Fear keeps you from acting. Ask yourself this one question, “What would I do if I were not afraid?” See how fear is keeping you from doing what you really want? See how debilitating fear can really be? Fear keeps people from speaking when they want to speak. Fear keeps people from deciding when they need to decide. Fear keeps people from achieving what they want in life. Don’t let anyone tell you your fears are in your mind. Your fears are not a product of your imagination. They are real. And unless you learn to conquer your fears, you will never achieve the success that you desire. The cure for fear is action. So, decide today what you most fear. And then decide what is the best action to conquer this fear. Then, act. Do what you need to do to achieve what you want to achieve.
In The Hard Things About Hard Things, Ben Horowitz likens running a business to driving a race car. When driving a race car, you must focus on the road. If you focus on the wall, you will run into it. By focusing on the road, you will stay on the road. Any given day, there are hundreds of obstacles lurking in and around your path to success. And as long as you focus your attention solely on these obstacles instead of focusing on your goals and vision, you will never achieve your dreams. Life is a journey. Keep your eye on the road. As a business owner, do not obsess with what can go wrong with your business. When obstacles occur, address them, look for the opportunity within the obstacle, and move on. And remember to always stay focused on your vision. Look ahead and keep moving forward.
If you stay in business long enough, you will experience negative events completely out of your control. Life happens. When it does, your company’s ability to survive will depend on the health of your company. Good companies can weather storms. Bad companies do not. You can measure your company by the attitude and work ethic of your employees. People like working for good companies. People want to enjoy their work and feel like their work will make a difference for the company. And people want to know that they will be rewarded for the difference they make for their company. Ben Horowitz writes, “Being a good company is an end in itself.” And yet, there are so many small businesses that fail because they are not built to be good companies. Would your employees say that you have a good company? If not, start building a good company today.
Nobody wants to hear bad news. And nobody wants to deliver bad news, either. Phrases such as “don’t shoot the messenger” highlight society’s problem with blaming the deliverer of the bad news for the bad news. And it is safe to say that we have all done this in the past. As leaders, we cannot shoot the messenger many times before our team will learn to hide bad news from leadership. And hiding bad news from leadership prevents the organization from working to solve problems while the problems are still small. Instead, encourage your team to tell it like it is. Not only will that get your issues out in the open, but discussing problems with your team will engage more minds working on a solution. After all, that is what your team is for. So, ask your team what issues you should be talking about today.
When Wal-Mart started growing, they did not have much of a distribution system, especially when compared to their competitors. Out of necessity, the company made the decision to only add stores within a day’s drive of a distribution center. While the competitors were haphazardly adding stores across the nation, Wal-Mart was growing from a central point, saturating the market as they expanded outward. This strategy had many unexpected benefits, such as lower advertising costs due to market saturation. But the most important thing about how Wal-Mart had to grow was management’s recognition of the advantages. In The Obstacle is the Way, Ryan Holiday wrote, “Great individuals, like great companies, find a way to transform weakness into strength.” For Wal-Mart, their weakness was a poor distribution system. But instead of internally blaming each other for their situation, management found a way to grow and developed their way into a winning strategy.
Everyone experiences failure in life. But not everyone accepts a failure as the end of the road. Sam Walton was the founder of a highly successful retail chain. But he experienced failures, too. He just chose not to quit whenever he failed. Early in Sam Walton’s career, he franchised the Ben Franklin store in Newport, Arkansas. It was a terrible store. But he set a goal to become the most profitable Ben Franklin in Arkansas within five years. And through his hard work, he accomplished his goal. Unfortunately, Sam Walton had only signed a 5-year lease for the property. Now that the store was profitable, the landlord wanted the store and would not renew the lease. So, in the midst of accomplishing his goal, Sam Walton had to walk away from the Newport store. And that could have been the end of the Sam Walton story. But it wasn’t.
I think most people would like to believe that the ultra-successful received some good fortune at an early age that the rest of us will never have access to. This belief creates a mindset that success will never happen to them. From this mindset, one expects to fail rather than to succeed. And the excuse for not succeeding is always the same. You simply did not have the opportunities given to those more fortunate. In reality, I believe the opposite to be true. We all have opportunities to grow and become successful, but not everyone recognizes them. Because these opportunities look like obstacles blocking our path. Some see the obstacles and know that they can be overcome with a little diligence and hard work. This creates the daily opportunities that those with a failure mindset will never see.
When you look ahead, do you see problems or opportunities? How you judge the obstacles that will invariably lie in your road to success will greatly affect your ability to accomplish your goals and dreams. See obstacles for what they truly are: opportunities to improve yourself and to guide you along your path. Do not be discouraged. Remember that everyone faces obstacles. Recognize that not everybody keeps moving forward in the face of adversity. Resolve to be mentally strong and to keep working toward your goals. Keep moving forward. Only through constant vigilance will you ever achieve the extraordinary.