Researchers say that the average person has 50,000 thoughts a day. Think what we could achieve if we made most of these thoughts positive ones that help us reach our vision!
Unfortunately, it’s much easier for the subconscious mind to wander toward negative self-talk. If you need to pass a certification exam for the next step in your career, but your subconscious mind constantly tells you things like: “I am a terrible test-taker;” “I always freeze when it comes to timed tests of any kind;” or “I will never pass the exam,” you just set yourself up as a victim on the road to failure. The good news is that you can control negative self-talk and turn it around to align it with your vision. Start by developing a list of 10 to 20 statements, called positive affirmations, that you can repeat to yourself every day to crowd out the negative talk.
Here are a few examples:
- “I have studied hard for this exam.”
- “I know the material.”
- “I have the skills to move on to the next level in my field.”
- “I am smart and make good choices.”
- “I am ready to take on this challenge.”
If it helps, enlist your spouse or a close friend or colleague to help you come up with your list and stick to positive self-talk and attitude. They can’t hear what’s going on in your head, but they probably can tell whether you’re keeping up with your plan to crowd out limiting beliefs with positive ones. And once you develop positive self-talk as a habit, you’ll find you can become more successful in many aspects of your life!
An interesting article in Parade Magazine this past Sunday gave me pause. It’s seem counter-intuitive to state so confidently that entrepreneurs should never be daredevils. Hmmm. I believe self-starters take vetted risks and seize opportunities based on the clarity of their vision–all the time! But note the word “vetted.” Kind of like bungee jumping–hopefully you have calculated the risks because strapping on.
What do you think?
“Tenacity/perseverance is No. 1,” says Mike Colwell, who runs Plains Angels, an Iowa angel investor forum, and the accelerator Business Innovation Zone for the Greater Des Moines Partnership. “So much of entrepreneurship is dealing with repeated failure. It happens many times each week.” When failure happens, you have to start all over again.
This example truly personifies perseverance: Jett McCandless was a partner in a fast-growing freight logistics operation. But the rapid expansion triggered mistakes, including an invoicing glitch that left the company without enough cash reserves. The business had to be sold for a fraction of its value. McCandless didn’t agree to the terms and was fired. He lost the company house and car and wound up moving into his girlfriend’s apartment. “It was a very tough time,” he recalls. “I came very close to going bankrupt.”
He went on 25 job interviews and got offers for logistics positions paying $200,000 and up. But McCandless, who grew up in Section 8 public housing, wondered, Should I take a comfortable, secure job, or could I build something better? “I was afraid that failure could define the rest of my life, and I wasn’t going to let that happen,” he says.
So rather than accept one of those big offers, he started over, founding a new company, CarrierDirect, in Chicago. Hamstrung by the noncompete contract with his previous firm, he created a wholly new space in the logistics field. Instead of matching shippers with truckers, he switched to consulting, providing marketing and sales for logistics companies. In two years CarrierDirect grew to $35 million in revenue. “I’m glad I didn’t take one of those corporate jobs,” he says now.
Now how’s that for success?
Savvy Sales Advice for Self-Starters
Self-starters get it: To make it in highly competitive markets, you have to persevere. Many self-starters have been knocked down before, only to get up and try again, so they know how to take a licking. But all of this passion and moxie can’t turn into a chip on the shoulder or downright pushiness. The trick to good sales and service comes from personal connections and attention, not to overbearing tactics.
I recently came across an article on Mashable.com that gives new business owners and their sales staff great advice on how to pitch their businesses without coming across as jerks.
Here are a few tips from the article by Gavin Llewellyn:
Focus on the situation, not your business. You’re proud of your start-up and the success you’ve had so far, but your potential customer wants to know what you can do for him or her – what value you have to offer. Tailor your pitch to the customer’s needs and situation; save the company history and bio for a special page on your website or your future write-up as a success story!
Stop talking and listen. There’s no way to really know what your customer needs and wants unless you listen and truly hear what the customer is saying. Ask follow-up questions that show you were tuned in. And use the information you gather to meet and exceed customer needs, and maybe even make adjustments to your product and service. Your results will do most of the talking with great customer satisfaction once you get the sale.
Llewellyn gives these and other tips for talking with potential investors as well. And that’s often a critical component to new businesses or those wishing to expand. Remember that everyone is not as personally invested in your business as you are, but that you can make them believe in its value and your ability as a self-starter with the right approach.
Five Tips for Promoting Positive Thinking
It’s always easier to start out the year positive and then drop off. That’s evidenced by the many good intentions of people who start diets and other personal resolutions each year. Now that we are in Q2, how is your strategy working to promote positive thinking all year long in yourself and your employees, or even at home? Here are a few tips to keep you going:
1. Surround yourself with positive people and avoid cynics. You don’t have to start dumping friends or family members, but you can reapportion your time to spend more with the positive people already in your life. And add a few more, even virtually through social media. At work or in business encounters, try to avoid negative, cynical people and gravitate toward upbeat colleagues.
2. Set achievable goals. Sure, you’d like to make a million dollars this year. Wouldn’t everyone? But you will remain positive if you set reachable goals based on a little research. Setting unrealistic goals just leads to frustration or disappointment.
3. Celebrate achievements. With realistic goals, you’ll likely have a few achievements. Did you reach your quarterly sales goals? Add a new and important client? Then celebrate. If you want to promote that positive feeling, be sure to celebrate the achievement of those around you.
