I’ve got news for you: developing an entrepreneurial mindset doesn’t require an MBA. Some people seem to be born with the entrepreneurial spirit – that drive to start something new, solve the problems they see in the world, and strike out on their own. Others work really hard at developing that mindset and keeping it strong.
Whether you’re hoping to start your own business in the near future or years down the road, sharpening your entrepreneurial mindset can have an enormous impact on your life. It’ll help you keep learning, growing, and stretching yourself to your greatest potential. (And that’s always a positive, no matter where your life takes you.)
Here are five ways you can work on cultivating an entrepreneurial mindset.
1. Prioritize learning and growth
It’s all too easy to look at a successful entrepreneur and assume they’ve got it all figured out. But the most successful entrepreneurs readily acknowledge that they’ll NEVER know it all. They’re constantly pursuing new knowledge and new ideas.
I love to learn and consider myself a student of life. I’m always reading a new book, practicing a new skill or researching a new subject I’m interested in. Make personal development a part of your lifestyle. Each day, set aside time to read blogs, articles, and books that help you increase your knowledge, sharpen your skills, and feel even more motivated and inspired to move forward.
Every great leader is a reader. Some of the most successful entrepreneurs attribute their success to reading. Warren Buffett famously spends as much of 80% of his day reading, insisting that anyone hoping to achieve similar success should go to bed a little smarter each day and read 500 pages daily. Elon Musk, Mark Zuckerberg, and Bill Gates also make time to read every single day, even while running their businesses. If they can do it, so can you.
2. Set goals (and make daily progress on them)
Successful entrepreneurs don’t accomplish great things by accident – they set thoughtful goals they care about and work towards them. Small achievements day in and day out accomplish big goals. And nothing’s more empowering than achieving a goal. It helps you get used to the idea that you have control over your life and that you have the ability to accomplish anything you put your mind to. (Because you do!)
Set goals each day. Each night before I go to sleep, I prioritize the 3 things I need to accomplish the next day. This can be anything from following up on a deal I’m working on, reaching out to a friend to have a scheduled lunch or writing a chapter of my new book. Big or small, professional or personal, significant or a little silly, you should always have a few goals you’re working toward. If you set a small goal, accomplish it quickly and move on to the next. If you set a larger goal, break the path into small, achievable, realistic steps – ones you can make daily progress on.
I’ve set some pretty big ones in my day. Six years ago, I set the goal of selling my company. Every night before going to bed, I’d review my goal and make a list of what I’d do the next morning to accomplish it. As if that wasn’t enough of a reminder, I also wrote it down on a post-it note and taped it to my bathroom mirror. (That’s another success tip for you – studies show people who write their goals down are 42% more likely to achieve them than people who don’t.) I’m proud to say I achieved that goal! Don’t just think it, ink it!
3. Get comfortable being uncomfortable
Honestly? There’s nothing comfortable about being an entrepreneur. It involves loads of rejection, risk, failure, embarrassment, anxiety, criticism, tears, doubt… you know, the sort of stuff nobody particularly enjoys. But it’s the price we pay for the creative freedom and fulfillment that can’t come any other way. If you let your discomfort keep you from moving forward, you’ll miss out on so many opportunities.
Put yourself in new and unfamiliar situations that force you to grow. Try something you’ve never done before. Get rejected. It’s scary, but it’s also thrilling.
Jia Jiang decided to take this advice extremely literally. After realizing his fear of rejection was holding him back, he spent 100 days getting rejected on purpose. Each day, he came up with a different way to get rejected – from asking for $100 from a stranger to asking to plant a flower in his neighbor’s backyard. Not only did he overcome his fear, but he also learned powerful strategies for turning a “no” into a “yes.”
4. Embrace risk
Whenever you take a risk, you’ve got two possible outcomes: you’ll either win or you’ll learn. And failure is the best teacher there is. It’s an opportunity to grow, adapt, and learn new strategies for next time. Don’t avoid failure, embrace it. Fail fast and fail often. It’ll set you up for success in the long run.
In my life, I use failure as a bit of a benchmark – if I’m not failing or getting rejected enough, I’m clearly not taking enough risks. Sure, failure can be scary, but regret is way, way scarier.
Sometimes, failure feels like the end of the world – but it certainly wasn’t for a lot of entrepreneurs out there. James Dyson created 5,126 failed prototypes before finally creating a Dyson vacuum that worked. Other entrepreneurs created entire businesses that failed before moving on to bigger and better things, like Evan Williams, co-founder of a podcasting company that went south after the release of iTunes. Seeing they wouldn’t be able to compete with Apple, he and his team were left having to scramble and work on other ideas…one of which was a little site called Twitter.
5. Spend time with other entrepreneurs
The most significant factors in your life are the people around you. If you surround yourself with negative people who complain there’s nothing they can do to improve their circumstances, you’ll eventually find yourself feeling the same way. But if you surround yourself with energizing, inspiring relationships, their optimism will rub off on you.
Build relationships with entrepreneurs who have been in your shoes. Learn from their successes and failures. Find mentors or other experts who you can learn from through courses or one-on-one coaching. (The Side Hustle Accelerator is a good place to start!) Network, research, reach out to people you admire, chat a stranger up on LinkedIn – whatever it takes to surround yourself with people who can help you foster a growth mindset. Who knows? They might end up being your business partner one day.
That’s what happened for Rent the Runway co-founders Jenny Fleiss and Jenn Hyman. They started out as Harvard Business School classmates and friends who met casually for lunch every week to brainstorm entrepreneurial ventures. Their idea to rent out designer dresses has since blossomed into a hugely successful company with over a $1B valuation.
I definitely consider myself an entrepreneur, I can feel the fire in my bones – but I’ve also found that practicing these 5 habits have helped me sharpen my skills and increase my odds of success. Implement these 5 habits for cultivating an entrepreneurial mindset, and I guarantee you’ll feel more confident about seizing opportunities that come your way.