How To Develop An Entrepreneurial Mindset (Lessons From Dan Sullivan)

Dan Sullivan
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Many people say that being an entrepreneur is something you’re born with, and that an entrepreneurial mindset is simply part of who you are. While I think there may be some truth to that, I also think that mindsets can be developed and expanded.

I often say that mindset is all about experience. The experiences you have throughout your life and what you choose to take away from them will ultimately make up your mindset, whether you realize it or not.

And when we look at it that way, it becomes clear that anyone has the ability to develop an entrepreneurial mindset. Your mindset is simply a culmination of what you’ve learned from experiences throughout your life—so if you can understand how to learn from your experiences, you can develop an entrepreneurial mindset.

My Outward Bound experience.

When I was young, I chose to participate in an Outward Bound course in Scotland. If you’re unfamiliar with Outward Bound, it’s a program where you focus on outdoor, physical challenges with a group. It’s a fantastic opportunity for young people to grow and learn more about themselves.

When I arrived in Scotland, I joined 71 people from the UK and set out on a 26-day course filled with mountain climbing, sailing, and hiking. I wasn’t the most athletic or the most physically fit, but I loved it.

There was one particular experience I had during this time of my life that changed my mindset forever. I didn’t realize it at the time, but this was perhaps the first step I took toward developing my own entrepreneurial mindset.

We were tasked with completing a 50-mile hike in ten days through the Scottish Highlands, with heavy packs. In the middle of the second day, I had hit my limit. I sat down on a rock and told our guide that I didn’t think I could make it … I was ready to give up. I told him I couldn’t go on.

The guide looked at me and he said, “Is this where you stop?”

He said it in a very nonchalant way and I was a bit confused by what he meant. He repeated himself: “Well, everyone stops. Is this where you stop?”

It caught me off guard, and I told him no. I wasn’t going to stop there; I was going to stop somewhere a bit further along the trail. So I kept going, and when we got to the next spot, he asked me again. I said no, and this kept up throughout the rest of the day. I got to a point where I just decided to keep going.

When I woke up the next morning, I had no intentions of stopping. I was ready to keep going no matter what happened. And at the end of the trip, the guide told me something that really opened my eyes. He told me that I had just experienced the make-or-break moment in my life.

And he was right. If I had stopped, I would have had the temptation to quit anytime I experienced anything difficult in my life. During that hike, I showed myself that I could accomplish anything that was put in front of me. Looking back on it, that moment was one of the foundational experiences that formed my entrepreneurial mindset.

My Outward Bound experience has become the basis for nearly everything we do in Strategic Coach, and it’s just one of many experiences that has deeply affected my life.

Want to hear more about Dan’s life? Check out the documentary about his life and how he built Strategic Coach, called Game Changer: The Dan Sullivan Story. It’s a fascinating story. Watch it for free here.

Making the most of your experiences.

For anyone who is wondering how to develop an entrepreneurial mindset, I have one simple answer:

Learn from your experiences.

Everyone has experiences throughout their life. If you can extract value and insights from those experiences, you can learn how to develop an entrepreneurial mindset.

To put it simply, you could have two individuals who have the exact same experience. One of them walks away from the experience without learning anything. The other is able to generate a constant flow of new insights and ideas out of that exact same experience. That person will learn how to create new services and add more value out of each experience they have throughout their life.

And that’s just getting started.

Once you’ve learned how to make the most of your experiences, you’ve gotten through the door of entrepreneurship. You’ve begun to develop your entrepreneurial mindset, and everything that happens after is a function of that mindset.

Being an entrepreneur isn’t about grinding or putting in the most hours. It’s about finding the easiest way to your solution—and when you learn how to develop an entrepreneurial mindset, that’s what you’re doing. You’re taking all of the experiences, insights, and teachings you’ve had and using them to figure out how to get to your solution, how to create new services or products, and how to add value.

So, are you ready to learn from your experiences?