4. Focus on good times. Even if you don’t have measurable achievements, you can focus on positive thoughts, not the negative ones. For example, you might not have landed the client you went after, but you were in the top two. Or maybe you added three other small clients who could refer new business to you if you do a great job for them.
5. Stay out of pity traps. When several glitches occur in a row, it’s easy to fall into a negativity or pity trap: “I’m not cut out for this,” or “The world is against me.” Fight that inclination with all you’ve got. Most self-starters have endured rough patches, only to find good times ahead.
Tough times call for positive thinking and whether it’s the economy or a few bumps in the road for a leader moving up in a company or a self-starter out to make his or her own way, positive thinking is one of the nine success secrets we identified in self-starters.
It looks like a recent survey from the small-business nonprofit helper SCORE confirms our findings. An infographic of successful entrepreneurs listed positive traits such as being open and agreeable as contributors to success. On the other hand, making excuses, deceiving others or being overly aggressive helped sabotage start-ups.
Our self-starters always kept a positive image in their heads while working toward their goals, even if circumstances warranted their giving in or giving up. Optimism also adds to mental health and emotional stability. In The Power of Positive Thinking, Norman Vincent Peale delves into more detail on the power of staying positive and displaying positive traits like those verified in the SCORE infographic.
If a few setbacks have you down, hang in there. Need help improving your positive thinking? Check out Peale’s book and try one of our Self-Starter Success sessions.
The old adage about nice guys finishing last and having to step on others on their way to the top just didn’t ring true when I interviewed successful self-starters. Compassion is one of the nine success secrets I identified, and a young man named Ashish Thakkar proves again that helping others never hurts you or your success.
Thakkar’s parents were from India, but lived in Uganda in 1972 and were among Asians expelled by Idi Amin. They escaped to the United Kingdom, where Thakkar was born. Twelve years later, his family moved to Rwanda. When genocide broke out in 1994, the family had to flee again, this time through the famous Hotel Rwanda.
The family re-established in Kampala and at age 15, Thakkar asked to leave school and start his own business. He already had been selling computers at school. Thakkar started with $6000 and now is Africa’s youngest multimillionaire, with operations in 26 countries and 7,000 employees.
Thakkar can cite many reasons for his success, but he has been quoted as saying that his personal and professional values focus on truth and compassion. He supports small and medium-sized businesses in Africa and launched the Mara Foundation to help young entrepreneurs. And he says that impact, not wealth, are the best measures of success.
Writers and other creative entrepreneurs probably receive more rejections than most. It’s a competitive world, requiring a thickskin. A recent story by Bob Greene on CNN tells how one writer, Chuck Ross, once turned rejection in his favor and made a name, and writing career, for himself.
Ross is a classic self-starter. In brief, after realizing that agents and publishers weren’t even reading the mystery manuscript he submitted, Ross submitted a verbatim top-seller to see if they would bite at it. He submitted the copied top-seller without the real title or author’s name, and sat back to wait for 27 reviews. Not a single agent or publisher bit on the National Book Award winner.
The lesson? First, Ross took the rejection of someone else’s work even less personally than he had viewed rejection of his own writing. Second, he made lemonade out of lemons. Ross submitted a feature article to a local magazine about the best-selling manuscript submission and rejection. Soon, he was landing plenty of writing work and quit his day job.
After all, what Ross really wanted was to be a writer, and now he was making a solid living at it. This self-starter, who dreamed big, but was willing to adjust his vision, took risks and kept his passion alive. As for rejection, he laughed at it in the face and in print. And he won.
How can you take a similar situation and use it to your advantage?
It takes a successful entrepreneur to spot one. A recent article in USA TODAY shared insight from Steve Case, who helped found and develop AOL through its huge growth and eventual merger with Time Warner in 2001. Today, Case seeks out, guides and helps provide funding for start-ups.
Many of the traits Case seeks in potentially successful entrepreneurs parallel those we identified as successful self-starters. For example, Case mentioned passion, one of the nine Success Secrets for successful self-starters. One definition of passion is following and doing your life’s work.
Perseverance is key to successful start-ups and to success as an individual self-starter. Case said his favorite quote from Thomas Edison about entrepreneurship is: “Vision without execution is hallucination.” Successful self-starters see their visions through.
Finally, Case says that the best managers surround themselves with good teams. Everyone on the team should have a clear vision for the department or company and have some of their own self-starter secrets.
I was stunned to read the headline in Mr. Carl McCoy’s op ed piece in the The Wall Street Journal (May 28, 2013; “Dear Grads, Don’t Do What You Love”) cautioning commencement speakers to stop telling graduates to seek their passion and do what they love.
Now, I completely get his notion that finding purpose for your work is important—to me that’s part of being passionate, but to trivialize the concept by saying they won’t all be first responders or social workers—giving back to the community—so just deal, is not an answer!
Study after study shows that people are more satisfied in their work, more motivated in their careers if they are doing work for which they have a talent. In turn, when strengths are recognized and developed they tend to correlate with passion.
McCoy’s example that a starving artist is not fun when you’re starving—thus making the case you can’t do what you love—completely misses the point. Using his metaphor, if he really had a passion for art, he would have found another way to express it—taught, worked in a museum or art gallery, become a docent. So I don’t buy it.
Instead, find your passion, a passion that will provide you with income and meaningful work. You’re not going to “love” every aspect of any job, but perhaps the outcome of what you do or aspects of your career are just darn right awesome—go for that; go for your dreams.