I once asked a chef who had been in business for more than 17 years to describe her greatest success. She had her own restaurant, owned a profitable delivery service and was developing a frozen-food line for local grocery stores. She smiled and replied: "I hope I never achieve success. I might lose my passion for discovering new ways to create great experiences for my customers."
Entrepreneurs are the world's true adventurers. Our goals are simple: to challenge ourselves, continually improve, achieve and then achieve some more. Our dreams keep growing and changing. We move forward with an unquenchable desire to make a difference in our lives and in the world.
We do not define success in terms of winning or losing, but rather by whether we are challenging ourselves to be our best. We constantly acquire new skills and refuse to be burdened with feelings of failure or inadequacy. Our answer to the question "When are you finally a success?" is "Never." We realize that circumstances change. And these are the rules we carry with us on the changing road of entrepreneurship:
1. Become an adventurer. Entrepreneurship is about discovery. Become completely absorbed in the here and now of your actual performance. Are you working toward your goal? Enjoy the good, the bad and the ugly. And let success be your everyday discoveries.
2. Stress process, not outcome. Being an entrepreneur is a journey, not a mountain climb. Set a goal, own it for a moment and then let it go. Success comes from continuing to move forward and discovering what works and what doesn't. Nonattachment to the end goal allows different outcomes to present themselves. Judging success is unfair because who knows where a small success will lead? One of my clients, who is a speaker, received his largest contract from an event that attracted only four people.
3. Don't fear failure. Learn how to fail. The most successful entrepreneurs do two things differently than other people. First, they're more willing to take risks and, therefore, fail more often. Second, they use their failures in a positive way-as a source of motivation and feedback on how to improve. Society teaches us that failure is something to avoid at all costs. Fear of failure causes us to be tentative or inactive. Don't become stuck; what you learn informs your next action.
4. Avoid comparison. Comparisons are usually inaccurate because we never know the whole story. There are always hidden secrets behind a business that seems successful on the outside. Instead of comparing, study your competition's success. Then find a unique way to apply what you've learned to further the growth of your business.
5. Tell others that your goals have changed. As your business grows, your goals will change, too. This is not failure; it's progress. You're learning what you and the market really want. Be proud of your discovery, and share it with the people around you. When they know your new goals, they can better support you.
6. Make the journey fun. The more fun a person has, the more he will learn and the better he will perform. Continually enjoy your entrepreneurial journey. Treat each discovery like a present: Unwrap it, and see what surprises it has in store. Fun is success undefined.
You have permission-and, in fact, are obligated-to continually redefine what you consider success. Go for it, and look forward to the unexpected, not back on what you have or haven't accomplished.
Speaker and consultant Romanus Wolter, aka "The Kick Start Guy," is the author of Kick Start Your Dream Business. Write to him at firstname.lastname@example.org.