By Martin Grunburg
It’s every entrepreneur’s story: Everything—family, success, reputation—seems to rest on the success of your business. The daily onslaught of endless problems that go hand in hand with starting and running your own company can quickly overwhelm and stress out even the best of us.
As a life-long entrepreneur, it’s easy to resort to one of my 17-year-old daughter’s favorite sayings: “I’m so over it.” If you’re facing today loaded down with seemingly soul-crushing business challenges, I suggest having a chat with the great masters. Their wise words can provide the “mind-and-soul tonic” needed to inspire our waning entrepreneurial confidence and enthusiasm.
Here are a few of my all-time favorite quotes and what they’ve meant to me as an entrepreneur and serial goal-setter.
1. “When the student is ready, the master appears.”~Lao Tzu*
(*Attributed to multiple sources.)
Sometimes I’ll hear or see the same quote over and over, maybe hundreds of times, before–for whatever reason–the message finally strikes me like a lightning bolt and truly helps me understand an issue I’ve been struggling with. I started with this quote for a reason: Keep these words in mind as you review the rest of the quotes. It’s kind of the granddaddy of inspiration, helping us learn to look for real meaning hidden within the obvious.
2. “If one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavors to live the life he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours.”~Henry David Thoreau
I tripped upon this quote almost a quarter century ago as I embarked on my very first entrepreneurship adventure. Feeling wholly inadequate amid investor stress and partner expectations, the pressure was immense. However, in Thoreau’s solemn guidance I found great comfort; his complete assurance that so long as I moved confidently–even when things didn’t feel so certain–I would be assured a “success.” Notice he doesn’t say we “might meet with a success.” He says we “will meet with a success.”
3. “Whether you think you can or you can’t, you’re right.”~Henry Ford
Henry Ford’s brilliant insight helped to affirm my long-held belief that we tend to project our expectations (often without conscious thought) upon the world, and then those expectations come echoing right back to us in the form of our efforts, abilities, and ultimately our results.
4. “Wisdom is equal measure experience plus reflection.”~Aristotle
We all spend a lot of time chasing knowledge as if it were The Holy Grail. Remember, knowledge doesn’t equal success or even power for that matter. Knowledge can change from one day to the next–just ask Pluto (our former ninth planet).
Wisdom, on the other hand, is timeless. What is wise today will be wise 300 years from now. In order to gain wisdom, though, we must reflect as much as we act, according to Aristotle. Wisdom demands both action and reflection in equal measure.
5. “Nothing in this world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent.”~Calvin Coolidge
Persistence. Persistence. Persistence. What if the path of least resistance is persistence? Coolidge nailed it! It’s a stunning observation, as I’ve been witness to many a great talent wasted, and genius that has been starved without action. Persistence and determination are omnipotent!
6. “If people knew how hard I worked to get my mastery, it wouldn’t seem so wonderful after all.”~Michelangelo
It must be human nature: We all want to find a shortcut or “secret” that will lead us to a life of success and happiness. But the greatest achievers throughout history share a consistent theme: industriousness and hard work. While it’s an absolute fact that we must work smarter, working hard is a basic pillar of real business success.
7. “All men’s natures are alike—it’s their habits that carry them far apart.”~Confucius
Speaking of “secrets,” here you go: Habit. This, my friends, is the closest thing you will ever find to a success “secret.” (The subject of habit is near and dear to my heart.)
A massive paradigm shift for me began with the understanding that all of our thought habits and behavior habits are what constitute our character. That is, WHO we are and who we will become. By design our habits get set to “autopilot.” Set up the wrong habits and you’re destined for some serious challenges; set up the right habits and life is likely to work out very well for you.
The beauty is, when it comes to habits, you can intentionally create any habit you’d like. This is the real key to goal achievement: Consciously crafting positive, supportive habits that are aligned with your goals.
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8. “The unexamined life is not worth living.”~Socrates
Why wouldn’t Socrates and Aristotle, regarded as perhaps the greatest philosophers of all time, have a couple of quotes on my top 10 list? Interestingly, both involve awareness and self-reflection.
Entrepreneurs and leaders–and everyone else, frankly–are judged by their results. Self-examination, including assessing your results in your personal and professional life, is the necessary first step to transform any weakness into strength.
9. “Life is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance, you must keep moving.”~Albert Einstein
Ah, the ever-elusive life-balance question. How can I keep my spouse, kids, boss/employees happy, and have fun, and stay fit? Read Einstein’s quote once again and the answer should appear.
Balance is most often NOT found as a moment in time—a static destination. Rather, balance is more often the RESULT of constant oscillation and adjustments. Consistent reassessment and self-correction. Consider a tight rope walker: Take a picture of her at any moment in time, and she will appear off balance. Yet, through constant oscillation/adjustments, she makes it to the other end of the line. The result: an overall balanced performance.
10. “Set peace of mind as your highest goal, and organize your life around it.”~Brian Tracy
If we do not possess peace of mind, any success is likely to be short-lived if experienced at all. Organizing your life around where you like to live, what you like to do, and with whom you’d like to do it is important at first, and ultimately essential. It’s a concept that brings us nearly right back to our good man Thoreau’s advice, “Move confidently in the direction of our dreams and endeavor to live the life you have imagined.”
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