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Being an entrepreneur takes tenacity, drive, and a never quit attitude. You must be relentless, you can’t give up, and you must never take ‘no’ for an answer. It’s basically page one of the entrepreneurial guidebook.
But what about flexibility? What about being nimble and open minded?
You don’t want to dive unyielding on an idea or project that ultimately has no chance of success, yet you can’t be so malleable that you change directions at the slightest resistance or adversity. So how do you walk that line? Can you be determined and relentless yet flexible and nimble? Welcome to yet another paradox of being an entrepreneur.
I’ve been working with some of the world’s top business minds and successful entrepreneurs, and make no mistake, they do not take ‘no’ for an answer… when there is a certain path to an eventual ‘yes’. Yet very few of them will ever advise you to “follow their path”. That’s because the road to success is often paved with an unpredictable combination of talent, opportunity, hard work, good fortune, bad luck, repeated failures and painful mistakes.
When I speak at high schools or colleges I’m often asked about how I broke into the entertainment industry. After failing miserably to get my TV show made in Canada, I was determined to sell it in Hollywood. While I saw this as a huge opportunity, everyone else in my world saw it as continuing a futile exercise. At the time, I was living in my parents’ basement with my wife and 2 year-old son, so when my Dad sat me down and told me to give it up and get a real job, it wasn’t unreasonable advice. But I refused to accept it. I remember making a chart of possibilities on a dinner napkin to help convince my wife to let me max out our last credit card for the flight to Los Angeles. One month later, I sold the show to NBC, and the rest is a beautiful ending to a very rough and rocky journey. I framed that napkin and it’s hanging in my office today. It’s an inspiring story but it’s also a cautionary tale. Never give up, but don’t do things like I did.
I recently interviewed Kathy Ireland about her incredible journey from supermodel to super mogul. 25 years ago, as the modeling jobs started to fade, Kathy decided to go back to her entrepreneurial roots and launch her own company. She decided to start with a pair of socks. I believe growing up I saw (dare I say studied) every picture of her and I certainly don’t remember her wearing any socks. Several condescending doubters told her to stick to swimwear and hair care, and Kathy heard ‘no’ over and over. So Kathy looked critically at her idea and the brand and asked herself, ‘why are they saying no?” Only after she couldn’t find anyone with a valid answer did she feel confident enough to turn it up to 11 on the relentless scale.
Eventually, Kathy got those socks into stores and managed to sell a few pair. By a few, I mean 100 million pairs. Yes, you read that correctly, 100 million pairs of socks. For more than 20 years kathy ireland Worldwide has continued to be one of the top licensing companies in the world with more than 2 billion a year in retail sales on products from home furnishings to jewelry. When Kathy believes in something she absolutely will not take ‘no’ for an answer. But she objectively asks ‘why are they saying no?” and she’s always open to the idea of not being right. Five minutes with her and you realize she’s a top level CEO that happens to be a supermodel, not the other way around.
If you are hearing ‘no’ or facing continual adversity in your entrepreneurial endeavor, ask yourself these two key questions before relentlessly pushing forward:
- Have I been wrong before?
- Am I prepared to be wrong again?
If you can’t say yes to both these questions, you most likely need some perspective. You have to be prepared to accept defeat in the battle so you have the ability to come back and win the war.
I know this is counterintuitive to what most self-help gurus, motivational speakers and celebrity award speeches tell you, but you’d be wise not to only take advice from those who’ve found success. Try talking to the failed restaurant owner that set up in a questionable location, or someone who continued to try and launch a product until they went bankrupt. They probably pushed passed the ‘no’ dozens if not hundreds of times.
It’s crucial to know the difference between self-doubt and situational doubt. Self-doubt is self defeating, situational doubt is self preserving.
One of the most influential forces in my career transition has been Tony Robbins. His methods have helped me silence the noise of useless self-doubt and negativity. By doing so I’m able to hear the situational factors, things like analysis, gut instinct, intuition, and risk/reward. Those are the inner voices you want to pay attention to.
Tony doesn’t say that you can be successful at anything. No, he teaches you not to be your own limiting factor. He will guide you to unleash the best version of yourself so you can achieve the absolute highest level of your potential. But where you point that unstoppable energy is rather important. If you’re going to fire the cannon, make sure it’s aimed at the right target.
Even Tony Robbins wouldn’t try to overcome market conditions or consumer buying habits with just a positive attitude.
So if you are struggling to break through and facing an onslaught of naysayers, it’s ok to pump the break, take stock, and make sure that you’re on the right track.
April 9, 2019 at 01:11PM
Forbes – Entrepreneurs