Note: This article also appeared in Entrepreneur Middle East, and can be viewed on the site here.
Most of us get a good deal of advice along the way in life. Whether from our grandparents, parents, teachers, mentors, good friends, books, casual conversations with perfect strangers, lines from movies – there are of course no restrictions as to where it can come from.
A lot of those words of wisdom will be guidance you can relate to and so will become part of how you do things – your own set of rules for dealing with certain scenarios or challenges in life. And much of it, however good it may have seemed at the time, will have gone in one ear and out the other.
Now at some point in your life, when you’ve had enough experience in any one thing – or just gotten enough “life” experience – it’s not a bad idea to sit down and craft a list of advice or “rules” of your own. You may be surprised at what ones you have actually been living by all this time.
And this is what I thought I would do for this article. Create a list for me to share with you. I’ll obviously keep my focus on the familiar area of entrepreneurship, which is in line with all of the material we publish here at Virtuzone. And besides that, you probably wouldn’t benefit too much from my advice on, say, relationships.
So let’s get to it. And for all you entrepreneurs out there with lists of your own, do feel free to share. I’d love to compare notes.
1. Get an early start to your day:
However you choose to start your day, make it an early start. Beat the rest of the world to the punch and don’t hit that snooze button. And I’m not talking about waking up 30 or so minutes earlier than most. Here I’m talking about a good couple of hours. And yes, that does mean getting to bed early as well. For me rising early is about productivity and control. For whatever reason I feel like I get double done in those early hours, and with the rest of the world still asleep, I am, without interruption, able to get the control I need to manage the work throughout the rest of the day. As the late English rhetorician, logician, economist, academic and theologian Richard Whately had to say about that first part of the day, “Lose an hour in the morning, and you will be all day hunting for it.”
2. Guard the company money as if it were keeping you alive:
Because it is, technically, keeping your company alive, and in so doing it is feeding you and your employees and their families. The thing about money is that it has a really funny way of disappearing very quickly when you let your guard down. I am not saying be cheap. Invest in research and development, take care of your team and hand out bonuses where warranted, and so on. But don’t give a penny out more than you have to. Ever. In the words of Benjamin Franklin, one of the Founding Fathers of the United States: “Beware of little expenses. A small leak will sink a great ship.”
3. Work on being an easier to get along with human:
You will not build much if you are not too good at getting along with others. On the flipside, if you are a gifted people person then you have the potential to build something great. Your team are your extra brains and your creators and builders, and the better you are able to connect with them the better the end result. Same goes for clients, vendors, and business partners. Just remember that being that “easier person to get along with” takes work for most people, and is something that should always be worked on. Read up on psychology to get a better understanding of not just others, but also yourself. Just don’t ever think that you are perfect and there are no more rough edges to smooth out. In the words of Scottish actor David Tennant, “I’m a good person, I hope. But I’m never as good as I want to be, never as nice as I want to be, never as generous as I want to be.”
4. Don’t work with people your gut feeling tells you are bad:
This one is a biggie, and is all about avoiding the toxic people out there. I like to believe that most people are pretty good, but I also believe that those toxic types exist in large enough numbers. Whoever they are – maybe it is someone who wants to sell you something, someone you are considering as a hire, someone who is proposing you partner up with them, etc. – if they have that toxic aura about them, then stay away. When your gut tells you something is off with someone, then listen, because the potential for harm of some kind is just about always there with these types of people. For a quote on this one, the simple will do, which we can get from Greek-American engineer and physician Peter Diamandis: “Never tolerate a toxic person in your organisation.”
5. Find a hobby you really love:
This one is so much more important than it might at first appear, because for the overly-driven entrepreneur, a true passion in the form of a hobby is often the only way he or she can fully turn off the business thoughts. You need something in your life that will help you fully step out of your business mind, and as much as we love our family and friends, the reality is that even when enjoying good times with them, the business owner’s mind is still way too much on the business. But a hobby you have an honest-to-goodness passion for – whether that is cooking, surfing, writing, volunteering time for a cause you believe in – allows you to fully step out. And you need to in order to keep your work productivity up. In the words of American journalist Sydney J. Harris, “The time to relax is when you don’t have time for it.”
6. Give back:
If you’re in the fortunate enough position to be doing well, then it’s essential that you take some of those extras and put it back into this wonderful, yet very faulty, system of ours. And by “faulty system” I am generally referring to the very imbalanced world we all live in that has never been good at ensuring we are all taken care of. Whatever country you are in, there will be people who are struggling to get by or enduring hardships, and there will be plenty of great charitable organisations that are helping to ease the pain. Donate money, items – and even your time – to those charitable organisations. It will help others, and it will help you. In the words of the late comedian Bob Hope, “If you haven’t got any charity in your heart, you have the worst kind of heart trouble.”
7. Dress the part:
Maybe I am Dubai-influenced, but the business world sure is a sharply dressed one here, and I must admit it feels right. And yes, I know, Mark Zuckerberg wears jeans and t-shirts to work just about every day, but let’s not gloss over the minor fact that he is a billionaire and his company simply can’t miss right now, meaning he pretty much sets his own rules. Take pride in how you dress and you take pride in how you work. And we are indeed needing to also make the right impression with all of those we work with – from our bankers to our clients to those junior hires. In the words of late American author, salesman, and motivational speaker, Zig Ziglar, “You cannot climb the ladder of success dressed in the costume of failure.”
8. Take care of your health:
You get but one body in this life, and if you’re like most people, you’re probably not taking good enough care of it. And here’s the thing: Life is already short enough, and while most of us are definitely not thinking about the end when we are in our earlier years, the years really do go by so very fast, and if you don’t take care of yourself, it can one day out of the blue hit you all very hard at once. But keeping this advice business-focused, there is also this: To fully apply yourself and give yourself the best chance of success in this highly competitive world, you need to be mentally and physically as good as you can be. So eat right and exercise and get your sleep, and you’ll be doing yourself and your business a lot of favours. In the words of former boxer Laila Ali, the daughter of the great Muhammad Ali, “You have to fight for your health and stay on top of it. Our bodies are meant to be healthy.”
9. Push harder than you think:
I’ll leave you with what is for me the most important one for any entrepreneur wishing to build to greatness: Expect to put in way more of an effort to achieve that success than you think you will need to put in. When you have a great idea and you just know there is a need for it in the marketplace, you’ll still need to make it happen. There are so many potential things that could set you back, and if you let them, you’ll find yourself with a thousand reasons to quit along the way. Push your team hard, never settle for anything less than product or service perfection, and believe me when I tell you this: Just when you think it cannot get any harder, it will. But that is also when you are closest to winning, and it is also where so many people give up (that is, when you are actually closer to the goal than you think). Quoting the wisdom of 19th century born American writer, publisher, artist, and philosopher, Elbert Hubbard, “A little more persistence, a little more effort, and what seemed hopeless failure may turn to glorious success.”