Your Life in a Circle

Most people would agree that a career transition is a daunting endeavor.

Yet one of the most challenging aspects of a career transition or a job search is something that most people don’t consider and plan for before I meet with them.

What am I referring to?

Carving out enough time in your life to devote to the process.

I have many clients who come to see me with a great deal of excitement about making a significant career change. They usually have been thinking about it for a while, and have finally made a commitment to themselves to make it happen.

A very important step.

Yet most clients have not yet given any thought to another very important element of the process. Finding and carving out enough time every week to actually devote to the process. (note: this is really crucial no matter what type of change in your life you are considering)

ImageUnfortunately, wanting a career transition doesn’t respond to magic wands. One needs to take many actions: Getting prepared with your career story, identifying potential paths, researching, talking and networking with people numerous times, re-assessing your potential paths, building new alliances, applying to various roles and practicing how you present yourself, etc. etc.

We can come to a decision about changing something about our lives and feel good about it – but nothing will actually change unless we take action. And those actions can’t exist in a vacuum.

Simply charting out your week in a pie-chart format can be very helpful.    Your Life in a Circle

Draw in all the pieces of pie that comprise your life every week.  Do you spend 60% of your time at your current job? 5% at church? 25% with family and friends? 10% at church or community activities?

That’s great – but where are you going to fit in the time to make a career transition (your pie already adds up to 100%+)?

You can’t expect that you will expand the universe and make each day have more than 24 hours. You can try but you will wind up just spinning your wheels and nothing will change. Which is even more frustrating.

That means something has got to go. You will need to make some decisions about what aspects of your daily life you are willing to forego in order to accomplish your goal.

What will you do differently?

  • Awaken an hour earlier each day to get in some morning time for networking
  • Use social media sites to strengthen your network
  • Use your lunchtimes to meet with networking contacts
  • Get to work 60 minutes earlier and use the extra time to research companies and associations online, etc.
  • Stay up an hour later each night to strategize and reach out to your online networks
  • Schedule Saturday mornings for career development activities

What is it?

What are you willing to change in your current daily activities to make room for the actions you must take to make a career transition?     Image

Advertisements

You Gotta Believe

Why do people make the choices they do throughout their careers?   What makes one person persevere and take risks to achieve their goals while others can’t seem to get unstuck and find themselves locked into an unfulfilling job for years? In this article we are suggesting that the critical factor is belief. Belief is ultimately what determines how successful you are.  

Essentially, beliefs are your unconscious patterns of thinking. Core beliefs are the foundation of your personality. They describe you as worthy of respect or worthless, competent or incompetent, fairly treated or victimized, independent or helpless.

Individual belief systems are an incredibly powerful influence on the choices people make. We observed people who said they wanted to make positive change, but struggled to take concrete actions to accomplish their goals. Many intelligent and motivated people become paralyzed by intangible inner obstacles.

The Source of Your Beliefs

Where do our beliefs come from? There is no simple answer because several factors need to be considered.

  1. Personality – Obviously, not everyone holds the same beliefs. Our fundamental personality has a tremendous impact on the beliefs that we assume through our formative years and how we view the world in general.
  2. Family and Role Models – There is no question that our environment plays a significant role in who we become. Our families and role models send us very powerful messages about who we are and how the world operates. These messages become the foundation of many of our beliefs into adulthood.
  3. Cultural and Ethnic Values – Many of us are raised within certain cultural environments that provide us with feedback about what’s right/what’s wrong and what’s true/what’s false. It may sound like stereotyping, but cultural and ethnic values still have a strong impact on what we believe.
  4. Spiritual Orientation –Beliefs around faith, destiny and god have a tremendous influence on the choices we each make about work throughout our lives. This might include traditional religious values that we learned as children.

Belief Imprisonment   

When you discover you are riding a dead horse, the best strategy is to dismount.
– Dakota Tribal Saying

Your beliefs shape your life and your behavior. This, of course, is a good thing if your beliefs are accurate and affirming. However, limiting beliefs get in the way of positive change. They restrict what you can achieve. Beliefs are often referred to as “childhood tapes” that play over and over in our heads and often dictate our behavior. Do any of these tapes sound familiar?

