4 Things We Don’t See Prior to Success

4 Things We Don’t See Prior to Success

Preparation skills Startup Grind

When I see successful athletes, entertainers, artists or entrepreneurs I often think how easy they make it look to be successful.  They are so good at what they do that it can make the rest of us think that with just a little effort we too can make a one handed catch in the end zone, hit a 400-foot homerun or a three point shot to win the game, or achieve fame and wealth as an entrepreneur.  However, what we don’t see that led up to this level of achievement is important to understanding how they can do what they do.

  1. It starts with natural gifts – Early in their lives most of these high achievers figured out special gifts and talents they were born with. While it was not always obvious what those gifts were, they somehow figured out that they were faster or stronger than most of the other kids in the neighborhood, they could pick out tunes on a piano by ear, or that engineering projects or seeing things through an entrepreneurial lens came easy for them.
  1. Passion – Being naturally good at something is great, but if you don’t have the passion to make it “the thing you must do”, you aren’t likely to become world class at it. Are you willing to use almost all your free time to pursue it?  Would you do it all day if someone didn’t stop you?  Can you do it over and over and never tire of it?  Do you feel incomplete if you don’t do it?  That is exactly how many successful people feel about what they do.
  1. Perseverance – I’ve written about Gladwell’s 10,000 Hours Rule several times in this blog and I believe it is a key element in great success. The concept states that it takes a person 10,000 hours to master a set of skills.  That’s approximately 20 hours per week, 52 weeks per year for 10 years.  There are plenty of examples of how this played out with folks like Bill Gates, a host of professional athletes and others.  The point is that natural gifts and passion are great, but the perseverance required to push yourself to get better, to work on a project, finish a painting, or expose your body to intense physical training even when you don’t really want to or don’t think you can, is absolutely necessary to success.  Our entrepreneurial son Joshua (Battle Map) likes this quote from Lionel Messi, a world class soccer player, “I start early, and I stay late, day after day, year after year, it took me 17 years and 114 days to become an overnight success”.  Natural gifts and passion are inherent, but perseverance can be taught and is driven by heart.
  1. Support – I don’t know of any truly successful athlete, artist or entrepreneur who didn’t have great support from some source. Parents, coaches, teachers, and mentors all play a role in the lives of successful people.  Sometimes it’s a network of support and sometimes it’s just one person who has a profound influence.  This support must be there because there will be many obstacles along the path to success.  Without strong support, any of these obstacles, including injury, death of a loved one or friend, poverty, self-doubt, drugs or alcohol, can stop all progress toward the ultimate goal.

Young entrepreneurs, if you can combine these elements, people may one day say about you, “she’s an overnight success”, “man, he’s got it easy”, and “I wish I had her life”.  What most people will never understand, because you make it look so easy, is what it takes to get there.

THE TAKEAWAY – Finding your gifts and passion is a bit of a scavenger hunt.  You have to try many things and be open to the clues that indicate your gifts and passion. Once discovered, we must identify those who can support us and then do whatever it takes to get to better each day, each year until we achieve success.

Entrepreneurial Lessons from a Non-Entrepreneurial Father

Entrepreneurial Lessons from a Non-Entrepreneurial Father

Inspiration Mentorship Parenting

My father wasn’t an entrepreneur.  He was raised during the Great Depression, never attended college, worked in a foundry, sold candy, had a thirty-year career as a civil servant at a military installation, served as our small town’s first mayor and continued his mostly unpaid service in that position for sixteen of the next twenty years.  He has an elementary school, a community service award and the snack bar at a water park named after him.  How many people can say they have a bar named after them!  So what could this guy teach me about entrepreneurship?

The answer is “plenty”, although I didn’t know it at the time.  Despite never starting or running his own business, his work ethic, ability to engage and motivate people, willingness to try new things and risk failure (if you think starting a business is tough, try incorporating and running a city), team building, never ending thirst for knowledge, problem solving ability, and focus on the customer (citizens) were all entrepreneurial traits.  Dad was old school.  I don’t recall him ever actually trying to teach me any of these things.  He taught by doing and providing examples.  The rest was up to me.  We have a fancy name for this now – experiential, project based learning.  What my dad would have called “gettin’ stuff done”.

