Position yourself for growth in 2017—join us live at the Entrepreneur 360™ Conference in Long Beach, Calif. on Nov. 16. Secure Your Seat »
The entrepreneurial spirit lights a flame of hope in the hearts and minds of people near and far. For most, it’s a symbolic journey, one that delves deep into the far-reaches of their minds, revealing their deepest hopes and dreams, illuminating the pathway to self-discovery and eventual financial freedom.
Yet, as enticing as it sounds to launch a new business, it’s also fraught with challenges that run to the core of who we are inside. It’s a journey with long and windy roads, twisting and turning their way through a sea of despair and struggle, battling against our darkest and most salient fears, forcing us to furiously fight our way towards the shores of hope and prosperity.
Clearly, it’s not easy running a business. But don’t tell that to the wild-eyed innovators who have their sights set on achieving monumental success. Don’t tell that to the entrepreneurs who’ve endured doubt and questions as to their abilities, their entire lives. That won’t dismay or dissuade them at the outset. No, it most certainly won’t.
However, as exciting as the start of any entrepreneurial journey is, we also know how mentally, emotionally, spiritually, physically, and of course, financially taxing it can be to run and manage a business in the long term. In fact, it’s so difficult that eight out of every 10 businesses in the United States fails after just 18 months of operations. Even more shocking? After 10 years, only four out of every 100 businesses are still around.
If those statistics aren’t enough to stifle you from charging headfirst into the world of commerce, then you’re not alone because 28 million small businesses are operating in the United States with an additional 22 million professionals that are self-employed. Clearly, the entrepreneurial flame is alive and well in the hearts and minds of many, not just in the U.S., but around the world.
Considering that only 20 percent of businesses reach that 18-month mark and that 96 percent of all businesses disappear within 10 years, the question that beckons most has very much to do with just how a business can succeed in the long term. While it’s easy enough to start a business, it’s obvious that longevity is what eludes us most.
I pose this question because the answers are far more fundamental than what most people think. There’s a reason why investors invest in the people behind the business rather than the business or the idea itself. You can have a groundbreaking idea for an innovation or a revolutionary new product and launch a business with it, but that doesn’t mean you’ll succeed.
If the person running the business lacks the fundamental building-blocks of a successful entrepreneur, no matter how much money is pumped into that business, nor what strategy is employed, it will eventually fail. Maybe not today. Maybe not tomorrow. But eventually. And 10 years from now, that business will be all but a distant memory.
So what is this magic recipe for long-term success in business? What’s the formula that some of the world’s most successful entrepreneurs employ to see things through? Clearly, you need to be agile, innovative, productive and an effective with your actions to succeed, but you also need to instill a set of good daily habits so that you can automate your success.
Habits hold the gateway to success in any endeavor. Not only do the habits we hold dictate the quality of our lives, but they also reflect our potential for success. Bad habits will always hold us back, especially when it comes to running a business with any staying power. Yet, it’s not just about eliminating the bad habits, you need to instill the right habits for entrepreneurial success.
The world’s most successful entrepreneurs have endured some of the most trying times. They’ve endured countless failures along the way to business success, with endless headaches and restless nights. But they didn’t give up. If you look at some of the most famous people who’ve failed in the world, there are, in fact, five core habits that stand out.
Considering that one study determined that habits comprise 45 percent of daily behavior, by instilling the right habits, we’ll default to a better set of actions without having to think about it. This automation is what helped the world’s most successful entrepreneurs achieve their lofty goals. Emulate their habits, and you just might be able to emulate their accomplishments.
However, before diving into the specific habits, let’s briefly look at habit development. We all know that it’s hard to form good habits or to quit our bad habits. Neural pathways that form in the mind etch deep connections between the neural networks that comprise much of our thoughts, emotions and resultant actions. And overcoming those neural pathways can seem nearly impossible at times.
The micro-changes approach to habit development.
What’s the best way to instill the right daily habits into your life? Use what’s called the micro-changes approach. This is the absolute best way to get a habit to stick. Considering that it takes, on average, 18 to 254 days to form a habit, there’s a tall mountain to climb of repetitive behavior. Yet, if you try to go from zero to hero overnight, you’ll see yourself fail and revert back to the old, more comfortable, habits.
Related: 8 Habits of Wildly Successful People
The micro-changes approach works like this. Take any habit you’re looking to instill, and break it down into bite-sized pieces. For example, let’s just say you want to work out every day for 45 minutes. Well, start with just 3 push-ups. Or, get outside your house and walk for just 3 minutes. The point? The commitment has to be so small, that’s it impossible to fail at it.
The point with the micro-changes approach is that you need to be consistent. So, if you decide to do three push-ups per day, you have to stick to it. What will happen after a few days is that you’ll want to increase that action. So, if you do three push-ups per day for the first few days, you might find yourself moving up to four push-ups the following few days. You simply have to keep increasing it as you go, but stick to the minimum amount you committed to.
