“Entrepreneur” isn’t a job title; it’s a lifestyle. It’s a lifestyle that you need to nurture and build on over time. Successful entrepreneurs understand this, constantly trying to grow and improve.
You don’t need to be in a startup or small business to work on your entrepreneurial abilities. I dabbled in entrepreneurship since I was 12, but didn’t go completely self-employed until I was 23. Still, around age 16, I started focusing on building myself as an entrepreneur. In this article, I’ll share the three driving factors that helped me grow as an entrepreneur.
First, I learned to find comfort in discomfort.
I was always the excessively shy and easily embarrassed kid. It’s a part of my personality that stayed with me from childhood and through my high school years. However, I did recognize that when I ran from discomfort, I ran from opportunity.
It wasn’t as easy as simply understanding that I needed to change this. Like most of us, I was programmed to behave and think a certain way. Emotions that are supported by years of experiences are difficult to transition away from. But the first step to changing was there: self-awareness.
When I was self-aware, I could see when I felt uncomfortable, allowing me to investigate why that was. Understanding this helped me understand myself and my limitations. Now, when I was able to get in my own head and see that I felt uncomfortable, I could talk to myself. I could tell myself that it was okay to feel uncomfortable, as long as I didn’t let it stop myself.
That’s when I started to move towards discomfort. When something felt uncomfortable, I did it. It was a way for me to push my boundaries, grow as an individual, and lessen the likelihood that future opportunities would make me uncomfortable.
Every time I did this, it became easier to deal with other discomfort. Less opportunities passed by as I learned to let go of fear. Or at least, rather, I was fearful but courageous enough to not let that fear stop me. Courage is being scared but not letting it paralyze you, anyhow.
So, be courageous and move towards discomfort. Comfort in discomfort makes you a more versatile entrepreneur, friend, lover, partner, colleague, and leader. And, you miss far fewer opportunities.
Second, I learned the value of hustle.
As an entrepreneur, you need to have your eyes open constantly, seeking out opportunities. Look for different projects, people to meet, and value to add to the lives of yourself and others. When you do this, growth is guaranteed.
It’s easier said than done, of course. You need to nurture this mindset over time to really be great at it. There are two ways I recommend doing this: always keep learning and always keep connecting.
Learning isn’t just about raising your intelligence or gathering skills. Rather, you also want to know the story behind others you believe to be successful. What got them there? What makes them unique? How do they operate? How does their business operate?
When you can dissect these questions in detail, you’ll be able to see how they brought value to themselves in others. In the end, that’s what is most important for growth. Part of hustle is having your eyes open to things no one else can see, so expand your horizons. Don’t seek out people and businesses successful in your industry or specialty, but anyone successful in their own right.
Aside from expanding your horizons of what opportunities are out there, you need to connect with others. When you connect with others, you understand how they bring value to the world and how you can bring value to them.
About a half hour before writing this, I sent a handwritten thank-you note to a CEO of a $2 billion corporation for sharing his time to speak to a group. That alone is a kind gesture in the digital age, but I know he is a huge fan of history, so I shared my favorite history podcast with him. The small gestures of value are vital!
Expand your mind and build authentic, value-driven connections. It’s a big part of hustle and growth.
Finally, build structured flexibility into how you plan.
This is something I’ve focused on more recently, but it’s vital to your rapid growth as an entrepreneur. It’s a simple concept when you break it down, but we often struggle with following through with it.
Structure gives us a framework to work within. It helps us to stay focused on our path with specific efforts aimed at a certain future state. Unfortunately, when we stick to a structure too strongly, we allow ourselves to stay down a painful and dangerous path.
We hear this a lot with failing startups. Moving past the false glory of failure, we hear how adjustments or pivots could have helped a company find success. Instead, someone else in the field did and ended up as the major success, while the other company never changed their business model. They wanted to “stay committed to their product, business, and customers”.
Unfortunately, misguided and overstated loyalty to a certain way of doing things, within a structure, often leads to failure. That’s why we need flexibility. Flexibility allows us to shift and change as we need to. It builds creativity in the processes in our lives. Whether building a business strategy, marketing campaign, personal goals, and so on; structured flexibility is a guide for success.
We want to focus on an end goal and have some constraints to consider along the way, giving structure. Flexibility is the mindset that lets us be creative about how we get to the end goal and be wary when considering if our current path is the best or not.
I have confidence that if you stretch your comfort zones, hustle your way to learning and connecting, and grasp the mindset of structured flexibility, you’ll find success as an entrepreneur.
By David J. Bradley
David J. Bradley is an entrepreneur from Providence, Rhode Island. He is the Managing Director and founder of Primal Digital Marketing, where he puts the digital marketing skills he started developing at 12 years old to use.
At Primal, David helps businesses create strategies and build digital sales funnels to generate more sales online. He wrote a book to teach others how he helps businesses in this way, Getting Digital Marketing Right.
David studied Marketing and Operations Management at Rhode Island College and pursued his MBA in Marketing at Providence College. Outside of his business, he encourages entrepreneurship and personal growth in others through speaking and coaching. David studied Marketing and Operations Management at Rhode Island College and pursued his MBA in Marketing at Providence College.
Driven by growth for his personal self, his business, and in others, David is happy to connect with aspiring entrepreneurs and professionals. You can reach out by visiting him at DavidJBradley.com