Whether you’re a manager, business owner, founder, co-founder, CEO or COO everyone can benefit from The Success Mindset to open up new opportunities and take their business or professional careers to new heights.
In this post I will share some of the main lessons I’ve learned over the past 15 years as a freelancer, business owner, entrepreneur and consultant.
Being successful in business simply means having to deal with things few others can, in a way that creates a successful outcome while being limited to less energy and resources than you’d ideally want.
There’s no magic formula for this and I offer no guarantees, as every person has a different set of strengths and weaknesses that need to be taken into account when moulding your mindset for success.
But what I can do is talk you through some of the major areas of consideration that everyone in business should spend time thinking about before situations arise that require you to make business critical decisions.
I believe in self-empowerment but also the empowerment of those around you, so a lot of my approach is about both supporting and relying on those around you so that you can form a formidable team capable of achieving things few others can – especially those who prefer the role of lone wolf.
Fear is The Enemy of Success
I’ve worked with CEOs, COOs, CTOs, innovators, employees and managers at all levels.
The one thing that I can say about each and every one of them is that fear dominates a part of their lives in either a small or large way.
Some are aware, some aren’t.
Those who aren’t are much more prone to self sabotage than others and most worryingly, no matter how absurd their decisions are to people on the outside looking in, fear will make them believe the option they chose is the best and only one.
Fear can take many forms, but specifically I am referring to core fears, such as the fear of:
- Doing the right thing
- Challenging toxic behaviours
- Losing to someone else
- Not being good enough
- Being seen as a failure
- Losing respect
- Getting told off or being fired
- Trusting and relying on others
- Letting other people down
- Missing out on opportunities
Fears like these control you, me and everyone else on this planet. There’s nothing you can do other than accept it and fortify your mindset against the fears that affect you the most.
It’s worth noting, for those most impacted by fear, that you share the same DNA as the most successful and famous names in human history.
Given the right environment and nurturing, there is absolutely no reason why you couldn’t be just as successful, or even more successful, than the likes of like Einstein, Neil Armstrong, Churchill, Alexander the Great, Lewis Hamilton, Bill Gates, Elon Musk or anyone else you believe to be better and more successful than you.
The only thing that prevents you from reaching your full potential is you.
How I Began My Journey Towards Embracing the Success Mindset
My childhood consisted almost exclusively of looking at a computer screen, tinkering with code and learning about graphic design; I found that fascinating.
It got to the point where I knew I wanted to turn my skills into a career. It just made sense; monetise what you’re good at.
I was raised almost entirely by my Mum, who, for the most part, was a single parent except for one short blip with my step-dad.
We didn’t have loads of “family friends”. Eating out at restaurants was reserved exclusively for birthdays, and when I say restaurants, I mean – without fail – McDonalds.
I didn’t have a lot of friends either. I was an odd child suffering with undiagnosed depression and ADHD, which made it incredibly difficult to interact successfully with anyone. I was bullied mercilessly all throughout high school.
Being around people wasn’t something I was particularly good at.
In fact I had more “virtual” friends that I’d met through Xbox Live than “real life” friends, as we’d call them.
You can only imagine how incredible my social and interpersonal skills were.
My dilemma; become a freelance graphic and web designer, but to do that I’d have to overcome my chronic social anxiety.
How could I possibly win and manage clients and their projects otherwise?
Coming from a small town (Worthing – about an hour from Brighton) I wasn’t used to big crowds, lots of people, or even small crowds to be honest with you.
But despite all of that, at age 19, I booked myself into a large networking event. In London.
It was the first time I’d been to such an event, the first time I had been to London and my first experience of a hyper busy transport hub (the London Underground), the first time I stayed overnight in a big city and it was the first time I decided to proactively overcome my fears.
This began a journey of self improvement that I’m still on today.
The Fundamentals of the Success Mindset
Everyone’s journey is different but there are a number of aspects to running a successful business that are mostly similar no matter who’s in charge. We’re all human, afterall.
The rest of this post will cover some of these key points and what I believe are fundamental to understanding, embracing and achieving The Success Mindset.
Believe in Yourself & Never Give Up
Personally I think this is the key to everything.
