Working undercover to recruit foreign spies to work with the U.S. Government was always a gamble: the failure rate was high, the emotional toll was hard, and it took a lot of hard work.
I learned that my success was inexorably linked to the choices I made regarding attitude and subsequent actions. More often than not, it was the choice I made to kick myself into high gear rather than relying on someone else to do the kicking.
Sounds a lot like starting a new business! Entrepreneurs know that the failure rate is high, the emotional toll on them will be hard, and that it will take a lot of hard work.
So what makes one entrepreneur succeed when so many small businesses fail? Whether working undercover or starting a new business, there are choices we make that lead to a higher likelihood of success.
Here are 7 things successful entrepreneurs never do:
1. SUCCESSFUL ENTREPRENEURS NEVER GIVE UP
As an undercover agent, it was often difficult to get introduced to the subject of an undercover investigation—most foreign spies do not want to meet an FBI agent in person!
Grit, however, kept me moving forward—especially when things didn’t go according to plan. I never made the mistake of believing that just because a way out, or through, a situation was not obvious that there weren’t ways around those roadblocks. What I needed was mental toughness to push through the barriers I encountered.
According to Harvard researchers, persistence and grit is essential for entrepreneurs—they need to be able to deal with obstacles and roadblocks.
Prospective clients might present a lot of excuses for not getting back in touch with you; yet, if you are persistent in trying to make things happen, your chances for success vastly improve.
2. SUCCESSFUL ENTREPRENEURS NEVER STOP FLIRTING WITH FAILURE
If I whined and cried every time one of my undercover operations failed, I would have ended up on Team B running leads for other agents instead of calling my own shots on Team A. I did a postmortem on each failed operation and explored why the operation failed so I could learn from the experience.
Making a mistake is not the problem. What is not acceptable is making the same mistakes over and over—if you do, you’re either stupid or incompetent.
Look at your mistakes as opportunities to grow and improve. Be willing to keep trying until you get it right. Learn from past mistakes so you can make better decisions in the future.
“Life is hard. It’s even harder when you’re stupid”—John Wayne
3. SUCCESSFUL ENTREPRENEURS NEVER BACK AWAY FROM CHALLENGES
FBI agents know that emotions like fear and anger are OK; it’s complacency that will kill them. Awareness of their fear doesn’t mean they back away from the unknown; instead, they move through it with a sound strategy and a resilient mindset.
It takes resilience to deal with constant challenges, some of those you anticipated and some that come at you from left field.
You’ll face complex financial problems, long hours, sudden changes, and market predictions that are never reliable. Success is not so much a matter of how many obstacles in your path but how you respond to them.
Successful entrepreneurs are resilient and are able to face constant challenges without ever weakening their determination to keep moving forward.
4. SUCCESSFUL ENTREPRENEURS NEVER SPIN THEIR WHEELS IN A RUT
I learned early that our comfort zone is a dangerous place—it can be a dark and deep abyss where it’s possible to lose yourself entirely in mediocrity. Staying in your comfort zone is giving up on life.
Get out of your rut and experience breakthroughs by pushing through the discomfort and uncertainty you are feeling. Strong minds continually expand their boundaries and enlarge their territory, both personally and professionally.
Entrepreneurs with mental toughness always do something that they’re not ready to do because they know that’s how they grow.
5. SUCCESSFUL ENTREPRENEURS NEVER LEAVE THEIR “WHY” BEHIND
It was my passion for the job that what got me through the FBI Academy. It was hard for me and I was almost washed out. But I had found a career that gave me both value and meaning, and I wasn’t going to let the opportunity slip away.
It is impossible to be a successful entrepreneur if you aren’t passionate about your work. You must understand why you are excited to come to work everyday. And if you can’t find that sort of excitement, you owe it to yourself to pack up and find something that does.
You don’t have to like every task you have to perform or every person you have to work with, but at the end of the day, you must be in touch with your passion and find a career that provides you with both value and meaning.
6. SUCCESSFUL ENTREPRENEURS NEVER BLAME OTHERS FOR THEIR SITUATION IN LIFE
No one is owed anything in life. We were born, and at some point, we must take responsibility for where we end up. If we want something, it’s up to us to make it happen.
This may come as a big shock to lots of people, but there are no handouts in life. So stop whining, pointing fingers, or blaming others when things don’t work out.
Successful entrepreneurs with mental toughness rely on backbones rather than wishbones to make their success happen.
7. SUCCESSFUL ENTREPRENEURS NEVER CONSIDER THEMSELVES A VICTIM
One of the most important lessons I learned while working undercover is the importance of always maintaining a positive attitude. I found that mental toughness becomes most apparent in the midst of adversity.
Be smart—learn how to identify your negative thoughts when they arise and replace them with positive ones.
Often, life is not what is happening to you; rather, it is your attitude about your situation. Studies show that positive thinkers are more likely to listen to negative information about their business or competition than pessimists, because they think they can do something about it.
Successful entrepreneurs with mental toughness always find the positive and run with it.
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