How To Be A Successful Entrepreneur

Dan Sullivan
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There’s no point in being an entrepreneur and doing it half-heartedly. If you don’t go at it full-bore, you get caught between two worlds with none of the advantages of either. In order to be successful, you need to shift your thinking and behaviors about who you are and what your intended future will look like.

There’s no alternative.

Back in 1978, just four years after I’d gone out on my own, I went bankrupt because I just hadn’t learned yet how to be a successful entrepreneur. I went to see my bank manager, who was a very nice man, but he’d been a banker for 30 years, and it was the only world he knew. In our meeting, he said to me, “Why don’t you stop this nonsense? You’re a writer, you’re an artist. Why don’t you go back and get a job?”

“Because there’s just no possibility of that,” I answered.

“Well,” he said, “I guess that’s the difference between an entrepreneur and someone in my position: I believe there are always alternatives.”

I replied, “No, there’s no alternative. Whatever pain or hardship I have to go through, I’ll go through it until I’ve learned whatever I need to learn in order to become really successful.”

Arriving at this decision signified a real shift in my thinking, because from that point forward, I simply couldn’t be distracted. I wasn’t open to alternatives—I was going for it.

Make the commitment — and don’t look back.

I’m reminded of the Greek generals who, on reaching enemy shores, sent their men into battle and ordered their own boats to be burned. They said, “The only way we’re sailing back to Greece is in their boats.”

That’s a very entrepreneurial attitude. What the generals did was cut off the alternatives. They decided in the literal sense of the word “decide,” which shares the same Latin root as “homicide”: “to kill.” When you truly decide, you kill off the alternatives. They’re no longer available to you.

Many human beings never make a fundamental decision about anything and thereby deprive themselves of the enormous motivation and focus that come from fully committing yourself to an endeavor.

It’s not about you anymore.

One of the key things I learned since making those first two decisions—that there was no alternative and that I would persist until I’d learned how to be successful—is that it can’t be about you.

If you want to be a successful entrepreneur, your business has to be about using your talent to help someone else move toward their goals so their life becomes better. Then, as a result of creating that value, you’re rewarded.

This is where the money proposition comes in. It’s a loop: You create value, you’re rewarded, you create more value, you receive a bigger reward. And it all comes down to mastering the right attitudes.

If you want to know how to be a successful entrepreneur, start with making these three resolutions:

  1. Decide that there is no alternative.
  2. Commit to going through whatever it takes to learn how to be successful.
  3. Realize that it’s not about you.

When you have these attitudes, the world suddenly looks different. It’s not about your security; it’s about their opportunity. There’s a simplicity that enters your life when you realize that.