Most people do not believe in themselves, not fully, women especially; which is a great shame.
It’s like, people internally, at that their core and within the privacy of their own minds submit to fear and allow it to exist within them unchallenged, but externally, to others, there’s a whole product theatre designed purely to hide any traces of fear in their words, actions and behaviours.
It’s this fear which causes a lack of self belief, a lack of confidence that leads to the loss of hope and ultimately making the decision to give up on whatever challenge we set ourselves; be it launching a new business successfully, protecting the victim of your office’s bully or even just pushing yourself outside your comfort zone.
Take my journey, for example. Imagine me at 18, a year before I decided to start freelancing.
If I didn’t believe in myself and my vision to become a successful freelancer, if I didn’t believe it was going to work out, why would I go to all the trouble of trekking up to London to put myself through the (at the time) thoroughly scary and unenjoyable experience of going networking in the big smoke?
If I didn’t believe I could be a successful freelancer…
If I didn’t believe I could overcome my fears…
If I didn’t believe I could create the life I wanted…
I could have used these and any number of other reasons to argue that the effort is not worth the risk of failure.
I could have justified giving up.
In both your personal and professional lives you will find yourself in many, many situations that force you to weigh up the pros and cons of not giving up.
The first time you allow someone or something to erode your self-confidence you will find yourself on a very slippery slope that will likely end with you convincing yourself that the only sensible option is to give up.
I probably don’t know you. And yet, without knowing anything about you, I know that you have the potential for greatness.
Everyone does until they give up, and most people will give up sooner or later.
Success Requires More Time & Energy Than You Think
New commitments fail if you don’t have the time and energy to dedicate towards learning, practising, experimenting, failing and refining your approach.
If you have no spare time and you’re always tired you have yet to learn how to balance priorities and build a strong life foundation that empowers you to find new ways to get ahead in life.
The typical cycle usually looks like:
- Incorrect assumptions are not validated or checked
- This leads to poor decisions being made
- Poor decisions lead to bad, draining and costly mistakes
- The wrong lessons are learned
- The business suffers unnecessarily
- The people involved suffer unnecessarily
This cycle applies to almost every area of business, including but not limited to:
- Securing investment without understanding what investors want to see
- Hiring an apprentice without dedicating enough time to training and mentoring
- Building an in-house marketing team without any agency creation experience
- Taking on new but unqualified customers who pay low but cause lots of stress
Literally anything you do in business has a high potential to blow up in your face and chip away at your drive to remain in business for yourself.
What people don’t seem to understand, often until it’s too late, is that one bad decision usually sparks many more, and that the root cause of a bad decision is a person who lacked the experience or knowledge needed to make a strong, informed and successful decision.
Until that experience/knowledge gap is addressed then you as a person or a business will keep making mistakes that drain you and your desire to carry on.
It takes time and energy to:
- Make a proper plan
- Build successful growth strategies
- Implement strategies properly
- Make sure everyone knows their role
- Monitor performance and results
- Learn the right lessons
- Identify and diagnose problems correctly
- Drum up support for your chosen solution
- Implement solutions successfully
- Learn new skills whilst enjoying the process
And many, many more.
When you lack the time or energy to do any of these properly, you’ll take shortcuts and make your own situation worse.
If you keep doing this, it becomes a pattern, a behaviour; that’s when self-justification of anything you decide to do starts, and when self-sabotage begins to overwhelm the business.
The Reputation of The UK Apprenticeship Scheme is a Great Example
For any international readers, our apprenticeship basically involves taking (mostly) very recent college students and placing them in a job. They get paid very little, recently as little as £4 p/h because most of them need a lot of basic training to be able to thrive in a professional work environment.
Many of them have never had the opportunity to do things like:
- Write professional emails to clients
- Engage teams in a serious environment
- Give presentations
- Research new apps and systems
- Write basic English without the use of auto-correct
- Ask for help confidently every time they need it
- And many more…
There’s a massive, massive gap between the world of education and the world of business.
They don’t just need training on how to do their job, they often need training in basic life and professional skills.
And yet many businesses treat them like regular employees. They don’t make a plan, they don’t identify an individual’s learning needs, they don’t provide a mentor and they don’t really give them the proper training they need in order to excel.
