not personal

It’s not personal Sonny. It’s strictly business. One of Al Pacino’s perhaps most famous lines from The Godfather.

The statement is both true and false.

The goal of a business is to form a legal entity around a model that creates value and profits. Naturally, everything that occurs to the company doesn’t happen to you personally. Therefore, snarky comments made at your business should glide right off you.

On the other hand, what’s really at stake without any personal involvement whatsoever? A deep and thorough empathic understanding of your customer’s problem is needed.

Don’t take it personally, Sonny, but do get personally involved. That’s my take.

full-contact sport

Entrepreneurship is a full-contact sport.

You need a lot of warming up and permanently train for strength and stamina. Unfortunately, not everyone fights fair, so blows below the belt will be dealt.

Get knocked down seven times, crawl back up eight times.

chameleon

Entrepreneurs are versatile. Not necessarily experts in a particular domain, but an extensive interest in a wide array of topics.

When a new challenge comes along, they submerge themselves in a bath of knowledge to quickly get an understanding.

One of the greatest characteristics that go along with the above personality traits is the ability to behave like a chameleon.

Whether it’s in a board meeting, pitching to investors, connecting with the target audience, or interviewing employees, entrepreneurs have to be able to blend into entirely different worlds quickly.

environment dictates attitude

We’re all a product of our environment. Depending on where you grow up, the nature and nurture aspects of our personalities are heavily influenced by that same environment.

The environment isn’t limited to a physical location. Your environment is composed of the combination of the (five) people you spend the most time with.

You can train your attitude. Work towards a different mindset, day in, day out. However, without occasionally moving in the circles you aspire to be in, it’s tough to reside in said circles permanently.

The environment you operate in determines your attitude.

impress yourself

Trying to impress someone has very little to do with you. It has almost everything to do with the actual person you’re trying to impress. Maybe the person is easy to impress, or quite the opposite? Perhaps they’re having a bad day? Chasing values that you have no control over at all is generally not the best idea.

Like Ernest Hemingway once said: “There is nothing noble in being superior to your fellow man; true nobility is being superior to your former self.”

If you must impress someone, impress yourself.

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.

fake it till you break it

Insincere behavior can’t be hidden. Sooner or later, it will surface. Some people suffering from imposter syndrome aren’t suffering from imposter syndrome. They’re imposters. Not an attempt at delegitimizing imposter syndrome because it’s a real and debilitating limitation for some people.

Fake it till you make it sounds cool. Perhaps one of the reasons it’s an overly popular cliché. Again, ingenuine behavior bubbles are easy to burst. That’s why pretending to be someone who already made it is terrible advice.

Faking (power) poses and non-verbal communication is something else. Social psychologist Amy Cuddy, PhD explains in her “Your body language may shape who you are” TED talk; there are ways for us to trick our minds into boosting our confidence. This idea is often summarized as fake it till you make it, but the risk of misinterpretation is substantial.

I prefer people around me behaving sincerely. However, at the very beginning of launching a new product or service, there is some room for faking.

Aiming for a billion users certainly shows ambition but won’t happen overnight. That’s why there is absolutely no use in replicating Facebook’s infrastructure to serve one billion customers. Still, the image of your company should exude that very same ambition even though it can only, temporarily, serve ten customers.

Fake it till you break it.

There is no need to over-engineer the infrastructure and (production) processes from the start. Keep your company as lean as possible up until the point it is about to break. However, a clear vision and some preparations should be in place to jump to the next level at the very moment it’s required.

(un)missable

What’s the difference between an employee and a founder? One wants to be unmissable, while the other wants to be as missable as possible.

If employees make themselves unmissable, the company needs them more, so they’ll be harder to fire. This status will increase job security for the employee and help them climb the career ladder within that company.

Entrepreneurs, on the other hand, have to make themselves super missable. If they fail to do so, they themselves become the business.

Scaling a human being is hard. Apart from some productivity tweaks, at the end of the day, there are but 24 hours. Scaling a business is difficult as well but significantly easier than scaling an actual person.

Chances are, the easier it is for an entrepreneur to move into the background, the easier it is to grow the company. For an entrepreneur to take a step down, every process, every piece of knowledge must be well documented, easily transferrable, and readily accessible.

If you are the business, you don’t have a business.

a little much

Forever running out of time. Literally. Overly self-disciplined people can be tough on themselves. Too tough even. Always pushing the envelope, trying to squeeze the lemon to the very last drop.

The feeling that coincides with running out of time is likely a result of biting off more than you can chew. Quick fix? Take smaller bites.

There are many frameworks and matrixes to organize professional work.
Take the ICE system, for instance, coined by Sean Ellis. Tasks that could accelerate growth for a company get scored. All three parameters, namely: impact, confidence, ease, are graded on a scale of zero to five. The tasks with the highest score out of fifteen are probably, from a strategic point of view, the ones to attend to first.

What about frameworks for people where business and leisure are heavily intertwined? Ideally, work can be switched on or off, at least in our minds. Still, for entrepreneurs, that’s often rather challenging to achieve.
An extra parameter is required. Joy. Does this task bring me any joy?

In an always-on world, reconsider if the task you think you have to do, is one that actually has to be done, or one that you are tricking yourself into thinking that it’s an absolute must?

For the remaining tasks, add joy to the impact confidence and ease mix for a kinder prioritization.

stupidity isn’t a handicap

In politics, stupidity is not a handicap. That’s what Napoleon Bonaparte allegedly once said. Does this thought-provoking statement hold ground in a business context?

The above statement can be interpreted in numerous ways.
Fake news travels faster than real news. So if ignorance truly is bliss, the politician (or entrepreneur) could literally spread lies unknowingly.

It could also mean that if a politician or entrepreneur is stupid at one point in time but has a burning willingness to learn and overcome ignorance, stupidity isn’t a handicap. It’s just a temporary setback.

The first definition is unsustainable in the long run. The second one shows enormous potential.

Be anti-fragile. Dare to admit you are currently “stupid,” but with ambition and eagerness to learn, all that can change (quickly).