As entrepreneurs, we know we must deliver tremendous value to our clients and our prospective clients. The more value we can give them, the more value we create for ourselves and our stakeholders. This is the enlightened self-interest of capitalism.
To do that, we have to be productive and be in control. For advice, I reached out to Craig Ballantyne, author of The Perfect Day Formula: How to Own the Day and Control Your Life. Ballantyne’s initial success in the field health and fitness—he created the popular home workout program Turbulence Training—led to him becoming a productivity and success coach who now helps entrepreneurs of all stripes.
Through his efforts, he’s developed what he calls the 5 pillars of success, which he recently shared with me.
1. Plan ahead. If you’re reacting all, or even some, of the time, you’ll struggle. The key is to be proactive and plot out the ideal future for you and your business. I know—it’s easier said than done for those of us who are constantly going and going. But the fact is, stepping back and engaging in preparation for what you want to come next is crucial to lasting and meaningful success.
What’s more, you don’t have to reinvent the wheel to become a better proactive planner. There are numerous resources to help you engage in long-term vision planning, and then smaller-dose resources that help you plot out 60, or 90 days of action steps to move you toward that vision. (Ballantyne recommends the approach spelled out in the book Mastering the Rockefeller Habits.)
2. Implement professional accountability. Being held accountable for our commitments and actions is a great motivator to walk our talk. But frankly, accountability usually doesn’t really work if we look to our teams or our friends to hold our feet to the fire. The best approach is to enlist the help of a professional coach, trainer, or mentor. They can give you expert advice about the key issues you’re trying to solve of course. But perhaps even more important, they’ll be brutally honest about what you’re doing right and wrong, and where you’re veering off your path—all so you can get back on track. “A friend or associate can help motivate you with their positivity, of course, but a coach or mentor is the one who will say to you ‘you’re making some mistakes—what can we do about that going forward?’” says Ballantyne.
That said, not just any coach will do. For maximum impact, be sure to work only with someone who shares your values and ethics—someone who you “get” and who “gets” you. If you’re not aligned in some deep way with your coach, you ultimately will end up ignoring his advice and insights. But if you are, you can reasonably expect to accomplish in 2 or 3 years what might have taken you 4 or 5 years on your own.
3. Recruit positive social support. Of course, we do need cheerleaders in our lives who pick us up on our worst days. This is where those friends and colleagues who will keep saying “Go for it! You can do it!” are so valuable. I’ve found mastermind groups that hold regular meetings and events to be particularly affirming and motivating, especially when they consist of people who are pursuing similar goals with the same amount of passion as me. But keep in mind that this social support can come virtually as well as from “in real life” friends. LinkedIn and Facebook groups and other online communities of like-minded people can be highly effective at providing motivational social support.
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4. Give yourself meaningful incentives. Whether it involved our companies, our health or anything else, few of us stick to our plans and visions if we don’t have something that incentivizes us. But the key is to make that incentive be deeply meaningful. An example from Ballantyne’s personal training days that he says kept people on target: I’m doing this for my kids, so I’ll be around in 20 years when the graduate college. “Going out and getting tickets to a football game, that’s a little bit of an incentive. That will keep you going for a bit, but that is not deeply meaningful to you,” he says. “What I’ve learned over time is that what really matters in life is the people that we spend the time with and the experiences that we have.”
5. Set a hard deadline for meeting a goal. Most of us don’t like having a deadline looming. But deadlines can be—and often are—very positive for entrepreneurs. It’s helpful to set a series of short deadlines because it’s relatively easy to tell ourselves that we can commit to something for 30, 60 or 90 days. When we feel burned out halfway through the process, we can quickly tell ourselves that we’re close enough to the deadline to keep pushing forward.
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