  • I’m really not smart enough to run a company, am I?
  • I want this promotion, but I don’t think I have what it takes to do the job
  • I’m too old to go back to school and start a new career – it’s too late
  • It would be irresponsible to pursue my passions now because I have a family
  • Better stick with this job – it’s all I know
  • I should never quit my job without having another one

In our consulting practice, we have coined the phrase “belief imprisonment” to describe being stuck in your limiting beliefs. Since many beliefs operate outside of your awareness, their influence on your daily choices may be invisible yet profound.

Identifying your core beliefs and bringing them into your conscious mind is crucial for making positive change.

If you don’t expect to get well when you are diagnosed with a health problem, you won’t do all the things that can help you get better – especially those things that may be difficult. In the same way, if you don’t expect that you can successfully make a career change or get that promotion, you won’t do all the things than can ensure you succeed.

Consider Lisa. She is bright, personable and very capable. Lisa holds a position as a Senior Manager in a large multi-national organization. She is thought of as an extremely competent and valuable employee. Yet Lisa is miserable because of unreasonable expectations around volume of work that are standard in her company. Her boss’s lack of follow- through and consistency also continually frustrate her.

Lisa first came to us because she decided it was time to move on. She had been putting up with the frustration of her current environment for two years and was very unhappy. More importantly, the stress of her job was making her physically ill.

But it isn’t so easy to change things when you are conducting your life based on inaccurate beliefs that have accumulated over a lifetime. Lisa is still struggling with strong internal contradictions and is continuously questioning her ability to ‘succeed’ in another company or another role. Since she hasn’t mastered every aspect of her current job, she believes she is incompetent. This prevents her from applying for new positions. A great burden of guilt prevents her from taking time to go on interviews or network.

“I know intellectually that I deserve to find a position that suits me better, but this inner voice keeps telling me that I should be in my office ten hours a day – and I should stay here longer to learn more – I can’t seem to break free”. In her mind, if she goes on an interview, she is not being responsible or loyal.  

Lisa is stuck because of her limiting beliefs and fears about not measuring up and not being viewed as a responsible person.

We identified three limiting beliefs. Lisa has agreed to take simple concrete actions so that she can move forward and is trying to push through her fears by looking at her limiting beliefs square in the eye. She’ll get there, but it’s natural for her resistance to be high.

Breaking Through Limiting Beliefs

To fear is one thing. To let fear grab you by the tail and swing you around is another.
– Katherine Patterson

We look for evidence that supports what we believe and ignore contrary evidence. This reinforces our inaccurate beliefs about ourselves and makes it difficult to change.

Alvah Parker, a coach that works predominantly with attorneys, identifies 10 common beliefs on career change that can derail your desire for change. If the belief is making you unhappy or feeling stuck, now is the time to change it. It will help to free you to make a change in your life.

How do you break through?

  1. Understand your basic personality – This will give you insight into the type of beliefs you have a tendency to hold onto.
  2. Identify your limiting beliefs –Write them down and bring them into your consciousness.
  3. Question your beliefs – Especially those that are limiting or inducing fear. Be aggressive about this. Only you can create your own future.
  4. Behave differently – Your behavior drives and reinforces your beliefs. Start behaving differently (even if it is uncomfortable) and eventually you will believe differently.
  5. Change one behavior at a time – Don’t think you can change everything at once. Establish realistic goals. Get focused.
  6. Push through your fears – There are always fears associated with limiting beliefs. The fear that someone you love will not approve if you change, the fear that you won’t live up expectations, the fear of failure (you know the list).
  7. Seek professional help – It is tough to change beliefs without objective feedback. Deeper issues need to be addressed with a trained psychologist.

Learning how to alter your limiting beliefs is a skill. It’s hard work, but the potential rewards are huge. Doing this can bring you a new sense of freedom. Don’t be a victim of your own limiting beliefs – seek out help to reshape your beliefs about who you are and what you can do. You have the capability to achieve everything you want to. You just gotta believe.

Terry Del Percio is a Career and Workplace Consultant. She manages a private practice called The Work Strategies Company located in Beverly, Massachusetts. Visit her website at http://www.workstrategies.com or you can contact Terry by phone at 978.282.8900.                         Twitter @WorkIntegrity

References:

McKay, Ph.D., Matthew and Fanning, Patrick. Prisoners of Belief. California: New Harbinger Publications, 1991.