This results in the apprentice having to deal with sky high expectations of them, that they have no hope in hell of meeting.
Direct managers to the apprentice grow frustrated because they have to keep spending hours of their time fixing mistakes, preventing new ones and providing training they never thought they’d have to give.
What was originally seen as a great way to grow the business and solve problems, became a whole new, stressful and energy sapping problem in itself.
Managers dismiss them as a waste of time; the business becomes yet another to reach the (inaccurate) conclusion that the apprenticeship scheme is a complete waste of time.
This is the wrong lesson to learn.
The correct lesson to learn is that if you approach new initiatives, plans, tasks and ideas with spare time and energy, you’ll find success a lot more often than you find failure.
Here are the other key lessons I’ve learned in my time as a business owner
Focus Only on Priorities; Push The Rest Back
Time is the only thing you can’t buy or get back if invested unwisely.
You have to protect it and not do what most people do, which is to make decisions without considering priorities.
Whenever I’m acting as an accountability partner to clients and I hear the excuse “Sorry I’ve just been too busy” I say “Okay, let’s open up your calendar or scheduling system and find out why that is”.
More often than not their time is being saturated with things that are either unimportant or don’t need to be done as urgently as they think.
When putting something into my calendar I always ask myself whether I can push this meeting back a week or two or will projects, clients or my team suffer in any way if I don’t address this now?
In many cases, I can free up time and be more present, more engaged and more successful in the activities I prioritise.
When people in my team come to me asking for help or needing to discuss something that’s just happened with a client or they’re going through something difficult in their own lives and need to talk about it or explain how/why it’s having an impact on their work…
I have the time to engage. Additionally it allows for flexibility within meetings. Often I’ll be in a meeting and I’ll see something, or someone will say something that leads us off on a positive tangent (not just chit-chat) that leads to a solution in another area of the business.
If you and your team are always busy, your mind, and that of your people, will always be busy and stressed with no room for anything else other than what you need to focus on right now.
If you create a culture that allows people to habitually justify bad management and poor performance by making shit excuses like “Oh well, sorry, I’ve just been busy”.
Once is acceptable, twice is bad, three or more times and it’s now a pattern that needs addressing.
Don’t Confuse Multitasking for Doing Things Badly
I’m a firm believer that multitasking is the enemy of efficiency.
I look at this in two ways; higher level and lower level multitasking.
Higher level multitasking, for example, looks like someone trying to build and grow two or more businesses before finding success in the first.
I’ve met a lot of business owners who go down this path. One even wanted to max out their first business’ credit limit to fund a brand new venture; despite the former being in debt and not turning a profit.
Sometimes it’s good to hit pause, ask yourself what you’re focusing on and if it’s too much, re-prioritise and make a new plan.
As I write this post, here’s what I’m focused on right now:
- Winning one big new client in the next 2 months
- Making sure our 15×50 metre allotment is well tended
- Starting a new diet
- Training our rescue husky of 5 years not to pee on (and stain) the patio 😤
(you would not believe how much training this dog has received over the years for many, many issues!)
There are 7 days in a week.
2 of those should be for enjoying life. In some cases you might need to sacrifice one or both of those days for recovery due to a stressful work week but that should not be allowed to repeat every week.
Either way that leaves you with 5 “work” days.
When you commit to too much, you run out of time and energy to complete tasks successfully. It’s why people can’t give up smoking, find success in business or lose weight and get fit.
Lower level multitasking, in my world, is when you try to complete more than one task within any 30 minute block of time.
Imagine you’re tasked with listening to two conversations and noting down all key points.
Would you manage to get to the end of the conversation, the end of your assigned task? Sure, probably.
Would you effectively capture every key point in enough detail? Probably not.
Even if you could, you’d have 0 brain or focus power left to actually find opportunities to create a win, such as interjecting on a certain point that revolved around a problem you’ve solved in the past, proving your expertise and receiving an unexpected job offer.
The process of switching focus to a new task actually consumes vital energy. The more you do this in a day the less effective you become.
Usually when you look at people who call themselves “great multitaskers” they’re the ones who are always late to meetings, always need their work checked and who can’t truly exist in the moment because they’re always thinking about 50 different things.
