Tag Archive for 'perseverance'

Olympic and small business heroes

Every four years, you can watch special people participate in a noble cause – the Olympics.

These heroes commit countless hours over many years to achieve a level of excellence that might somehow qualify them to represent their country in the Olympic Games.

Notice no mention of winning, medals or glory. Most Olympians find neither. And yet they train and compete.

Watching an event, we’re at once self-conscious and grateful as the camera’s lens permits us to invade that private moment just prior to competition. Self-conscious because of the intrusion, but grateful to share the moment and benefit vicariously from the Herculean effort and sacrifice.

The TV camera moves in closer. We can actually see the color of their eyes — even imagine their thoughts.

The swimmer: “Twelve years of training and it all comes down to the next few seconds – must remember the fundamentals.”

The runner: “Today I will perform my personal best.”

Then the long lens captures the mouth. There’s a lick to fight the cottonmouth that only those who risk failure have tasted. The lips move ever so slightly, as if to offer a short prayer or claim an affirmation.

Every day, you can watch another group of special people participate in a noble cause – small business.

Small business owners are a lot like Olympic athletes. They commit countless hours over many years, pushing mind and body to achieve a level of excellence that might somehow allow them to merely … make a living.

Notice no mention of winning, medals or glory. Most small business owners find neither. And yet they show up, year after year, to work, compete, and contribute.

Like an Olympic race, sometimes the future of a small business’ success rides on how well the owner performs over a very short period of time. If the camera could take you in close, you might see an owner thinking: “All these years of work and risk could come down to how well I deliver this proposal inthe next few minutes - must remember the fundamentals.”

The long lens would also capture the lick to lessen the cottonmouth that only those who risk failure have tasted. Then the lips move ever so slightly, as if to offer a prayer or claim an affirmation.

Olympians and small business owners are dedicated to what they love. Both work hard, in search of excellence, take great risks against all odds, and usually at their own expense.

I’ll gladly spend my admiration on that kind of spirit.

Because of Olympians and small business owners, the world is a better place.


Today on my radio program, The Small Business Advocate Show, I talked more about my heroes, Olympic athletes and small business owners. Click here to download or listen.

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Belief and perseverance: Lessons from Washington and Lincoln

Last week Americans celebrated the birth of our 16th president of the United States, Abraham Lincoln. This week, in the U.S., we celebrate what used to be George Washington’s birthday, but now is called Presidents Day.

We know a lot about these two men, Lincoln and Washington. Both persevered through extreme hardship and the immense weight of doubts about their own abilities, while trying to lead a young nation through two extreme experiences.

But perhaps Lincoln is the most important for small business owners. We know a lot about how much he believed in himself by the following list of challenges he endured during his life, and yet, ultimately became one of our most revered presidents. Whenever you think you should give up, think about what happened to Abraham Lincoln in his life, before he found his place in history.

  • He failed in business in ‘31.
  • He was defeated for state legislator in ‘32.
  • He tried another business in ‘33. It failed.
  • His fiancee died in ‘35.
  • He had a nervous breakdown in ‘36.
  • In ‘43 he ran for congress and was defeated.
  • He tried again in ‘48 and was defeated again.
  • He tried running for the Senate in ‘54. He lost.
  • The next year he ran for Vice President and lost.
  • In ‘59 he ran for the Senate again and was defeated.
  • In 1860, he was elected 16th President of the United States.

The difference between great accomplishments and failures is often belief in yourself and the will to persevere in the face of great odds.

Thank you for your perseverance, President Washington. Thank you for believing in yourself, President Lincoln.

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The visionary metallurgy of entrepreneurs

Iron becomes steel and, therefore, more useful when most of the carbon, phosphorous, and sulfur are removed and just the right amounts of chromium, manganese and nickel are added for hardening and durability. But it’s an intense and disagreeable process that is pretty rough on the iron.

Entrepreneurial vision becomes clearer, and more likely to become reality, when myths and misinformation are removed and just the right amount of research and critique are added for hardening and durability. But it’s an intense and disagreeable process that is pretty rough on the entrepreneur.

Wise entrepreneurs know that the best plans are actually visionary alloys, forged in our mind from our vision and the critique of those on whom we road test our ideas. But one of the greatest challenges we face as entrepreneurs, as we transform our vision into reality, is in knowing which imperfections of our vision to remove and which parts of the new information and critique to put in.