O’Hanlon, Bill. Do One Thing Different. New York. William Morrow and Company, Inc., 1999.

Fear: Our Biggest Obstacle

What would you do with your life if fear didn’t play a role?

“Once there was a young warrior. Her teacher told her that she had to do battle with fear.   She didn’t want to do that. It seemed too aggressive; it was scary; it seemed unfriendly.    But the teacher said she had to do it and gave her the instructions for the battle.   

The day arrived. The student warrior stood on one side, and fear stood on the other. The warrior was feeling very small, and fear was looking big and wrathful. They both had their weapons.

The young warrior roused herself and went toward fear, prostrated three times, and asked, “May I have permission to go into battle with you?”

Fear said, “Thank you for showing me so much respect that you ask permission.”

Then the young warrior said, “How can I defeat you?”

Fear replied, “My weapons are that I talk fast, and I get very close to your face. Then you get completely unnerved, and you do whatever I say. If you don’t do what I tell you, I have no power. You can listen to me, and you can have respect for me. You can even be convinced by me. But if you don’t do what I say, I have no power.”

In that way, the student warrior learned how to defeat fear. ”

— Pema Chödrön (When Things Fall Apart: Heart Advice for Difficult Times)

Entering into a Career Transition?  We can help you jump the chasm and beat the fear.  WorkStrategies.com Terry Del Percio | 978.282.8900         

Steve Jobs: Career Advice for Tough Times (Guest Blog)

This is a guest post by Carmine Gallo, Author of The Innovation Secrets of Steve Jobs: Insanely Different Principles for Breakthrough Success. It offers interesting insights into Steve Jobs’ history of success and new ideas about how you can approach your own career.

The global recession has forced many people to reconsider their careers and life choices. In these turbulent times, where does one turn for career advice? As I was researching the material for my new book, The Innovation Secrets of Steve Jobs (McGraw Hill) I realized that many of the principles behind Jobs’ breakthrough success at Apple apply equally to the management of one’s career.

Jobs has had his share of setbacks and skeptics. He started what would become a multi-billion dollar brand by sharing his parents’ kitchen table, he was fired from the company he started, and he rebounded from two near-death experiences to become one of the most iconic business leaders in corporate history. He’s learned a lot along the way and he has a lot to teach the rest of us. Here are just a few ways Jobs can teach you to ‘think differently’ about professional and career success.

Put a dent in the universe. Steve Jobs has never underestimated the power of vision to move a brand forward. Vision inspires new ideas and attracts evangelists to your cause. In 1976, Steve Wozniak was captivated by Jobs’ vision to “put a computer in the hands of everyday people.” Wozniak was the engineering genius behind the Apple I and the Apple II, but it was Jobs’ vision that inspired Wozniak to focus his skills on building a computer for the masses.

Jobs’ vision was intoxicating because it had four components that all inspiring visions share: It was 1) bold, 2) specific, 3) concise and 4) consistently communicated.

In 1979, Jobs took a tour of the Xerox research facility in Palo Alto, California. There he saw a new technology that let users interact with the computer via graphical icons on the screen instead of entering complex line commands. It was called a “graphical user interface.”

In that moment, Jobs knew that this technology would allow him to fulfill his vision of putting a computer in the hands of everyday people. He went back to Apple and refocused his team’s effort on building the computer that would eventually become the Macintosh and forever change the way we talked to computers. Jobs later said that Xerox could have “dominated” the computer industry but instead its ‘vision’ was limited to building another copier.

Innovation — the kind with a big “I” that moves society forward — doesn’t happen without a bold vision.

Just as Jobs had a vision for his brand, you must have a vision for the most important brand of all — yourself. What vision do you have for your company or your career? Yes, you need to follow your gut and do something you are passionate about — doing what you love is Steve Jobs’ first principle for breakthrough success — but while passion gives you energy to overcome skeptics and obstacles, vision points you in the ultimate direction.

Kick-start your brain. There’s no dispute that Steve Jobs thinks differently than the rest of us. His creative ideas have transformed not one industry, but four — computing, music, entertainment, and telecommunications. 

