Q: What is the one mind shift you made that propelled you to success?
A: Some have heard about the basic mindset that all entrepreneurs need to succeed: You’ve got to be an optimist, and yet have healthy paranoia. You have to have tenacity. You need to be a risk lover to take on the emotional and financial risks, yet need to be sure those risks are highly calculated and you mitigate them at every turn, often keeping your day job until your fledgling business shows its truly ready for you to take the plunge.
That said, the mind shift I believe can propel your success as an entrepreneur is a carefully cultivated and specific type of self-confidence. To do all of the above, an entrepreneur cannot only be confident in the face of wins and external validation. Rather, the confidence you need to has to come from within.
Irving Grousbeck, the professor of the popular “Entrepreneurial Ventures” course at Stanford Business School, tells his class that entrepreneurs have to be “lone eagles.” “Remember that eagles don’t flock; you only see them one or two at a time.” When I heard this metaphor, it resonated with me. Why? What do lone eagles do? They soar high and nest alone. Just like a lone eagle, to create something new you must fly high enough to get the perspective that allows you to see beyond what exists today and envision what could be tomorrow. And you must be willing to follow your own path rather than just pursue conventional wisdom. This metaphor resonates with me because in my own life I have had to be a lone eagle to succeed.
"Lone eagle confidence" is not about being a contrarian simply for the sake of being different. It’s about the ability to see with that heightened "soaring" perspective, play for a longer-term outcome and be willing to “nest alone.” It’s not about deciding to be a loner. It’s about deciding on your own, what matters most. (You can learn more about how I cultivated this mindset in the Positive Mind Chapter of Find Your Extraordinary.)
But being a lone eagle doesn't mean making every single decision without guidance. Wise entrepreneurs seek input from others. When you are starting your business, you need to seek advice from experts and prospective customers – and much of that advice will be conflicting. You’ll have to parse the information and ultimately, make the call. Perfectly reasonable and smart team members or board members will disagree, and you’ll have to be confident enough in your measured decision making to take action. Yes, you then need to measure results, recalibrate and adjust course if necessary.
To be a success, you know that intelligence, creativity, kindness and work ethic go a long way. But combine those traits with lone eagle confidence, and you’ll create your own opportunities and success. With enough lone eagle confidence, you’ll have the courage to stay the course and not let other people’s opinions divert you, especially when the going gets tough. You can’t always be looking left, right, and up and down for external validation for all of your choices.
Lone eagle confidence doesn’t mean you don’t have doubt or fear. It simply means your confidence ultimately wins out in those moments. Feelings of uncertainty are par for the course. In fact, they are a sign that you’re on the right track. Because when you chart new territory, you’re going where you haven’t been before, perhaps where no one has ever been. So of course you don’t know it all!
I firmly believe that everyone can cultivate this unique form of perspective and self-confidence. For me, it developed over time and through some pretty awesome “catch your breath” moments.