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.

Can America Compete? (Part II)

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[This Commentary originally appeared in the September 21, 1989 issue of The Mendon-Honeoye Falls-Lima Sentinel.]

Part Two – A Living Example of the Risk-Return Tradeoff

This is the second of two commentaries aimed at exploring a novel approach to determining our nations’ true standing in the world economy. Last week we looked at the risk-return tradeoff, the idea that risky investments are more likely to have higher returns (and larger losses) than safer investments.

CarosaCommentaryNewLogo_259Earlier this year, a Siberian valley explodes suddenly. The cause – a leaky gas pipeline. Low safety standards lead to a faulty job. People die. Property is destroyed.

You read about it all the time. Not-so-old bridges collapse, sending trainloads of passengers plummeting to an early demise. Third World ferries, overloaded with holiday travelers, capsize again and again. Athens and Frankfurt sport airports which appear to openly invite terrorists.

Across the globe, we see examples of why we are happy to be Americans. Not only do Continue Reading “Can America Compete? (Part II)”

Can America Compete? (Part I)

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[This Commentary originally appeared in the September 14, 1989 issue of The Mendon-Honeoye Falls-Lima Sentinel.]

Part One – The Risk-Return Tradeoff

The following is the first in series of two commentaries aimed at presenting a unique approach to determining our nation’s position within the world’s economy. This week is expository, meaning some readers will already be familiar with the concept of the risk-return tradeoff. In the spirit of all mini-series, we save the real interesting part for next week.

CarosaCommentaryNewLogo_259Finance professors, like all other professors, find they can enhance their employment options (i.e., get tenured) by coming up with all these fancy dancy theories to describe the real world. They write scholarly articles and intricate textbooks (most of which end up on the “Required Reading” list of the courses they teach). Many of these theories remain in the academic realm (where they can take on a life of their own). Every once in a while, though, a really neat idea escapes the verbosity of pedantic journals and appears in the vernacular of the newsweeklies. (When this happens, the professor generally writes a book for the casual reader, appears on several talk shows and becomes a highly paid consultant.)

One of the more significant investment models developed by the academic industry goes by the name, in generic terms, Modern Portfolio Theory. It attempts to provide a Continue Reading “Can America Compete? (Part I)”