5 Reasons You May Be On The Cusp Of Success (And Not Even Know It)

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Look around you. Now, more than ever, the world teems with constant change.

Some succumb, consumed by the cascading chaos.

Winners smile broadly, delighted by the array of percolating opportunities.

“Do I have what it takes to be an entrepreneur?”

This is the question every budding entrepreneur asks. It is the wrong question.


Wouldn’t you benefit more if, before beginning on your entrepreneurial journey, you knew what talents successful entrepreneurs possess?

Rather than first asking if you have them, you’d be much wiser to ask what they are.

Before answering that unasked question, behold the very first lesson. It’s a lesson you should carry with you at all times. It reveals the ultimate axiom, the rule that will forever guide you from any precipice that threatens you.

More than some mere flimsy shield, it will act as a protective bubble surrounding you in all directions. Carry this bubble with you on your every move and you will find success more often than not.

Here’s the hard part. You can’t see this bubble because, well, it’s a bubble. It’s normally transparent. You can’t tell if it’s there or not.

And neither can your enemies. Yet, they’re always poking and prodding, testing to see if the bubble is there or not. If they feel resistance, it’s there and they back away. If they don’t sense your protective barrier, they know you’re fair game.

What’s the axiom? What creates this bubble of protection? What is this first and most important lesson?

Your Ultimate Axiom: You Don’t Know What You Don’t Know.

Repeat it five times. Memorize it. Write that on the back of your hand. Do whatever you have to do so you will always remember it.

You must maintain the discipline to never forget this rule. For the moment you drop your guard, the bubble evaporates.

And your enemies will seize you.

Be warned: Entrepreneurs have plenty of enemies. These enemies don’t just take the form of competitors. They could be regulators, service providers, or even family and friends.

The enemies aren’t just people, either. There’s the enemy of time, the enemy of talent, and, of course, the enemy of treasure.

As an entrepreneur, you will often find yourself in a race against time. The clock is ticking to be the first to the market, to capture the market before the phase passes, and to give you enough lead-time to move on to the next step.

Careful planning can minimize the enemy of time, but it always lingers, ready to pounce at the sign of weakness.

For some entrepreneurs, treasure will always represent an enemy. Money can unfortunately handcuff those with capital-intensive ideas. Those who seek to run before they walk must also confront the monetary barrier.Fortunately, in many cases, you can easily brush aside the enemy of money. It’s often a simple task to find suitable low cost (or no cost) substitutes. You can even scale back your roll out so your venture can fund itself.

Why depend on the kindness of strangers (banks, angel investors, and crowd-sourced funding) when you don’t need to?

Ah, but what works for money fails to work for the enemy of talent. Specifically, it’s the capacity of talent that you must realistically address.

Notice the word used is “capacity” rather than “lack.” You may have unlimited talent, but you can only juggle so many things at the same time. For this reason, you do need to rely on others. There’s just no other way around it, unless you accept that your business will never amount to anything more than a hobby.

Some talents, however, supersede others. These are the innate talents all successful entrepreneurs possess to some degree. These are the talents that answer the question you didn’t know you didn’t know you should have asked first:

Question #1: What 5 Traits Must Every Successful Entrepreneur Have?

If you ask any successful entrepreneur, they will agree on one thing: you need to demonstrate a practical stick-to-it passion in order to build a sustainable business of any size. This eclipses all else.

“To succeed in business, the more important question to ask is, are you resilient, resourceful, and relentless?” says Julie Bee, President and Founder of BeeSmart Social Media and Lead From Anywhere in Charlotte, North Carolina. “You’ll need to have those three characteristics to succeed.”

These traits don’t just drive your business ambitions, they steer every facet of your life. As a result, you can tell right away if you’ve got what it takes – at least from a practical standpoint.

“In my experience,” says Ratna Singh, CEO & Founder of CAR.O.L, in London, England, “determination and grit are the most important attributes needed to succeed, and you’ll know if you have these by the way you run your life – from the way you cook to the work you do.”

Here’s the thing: even successful entrepreneurs can’t avoid the Ultimate Axiom. They may feel these down and dirty characteristics may have been responsible for their success – and they wouldn’t be wrong – but they also enjoy the benefit of personality traits that lie deeper within them. So deep, in fact, it takes a trained professional to see them.

Are you a trained professional? Probably not.

But don’t worry. You’re in luck. Researchers have already identified these traits. Some have even developed an easy way for you to test yourself on them.

In 1991, Sally Caird, then of the School of Management at Open University Business School, published the results of her study on entrepreneurial traits. “Testing Enterprising Tendency in Occupational Groups,” (British Journal of Management, Vol. 2, 177-186, 1991) tested business owners-managers, teachers, nurses, civil servants, clerical trainees, and lecturers/trainers.

