While mentoring a very sharp young entrepreneur the other day, it occurred to me that most founders and small business owners are in business without any real idea of what it takes to be a winner. That’s why they follow the Richard Bransons and Mark Cubans of the world — so they can understand how a successful person thinks.
Unfortunately, thinking is just the beginning. Becoming successful over the long haul is just as much about listening to your gut than your ability to reason. It’s more about building relationships than understanding yourself. It’s more about experience and execution than ideas. And it’s more about doing than dreaming.
All that begins with a mindset that defines how you behave. A mindset that leads to action is the mindset of a winner. This is the mindset of a winner:
If I’m not the best, someone else is.
Everyone talks about the importance of loving what you do, but if you’re one of a thousand doing the same thing the same way, you’re not going to love the result. Being passionate about what you do is a good start. But it’s just that, a start. To finish a winner, you need to be the best at what you do.
Success is a marathon, not a sprint.
Having spent years working my tail off as a senior executive of a startup and gotten out too soon to reap the full rewards of my efforts, I can tell you from personal experience that, if you can’t stick with it over the long haul, you will not end up a winner. Success is a lifelong game.
I listen to others but only trust my gut.
Success is entirely about making good decisions. Information may be power, but these days, everyone has access to the same information, so the playing field is level. It helps to surround yourself with the best people, but when you’re the boss, it’s your butt on the line. In the end, trust your gut.
There’s no value in telling people what they want to hear.
Everyone wants clicks and followers. Everyone is afraid of offending or being perceived as negative. So everyone spews worthless, watered-down, happy-go-lucky, inspirational, utopian fluff. Your only value is in telling people the truth, especially when it’s not what they want to hear.
Ideas I don’t execute don’t exist.
Ideas are just thoughts. Everyone has them. Content is just ideas on paper or a site. Everyone generates it. The only distinction is what you do. What you execute. What you deliver. Everything else is just vaporware.
If everyone’s doing it, run the other way.
Why would anyone who wants to be a winner get involved in social media, content, or any kind of digital marketing? Everyone’s doing it. You can’t win; you can only slug it out in the trenches. If you’re using the same tools and doing the same things the same way, you are the same as everyone else. Period.
By following others, I give up my chance to lead.
You can call it a tribe, a herd, a pack, a crowd, an organization, or a company – there is only one leader at the forefront. You can be that person or not. It’s no crime to be a follower, but if you’re a follower and think you’re a leader, you’re delusional.
Customers don’t value concepts or content; they value real, innovative solutions to their problems.
Business is based entirely on one fundamental concept: selling products or services that customers need. The products and services that win big are the ones that best fulfill customers’ needs by solving their biggest and hairiest problems. Tough Problem + Great Solution = Big Win. Remember that equation.
I’m never satisfied with my own accomplishments.
Of the very few business books that are worth reading, the very best, hands down, is Mark McCormack’s What They Don’t Teach You at Harvard Business School. McCormack says that a key characteristic of all champions is their “profound dissatisfaction with their own accomplishments.” Indeed, success is its own worst enemy.
Everyone talks about how great failure is, but that’s only because it causes pain. If it’s painful enough, you’ll face what really went wrong, learn from it, and never make that same mistake again. You’ll be stronger and wiser. But none of that will happen if failure doesn’t hurt. You should not be afraid to fail, but make no mistake. The goal is to win.
Look, I could have come up with 15 or 20 of these, but the main point is this: Mindset only matters when it leads to action. Winning is an action, not a mindset.