It’s extremely limiting behaviour that will not serve you well in business.
Strategic Planning & Thinking
How can a task be completed more efficiently, more easily, to a higher standard, in less time and ideally for less money? This thinking runs through everything I do in business, but you do have to counter that by knowing what’s good enough for right now, today.
Otherwise you spend all your time planning and never actually achieving anything.
I believe there are two types of CEOs.
Those with the skill, knowledge and expertise needed to create wins without exhausting all of their time, energy, resources and mental health.
And, simply, those without.
Running a business is a bit like running back to back marathons. If you kill yourself getting to the end of the first one, you’ll crash and burn in the second.
An exhausted mind can’t think and plan 6-12 months ahead, it focuses on the now and, maybe 3 months in advance depending on the level of exhaustion.
From time to time my Assistant Director, Charlotte, and I will end up spending several hours in a meeting for which the purpose was simply to plan and implement a small change, but that, after some thinking and foresight has been applied, we realise it has wider implications than we first thought.
So, meticulously, we’ll go through each point to consider what will and won’t work and how adjacent elements of the business might need to adjust in order to resolve all known problems.
Sometimes we succeed, sometimes we get to the point where we agree to call an end to the meeting because we end up discussing issues that are so far into the future that we just don’t need to worry right now.
There’s a fine line between necessary and unnecessary thinking and planning, but when you get that balance right, your decision making processes benefit from foresight and being aware of imminent and future problems.
You don’t have to rely on trial and error and making costly mistakes just to learn how to run a business properly.
Data, Analytics & Reporting
As standard, for ourselves and any clients we work with, we look to track and monitor 18 separate growth metrics.
Why? Because not knowing where things are going wrong, or why, really, really, really sucks.
It also makes it near enough impossible to correctly diagnose current growth problems, or identify future risks and prevent them before they turn into problems that cause businesses to suffer unnecessarily.
You don’t want to be that person who finds a lump, jumps onto the internet, mis-diagnoses it as cancer and braces themselves for the worst possible outcome – when actually it’s just a benign cyst.
Protecting your energy is paramount, roller coaster emotional rides do not help you.
Some of the most important and basic metrics we require to be tracked are:
- Annual Recurring Revenue
- Monthly Recurring Revenue
- Revenue Growth
- Profit Growth
- Monthly Brand Name Searches (Google)
- Number of Leads Engaged
- Number of Lead Engaged in 2+ Meetings
- Number of Leads Converted into Customers
- Number of Sales by Product/Service
- Cost of All Sales
- Customer Churn
These metrics are ideally for service providers, but can be easily modified for product providers. Every business with an aspiration of greater than £100k ARR should be tracking metrics like this as a bare minimum.
For example, if a B2B service provider is suffering a lack of sales but lots of people are searching their name online and the website is getting a lot of traffic but their sales team struggle to get more than 10% of new leads into a second call, without even looking at anything else it likely means:
- The website is alienating potential customers
- The team lacks holistic growth expertise
- The brand and offer messaging are wrong
- There is no real or mature revenue strategy
- There is no clearly defined pricing model
- The sales team can’t handle sales objections well
- The Ideal Customer Profile wasn’t done properly
- Key marketing or sales systems have not been set up
Some may be true, all may be true. If you’ve got the right expertise you’ll know within a couple of conversations what the problem is and how to fix it.
You can argue with experts, their interpretation of data and suggested remedies, you cannot argue with cold, hard data.
Data is your friend and as a business owner or leader, learning to interpret data to create (accurate) insights is a skill well worth learning.
Mastering Emotional Control
My wife once shared a quote with me, from a book she was reading at the time. It was from a monk who said:
“I do not acknowledge any thought in my mind unless it is one I have intentionally created”.
I’ve spent years trying to master the art of emotional control, I’ve still got a way to go for sure, but I’ve seen so many instances, first hand, where someone lost emotional control and said or did something that could only be described as self-justified self-sabotage.
Here, the line between personal and professional development is easily blurred. To really understand this quote you have to accept that your subconscious and conscious minds are not one and the same.
