To succeed, sometimes you must fly in the face of convention. Trailblazers and members of The Oracles expose widely-held business beliefs that simply aren’t true — and what to do instead.
1. “You need the right background to succeed.”
I first had the idea for Canva when building the product of your dreams wasn’t even a remote possibility. My co-founder, Cliff Obrecht, and I were university students. We had no money. We had no engineering or business experience. We didn’t even know what a startup was, let alone anyone who was part of one. We just had a problem that we wanted to solve and an absurd amount of determination.
The point is, you don’t need the “right background” or expertise to succeed in business. You just need to start. After all, it’s a lot easier to think outside the box when you don’t even know that the box exists! —Melanie Perkins, co-founder and CEO of Canva, which is valued at over a billion dollars
2. “Traditional education is everything.”
As someone who spent 10 years in higher education, it pains me to say that for aspiring entrepreneurs, traditional education is overrated — and easily more expensive than opening a small, efficient business.
Above all else, aspiring entrepreneurs must learn how to take action and execute. At the pace of today’s market and with direct access to customers, young entrepreneurs must learn to fail their way to success. If you want to work in corporate America or be a doctor, go to school and get a degree. But if your inner voice tells you to build something as an entrepreneur, start building.
Entrepreneurship is like swimming. You can go to school and learn how to analyze, measure, and improve your swimming skills. However, to actually learn to swim, you must get in the pool. —Mark Bloom, President at NetWorth Realty, ranked by Glassdoor among the “Best Places to Work” for two consecutive years
3. “Keep your opinions to yourself.”
If you hire great talent, you should hear what they have to say without bias. Opinions are based on a wealth of individual experiences from “the front line” — and those opinions are powerful.
If you want to solve problems, create a culture that’s open to sharing opinions. This sparks constructive discussions, which leads to decisive solutions. Make opinion-sharing productive by ensuring that everyone speaks directly and candidly, which is a great way to address “elephants in the room.”
NASA astronaut Scott Kelly taught me a useful tip about seeking opinions from your team as a manager: Start with the most junior person in the room. This prevents you or senior management from taking over the conversation. And team members can speak freely without feeling like they have to agree with their boss.
It’s critical that everyone has the chance to voice their opinion. You’ll be amazed at what happens when you give your team the freedom and confidence to share openly. —Scott Shainman, President of Getac North America, who helped leadthe company to become one of the world’s largest rugged laptop and tablet manufacturers; connect with Scott on LinkedIn and Instagram.
4.“Always be hustling.”
Over the past decade, there’s been an overwhelming social media trend glorifying the constant hustle. Well-known influencers livestream about barely getting any sleep and brag about their 24/7 grind. Quotes about hustling are memes across social networks.
Obviously, there’s nothing wrong with working hard, staying focused, and hustling, but it’s misguided to value hustling over everything else. In fact, having a “family-first” attitude will give you a much better sense of balance and purpose. With your priorities in place, you’ll also have the solid emotional foundation necessary to push through barriers in your work life.
So, go to your son’s baseball games, see your daughter’s dance recitals, be there when your spouse could use your support at a monumental event. Those should be the things you brag about on social media. —Kenny Rueter, CEO and co-founder of Kajabi
5. “A work-life balance is necessary.”
Philosopher Alain de Botton once said, “There is no such thing as work-life balance. Everything worth fighting for unbalances your life.”
When I was younger, I strove valiantly to keep my life in perfect balance but always came up short. Whether I was at home or at work, I was sacrificing something. I was afraid to go to either extreme. This fear weakened my presence in both areas; I was lukewarm.
I have since discovered that without obsession, you cannot achieve greatness. When an Olympic athlete is training before the games, they’re entirely focused on their training regimen. When a doctor is in residency making life-and-death decisions, their sleep schedules aren’t what you would call “balanced.”
Instead of striving for “work-life balance,” I’ve learned to focus on two other words: purpose and harmony. Purpose means defining your priorities and what’s truly important to you. Harmony has to do with agreement, synergy, and congruence —taking different notes and rhythms and bringing them into accord. How can you make your life a masterpiece? — Tom Shieh, CEO of Crimcheck; connect with Tom on Facebook
6. “Business is 9 to 5 at the office.”
Technological advances enable people to be more connected than ever. So, “conventional” business practices must evolve. You no longer need a traditional office setup or even office hours! You can manage your entire business from the cell phone in your pocket. As a regular traveler (80-plus flights a year), I believe it will become common for most people to work “outside” the office and “traditional hours.”
I like to merge business with as many “out of office” and “personal” activities as possible; that’s the quickest way to build strong and trusted relationships. Those who succeed the most in today’s world are those who figure out the best route for merging their business and personal life. —Richard Blankenship, co-founder of ESP Gaming and Senior Vice President of Poker Central’s Business Development
7. “Under promise and over deliver.”
To separate yourself from the pack, you can’t just under promise and over deliver. Setting average expectations and then exceeding them isn’t enough. Promising something within two weeks and completing it in seven days shouldn’t be celebrated — you knew all along it would be finished early!
Instead, over promise and over deliver! In today’s competitive world, you need to blow your clients’ socks off so they become raving fans. Go above and beyond when necessary to do the job exceptionally. Give an impossible deadline and stick to it, no excuses.
I once told a client that I’d construct their pool by a certain date. It typically takes three days to fill a pool with a garden hose, but we didn’t have the time. Instead, we brought in five tanker trucks of fresh spring mountain water and filled the pool in an hour. We finished the project in time for his first pool party and received a lot of business from his friends. — Steve Griggs, founder and CEO of Steve Griggs Design; NYC’s premier landscape designer transforming backyards and rooftop gardens into private getaways
8. “A jack of all trades is a master of none.”
We weren’t created to pursue just one thing in life. A spiritual example of this can be found in Jesus Christ. He was an apostle, prophet, pastor, teacher, and evangelist. He had many “trades” and mastered them all.
Don’t tie yourself down to one position within your organization. Be adaptable and flexible. Wear different hats. Cultivate multiple capabilities in yourself. Only by playing different roles was I able to identify pain points in capital markets. If I’d limited my ability to learn, grow, and excel in one field or realm, my company wouldn’t be positioned as the current leader in capital markets innovation, as it relates to blockchain and tokenization of assets and companies.—Thomas Carter, founder and CEO of DealBox Inc; connect with Thomas on LinkedIn and Instagram
9. “Goal setting is the key to success.”
Fear setting is just as important as goal setting. We’d like to think that business and life decisions are driven purely by logic, but most decisions are made out of habit and emotion. Fear setting is an assessment tool that empowers you to manage your fears so you can act on your greatest goals.
In Tim Ferriss’ TED Talk, he outlines how he developed his fear setting exercise, which enabled him to leave his business and travel abroad for a month. With this technique, I’ve made many decisions that I wouldn’t have normally made, which turned out great. For example, I’ve taken atypical approaches and risks in legal cases that other attorneys wouldn’t have. Consequently, I was successful when others said I wouldn’t be. —Nafisé Nina Hodjat, founder and managing attorney of The SLS Firm
Want to share your insights like those above in a future column? If you’re an experienced entrepreneur, please get in touch here.
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