Author: Soulaima Gourani
Successful entrepreneurs are always asked, “How did you do it?” and “What is the secret behind your success?”
I often overhear this kind of conversations involving some of the world’s most successful entrepreneurs. In addition to typical traits such as passionate, hardworking, and competent, there are a few other general characteristics that often play an important role in these people’s success. They are as follows:
This may sound like the direct opposite of “hard work,” but that is not the case at all. By nature, being lazy is an advantage. Your laziness will drive you to create a financial platform that will allow you to enjoy your laziness.
Most entrepreneurs I know work many hours every day, especially during the first 1–2 years of their business, but their goal is to enjoy life—preferably as early as possible in their life. Of course this requires that you can “pull yourself together” so that you can work hard for a time while looking forward to enjoying later.
Most innovations are made for the purpose of making people’s lives easier, more efficient, more comfortable, etc. And oftentimes we see that lazy people are behind all these inventions. They simply want to get in the fast lane toward reaching their goal of enjoying their laziness.
Laziness can lead you to experience the “be smarter” syndrome. If you are lazy by nature, you should think more about what is most important to you and focus on that—leave the other stuff alone (and be prepared to pay the price for not responding to all your e-mails, etc.).
The flip side of laziness is that it affects our decisions.
Laziness also characterizes how we make decisions. We are very lazy when it comes to analytical thinking and problem solving. Human beings are designed to make fast but not necessarily wise decisions . Thinking is quite a hard work, and human beings generally hate demanding (thinking) work.
Acknowledge that some people are not patient (investors, customers, your wife, your employees, etc.). Most people believe that being impatient is both an advantage and a disadvantage.
For us entrepreneurs, this can be an extreme drive; however, it can prevent us from reaping the benefits of our efforts because we are too impatient to wait for the long-term results to be realized.
Human beings are designed to seek instant reward, and where possible, most of us go for instant reward.
Only very few of us have the ability to delay the fulfillment of our needs for a long period. Resisting temptation and short-term joy for the benefit of long-term sustainable happiness is a crucial characteristic of leading entrepreneurs.
Regardless of how you perceive this characteristic or bad habit, it is a fact that people hate to wait. Experiments demonstrate that we are only willing to wait if we know how long we need to wait.
For example, experiments involving traffic lights show that motorists who can see how many seconds they have to wait until the light turns green wait without being frustrated, whereas those who do not know how long they have to wait get impatient and frustrated, leading to an increased number of traffic accidents.
In your company, you should make sure that your customers know how long they have to wait (when on the phone queue, when standing in line, when downloading a software, etc.); and if you find it difficult to resist temptation and instant reward, practice by saying “no thanks” to the dessert, the next cigarette, and so on.
Train your willpower and profit from it at work.
It always takes longer than expected to build a company, a brand, or a team; attract investments; develop a product; etc.
Things take time—and oftentimes much more time than you expect.
I have seen an amazing number of business plans containing 5-year “hockey sticks” and 20%–25% growth over the next 5 years (yawn). Come on—be realistic. After all, there are only very few companies that can live up to these expectations.
In the lifetime of your company, you need to demonstrate that you make a profit, make the company flourish, and create growth every year. Period.
Remember to spend less time on your business plan—it is outdated as soon as it is printed.
Be careful about spending too much time in the engine room. Your window of opportunity may only be open for a very short period. The most successful entrepreneurs realize that their company and product will never be 100% perfect and that they can keep developing their product and make it even better.
Test, make mistakes, and try again. This way, you become better and better. “Think, write, talk.”
The police use the above mentioned strategy in radio communication; they have to keep their communication concise. This is a good philosophy to implement in your life. Use fewer words and shorter talk so that everybody can understand you.
A decision often determines your next move.
Therefore, it is very important to land on the “right” foot from the start .
It is very difficult to turn a boat around.
It is very valuable to learn how to walk while actually walking.
And if you make a wrong decision, learn from it.
The difference between a dreamer and an entrepreneur is that the latter takes action. Other people keep on dreaming.
Keep your guard up
People meet with you not just for the sake of meeting with you. They always want to get something from you. Maybe not on a conscious level. After all, it is not human nature to do something for others without getting something in return (unless we are talking about a really serious and devoted Buddhist).
You do not have time to have coffee with everybody. You have to decide whom you want to spend your time with and what you want to spend your time on, and keep in mind that if you spend an hour on something, you have one hour less for something else.
Remember “the cabin exercise”!
When the flight attendant goes on with the safety instructions, you are told that you need to put on your own oxygen mask first before helping others. Think about applying this in your life.
What if you burn out and give up?
The most successful entrepreneurs take care of their “assets” (body, mind, and relationships/family).
You are not a machine, and you need rest, input, and output. The question is, how well do you take care of yourself? If you are not doing a good job taking care of yourself, you should consider having someone in your life authorized to raise the red flag every time you are on a downward path. However, this does not in any way mean to say that you can relax.
You can test your real condition by pressuring yourself in extreme situations, whereby you get to really know yourself. Try fasting, sleeping less, being alone, doing away with money for a while, learning to survive in nature, and pressuring yourself physically.
As an entrepreneur, you need to know your limits (it is easier said than done).
Knowledge is everywhere, and you need not attend the finest universities to get it. You can learn from people you meet. People do not mind sharing their knowledge with you, if you only care to ask interesting questions.
When you stop learning, you ruin your chances of becoming a “front-runner.”
Ask yourself what you have learned in the last 24 hours.
1. I listen to a TED talk while doing the dishes.
2. When I run, I listen to a lecture from a university (there are many open courses available).
3. I read an article when I am on a bus.
4. I read at least 2–3 pages of new literature before I go to bed.
5. I read different newspapers and watch different TV stations regularly.
6. I travel as often as possible.
7. I meet new people with curiosity.
What is your strategy?
If you want to build a fantastic organization, it is a good idea not to run about acting like an idiot! This rule should be observed both inside and outside your organization’s walls.
You cannot avoid pissing off people—that is OK.
However, if it can be avoided, do not treat people poorly. This should be simple, but I have seen many people who seem to think that their success entitles them to treat less successful people poorly. That is not acceptable.
Contribute to a cause that you believe in. Give compliments, praise, love, and gifts to people close to you. Do more than people expect—simply because you can—and do not keep tabs on who gives what and when. When you give, soon you will experience that the joy of giving is greater than the pleasure of owning.
 Daniel Kahneman, “law of least effort.”
 Michael Porter, “deciding what not to do.”
By Soulaima Gourani
Investor, author, motivational speaker since 2007.