My mind can be a bit of a bellend at times. Honestly, it’s like it’s constantly set to “what’s the most offensive thing you can say or do in this situation?”
Years ago I went travelling with my wife to Australia for 3 months. I remember, very vividly, being at a bar. We were queuing for a drink and we got talking to this guy.
A few minutes later he shared his name and went to shake my hand. Bloody hell, it was like shaking hands with a bear trap.
“Wow, you must be compensating for something very small with a handshake that strong!”
I blurted out, expecting him to laugh.
He did not.
In fact, he looked at me, clearly resisting the urge to punch me in the face, and just walked off.
I suspect I hit a nerve, possibly a very small one…
Joking aside, I did not need to acknowledge that thought and I did not need to act on it. Arguably, neither did he.
His emotions caused him to see my words as an attack instead of the friendly banter I (mistakenly) assumed was acceptable.
He reacted in the way he thought was best for him but who knows what that relationship could have blossomed into had I not triggered an emotional response from him.
We could have ended up best friends. Maybe he could have landed me an amazing new project, or vice versa. Who knows?
You will always find more success if you learn to ignore thoughts that instantly pop into your head and act on unverified beliefs of others by giving them the benefit of the doubt and making the effort to continue the conversation no matter what.
Learn to control your emotions and, by extension, the narrative of your life.
Don’t Let Culture Build Itself
Companies are at risk of culture dilution when they stop investing into maintaining it alongside new growth.
So many companies fail to even acknowledge culture and yet it’s responsible for all their problems.
Put simply, culture defines the unwritten rules of what is and is not acceptable. In an ideal world all companies would document every scenario and how they’d like people to act.
That’s just not possible, and even if it was, no-one would read the 20,000 page handbook.
As companies grow, the owners become increasingly disconnected from major parts of the business. Many companies end up with management teams who are forever inundated with problems and new fires to extinguish; they have no time for creating and maintaining culture.
You end up with some managers who believe one type of behaviour is acceptable, and others who think it isn’t.
No-one is aligning or enforcing the culture and so it becomes whatever the loudest person in any given department or team wants them to be, whether it benefits the company or severely harms it.
I’ve seen and heard of managers using positive and negative reinforcement to justify and maintain every type of discrimination, even racism and sexism.
Whether it’s a manager escaping punishment or entire teams just being accepting of certain behaviours, or complaints of even sexual assault going ignored, all of these actions and many more tell the aggressors that their actions are okay, and that’s it’s okay for others to do the same.
Positive culture isn’t just about making people feel warm and fluffy, it’s also about protecting them, maintaining a safe environment, being ethical and if you really need to look at it this way to justify investing into it, avoiding lawsuits.
If you allow culture to be built around you, without finding the time to refine it and nurture it to your own expectations, it will grow without you, for better or for worse.
So here’s a quick recap of what we’ve covered in this post:
- Fear is ingrained into all of us and can hold us back from achieving our full potential. To overcome your fears you need to accept that they exist and strengthen your mindset against them.
- If you allow yourself to give up, you’ll never achieve your goals. If you believe in yourself and always give it your best shot, you’re 100% more likely to find success than if you didn’t try at all.
- Success doesn’t build itself, you have to dedicate time and energy towards learning, practising, experimenting, failing and refining your approach. No one else can do it for you, so it’s up to you to prioritise building a strong foundation and find ways to get ahead in life.
- If something can wait a few weeks, push it back. If you and your team are always swamped, your brains will be constantly overwhelmed making it tough to think about anything other than what’s right in front of you and ultimately limiting creativity.
- Strategic planning is vital for business success, but striking the right balance is key. Getting it right results in the awareness of imminent and future problems, but sometimes what’s good enough right now is all you need.
- Data is critical to understanding what is going wrong in your business and why. You can’t argue with facts. Learning to interpret data to create (accurate) insights is a skill you need to learn.
- Mastering control of your emotions is the difference between acting with impulse and taking a moment to act with consideration. If you can learn to control your emotions you can control the narrative of your own life.
- The culture of your business will grow with or without you. You can choose to take the time to nurture and refine it to align with your values or you can let it run away and become its own beast. It’s up to you.
If you want to embrace the Success Mindset and supercharge your business, let’s have a chat.