Innovation — in products or careers — requires creativity and creativity requires that you think differently about…the way you think. Scientists who study the way the brain works have discovered that innovators like Steve Jobs do think differently but they use a technique available to all of us — they seek out “diverse experiences.”

This reminds me of the story behind Apple’s name. The idea fell from a tree, literally. Steve Jobs had returned from visiting a commune-like place in Oregon located in an apple orchard. Apple co-founder and Jobs’ pal, Steve Wozniak, picked him up from the airport. On the drive home, Jobs simply said, “I came up with a name for our company — Apple.” Wozniak said they could have tried to come up with more technical sounding names but their vision was to make computers approachable. Apple fit nicely. 

Steve Jobs creates new ideas precisely because he has spent a lifetime exploring new and unrelated things — seeking out diverse experiences. Jobs hired people from outside the computing profession, he studied the art of calligraphy in college (a study that found its way into the first Macintosh), meditated in an Indian ashram, and evaluated The Four Seasons hotel chain as he developed the customer service model for the Apple Stores.

Look outside your industry for inspiration. Bombard the brain with new experiences. Remove the shackles of past experiences.

Say no to 1,000 things. Steve Jobs once said the secret to innovation comes from “saying no to 1,000 things.” Steve Jobs is as proud of what Apple chooses not to do as he is about what Apple chooses to focus on. The lesson — don’t spread yourself too thin. 

Find the career that intersects your passion, skill and the ability to make money doing it. Once you find it, focus on it, work at it, and dedicate yourself to excellence in that area. Say “no” to anything else that will distract you from pursuing that career.

If you are looking for a work or frustrated with your current job, there will be plenty of friends, families and colleagues who offer unsolicited advice on what’s best for you. Filter out the ideas that might derail you from the career best matching your strengths and passion.

Master presentation skills. Steve Jobs is considered one of the greatest corporate storytellers in the world. His presentations inform, educate and entertain. By giving extraordinary presentations, Steve Jobs stands out as a leader and communicator.

You are being judged to a large degree on your ability to communicate what you do. The big difference between extraordinary communicators like Steve Jobs and the average leader is that people like Jobs use presentations to complement the message. The speaker is the storyteller; PowerPoint slides serve as a backdrop to the story. That means you must learn to avoid bullet points and to think visually about bringing a story to life. Read The Presentation Secrets of Steve Jobs (McGraw Hill, October 2009), for tips and techniques.

Don’t let bozos get you down. Steve Jobs knew he had the skills to build a computer that would be simple enough for the average person to enjoy. Few others shared his vision.

Ken Olsen, the founder of Digital Equipment, once told Jobs “There is no reason why anyone would want a computer in their home.” Thank goodness Jobs didn’t listen.

When Jobs returned to Apple in 1997 after a 12-year absence from the company he started, Apple was close to bankruptcy but Jobs rallied his employees, customers, and investors with the vision of what Apple could become. Millions of Apple fans have Jobs to thank for not listening to critics who believed Apple was destined to fail. If he had, consumers would not be enjoying Macs, iPods, iPads, and iPhones which popularized touch-screen technology.

Many people around you think they know what’s best for you. Only you can be true to your own heart and intuition.

Innovation sits in a lonely place because very, very few people have their courage of their convictions and the self-confidence to tune out negative voices. Perhaps the greatest lesson Steve Jobs teaches us is that risk-taking requires courage. Believe in yourself and your vision and be prepared to constantly defend those beliefs. Only then will you be able to lead an “insanely great” life and career.

© 2010 Carmine Gallo, author of The Innovation Secrets of Steve Jobs: Insanely Different Principles for Breakthrough Success

Author Bio
Carmine Gallo, author of The Innovation Secrets of Steve Jobs: Insanely Different Principles for Breakthrough Success, is a presentation, media-training, and communication-skills coach for the world’s most admired brands. He is an author and columnist for Businessweek.com and and a keynote speaker and seminar leader who has appeared on CNBC, NBC, CBS, MSNBC.com, BNET, RedBook, Forbes.com, and in the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal and Investor’s Business Daily, as well as many other media outlets. Gallo lives in the San Francisco Bay area and is a former vice president for a global, top-ten public relations firm.

For more information please visit www.carminegallo.com

Posted by Terry Del Percio, Career Transition Consultant: www.workstrategies.com

Follow me on Twitter: @WorkIntegrity

Does Anybody (Else) Care About My Career?

