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.

Ready. Fire! Aim.

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Ask any entrepreneurial wannabe what’s holding them back and they’ll say, “I’m just not sure if I have everything I need.”

Ask any successful entrepreneur to name the key to their success and they’ll say, “Moving forward without having everything I needed.”

There are two immutable laws when it comes to starting a business or any new venture. The first neatly packages a box for comfortable perfection. The second… well, let’s talk about the first law first.

The First Immutable Law of Every Successful Entrepreneur: “Never proceed without a Continue Reading “Ready. Fire! Aim.”

Winning The Battle Of Bedford Falls

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“Gower and Uncle Billy sold war bonds. Bert the cop was wounded in North Africa, got the Silver Star. Ernie, the taxi-driver, parachuted into France. Marty helped capture the Remagen Bridge. Harry, Harry Bailey topped them all. A Navy flier, he shot down fifteen planes. Two of them as they were about to crash into a transport full of soldiers.”

“Yes, but George…”

“George? Four-F on account of his ear, George fought the battle of Bedford Falls… Air raid warden… paper drives…scrap drives… rubber drives… Like everybody else, on V-E day he wept and prayed. On V-J day, he wept and prayed again.”

If you’re a red-blooded American you immediately recognize these lines from the move It’s a Wonderful Life.

Good ol’ George Bailey. As honest and sincere a guy as you can come by. He’d give you his Continue Reading “Winning The Battle Of Bedford Falls”

Just Get Past The Peak

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There’s a bridge between here and Toronto. It’s in St. Catherine’s. It’s not high, but it’s high enough.

As you cross the Lewiston Bridge, the 190 turns into Route 405 in Ontario. The 405 quickly merges into the QEW and from there its straight on through to Toronto.

By way of this “high enough” bridge.

It’s called the “Garden City Skyway” and it soars 130 feet above the Welland Canal at its greatest height. Not too high. But high enough.

Nearly a mile long, when approaching from the east (which is what you do when you’re travelling to Toronto) before it crosses the canal, it ascends to a gentle curve. But not gentle enough.

To compound matters, the Canadians built the Garden City Skyway as an open road. There is no high structural steel to cocoon you comfortably within its path.

This, combined with it being as tall as a 13-story building and a curve that hides your ultimate destination leaves you with a feeling of flying unbound, high above the endless horizon of Lake Ontario.

And that’s just enough to give one smitten with a not-so-mild case of acrophobia sweaty palms.

I happen to be that one.

We all have a fear of falling. It’s natural and it’s meant to protect us. Acrophobia – the fear Continue Reading “Just Get Past The Peak”

Never Say Never

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One day, a little boy came home from his first day of school. He was very excited. He couldn’t stop talking about his day. “Teacher says I can do anything I want!” he exclaimed.

His grandfather, listening quietly, became interested, leaned forward and asked “What do you want to do?”

The talkative boy suddenly became quiet and his eyes lit up as he looked outside the kitchen window. Beyond the horizon stood a tall mountain that soared into the clouds. “You see that?” said the boy pointing at the mountain, “I want to climb to the top of that mountain.”

His grandfather leaned back in his chair and laughed knowledgably. “Ha!” he chuckled, “it’s impossible to climb that mountain, it’s too high up!”Continue Reading “Never Say Never”

A Life of Flabby Loneliness

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It was a cold February winter more than 35 years ago. I sat uncomfortably close to a diminutive manually assembled Bush Furniture computer hutch. You remember those things. They looked like the mutant offspring of a too short desk and a flimsy book shelf.

Little did I know I was on the leading edge.

Actually, I did know I was on the leading edge… and loving it.

Hunched over what was then a new Wang PC, I had convinced my employer I needed to Continue Reading “A Life of Flabby Loneliness”

Why the Hamburger is Who You Are

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I had the most enjoyable of times a couple Thursday evenings ago. Perhaps a bit too enjoyable.

I was honored to have been invited to speak to the Mendon/Honeoye Falls Historical Society about a subject near and dear to my heart: the history of the hamburger. Not only is it the topic of my most recent book, but I have been lucky enough to talk about my research at events across the nation.

You can understand why I may have enjoyed myself just a tad more than I should have during my Historical Society presentation.

Oh, I tried and tried to maintain my sober scholarly best. But, as it wont to occur when I talk about matters I’ve pursued down rabbit holes of research with extreme vigor, passion inevitably gets the better of me. And when that enthusiasm inspires audience interest, it Continue Reading “Why the Hamburger is Who You Are”

What Every Leader Wants (and Better Have)

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When we think of leadership, we think of power, authority, and influence. We often assume these three traits are interchangeable, that they mean the same thing.

They don’t.

According to Merriam-Webster, those with “power” have the “ability to act or produce an effect.” In addition, the dictionary also says power may be a “legal or official authority, capacity, or right” that possesses “control, authority, or influence over others.” Despite this, don’t confuse “power” with either “authority” or “influence.” You can possess power without having either authority or influence.

How is this so?

Merriam-Webster fails to help here, as it defines “authority” as the “power to influence or Continue Reading “What Every Leader Wants (and Better Have)”

Discover Success Like Columbus: The Power of Thinking Inside the Box

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Everyone thinks the secret to success is to think outside the box. That may be one path, but it’s not the only one.

In fact, there may be a far easier route. It’s also one of the most overlooked paths to success.

You don’t need to think outside the box. All you need to do is think inside the box.

The voyage of discovery undertaken by Christopher Columbus represents an epic tale of success long embraced by the vast American public throughout the history of our country. It contains everything a good story should contain.

The Columbus saga begins with a naïve but unpopular observation by an underdog of underdogs. It features the obligatory scorn of the establishment. It honors the power of Continue Reading “Discover Success Like Columbus: The Power of Thinking Inside the Box”

Party Like It’s 1959 – The Beautiful Dance of Strategy and Tactics

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The gray mid-day sky lit up with a brilliant blinding flash. Moments later came a sharp crackle. Its echo reverberated as if it came from inside a deep canyon.

Thus, were the thunderstorms of my youth. Short. Spectacular. And always worth pulling up a lawn chair and watching through the open garage door. It was only a one-car garage, but the space proved wide enough to fit me, my brother, and my father.

You know the kind of lawn chairs I’m talking about. They’re classic. The thin aluminum piping folded for easy and convenient storage. When unfolded you’d sit on its plastic webbing that cushioned your bottom for comfort. Kenny and I would often struggle to avoid being left with the one with the loosest webbing.

Best of all, these classic lawn chairs could get wet. This was often a risk while watching those wandering summer storms. Sometimes a gust of wind would blow the pouring rain beneath the slight eave of roof covering the garage. When that happened with sudden Continue Reading “Party Like It’s 1959 – The Beautiful Dance of Strategy and Tactics”