in business that I aspire to achieve. In addition to developing a network of people that can help me succeed in tangible ways this experience also opens me up to accepting that I can indeed think much bigger.
In order to move towards this ideal many people have chosen to immerse themselves in the study of people they admire through memoirs or even a mentor relationship. Pick three or four people that you view as successful, dead or alive, and learn everything you can about how they think act and grow. Study and seek out a team of like minded strategic partners and focus a great deal of time and energy on building deep and meaningful working relationships with this group and you’ll quickly find that your own personal network will begin to fill up with people that can help you grow and thrive. Find and join a mastermind group that pushes you to stretch and think bigger.
There are so many things we can get caught up in trying to accomplish, but experience tells me that if we go to work everyday on the internal, the external success we so crave will show up as mileposts along the road.