Caird sought to measure the key differentiating characteristics that separate entrepreneurs from everyone else. She concluded “key enterprise characteristics may include:”

  • A high need for achievement;
  • A high need for autonomy;
  • Calculated risk-taking;
  • An internal locus of control; and,
  • A creative tendency:

The data “reveals that business owners-managers have higher average scores than every other group for all measures of enterprising tendency.” Caird does suggest “the test may be biased in favor of business owners-managers, given that it was developed from information on entrepreneurs.”

While other research does cite Caird, the bulk of the academic efforts seen to have focused on other measures, most notably “The Big-5 model.” This is described by Sari Pekkala Kerr, William R. Kerr and Tina Xu (“Personality Traits of Entrepreneurs: A Review of Recent Literature,” National Bureau of Economic Research Working Paper Series, December 2017) as:

  • Openness to experience: describes the breadth, depth, originality, and complexity of an individual’s mental and experimental life
  • Conscientiousness: describes socially prescribed impulse control that facilitates task- and goal-orientated behavior
  • Extroversion: implies an energetic approach toward the social and material world and includes traits such as sociability, activity, assertiveness, and positive emotionality
  • Agreeableness: contrasts a prosocial and communal orientation toward others with antagonism and includes traits such as altruism, tender-mindedness, trust, and modesty
  • Neuroticism: contrasts emotional stability and even-temperedness with negative emotionality, such as feeling anxious, nervous, sad, and tense

Various studies have yielded differing results with different levels of significance regarding the Big-5 model. Kerr et al cite this as well as “the overly general nature of these macro personality traits, such that they cannot easily predict situation-specific behaviors of entrepreneurs.”

For this reason, and because her traits are somewhat intuitive, it makes sense to focus on Caird’s five personality traits.

What should you do now that you know the five “key enterprise characteristics” of successful entrepreneurs?

Find a way to rate yourself in each of these five categories. Then you’ll be ready to see what experienced entrepreneurs have to say about each of these talents.

In the Cool, Cool, Cool of the (Summer) Evening

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It was about thirty years ago that I threw in the towel. After a little more than three decades of roughing it without central air conditioning, I broke down.

I have to admit. There’s something sweet about swimming in the hot muggy midsummer air. Like the reassuring aroma from your mother’s kitchen, you can smell it. Like the snuggling comfort of your favorite blanket, you can feel it. Like the glittering neon signs of the exciting night, you can see it in the twinkling above.

Yes. All the radiating vapor creates waves of transparent turbulence, only visible through Continue Reading “In the Cool, Cool, Cool of the (Summer) Evening”

Yes, Your Community Matters, Too

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If this were a Saturday matinee cartoon, we’ve come to the point where Popeye, upset at his inability to escape from the suffocating arms of the evil bully Bluto (a.k.a., “Brutus” in later versions), exclaims to the cheers of his admiring and sympathetic audience, “That’s all I can stands, I can’t stands not more!”

Yes, we’ve reached our “Popeye Point,” as Karl Albrecht called it in his 2011 article in Psychology Today. Albrecht describes this as the moment when we reach that “primal, visceral, life-changing decision.” Here’s his explanation of the metaphor:

“Popeye (the sailor man) [is] a good-natured, easy-going guy who tries to get through life as peacefully and cheerfully as possible. In the animated cartoon episodes, his emotional fortitude is always being tested by mean, nasty, abusive people around him, some of whom like to whale on him physically. At a certain point in each episode, he Continue Reading “Yes, Your Community Matters, Too”

‘The Coming Thing…’ Thoughts on Turning 60

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OK, OK, so I admit it. This is a vanity post. I’ll be writing to you this week (and, it turns out, next week, too) in an unusually personal fashion.

Next week’s column (which was bumped a week for this week’s column) will make more sense. It’s written in a true “drama in real life” fashion. Oh, you needn’t worry. There’s very little real drama in it. But it will hold together in a way the following potpourri of random thoughts won’t.

Don’t mistake me, though. There will be portions of this mishmash very alluring. Some of it may even elicit the thought, “I’m glad someone finally said that.”

And with that, here we go…Continue Reading “‘The Coming Thing…’ Thoughts on Turning 60”

It Can’t Be Both: It’s Either Science or Marketing

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This is going to sound like it’s coming out of left field, but it isn’t.

It is somewhat related to this day in history (July 16th).

No, it’s not that it’s the day after my birthday. It’s the anniversary of the liftoff of Apollo 11. Man’s landing on the moon should be the greatest case study of inspiration, project management, and engineering. It already stands as the greatest achievement in the history of mankind.

Think about the above paragraph as you read this column.

Now, on to the real story.