The reason this is such a challenge is because entrepreneurial vision is not passive: An entrepreneur’s vision is that rare “every fiber of my being” kind of thing that has been hardening in the crucible of our mind, and anyone or anything which dares to disagree with that vision is often dismissed as being without vision. During the alloying stage, the most common and unfortunate words to come out of an entrepreneur’s mouth are, “Yes, but…” and, “You don’t understand, see…”

In Visionary Business, by my friend, Marc Allen, I found this manganese wisdom from Mark Twain, “Keep away from people who try to belittle your ambitions. Small people always do that, but the really great make you feel that you, too, can somehow become great.”

If you want to forge the highest quality visionary alloy, you must include just the right amount of input from others - but it has to be the right “others.” Don’t blend your vision with the prattle of “small people.” Find the “really great” and ask them to participate in helping you purify your visionary alloy, which will allow you to “somehow become great.”

Small business owners and the 26th U.S. President

Here’s an inspiring quote from the 26th president of the United States. It’s most often shown as a paragraph, but I think the impact of his thoughts get lost in that form, so I present it to you here in a more tabulated way. Take a look and see if you recognize anyone.

“It is not the critic who counts;
not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles,
or where the doer of deeds could have done them better.
The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena,
whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood;
who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again,
because there is no effort without error and shortcoming;
but who does actually strive to do the deeds;
who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions;
who spends himself in a worthy cause;
who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement,
and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly,
so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls
who neither know victory nor defeat.”

Of course, this is the wisdom of President Theodore Roosevelt, from over a century ago. I think he’s talking about you, small business owner.

Every day you enter the marketplace arena getting dirty and bloody while striving valiantly. You know that failure is the harness-mate of success so, when you err, you do so with great daring, understanding that you’ve learned something that might not have been revealed if success came too early or too easily.

Because you’ve experienced failure without submitting to defeat, it’s merely one aspect of your life, not something that defines you. And it’s not hyperbole for me to say that that single fact makes you the best hope for the future of the global marketplace and, therefore, the world.

I am so proud of all that you do and all that you stand for, small business owner. Teddy would be too.

Recently on my small business radio program, The Small Business Advocate Show, I talked about this Roosevelt passage and what it means to me. I think you’ll enjoy my expanded thoughts on the heroes of the global marketplace. Take a few minutes to listen, and be sure to leave your thoughts.

Three categories of small businesses

There are three types of small businesses operating in the recession of 2009, according to Jay Mincks, EVP of Sales and Marketing for Insperity.

- One group is having a really difficult time and may not make it.
- The second group is probably going to just survive the recession
- The last group will actually thrive and grow during the current downturn

So why does Jay think that identifying this business stratification is important? Two reasons:

1. To remind you that your small business – and mine - fits into one of these categories. I know which group I want to be in, how about you?

2. When we’re looking for small business prospects to sell to, the vast majority of small business prospects are either hanging in there or are doing okay. That’s a lot of prospects we can sell to - right now.

Recently, Jay Mincks (Insperity.com)joined me on my small business radio program, The Small Business Advocate Show, and we talked about this topic and his thoughts on surviving and thriving in a recession. Don’t miss the opportunity to learn from and get motivated by this corporate leader. And, of course, be sure to leave your thoughts.

The two faces of small business ownership

You’re living your entrepreneurial dream, following your vision, and road testing your plan. You’ve carved something out of the marketplace that wasn’t there before. Congratulations. But you haven’t yet reached the point where you KNOW that all of your effort and sacrifice will have been worth it. Your business is young and, truth is, the jury is still out on whether you will survive.

You’re in the bi-polar stage of small business ownership: One minute you’re awash in passion, intensity and the conviction that what you are doing is near genius. The next minute you’re telling yourself that you must be out of your mind to take such risks. The two faces of small business ownership - passion and panic.

So here we are in the recession of 2009 and you’re filled with the most anguishing emotion in the marketplace; the one felt by entrepreneurs when faced with the possibility of failure. “How far do I go? How far CAN I go? How will I know if I have to… NO… I refuse to think about that!”

No one can answer these questions for you, but here are some words of resolve that I want to leave with you, from an anonymous thinker who had obviously been there and done that:

“The wayside of business is littered with the remains of those who started with a spurt, but lacked the stamina to finish. Their places were taken by those unshowy plodders who never knew when to quit.”

Welcome to the world of small business ownership. It’s not for sissies and if it were easy, monkeys would be doing it. The only thing I can promise you is that you will never have to worry about is nodding off in the middle of the day.

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