After reporting to eleven bosses in eleven years at the last organization I worked for as a communications director, I knew it was time for me to take control of my work life. The way I put it to myself was, “If anyone’s going to pilot my life, it’s going to be me.”

If you’re a boomer who’s facing your professional future with a frown, the tactics I used to resolve my situation, as well as the tips at the end of this post, can help you plan your own Great Escape.

The specific conditions that provoked my personal wake-up call and the exact career I embarked on might not be the same as yours. But if you know that what you’re doing with your life isn’t what you were meant to do, I hope that parts of the strategy I applied can offer you a path to your next career.

Coaching     

Long before I abandoned my job, I put myself into the hands of a coach. I can still picture myself hunched over a yellow lined pad, feverishly writing down my coach’s tenets of success. A lot of them had to do with modifying my mental attitude. She convinced me that it was critical that I focus on success rather than stir up every thought of failure I could summon.

I finally realized that if I didn’t take the first few baby steps she outlined, I would never arrive at any grand goal I might have had in mind.

In my case, that meant that if I didn’t submit my writing for publication, 100% of it would be unpublished. So, while still at my old job, I submitted an essay to a national publication. From hundreds of applicants, I was among the 12 chosen to write a whole series of articles. That experience demonstrated for me that I had something valuable to offer.

Then my coach and I moved on to writing down simple steps I could take to begin a new career.

For example, I was to set up my home office to be effective for my new career (and the new me), rather than for the old ones. That helped me start seeing myself in a new light, and begin to take myself seriously.   

Strategies

I want to share some more of the strategies my coach taught me.

Keep your hand in. Even before you can leave or change your job and do what you like full time, take advantage of opportunities to do the work you want to do. It may be as a volunteer. Some people get new jobs based on work they did do or contacts they made through volunteer work.

Associate with others who are doing what you want to do. Seek out those who are in the field you want to be in. It’s easy to do that these days. If there’s no one in your community who shares your interests, join an online community through the groups on Twitter, Facebook, or LinkedIn.com. Some of the people you “meet” online will live in your area, and after chatting online for a while, you can get together in person, if you chose to.

Carve out a physical space, no matter how small, where you will do your new work. It might be a corner of your kitchen or bedroom, a section of your attic, or even—weather permitting—your porch.

Take classes in the field you want to enter. That has the double benefit of making it possible to meet others with your interests.

Pay down your bills, in preparation for your new work—which might not pay as much as you’re used to earning.

Put a little money aside—even if it’s only a few dollars a week—and earmark it for your new career. (I left my job right at the beginning of this last recession, so it was pretty scary. But scarier still was the toll my job was taking on my health and well being.) 

Don’t wait for permission from anyone—not your husband, your family, your parents, or your employer. Of course, it’s better to have everyone’s cooperation. But remind yourself that you deserve to be fulfilled in your work. Your mind and body will thank you. And those close to you will see that you’re a lot more fun to be around when you’re doing work that’s meaningful to you.

Prepare yourself to take a risk. There’ll be some sleepless nights during your transition. But if you’re like most of us who have put off our passions in favor of a job we don’t feel suited for, you’re probably already doing some tossing and turning in the wee hours.  

As we get older, we begin to wonder how much longer we can afford to put off our dreams. What are we waiting for? A lottery win would be nice, but come on, what are the odds of that happening?

After my first meeting with my coach, I hung a quotation above my desk. It’s by the novelist Louis Auchincloss, a cousin of Jackie Onassis.

“One can spend one’s whole existence never learning the simple lesson that one has only one life and that if one fails to do what one wants with it, nobody really cares.”


————————————————————————————————————-

Lynette Benton is the author of the essays, “From Part Time to Parting Time” in Skirt! Magazine and “After Burnout, a New Career Helping Writers,” in More Magazine online.

She is also the author of Polish and Publish: The Indispensable Toolkit for Creative Writers to Get Started and Get Published. Her website is http://lynettebentonwriting.com.

Note: For more excellent strategies on making a career transition, check out the book Working Identity by Herminia Ibarra.

Career Fear: Breaking Free

Buddhist philosophy.                  