Again, it’s going to sound like I’m coming out of left field, but don’t give up. Keep reading and the dots will coalesce into a constellation that makes it all clear.Continue Reading “It Can’t Be Both: It’s Either Science or Marketing”

Yes, I Was Wearing Pants

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I admit it. I’ve been itching to write this column for more than two months. But other things needed to be said first.

There’s a time to be serious. There’s a time to be funny. In the immediate aftermath of 9/11, much like the sudden nature of the coronavirus crisis, everything shut down abruptly. Serious people took over doing serious things. It offered a calming confidence.

Then, one day – one night actually – the time for non-stop seriousness ended. On Saturday night, September 29, 2001, nearly three weeks after the September 11th terrorist attacks, Reese Witherspoon stepped onto the stage at NBC Studios in New York City’s GE Building for the airing of the season’s first episode of Saturday Night Live.

Only she wasn’t the first one on the stage. In lieu of the standard cold opening, Mayor Rudy Giuliani appears on stage with members of the New York City Fire Department, the New York City Police Department, and the Port Authority Police Department. In a quiet and Continue Reading “Yes, I Was Wearing Pants”

No, Freedom Doesn’t Come In The Mail

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Do you know the same tactic used by Democrat candidates to oust several long-time Republican Congressmen in 2018 was also used successfully by a North Carolina Republican to win his congressional election that same year?

It’s called “ballot harvesting” or “ballot collecting.” In a nutshell, it allows campaigns to organize staff who then gather mail-in ballots from legitimate voters and submit them on behalf of those voters.

Sounds efficient, right?

It is. Both for the voter and for the campaign.

The voter avoids the long lines on election day. The campaign gets to target constituencies more likely to vote for their candidate. In effect, it cuts out the “O” in GOTV (“Get Out The Vote”) strategies by transforming it simply to a GTV (“Get The Vote”) effort.

Here’s the odd thing, though. Ballot harvesting (or collecting) is legal in some states (like California) and illegal in other states (like North Carolina).

The winning California Democrats went on to serve in Congress. The winning Republican’s election was invalidated and he opted against running in the subsequent election re-do. All used some form of ballot harvesting/collecting to gain their electoral victories.

The inequity of this treatment has caused quite a debate. While it may seem like a partisan Continue Reading “No, Freedom Doesn’t Come In The Mail”

To The Class of 2020

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You live in strange times.

You dream of greatness, of achievement, of success. Others have captured their dreams. You’re no different from them. You can earn your desires. You either have a plan or you know you can make a plan, by yourself or through the aid of helpful allies.

But now, at this very moment, your life has been disturbed, uprooted by forces you cannot control. Your carefully crafted plans, your jubilant expectations, your equitable share, all have been stripped from you. Together, they represent a loss you can never regain.

You are not alone.

Why do bad things happen to good people? This is a question long asked by theologians, pondered by philosophers, and analyzed by psychiatrists. Yet, for all the mental, physical, Continue Reading “To The Class of 2020”

You’ll Turn to Stone Once You Realize Your Sales Pitch Inadvertently Contains this Common Mistake

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You’re always selling. You may not consider it as “selling,” but you’re always trying to convince someone to do something.

It doesn’t have to be about trying to get someone to buy something from you or your company. It could be anything. Maybe it’s what to have for dinner. Maybe it’s what movie to watch? Maybe it’s swaying your boss to give you a raise.

Do you find your pitch is less persuasive than you hoped for? You could be making a common mistake without knowing it. What is that common mistake and how can you avoid it? Perhaps we should start with a metaphor.

Have you ever been to the Petrified Forest?

No, I’m not referring to the 1936 movie The Petrified Forest, starring Leslie Howard and Bette Davis, which also featured Humphrey Bogart when he was still cutting his chops playing the villain. Such was Bogey’s performance on the undercard that the American Film Continue Reading “You’ll Turn to Stone Once You Realize Your Sales Pitch Inadvertently Contains this Common Mistake”

A Bothersome Burden Has Just Been Lifted From My Shoulders, Did You Just Get the Same Feeling?

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A terrible bothersome burden has just been removed from my shoulders. Did you just get the same feeling?

The last time I felt this weighed down was, well, maybe a half century ago. For those of you who think “half century ago” must refer to ancient times, do the math. I’m talking about the late 1960s and early 1970s.

It’s a very uncomfortable feeling. It’s a drag. And I don’t mean “drag” in the sense that was used in the late 1960s and early 1970s, but “drag” in the sense of physics, specifically as engineers use it in automotive design and aeronautics. It a gnawing downward pressure that prevents you from moving faster or soaring higher.

Like so many others, I am free of that burden now. I didn’t do it alone. I have Hal to thank. Continue Reading “A Bothersome Burden Has Just Been Lifted From My Shoulders, Did You Just Get the Same Feeling?”