An athlete breaking the world record for a hundred meters sprint is obviously an exceptional human being, capable of extraordinary performance. Athletes don’t get to the point where they break a world record by playing solo slim.

What about the parents that brought them to every training? The trainers pushing the athlete when they thought they couldn’t go on anymore. The physicians, the fans, a whole entourage, all assisting the athlete. When the athlete wins, the entire team wins.

I often hear: Rome wasn’t built in a day… Well, it sure wasn’t built by one person alone either.

The way to win in life is to look for synergies and keep looking for new ones as you go along.

little things

Are ngato gozamas. That’s what I said upon having my Japanese take-out meal handed to me while making a bow. Even though I could only see the eyes, due to her face mask, the tiny chef seemed to be instantly filled with joy. She, of course, returned the gesture and expressed tons of gratitude. Thanking me for my business as I made my way out the door.

Switch positions. In this case, I was the customer, but as the provider of goods and services, there is tremendous potential to invest in these seemingly random acts of kindness.

Random acts of kindness are immensely undervalued. The little, surprising moments of delight you offer within your product or service, throughout your customer journey, really make a difference. With the potential to create a long-lasting impact.

expected goal

Expectation is the root of all heartache. A quote usually attributed to Shakespeare, but as it turns out, Shakespeare never said that. Regardless, when we build up expectations in life, there is much potential to be let down eventually. Obviously, instead of disappointment, a delightful surprise could manifest itself just as well.

If we can avoid disappointment, why go through the pain? A pleasant surprise, on the other hand, is more often than not a welcome event.

In business (as opposed to life in general), that’s not really the case. Not formulating expectations is a recipe for disaster.

While launching new initiatives, a clear expectation must be articulated prior to launching them.

choices made for us

A muffled “krak”-like sound. That’s what I heard when I landed out of a jump in rehearsal. With that sound, something in my knee snapped. Finishing my dancing career in the theater in the blink of an eye.

One lousy landing wiped away everything I had vigorously worked for in an instant. All the holidays sacrificed. All the things regular kids were able to do. Had it all been for nothing? Training to be a dancer is similar to training to be an elite athlete, with an added layer of artistry.

From the outside in, it may seem like entrepreneurs always are their own bosses and that they’re able to make every little choice in their career for themselves. Unfortunately, that’s not the case.

This one goes out to all the entrepreneurs who had choices made for them. Entrepreneurs forced to quit due to road works in the street of their shop. Restaurant keepers taking heavy blows due to lockdown regulations. Co-owners who have no choice but to forfeit because their partners decide to quit.

If you ever have a choice made for you, know that the sparkle, your unique ability to do what you have been doing in your entrepreneurial career is still there. You must find a way to re-apply it, perhaps in a different domain.

Choices made for us impact us differently as opposed to choices we deliberately make for ourselves.

possibilities paralysis

Adversity caused by limited options isn’t necessarily a bad thing. While having (too) many options may seem desirable. It’s not always the case.

Surely, by now, many are familiar with the paradox of choice or “choice overload” principle. Presenting consumers with many options doesn’t necessarily boost sales, quite the contrary. As studied by Sheena Iyengar from Columbia – and Mark Lepper from Stanford University.

An overfunded company has the luxury to try a couple of things simultaneously. Launch a bunch of new features, enter a new market segment, and so on. This can lead to possibilities paralysis.

A company that is underfunded, on the other hand, doesn’t have that same luxury. Arguably, in the absence of that luxury, focus increases. It’s like a hit or miss situation. Probably the reason why Amazon’s motto is: it’s always day one. This isn’t a plea for deliberately underfunding your company. Being chronically underfunded is expert-level adversity and can take the “living soul” out of a company.

Maybe entrepreneurs are sadomasochistic in a weird way. Sometimes, actively looking for adversity can be a good thing. Starting a company isn’t: maybe I’ll do some of this, and then some of that, and maybe some of this as well.

Starting a company is do or die.

defying conventions

Society shapes us. We behave in ways — consciously and unknowingly — that fit into a set of (un)spoken agreements.

To do business in a particular society means to have a profound, empathic understanding of how that society works. Or does it?

Setting up a bakery in some parts of the world, and closing down on Sunday morning, is probably a bad idea. In other parts of the world, closing down a bakery on Friday or Saturday morning would be a terrible idea.

What’s true of established business models isn’t necessarily true for novel business models.

To go where no business has gone before means throwing off the shackles. Nothing but bold moves, defying (societal) conventions every step of the way.

Standing out doesn’t happen by blending in.

don’t hurry worry

Troubles ahead cause us to worry. Whether they’re challenges to overcome, an arduous journey to embark on, or problems to solve. In an attempt to plan ahead, worries might arise, and that’s fine.

The troubles start when momentarily too many worries accumulate. Our mind RAM gets overloaded, and if we’re unsuccessful at decreasing the dimensionality of the problem, we might get stuck in analysis paralysis.

Now you’re stuck with a sequence of contingent worries. However, there is a big chance that the second worry in line might no longer be relevant once the first worry gets tackled.

Worry, one worry at a time.

i need you to want me to win

We’re products of our environment, and we take after people we spend time with. Knowing this, depending on what we’d like to achieve, we could change our environments. We could even hang out with different people. Birds of a feather flock together after all.

One of the best pieces of entrepreneurial advice I ever got is this; smart people will save your business. Uncomplicated, straightforward, and most entrepreneurs will realize this by default. However, when you’re in the trenches, it’s easy to forget to reach out to friends and mentors or even networking altogether.

In “Don’t Push Me50 Cent raps; I need you to care for me, and I need you to want me to win. I need to know where I’m heading ’cause I know where I’ve been”.

Actively look for those people who are cheering you on relentlessly. Not the ones who, after the facts, say, I was with them from day one, and I always knew they’d make it. No. People who actively lift you up.

People who don’t wholeheartedly want you to win have arguably little to contribute to your life.

corporate personality

Companies have feelings too, determined by their personalities.

For small companies, let’s say five to twenty-five people, the company’s personality will be an amalgam of every individual personality working with the company. What’s true of personality is also true of culture. Cultures can’t be enforced or artificially created.

Some say people barely ever change. Apart from severe trauma, nothing impacts our personality in such a way that we change fundamentally overnight. Granted, we can be made aware of certain behaviors and then train our responses, should we want to make slight alterations to our personality.

Companies, on the other hand, have more ways of actively steering their personality. Depending on the brand, certain types of personalities might make more sense. Should your brand be perceived as funny, cocky, bold, serious, humble?

There is no right or wrong. However, standing out in a crowd, or saturated market for that matter, probably doesn’t happen by being bland.

Regardless of which characteristics you wish to see translated into your company, integrity and humility always win.

anticipation training

We can anticipate some situations, definitely not all. Nevertheless, we can train ourselves to deal with both types of cases as they arise.

Those situations that we can anticipate, we should anticipate. Full stop.
If you’re selling ice cream, you should probably expect reduced revenue during wintertime. Many businesses deal with cyclical seasonality in one way or another. Ideally, strategical planning occurs as meticulously as possible.

For customer-facing businesses and jobs, anticipating should be done as wholeheartedly as possible. This is what the Japanese refer to as omotenashi. From a customer-centricity point of view, we should understand our customer’s desires before they can even express them. After all, who doesn’t like to be catered to their needs?

Situations that we can’t anticipate, on the other hand, require mindset training. In the end, you can’t control what you can’t control, so predicting the unknown consumes much energy. These types of situations require, when they manifest themselves, a combination of flexibility and resilience.

Anticipate when you can. Train your mindset for when you can’t.