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No one need tell you that to succeed as an entrepreneur is hard work. What many don’t tell you is that it takes an acute sense of knowing yourself to succeed where many others have failed. In fact failure may just be part of the process.
In this fifth extract from his new book, tech entrepreneur Alan Knott-Craig Junior details how entrepreneurs can go about improving their self-awareness.
With permission from Knott-Craig — the founder of Project Isizwe and former Mxit head — Ventureburn is serialising parts of the entrepreneur’s new self-published book 13 Rules for Being an Entrepreneur which is now available via his website http://bigalmanack.com.
Ventureburn made five copies of the new book available and has this week sent these off to the first five readers that responded to our call. They are: Luke Keyser, Andy Skinstad, Jason Luboyera all from Cape Town, Mbangiso Mabaso from Johannesburg and Mamkhele Msongelwa from Pretoria. Ventureburn thanks all those that wrote in.
“I yam what I yam.” — Popeye
You must be yourself. You can only be yourself if you know yourself.
You can only know yourself if you keep pushing your limits, keep taking risks, keep falling, and keep getting up again. Most people know how to handle good times. The trick is knowing how to handle the bad times. Not only do you need to know how you handle adversity, you need to know how the people around you handle adversity.
What will your wife do if you lose your money and have to start again? What will your friends do if you have an embarrassing setback? What will your investors do if you lose their money?
Life is too short to spend time with people who will abandon you. The better you know who you are, the easier it is to attract the kind of people who will stick by you through thick and thin. Know yourself, and you’ll find your tribe.
Know what you don’t know
“All I know is that I know nothing.” — Socrates
If you want to know what your strengths are, you need to start by learning what your weaknesses are: what you’re not good at, what you don’t know, and what you don’t have experience in doing.
Sometimes success leads to an overinflated estimation of your abilities. Sometimes you just don’t know yourself. Stay humble.
Look in the mirror and see yourself for who you truly are. Once you’ve discovered the gap in your knowledge and experience, you can look for the people who complement you.
Know your motives
Do you know why you do what you do? Is it the money? Is it the fame? Is it the power? Is it the girls? Is it the boys? Is it to save the world? Is it because you can’t get a job?
The reason doesn’t matter. The only thing that matters is that you’re honest with yourself. Knowing why you do something is important when times are tough and you want to quit. If you don’t know why you’re doing something, you’ll give up.
Use your natural gifts
“The Sword of Truth” series by Terry Goodkind is a story about a woods guide who is tasked with a quest to save the world. He accepts out of a sense of responsibility but feels wholly inadequate and is convinced he’s the wrong man for the job.
Throughout the story, he repeatedly performs unbelievable feats of magic while simultaneously refusing to believe that he has magic. After a while, the novelty of his modesty wears off, and the reader starts thinking, “get over yourself. You have magic; you are a wizard. Deal with it!”
Eventually, he accepts that he is a wizard, but when he finds himself using his magic too much, he begins to feels that he is becoming a slave to his own powers. In the nick of time, he pulls back from the edge and learns to control his urges, realising that the secret is a combination of confidence and humility.
This is the story of life. You have three options:
1. Lifelong denial of your talents, unhappy life, and death.
2. Initial denial of your talents, acceptance, overconfidence, explosion, and death.
3. Initial denial of your talents, acceptance, overconfidence, humility, balance, and death.
It’s a choice. Stop denying your talent. Go out there and use it.
Your reputation doesn’t matter
“Pay no attention to the critics. Don’t even ignore them.” — Samuel Goldwyn
While reputation can be a useful tool in life, in the final analysis, it simply doesn’t matter what people think about you. It only matters what you think about you.
What you think about yourself is entirely dependent on what you do. If you do nothing, then you’re nothing, and the crowd won’t care anyway. If you do something meaningful, then you’re meaningful, and who cares what the crowd thinks?
Basing your actions upon your reputation is dangerous and can lead you down a path that is not your path. Instead of doing the right thing for your life, you’ll end up doing the right thing for your reputation.
You’ll end up living according to what other people think. Someone who will do anything to protect his reputation will eventually ruin his reputation. Forget your reputation. Do the right thing.
Focus on your talents
Warren Buffett has an approach for how you can identify your greatest talents and maximize your focus. It’s called the Two-list Process.
Step 1: Write down the list of your top 25 talents.
Step 2: Circle the top five items on this list.
Step 3: You will now have two lists (List A consisting of the five circled talents and List B consisting of the remaining 20).
Instead of treating List A as high priority and List B as low priority, treat List B as those behaviors you should avoid at all cost. No matter what, the items on your second list must get no attention from you.
Here’s how it works: List B (talents six to 25) are things you’re pretty good at. Compared to List A, however, they are distractions. It’s easy spending time on the 20 things you’re pretty good at.
What’s not easy is putting all your energy into the five things at which you excel. Focus on the talents at which you excel, and you’ll become the best in the world.
Ego is like a dragon
“Fairy tales are more than true: not because they tell us that dragons exist, but because they tell us that dragons can be beaten.” — GK Chesterton
In all the fairy tales of old, the hero must either slay the dragon or tame it. The best heroes actually have a pet dragon and fly into battle. The bigger your dragon, the more of a hero you are.
The dragon is a metaphor for ego. It’s good to have a big ego, but just like with dragons, your ego can kill you. The solution is not to kill the ego or reduce it in size. It’s to control it. The bigger your ego (in other words, the greater your self-assurance), the more powerful you are as a hero. Just keep a watchful eye on it.
“Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don’t matter, and those who matter don’t mind.” — Dr Seuss
Want to read more? Order a copy of 13 Rules for Being an Entrepreneur through http://bigalmanack.com.