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I’m still not entirely sure when I became a tough personality. I do have fond memories of being a kid, playing soccer and eating pizza with friends through late evenings on a weekend. Perhaps it was during adolescence, when fitting in was important or girls became relevant and I decided a shield was necessary to survive.
Early on, I was given a lot of responsibility from my father. For him, as I was the only son and the other man in the house, it was a marker of trust, and I think it helped me to grow into someone with credibility, honor and a good name. That trust played a big role in where I am today, and I’m grateful for it. I’ve learned that a driving factor in my life has been working on being better in everything that I do. This intention really hit home recently when I was reminded of an expression that circulates around entrepreneurs: “What got you here won’t get you there.”
I’m learning that this approach to running a growing company has powerful applications in my personal life. When I first moved to Los Angeles in 2009, a close friend of mine enrolled me into a self-help seminar, and I took away a valuable lesson that has stayed with me over time: “How you do anything is how you do everything.”
In my constant quest to be better, I found myself my worst critic, a bully. For a long time, it’s been clear that I have not been kind to myself. I validated this approach with the belief that being unforgiving with others, but especially with myself, is a strength and a place from which to grow and improve. My mindset was focused on the ability to give and receive feedback and then constantly evaluate and criticize. My belief system was centered around the concept that it enabled me to avoid mistakes through reflection, but in truth, it was paralyzing and debilitating. In my past, this has led me to be black and white in business and personal relationships, and it stems from a lack of kindness to myself.
In this age of an ongoing pursuit of improvement and my own quest to be a better, upgraded version of myself, I had a realization. By placing so much pressure on myself to maximize everything for efficiency, I have actually gotten further away from what I now believe to be most important: human connection, empathy and presence.
Growing up in London in the late 1990s, I was fortunate to hear Stelios Haji-Ioannou, founder of easyJet, and during the Q&A at the end, I asked, “When do you know you’re ready to start your own business?” His reply was “entrepreneurs are born, not made.”
I spent many years wondering what this meant to me and spent the better part of fifteen years searching for a meaningful purpose before I co-founded my current company. I’m now ready to offer my own answer to this question and offer these four traits for both existing and prospective business owners to consider:
• Empathy: You’re ready to solve a problem that will benefit people outside of yourself.
• Kindness: The idea is not primarily motivated by economic outcomes; there is a cause behind it.
• Intention: Your “why” behind the business is rock solid.
• Gratitude/Service: Your employees and customers will always be the center of your focus.
In 2008, I left a pre-recession London in search of something more for myself. Since then I’ve worked in a variety of different businesses and cofounded my current company. What I realized during those experiences is that I did not have a solid foundation around the traits for doing the work. I was in it for the wrong reasons (mainly money), but I’ve realized with time that I value other things beyond chasing dollars.
Entrepreneurship is difficult, but I’ve found that a good place to start is finding love for oneself by doing something every day that engages you to jump out of bed and be of service to others. When things get tough, the desire to give up can become overarching — but I’m choosing to find that moment to be kind to myself and be of service to others.
I recently read something that has served me well: “All fear is rooted in the past or future.” When I stay in the present, it’s impossible for me to chastise myself for something I did in the past, a mistake I made or perhaps a missed opportunity. Similarly, I can avoid the uncertainty of the future and trying to forecast what is to come.
To be present in the now is to be kind, starting with ourselves. And it’s that emphasis on kindness that leads to true success in life and business.
June 13, 2019 at 08:31AM
Forbes – Entrepreneurs