Many up and coming entrepreneurs often ask me for my rules for success. They seem to think that as they set out on their entrepreneurial journey there should be a road map charting each step of the way. They imagine it’s like driving from San Francisco to New York and having their own personal navigator telling them when to change freeways.
For me, the entrepreneurial path is not like that. I don’t see a step one, step two, and step three progression that anyone can pursue. It’s not as easy as that. As you strive to reach the top of the mountain you will encounter numerous forks in the road where you have to make tough decisions; when you come up against unforeseen obstacles; when you have to expect the unexpected and act with decisiveness.
For me there are some underlying characteristics that should be part of your inner core that together create the kind of person that you will emerge triumphant. I’ve laid them out as a five-point A-B-C-D-E plan. That stands for Ambition-Belief-Courage-Determination and Ethics. You need to display all of these traits as the foundation for success.
You’re not going to get anywhere if you don’t have the ambition to succeed. Not just any ambition. But a burning, passionate ambition. You must have a clear-cut goal and you won’t be able to declare success until you get there. You have to tell yourself that you’re never going to settle for anything less. Your dream is personal to you. It’s one of the qualities that makes you unique. You don’t just aim for the next rung up a corporate ladder, you aim for the top rung of your own personal stairway to the stars. You are ready to work harder to get there than anyone you know.
As Marilyn Monroe once put it: “I used to think as I looked out on the Hollywood night — there must be thousands of girls sitting alone like me, dreaming of becoming a movie star. But I’m not going to worry about them. I’m dreaming the hardest.”
When you have ambition you dream hardest and work hardest.
You have to believe in yourself. If you don’t believe in yourself no-one else will. Don’t underestimate your capabilities—ever. Know that you were put on this planet for a specific purpose. You are here for a reason. You were meant to do something great. Believe it and it will become reality. Yes, there will be times when your belief is challenged, when people and the system seem determined to shake your beliefs. It’s up to you to stand firm. Be unshakeable in your resolve. Don’t waver. Believe in yourself and in your mission. There will always be people who criticize. People who tell you that you’re on the wrong track. Sometimes it’s well-intentioned advice; sometimes it’s just bad advice; sometimes it’s deliberately negative because that’s who they are. The person who believes in himself is more powerful than the person who sows doubt. Have the strength of your convictions to follow your dreams.
Be brave. Be bold. Face down your worst fears. Have the courage to fight for what you believe in. It’s natural to be fearful—it’s how you handle the fear that determines the person you are. Have the courage to be different; to stand out from the crowd; to stand up against your adversaries.
In the business world there are always adversaries and competitors. There will always be challenges and mine fields. Don’t be afraid of losing some battles to win the war. Hold your head high. Whatever your mission you will find people happy to tell you that you are wrong. Sometimes you might be tempted to think they’re right. Have the courage to listen to them with an open mind, and then the courage to make your decision.
As Muhammad Ali, one of this world’s great winners, once said, “Inside of a ring or out, ain’t nothing wrong with going down. It’s staying down that’s wrong.”
Have the courage to get back up and keep fighting.
Determination is all about not giving up…no matter what. Sometimes the pressure can seem overwhelming. Sometimes the deck might seem stacked against you. That’s when you need to display true grit. The word quit does not exist in your vocabulary. You might be tempted to give in. You might question whether the hard work and commitment is going to pay off…you might wonder if it is really worth all of the effort. But you keep on going.
And you know what? The more pain you endure the greater the satisfaction when you achieve the pinnacle. Determination is falling on your face and getting back up. Never give up…that’s what determination is.
You can find inspiration from others, but at the end of the day determination is entirely up to you. No-one can give it to you or make it happen for you. It’s something that resides inside of you and that you need to bring to the surface. Most of the important things in the world have been accomplished by people who persevered against the odds.
Keep your moral compass firmly set in the right direction. It’s vital to conduct business in an above-board, honest and ethical manner. Not only is it good karma—it’s just the right thing to do. The people you work with need to know they can trust your word and that you will do what you say you will do. Integrity is absolute. You must be a man of your word, a man of character.
It’s easy to think of a hard-charging successful entrepreneur as someone who is bent on winning at all costs and willing to cut ethical corners, if necessary. But you have to be able to look at yourself in the mirror in the morning with a clear conscience. Lead an honorable, ethical life and rewards will come your way.
So, follow the A-B-C-D-E plan and you will have a rock solid foundation to achieve your greatest aspirations.