It's commonly believed that to be successful, one should only focus on one specific niche. But Shlomo Zalman Bregman is not typical. He's a lawyer, a rabbi, an author, an entrepreneur, a motivational speaker and a business consultant whose videos have thousands of views on YouTube.
Often referred to in the media as the "Jewish Tony Robbins," his startup, Bregman Success, was recently selected to participate in a new Microsoft-backed accelerator called 2020 Startups. I decided to ask him some questions about success and entrepreneurship.
According to Forbes, 90% of startups fail. Why do you think so many entrepreneurs fail in their endeavors?
Two words: Insufficient action. I’ve rarely met an entrepreneur who correctly estimates -- at least initially -- how much work, effort, and action it will take to accomplish her goals. If you're starting a business, you must realize: nobody is going to be as excited about your project or vision as you are. The fact that we are super enthusiastic about an idea, product, or service we wish to bring to the marketplace is not enough. We need to follow that enthusiasm up with massive action, and that is often where many of us fall asleep behind the wheel. Transforming your idea or vision into something that it is legitimately profitable or accepted by the marketplace is simply going to take much, much more action than most people realize.
Practically speaking, how can one know if one is correctly estimating the amount of effort it will take to achieve success?
Since almost everyone grossly underestimates how much effort is necessary to achieve what they want, I have a phrase that I live by: "add some zeros to it." There is not any one thing you can do that will be enough to get you the results you want. But taking a constructive action repeatedly will bring you positive results over time. I’ll give you an example. Working out at the gym one time isn’t going to help you lose a lot of weight. However, if you add some zeros to it, and repeat that one workout 100 times or 1,000 times, you're going to get somewhere. Sending an email to only one prospect isn’t going to get you many clients. However, if you 'add some zeros' to it, you may begin to get somewhere.
Beyond that, I would point out that it's extremely difficult to live life with razor-thin margins -- financial or otherwise. If everything has to work out perfectly in order for you to succeed, then some real changes are needed. But if you take action in massive quantities, you no longer become reliant upon any one person, deal, thing, or situation to make your life work out well. You need to actively assume that many people will ask for a refund, that checks will bounce, that payments will arrive late, and the like. If you take action in massive quantities, it serves as the best insurance policy for keeping your business operating in the face of set-backs.
Is timing just as important as hard work?
Some people claim that to become successful, all you really have to do is be "in the right place at the right time," and that timing is almost everything. What nonsense!
Of course, buying a stock on the day before its price quadruples is certainly fortuitous. But if you look at the successful people of the world, you realize that seldom was it a serendipitous event that led to their success. Those who get it that way (e.g. lottery winners) almost invariably lose it. And there's almost nothing to learn from those few stories either.
In truth, the vast majority of people who become successful do not rely upon being in the right place at the right time. It's been said that they make themselves into the right people who will be at the right place at the right time, because being in the right spot matters little if you're not able to capitalize on the opportunity when it comes your way.
Additionally, I've observed that those who make it were not simply “in the right place at the right time.” Rather, they became successful by deciding what the right place and the right time was and then parking themselves there for 18 hours a day of hard work! Successful people figure out what actions cause the results they want and become laser-like in their focus on taking those necessary actions.
Is all action worthwhile? I'm sure you'd agree that strategy matters as well. An obsessive focus on tactics, without strategy, is also a common pitfall for entrepreneurs.
Of course, no doubt. Taking a massive amount of action in the execution of a worthless strategy won't get you very far. While I advocate staying busy and being active, one should never mistake motion for action. In other words, just because you're in motion doesn't mean the actions are totally worthwhile or appropriate. Simply put: Don't fall into the trap of mistaking activity for productivity. You have to be brutally honest with yourself, and oftentimes with your staff. I see you're busy at your desk, but do you really think that the stuff you're involved with is going to lead you somewhere bigger and better?
In some of your popular YouTube videos, I've heard you speak about something you call "attack-the-target" living. Can you please elaborate on that idea?
One of my best known mantras is something I call "Attack the Target Living." I suggest that you set your goal, decide what you truly want, and then attack it with titanic amounts of action. It's a mindset that's actually a lifestyle for me. Don’t lower your standards by chasing what seems easy rather than going after what you want. Never settle for what seems easily attainable, and then make that your goal. Instead, go get what you truly want. Life is too short to play it safe. I advocate you swing your axe at the big tree if the big tree is what you want. Don’t set your sights on the smaller tree that you don’t want as much simply because it would take less effort to chop it down.
You're only 39 years old and yet you're a CEO, an internationally recognized motivational speaker, a practicing attorney, a rabbi, a best-selling author, a business consultant, and more. How do you find time for it all?
There's plenty of time in the day for each of us to pursue our goals if we use our time judiciously. To that end, one must also learn how to say 'no' to opportunities that come one’s way. Most people ask themselves: “What should I be doing in order to become successful?" And while this is a fine question, I simultaneously recommend asking oneself: “What do I need to stop doing to accommodate this new commitment?"
I believe that life is similar to an all-you-can-eat buffet, where in theory, you can eat everything. Of course, you can’t actually eat everything. You only have one stomach! And so, you make decisions as to what you will do and this involves eliminating some options from the table. While you decide what to focus on and add to your plate, you must simultaneously decide what you're going to eliminate, lest you become overwhelmed.
Do you ever feel overwhelmed taking so much action and having so much on your plate? The conventional wisdom is that a person should specialize in one area rather than diversify too heavily and have too many pots on the stove.
I have a saying: To become successful and accomplish your goals, it's imperative that you become both "the storm" and "the calm within the storm." When I use the term "storm," I mean being busy and filling your days with a storm of activity -- a tempest of action, motion, calls, emails, hustle, work ethic, and 'go.'
At the same time, you must also be the calm within the storm. By this I mean that you might look very busy with a lot of action, activity, tumult, hustle, etc. yet on the inside you know exactly what you're doing. Your actions are highly deliberate. You have a game plan. A focus. A strategy by which you’re maximizing your resources to accomplish and further each of your goals. A person who is both "the storm" and "the calm within the storm" is highly active but also focused and never moving around just for the sake of looking busy. I believe that the synthesis of these two elements is the ideal and the most successful people on our planet are able to do it.