In addition to these traits, my dad was married to my mom for forty-five years and raised us three kids with her.  He never left the house without giving her a kiss and I can’t recall him ever missing an event, mostly sports related, that I was involved in.  He treated people that worked for him with respect.  He didn’t take himself too seriously and was known to dress in a bathing suit or a dress with makeup and wig (womanless beauty pageant) for a school or church charity event.  So let’s add ability to pick a great co-founder, loyalty, work-life balance, respect for others, community service, and a sense of humor to the list of entrepreneurial traits.

My dad helped found a city, but not a startup.  He scaled some fish, but never a company.  He made plenty of deals, but not with investors.  He taught me most everything I needed to know to run a startup and help others do so successfully, without ever doing it himself.  I only hope that I can have a similar impact on Joshua, our young entrepreneur. It is not lost on me that my dad’s legacy lives on in me and hopefully in our kids.  What a blessing it was to have my dad in my life.  He was my role model and mentor and I think of him every day, and especially on Father’s Day.


THE TAKEAWAY:  For all you young entrepreneurs who, like me, had a father in your life that has helped you develop your skills and knowledge, even if indirectly, I urge you to make sure they know what a positive impact they’ve had on you and how thankful you are for them.  For those of you who were blessed with strong mothers who served as both mother and father, do something very special for her on Father’s Day as well.  These moms deserve two holidays!

3 Reasons Why Silence is Key to Good Communication

3 Reasons Why Silence is Key to Good Communication


My wife is an elementary school teacher.  One of her duties is to monitor the kids while they are in the cafeteria having their lunch.  Toward the end of the lunch period, the students are asked to stop talking and prepare to leave the cafeteria.  This quiet period is referred to as “silent chew”.  I chuckle every time I hear this term because it sounds like a cool name for an Asian assassin action figure.   During one of these quiet periods, a little boy continued to talk to his friend across the table.  When Gwen asked him why he continued to talk even though they had been asked not to, he replied “It’s been in there all morning and I just have to let it out”.  I think this is how many of us feel about getting our message out.  I’ve always heard that the reason we don’t remember the names of folks we’ve just been introduced to is that we are too focused on how our name is pronounced when we are introduced to them.

Silence can be a challenge for young entrepreneurs.  They want to talk about how great their new product is and also prove to everyone that that are smarter than everyone in the room about the product and how their company will achieve success.  First of all, if you are a young entrepreneur and you are usually the smartest person in the room, you are in the wrong room much of the time.  No matter how knowledgeable you think you are about what you are doing, you can always learn more.  The first step to learning more is gathering information.  One of the best ways to do that is listening.  Here is why silence in communication matters:

  1. If we are talking, we aren’t listening – Hearing and listening are two different things. Listening is a more complex process and requires not just receiving the sound but also analyzing, pattern matching and storing it.  It is extremely difficult to talk and listen effectively at the same time.  So if you are always talking about your product and trying to build your credibility by showing how much you know, you are not listening to comments that may be invaluable to you as an entrepreneur.
  1. Use our silence to focus on listening rather than thinking about our own message – Some of us have gotten really good at appearing to listen when we are actually just thinking about what we are going to say next.  I’ve known young entrepreneurs who had their key messages in their head and were determined to get them all out regardless of the flow of the conversation.  They were like a radio that was constantly on transmit.  We don’t learn much from one way communication.
  1. We are designed to listen more that we speak – Two ears, two eyes, one mouth. When we are listening and observing we are gathering valuable data.  If we follow the intent of how our bodies are designed, we should listen and observe far more that we speak.  Turns out our parents were right when they told us we had “two ears and one mouth for a reason”.

THE TAKEAWAY:  Silence can, in fact, be golden, as long as you are using that silence to listen and learn or find a moments peace.