The Difference Between Successful And Unsuccessful Entrepreneurs

Dan Sullivan
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I’m frequently asked, Why are some entrepreneurs successful while others aren’t? You might find my answer surprising. It comes down to one word: habits.

Habits are what people do automatically every day. They’re the result of focusing on certain actions and practicing them until you’re very, very good at them. These actions then become automatic.

In the beginning, you’re conscious that you’re performing an action, and it may even be difficult because it doesn’t seem natural. But the more you repeat this action, practice it, and improve it day by day, it becomes automatic behavior.

Successful or unsuccessful?

In life, there are countless areas governed by habits. But, of course, the pivotal point is: Is it a successful habit or is it an unsuccessful habit? Does it produce really great results, or does it produce a negative result?

Think of a severe alcoholic whose whole life revolves around having the next drink. As far as being a “successful” drunk, they probably have a whole set of successful habits that works for them. They know exactly when the liquor store opens in the morning, and they’re probably never late. They’ve got all the knowledge and every skill down pat, and they’re totally disciplined to this set of habits. The problem is, society doesn’t see their habits as successful. In fact, they’re seen as self-destructive and highly unsuccessful.

Successful habits are always the difference between success and non-success. My advice to the entrepreneurs I work with is not to worry about the things outside of yourself that you can’t control. Concentrate only on the habits you’ve chosen to cultivate, make automatic, and always perform successfully in your daily life.

“Successful people have successful habits; unsuccessful people have unsuccessful habits.” Dan Sullivan

The highly successful entrepreneur.

An entrepreneur who has been successful for 20 or 30 years and is at the top of their game has taken hundreds of different activities and turned them into a seamless system of actions. They’ve then internalized and made automatic any number of these, creating very successful habits.

These entrepreneurs consistently go through entire days where their skill and knowledge and success are at a peak, and for much of this time they’re not conscious at all about their performance. They’ve internalized a set of highly successful habits that results in everyone around them seeing their performance as masterly.

It’s no different than a top professional athlete. At this level, they aren’t thinking about each move they make during a game. That happened years ago when they were children on the practice field. Now after years and years of honing their skills, how they react to what’s going on in the game is totally automatic.

What I’ve aimed to do for 40 years is to keep identifying the actions, the behavior on my part that will always be successful, no matter how the world changes, and internalizing those actions into habits.

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A habit that has shaped my success.

Early in life I unwittingly began a habit that opened up new worlds for me: asking questions. Because of the age difference between my siblings and me, and growing up on a farm, I spent a lot of time on my own. This discovery was a revelation.

It led to my decision very early in my entrepreneurial career to base my entire future on being a creator of really great questions, training myself how to ask questions that open up people’s thinking and imagination, that help them identify their motivation and decision-making.

This is a habit that can work well for anyone, but especially for entrepreneurs.
At Strategic Coach, we want our entrepreneurs to stop worrying about having all the great answers, and instead focus on putting the many successful habits in place to be the inventor, the presenter, and the very skilled questioner.

That never goes out of style, never gets old. And no matter what your industry, no matter what the latest technology is, asking great questions will never become obsolete. Consider making it the one success habit you choose to focus on going forward.


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