When we skip a day of doing something, any behavior, it’s incredibly hard to go back. We lose the momentum, which is why the micro-changes approach is important. For example, if you decide to walk for three minutes, possibly go for a walk around your block, you have to do it every day and increase that time every few days or every week.
Any of the following habits can be created over time by using the micro-changes approach. You can even use it to quit your bad habits by slowly limiting them over an extended period until they’re gone. It isn’t easy. You have to be conscious of what you’re doing. But if you’re committed enough to it, you’ll achieve your habit-development goals in time.
1. Waking up early.
Apple’s CEO Tim Cook sends out company emails by 4:30 a.m. every day with a visit to the gym shortly after at 5 a.m. One of the world’s most successful CEOs knows a thing or two about the importance of getting up early. But he’s not the only one. Disney’s CEO, Robert Iger wakes up at 4:30 a.m. and so does Howard Schultz who also gets a workout in before showing up to the office at 6 a.m.
But there’s a reason why they and countless others of the world’s most successful individuals wake up that early. It’s in the early-morning hours, when the world is still and silent, that we can focus and concentrate best on our efforts, to see things through and push towards our long-term goals.
Even for those people that don’t consider themselves as morning persons, the daily success habit of waking up early can be achieved with the micro-changes approach as long as you stay consistent. For this, simply wake up 15 minutes earlier the first week, then another 15 minutes earlier the following week, and so on. Do it until you reach your wake-up-hour goal.
2. Effective time management.
Time is life’s greatest equalizer. We all have the same amount of time in the day. It doesn’t matter who we are, where we’re from, the color of our skin, religion, and so on, we all still just get 24 hours in a day. That’s 86,400 seconds. That’s it. Not more and not less.
What does make a difference, however, is just how we use the precious time we do have. Do we squander it? Or do we use it effectively, masterfully managing our time to achieve our goals? The world’s most successful people are also some of the world’s best managers of their time. If you’re serious about long-term success, then you need to instill this daily habit into your life.
Use the quadrant-time-management system, first envisioned by the late President Dwight D. Eisenhower, and later popularized by Stephen R. Covey in his book, “7 Habits of Highly Effective People.” You’ll find this to be the best strategy for managing your time and eventually achieving your goals.
3. Daily goal setting.
Not only do successful entrepreneurs set long-term goals, but they also engage in daily goal setting. They set goals every single day based on what they want to achieve in the long term. The daily goals help to provide clarity at a smaller scale, rather than being overwhelmed by the enormity of those monumental goals we want to achieve years down the line.
Benjamin Franklin was known for asking the question “What good have I done today?” at the end of every single day. By knowing that he would ask that question, he was better able to set the right goals each day to stay on track, as hard as it might have seemed at times for him to do so.
Steve Jobs was also one that asked himself a question every day while looking in the mirror. In a commencement speech to Stanford University graduates, he told the audience that his question was, “If today were the last day of your life, would you want to be doing what you’re doing?” He later went on to state that, “Whenever the answer has been no for too many days in a row, I know I need to change something.”
4. Meticulous planning.
It’s great to set goals, but harder to achieve them when we fail to plan. The world’s most successful entrepreneurs are meticulous planners. You need to determine how you’re going to get from Point A to Point B to give yourself direction and to better understand how you’ll approach the finish line in the future.
Think about a plane for a moment. Every airplane has a goal. Its goal is to fly from one city to the next, leave at a certain date and time, and arrive at another date and time. Yet, there is tremendous amounts of planning that go into that goal. The plane has to plan its projected direction of travel, air speed, elevation and so on.
Similar to the plane, you need to plan your route to your goals. Creating a massive action plan, and tracking your progress on a daily basis, will also allow you to overcome any difficulties or change your approach if you see that something isn’t working. When a plane hits turbulence or air-traffic congestion, it changes direction, elevation or speed so that it can eventually reach its intended target.
5. Persistent action.
The cliché of taking action has been hammered home in the self-help genre for ages. Everyone speaks about taking action, but not everyone can follow through and do it. We get sidetracked and veer off track. Things come up and we lose our focus or we end up procrastinating towards our goals.
However, this is by far one of the most important daily habits you can have to reach eventual success. Still, the problem is overcoming the silent killer known as procrastination. However, there is a so-called hack for this. It’s called the 15-minute rule. Take the one thing that you’ve been putting off for the longest, set a timer on your phone, and do it for just 15 minutes.
All it takes is 15 minutes. Don’t promise yourself more than that. Just 15 minutes. What you’ll come to find is that after those 15 minutes are up, you’ll have built some momentum and you might keep going. And even if you don’t continue, you’ll have broken the stifling pattern of procrastination.