“I think it is possible for ordinary people to choose to be extraordinary.” – Elon Musk
I love this quote from one of the most famous entrepreneurs on the planet. It inspires me to step away from the ordinary and make the extraordinary happen. To me, that’s what being an entrepreneur should be about.
I want to make a difference and I want to be remembered as someone who really went for it. Someone who had grit and determination and who didn’t just have knowledge but knew how to make it work. I know that reading is essential in helping me to do this. As Descartes said;
“The reading of all good books is like conversation with the finest (people) of the past centuries.”
This is why the greats of the business world make time for reading in their lives. Bill Gates has spoken of reading at least one book per week. I know that reading helps me to learn from others and and use what I learn to rise above the ordinary as an entrepreneur. I’ve learned many lessons from some of the greatest writers. I want to share 10 of those lessons with you.
Grit is just as important as knowledge.
Reading “Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance” by Angela Duckworth was a real eye opener. I suppose I always knew that entrepreneurs needed to persevere to survive.
But, Angela Duckworth help me to see just how vital steely determination is if you want to succeed as an entrepreneur. Quite simply, without “perseverance and passion for long-term goals” failure is a strong possibility.
You are what you think you are.
This may sound a bit profound, but there is a lot of truth in what David J. Schwartz has to say in “The Magic of Thinking Big“. Forbes has called this one of the best self help books ever written; so Schwartz must be getting something right.
Actually, I think he gets pretty much everything right. He puts forward the idea that your own circumstances don’t determine your chances of success. The way you think is more important. I know I’ve begun to benefit from thinking bigger and believing in my ability to achieve. I’m not restricted by psychological boundaries like I was in the past.
Being in the present is powerful
Of all the lessons I’ve learned while reading, this has to be one of my favorites. I think that’s because it applies to every aspect of life, not just business.
Reading “The Power of Now” by Eckhart Tolle helped me to understand just how important it is to be in the present. As Tolle says, you should;
“Focus not on the hundred things that you will or may have to do at some future time but on the one thing that you can do now.”
I’ve found this to be such a powerful skill. It helps me to fully focus on what I have to do now without the distraction of dozens of thoughts about what I need to do next week or next month. This clarity is a major positive when you’re making entrepreneurial decisions.
Big targets can bring big rewards
This may be a bit of a generalization, but there has always seemed to be a “small” attitude to some aspects of life in the UK. Countries like the US have often seemed to do things on a bigger scale.
This hasn’t stopped me from having big targets and goals, especially since I read “The 10X Rule” by Grant Cardone. The theme of the book is that you should set targets that are 10 X greater than what you think you can achieve, and take actions that are 10 X greater than what you believe is necessary.
I’m a fan of this expansive concept; it’s about thinking big and working beyond what you have to. It’s back to being “extraordinary” again. After all, as Cardone says;
“Until you become completely obsessed with your mission, no one will take you seriously.”
It’s better to do fewer things well than to mess up everything.
After reading “Essentialism” by Greg McKeown, I realise that having big goals doesn’t mean trying to do everything at once. There’s much more to be gained from recognising the essentials and doing them well. One of the most powerful quotes from McKeown is;
“Only once you give yourself the permission to stop trying to do it all, to stop saying yes to everyone, can you make your highest contribution towards the things that really matter.”
I know I’ve been guilty of trying to be all things to all people in the past, and I’ve crashed and burned on more than one occasion. I still don’t always feel completely comfortable saying “no” but I’ve learned that sometimes it has to be done, if I want to succeed.
It’s possible to learn how to speak effectively.
Put me in a social situation, and I’ll happily talk, laugh and engage with virtually anyone. Expect me to speak in a business setting and I’m way over the borders of my comfort zone.
This used to be a problem until I read “The Quick and Easy Way to Effective Speaking” by Dale Carnegie. I didn’t come across this book by accident; I sought it out because I hoped it was going to help me become a better speaker. It was worth the effort.
One quote still sticks out in my mind;
“Try your best to develop an ability to let others look into your head and heart. Learn to make your thoughts, your ideas, clear to others, individually, in groups, in public. You will find, as you improve in your effort to do this, that you—your real self—are making an impression, an impact, on people such as you never made before.”
It really does work. I’m never going to love speaking to a crowd but I am much better at it. I just realised that I could do things to improve my skills, like turning nerves to a positive and understanding how to engage an audience. Being able to make an impression in this way has had an impact way beyond just speaking; my confidence levels have rocketed and I have more belief in myself.
Understanding the philosophy of achievement is vital.
Like every other entrepreneur, or potential entrepreneur who is reading this, I want to succeed, to make a difference and make money. Reading about 13 principles in the philosophy of achievement, in “Think and Grow Rich” by Napoleon Hill has definitely helped me with this. For anyone who is unfamiliar with this book, the first thing I would say is, go and read it. The second thing I would say is understanding the importance of the 13 principles (Desire, Faith, Autosuggestion, Specialized Knowledge, Imagination, Organized Planning, Decision, Persistence, Power of the Master Mind, The Mystery of Sex Transmutation, The Subconscious Mind, The Brain and The Sixth Sense) is a revelation.
Succeeding is about who you are and not what you know.
I think this is one of the most vital lessons you can learn as an entrepreneur. It’s the theme of Mastery by Robert Greene. As the author says;
“The future belongs to those who learn more skills and combine them in creative ways.”
What this means for you and me is that we need to learn skills and information, become comfortable with them and master them so we can put them to use creating and revolutionising. As Greene says, mastery is about three stages, apprenticeship, creative-active, and mastery itself. Once we get to the mastery stage, we can become the extraordinary entrepreneur that we aim to be.
Technical expertise does not lead to success.
There is a very good reason why every business graduate does not become the next Bill Gates and why every busker on the street does not get a recording contract. The fact is that technical knowledge and ability does not equal success.
I hadn’t fully realised this until I read “The E Myth” by Michael Gerber. It deals with the fact that every successful entrepreneur needs to be a manager, a technician and an entrepreneur. Simply having technical knowledge is not enough. For instance, being great at baking doesn’t mean your cake baking business will be a success.
As Gerber says;
“”the Entrepreneurial Model has less to do with what’s done in a business and more to do with how it’s done. The commodity isn’t what’s important—the way it’s delivered is.”
Basically, you need a good head for business, and to be able to understand how to deliver your service, if you want your enterprise to thrive.
There isn’t always an easy answer
If I’m honest I suppose I expected the business world to be easier to navigate than it is. I should have read “The Hard Thing About Hard Things” by Ben Horowitz earlier than I did.
If there was ever a book that showed you that business isn’t about the ideal world, this is it. When I first started out, I was naive enough to think that there were bound to be golden solutions or formulae, to deal with business problems.
The truth is that while there may be some useful advice and guidance, as Horowitz says:
“Hard things are hard because there are no easy answers or recipes. They are hard because your emotions are at odds with your logic. They are hard because you don’t know the answer and you cannot ask for help without showing weakness.”
Life as an entrepreneur isn’t easy. Negotiating the “hard stuff”, and learning from it, is a big part of what makes a person successful.
The 10 lessons I learned from reading these books have been invaluable to me. I’ve taken what I’ve learned and used it to help me progress from the “ordinary”. Which lessons and books have helped you to do the same?