Some people smirk at it; more and more people are embracing it.

Can it teach us anything about work and career?

I think so.

Do you ever feel uncertain about where your career is going or where it has been? Do you ever question whether you are on the right path? Do you ever feel discouraged about your work?

Most of us feel this way at one point or another. Sometimes we feel this way quite often.

It is uncomfortable. It can be scary. It is a feeling of uneasiness.

In the Buddha’s first teaching he talked about what he called ‘the four noble truths’.

The first noble truth says that it’s part of being human to feel discomfort.

Why?

Nothing in life is really one way or another. Whether we like it or not, life is not black or white.

Everything around us; the wind, the fire, the earth, the water are always changing; like magicians. Let’s face it, nothing stays the same.

Inside of us also changes just like the weather, like the waxing and waning of the moon.

It is so hard for us to see that just like the weather, we are fluid, not solid. We change, just like everything else does.

We have a tendency to seek out what feels secure, to look for comfort and avoid discomfort. We want our lives to be solid. So we try to build a cocoon of safety around us.

It feels good to have our lives be safe and predictable. Unfortunately our cocoons often fall apart (because things always change). And then we feel uncomfortable again.

We often fall into this cycle with our careers. We get settled into a role and it seems good for a while. Then our personal goals change, and we scramble again to build another safe cocoon.

The new zone of safety feels good until oh…let’s say we get a new boss who is a tyrant…or our family moves to another town and the commute is now tripled…or we have children…or the company changes its direction and it has no meaning for us anymore…and on and on.

It’s natural for everything to change. It’s the process of life.

But we don’t like it to change. We want things to stay the same. We want to be secure.

We become fearful. We resist the changes. We wish it were easier to find what we want – at least what we want right now.

And because of this, we suffer. We fret. We become uncomfortable. We resist the process of uncovering the next step in our career.

How can Buddhist philosophy help?  By listening to what it teaches with an open mind and heart, it can give us guidance in approaching our career journeys in a different way… it can open us to a new way of seeing things.

It takes time, sometimes months, years, a lifetime (or more)… yet isn’t it worth it to ease our suffering on this journey?

Here are some very simple ways to begin:

  • Give yourself the gift of 15 minutes each day to stop, to breathe and let go of the rush to achieve your daily goals. Focus only on the process of breathing for these 15 minutes. Get distracted? (you will) … it’s okay- just come back to breathing. Remember that thoughts are just thoughts. They, too, will pass. Observe them, and let them go.

If you find yourself in that mind trap of thinking obsessively that things are not going your way or that it’s too hard to find a career path that feels right, etc.  Stop and observe your thoughts. Say “hey – here come those crazy thoughts again and they are trying to swing me around. I’ll just watch them leave with the wind.”

  • Recognize that everything will always change, and that all of life is fluid – including us. It’s okay. Have faith that you will find your path (in fact, you are already on it).
  • Cultivate an unconditional friendliness towards yourself – flaws and all. Did you say something that sounded mean? Did you flub an interview? Were you rude to someone?  It’s okay. Mistakes are part of living. They help us grow and become more aware.
  • Begin your day with a sense of gentleness – for yourself and others. Compassion can replace fear and anxiety. Welcome compassion for yourself and others. People will be drawn to you. Some of those people will help guide you to your “right path”. Maybe tomorrow, maybe the next day – you will get there.

_______________________________

Can you share ways that you ease your discomfort during a job search or career transition?

Ten Entrepreneurial Strategies for Success

This adapted entry was written by Renee & Don Martin,
 Authors of The Risk Takers: 16 Women and Men Who Built Great Businesses Share Their Entrepreneurial Strategies For Success – a new book that you might want to check out.

America has always been a beacon of entrepreneurialism because it is so deeply rooted in our history. Our country was founded and then settled by innovators willing to sacrifice old certainties for new opportunities. The people who came to America a few hundred years ago looking for a better life were risk takers in every sense.

Do not mistake being a risk taker with being reckless. Risk takers must also become risk analyzers — evaluating the pros and cons, then trusting their instincts and recognizing and seizing an opportunity to create their own businesses.

Already an entrepreneur? Thinking about starting something? Check out this summary of qualities & strategies and get going.

