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My sister has always had delusions of grandeur: she wants to own a 15th century castle in Europe (anywhere on the continent, it just needs to be a castle); she wants to be so busy at work that she’ll need a personal assistant (or several); she wants to buy her four sisters each a private island; she wants to be recognized for her business achievements, and sometimes she even dreams of a Nobel Prize. She set these highly ambitious goals when she was 17 years old, and three years later they haven’t changed. Basically she just now knows what she needs to do to make all these things happen. Here are five rules that I’ve learned from her arduous, ambitious young self.
1. You’re already aiming high? Aim even higher.
“You want to own a Chanel bag from the classic collection? You should want to own Chanel.”
She knows it’s very unlikely that I -or she, for that matter- will ever be the owner of a 105-year-old global conglomerate like Chanel, but her point is that setting easily achievable goals is not the way to go. Great ambition might not be for everyone, but from the moment you decide to aim for a certain objective, you will take every single possible step towards it. Also, aiming at a lower target could possibly prevent you from giving it your best shot- or worse, you could be focusing your hard work on achieving a goal that doesn’t require 100% of your effort.
2. Don’t invest in something you don’t need if you don’t have three times its cost.
“So you’ve paid your rent and all of your bills, and now you’re left with $150 in your bank account. You can only spend $50 on shopping this month.”
Okay, she learned this one from my father, but still. This one applies to both your personal accounts and your business endeavors. There’s this new, expensive program that helps manage your staff’s daily tasks, but will leave your company penniless this year? Unless you can’t run your business without it, you’re not allowed to buy it, no matter how valuable or effective the software. You never, ever know what might come up and when you might need that extra $150 -or $150,000- for more important matters. Better safe than sorry… and definitely better than being broke.
3. Scratch the previous rule. Go all in!
“What if you can’t buy that laptop next month? And the one after? And the one after? It’s now or never, dude.”
Being an entrepreneur and managing a successful company is all about the risks you take, and how far you’re willing to go without a safety net. Sometimes you’ll find that the best (and only) way to make more money or reach a broader audience or increase your productivity is to spend your down to the last cent. You’re not supposed to do that every time you manage to save a few bucks, but when the perfect opportunity –or brand new, amazing laptop- knocks, you can’t take forever to think it through. Seize the chance and carpe that business diem.
4. Give it your all but remember it’s not the only thing in your life.
“I know I need to work really hard to have my own company and my private jet, but there’s no way that work becomes my whole life.”
My sister believes she will be a hard-working girl. Actually she already is, in her own way- she’ll do just about anything to reach her goals. She’s on a diet? She won’t reject a greasy Chili’s invitation, she’ll just plan it in her regimen as a weekly cheat meal. She’s following a workout plan? She will spend a whole day couch potato-ing and then get back on track the next day. The brief pauses you take and the invitations you accept are not setting you back; they’re a way for your body and your mind to recharge. That drink with the friends or that dinner with the family that you haven’t seen in weeks will not stop the earth –or your company- from spinning. Hard work, dedication, and maybe a little bit of luck are the only things that will get you there, but you can’t forget about all the other things that could make you happy. Under no circumstance should you get sidetracked from living your own life- work-life balance is not a myth.
5. Business is not all about the money
“I barely made any money from that cheese and wine kiosk at Christmas, but everyone knew who Aïda was. Wait and see how much money I’m going to make next year.”
After buying the best cheeses and giving away countless platters and glasses of wine to people who couldn’t afford it or as an on-the-house gesture to clients who had placed several orders, she was left with next to nothing. It didn’t bother her in the least: Not only was she having fun, she was learning to ropes of investment (a lot of her kiosk money went to renting a heater for her customers and she actually got new ones because of it). She also got a handle of the rules of supply and demand by running out of cheese the first day and then over-ordering the next. She decided that all of her kiosk-related acquaintances were PR opportunities, and rightfully so. Invest in your brand PR, be it personal or corporate, and you will reap the fruits of your moneyless labor. A year after –or two, or five-, they’re ripe and delicious.