As entrepreneurs, we can easily feel like the "odd man out"--unsure of what makes us tick and how to make our unique personalities work for us and our companies.
That's why all of us need to slow down once in a while and remind ourselves of what it means to pursue entrepreneurial excellence so we can focus our efforts optimally.
That's where Alex Charfen comes in. As a child, Charfen was unable to adapt to a traditional classroom structure and teaching methods. He swung between the honor roll and complete failure, alternately considered "gifted and talented" or needing "special education." Then he discovered the business world. A lifetime serial entrepreneur, Charfen initially made his mark as a consultant structuring deals worth billions of dollars. Later he created a training system that allowed real estate professionals to help homeowners avoid foreclosure. The company behind that system landed on Inc. Magazine's list of fastest-growing private companies in America three years in a row.
Still, he's never forgotten the struggles that he had prior to discovering his calling as an entrepreneur--and today, he helps other business owners develop the skills and resolve to achieve great results.
Here are four of Charfen's biggest insights. Think of them as the pep talk that all of us entrepreneurs need every now and again.
1. You are a momentum-based being. We want to be constantly moving forward--"in the flow," as Charfen puts it. The momentum that entrepreneurship brings is what gives us greater energy, intelligence and health. However, much of the rest of the world doesn't understand that we feed on momentum--that it helps sustain us. They tell us to take a break and slow down, thinking they are doing us a favor. But what that usually does is raise the level of pressure and noise we feel. That, in turn, can cause us to doubt our choices about how we run our companies and our lives. That's when we end up in what Charfen calls the state of constraint, when we're held in place by others and our own uncertainties.
Always remember that, as business owners, we thrive on momentum and need it to realize our potential--professionally and personally.
2. You're often misunderstood--and that's OK. To be great entrepreneurs, Charfen points out that we need to possess four key characteristics:
- We have to be restless and driven.
- We have to be myopically focused and able to pursue a single result, often for many years.
- We need to be able to cut things off, move forward and change things around us.
- We need to be stubborn and hold our ground.
But as you are surely aware, most of the rest of the world doesn't share this "let's change things now" attitude. Instead, they hold tight to the status quo because that's what feels comfortable to them. That's OK--but it means that much of the rest of the world (including people you are close to or see every day) may not really "get" you and what you are all about. We think differently. As Charfen puts it, "10,000 tries to invent the light bulb was not OCD--it was entrepreneurial brilliance."
His advice is to own your entrepreneurial personality and run with it, knowing that you're not broken--you just view the world in fundamentally different ways than most everyone else does.
3. You're part of the most important club in history. Many of us feel a bit alone or isolated--a "party of one"--due to our specific entrepreneurial personalities and character traits. But Charfen is quick to point out that many of the most successful entrepreneurs throughout history felt exactly the same way. "We forget that connection to the past. Any name in business that you've studied and that you respect was someone just like you," he says. "That knowledge can go a long way to reducing the pressure and noise in your life and allow you to make great contributions."
Of course, being part of history is nice, but it doesn't necessarily help that feeling of isolation in the here and now. To feel connected with others like you today and to regain momentum and flow, I (and Charfen) recommend so-called mastermind groups--regular meetings where like-minded successful business owners meet, compare notes and strategies and even look for ways to work together to enhance each other's success. "Peer-based groups can get us connecting with others like us, contributing positively and moving forward with momentum again," says Charfen.
4. You need more help than you might admit. The entrepreneur's challenge is that we need more help than the average person to accomplish our goals, because our goals are so much larger than average. But too often we are scared to ask for help, thinking that we need to do it all perfectly ourselves in order to maintain our entrepreneurial credibility. (Never mind that as hard-charging business owners, we often aren't very good at admitting we need assistance). One of the best ways to overcome the "100% DIY" attitude is to recognize that it's smart business to focus on your biggest strength, and delegate all other tasks that aren't associated with that core strength. Otherwise, you can spend a lifetime working on your weaknesses--and end up not only diverting your energy from what you do best, but also being the proud owner of a bunch of "strong weaknesses" that don't benefit you or your business.
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