1. Trust Your Gut

Successful, independent-minded entrepreneurs know when to trust their gut. An expanding body of research from a number of fields — including economics, neurology, and cognitive psychology — confirms that intuition is a real form of knowledge. It’s a skill you can develop and strengthen — one that’s particularly valuable in the most chaotic, fluid business environments, when you must make critical, high- pressure decisions at a moment’s notice. At such times, intuition usually beats rational analysis.

Trusting your instincts also emboldens you to carry out new, untested ideas and ventures, even when nobody else believes in them. It’s about seeing the need for a product or new service and just knowing you can make it happen.

2. Buck the Conventional Wisdom

Ignore those who say, “It won’t work” or “It’s never been done that way.” Our profiled entrepreneurs succeeded in large part because they veered away from established formulas and ways of thinking. Don’t just blindly accept the so-called best practices of your industry. Look at them with a hypercritical eye. Dissect them, slice and dice them, contemplate different what-if scenarios.

Challenging convention can open the door to competitive advantage.

3. Never Let Adversity or Failure Defeat You

Don’t accept the limits that others or circumstances place upon you. The ranks of successful entrepreneurs are filled with men and women who refused to stop believing in themselves, despite the derision of others or heartbreaking failures in their past.

As an entrepreneur you’ll undoubtedly experience stressful moments that will test your faith, especially in the beginning when you’re still trying to establish your brand and separate from the pack. Just remember, the antidotes are persistence and resiliency.

4. Go on a Treasure Hunt and Find an Undeserved Niche

In the business world, there’s nothing more exciting than finding an underserved niche representing a lucrative market that everyone else has failed to spot and target. That’s like finding gold bullion at a crowded beach — it was there for everyone else to see, but you were the one who took notice of the golden glint in the sand. Look for ways to fill a niche — a road even small start-ups can take.

5. Spot a new Trend and Pounce

Often, a shift in cultural or economic trends will create new entrepreneurial opportunities. Sometimes that shift arises from advances in technology. Many of our profiled entrepreneurs recognized emerging consumer needs and desires that signaled new market opportunities.

6. Hit ‘Em Where They Ain’t

Whenever possible, set your sights on areas that your competitors have neglected or ignored.

7. Just Start

If you have an idea for a business, truly believe it will succeed, and are willing to push yourself harder than you ever have before, then take the risk and just get started. If your gut is telling you this business idea is a winner, take action now.

The “perfect” time for a business launch will never present itself. More often than not, waiting just gives would-be competitors the opportunity to beat you to the punch.

8. Save Your Bucks and Get Noticed Without Expensive Advertising

If your start-up business is on a tight budget, there are plenty of ways to get customers’ attention without spending money on advertising. Get your creative juices percolating and try something different. And when an opportunity arises to expose your brand to the masses, don’t think twice — jump right in. Use your own creativity to make your company stand out in a crowd.

9. Exploit Your Competitor’s Weakness and Make It Your Strength

The sharpest entrepreneurs have a knack for viewing the world from the perspective of their customers. That quality can help identify your competitors’ vulnerabilities and shortcomings. If your number one competitor has a reputation for slow deliveries, for example, make certain your deliveries arrive in less time. Engage and listen to customers to identify such weaknesses.


10. Never Stop Reinventing Your Company

You know the old adage “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”? The problem with that piece of advice is that it invites complacency — and complacency in business is like a slow leak in a tire. You may not notice the damage it’s causing until the thing is completely flat and you can’t move forward. Top-performing entrepreneurs aren’t afraid to take chances and keep expanding their product line. They’re not afraid to give their business a major overhaul now and then to keep pace with changes in the marketplace.

We hope that you will find these traits beneficial for your own entrepreneurial journey.

Believe that growth and opportunity for this nation’s economy are inevitable. Look at the world through the eyes of an entrepreneur. Believe in the power of your ideas and just start the pursuit of your own entrepreneurial dream.

It’s up to you to reclaim the American Dream.

The above is an adapted excerpt from the book The Risk Takers: 16 Women and Men Who Built Great Businesses Share Their Entrepreneurial Strategies For Success by Renee & Don Martin.

Copyright © 2010 Renee & Don Martin, authors of The Risk Takers: 16 Women and Men Who Built Great Businesses Share Their Entrepreneurial Strategies For Success