The 3 AM Epiphany

It was three o’clock in the morning.

I know because I saw the alarm clock as I reached for a pad and pen.

I had been spending a few hours a day for the past week analyzing all the surveys my business clients have sent me over the past six years.

Trying to find the distinction between the monster successes my company, Strategic Profits, has spawned and the failures we failed to prevent over the years.

The activity in itself isn’t that unusual. I do research like this from time to time. It helps me uncover topics to write about, products to create, and new marketing approaches that’ll resonate.

There were, however, two unusual characteristics this Thursday morning. First, me waking up at this ungodly hour. Second and much more important, is an idea so powerful it shook me awake.

Even better: It’s easy to execute, and will stimulate more business success than any other information I could deliver.

I couldn’t stop myself. I spent the next few weeks in intense writing sessions to articulate this easy-to-execute idea for my clients. This intense writing produced my most popular client-only report of all time.

It’s the same idea I want to share with you today…

The Critical Missing Factor

I started this writing process by pouring over the files from past clients – both successes and failures.

From those files, I compiled a list of red flags indicating the failed clients possessed a flawed thinking process. Then on the flipside, I created a list of my most successful clients and what factors helped them achieve that success.

I quickly discovered my most successful clients and I shared a way of thinking – a similar perspective, a philosophy about what really causes success in life and business.

Their thinking literally determined their level of success in everything.

Why This is More Important Than Ever

Here’s the good news: This successful way of thinking is not something you’re born with – it’s something you develop.

If you do have a flawed way of thinking that’s holding you back, you can fix it. (And I’ll tell you how in just a second.)

This is the idea that shook me awake at 3 am: The fastest, easiest, and biggest leap an underperforming business or entrepreneur could make to improve their results and grow their profits… is to change their thinking.

Or in short, think better.

And in 2012, if you can learn how to improve your thinking, you will definitely have a competitive advantage.

It’s more important than ever to be a good strategic thinker – and it’s also more difficult.

We’re living in the Information Age, where you’re inundated with information. As an entrepreneur, you must be able to sift through that information, find what’s important, and then maximize that information’s value – better than your competitors.

All that takes strategic business thinking.

How to Think Your Way to a Better Business

Most entrepreneurs don’t realize there is a process to successful business thinking – just like there’s a process to thinking like a medical doctor, engineer or lawyer.

That’s why they don’t realize that every stumbling block in their business is a lesson. Learning that lesson challenges you to think differently.

But it’s more than just painful trial and error. There are shortcuts to better thinking you can use.

Once you hear these shortcuts, you’ll not only see more clearly, think more creatively, and plan more effectively. You’ll also never make most of the mistakes that plague entrepreneur’s lives when they succumb to faulty thinking.

Here are a few of the shortcuts I give my clients…

First, I highly recommend keeping a journal. I’ve been keeping a journal to record my business success and failures for over 25 years now. It’s how I think through everything…and challenge myself to be a better thinker.

What to write in your journal: I’m a visual person so I use diagrams and mindmapping to think through any new projects. I also use my journal to grade my performance on how I did during the week… outline and define goals… and stay the course when I feel like I’m in a rut.

Questions to get you started: For all new clients I always challenge them to answer the following questions in their journals. I ask: “What exactly do you want from your business? What’s the absolute minimum necessary to have it? What’s the fastest and easiest way to get it?”

The last three questions sound deceptively simple, but they’re incredibly important. Trust me when I say knowing the answers to these questions will help you reach success faster than any course or program you can buy.

Because if you knew exactly what you wanted – and the specific steps that would get you there – wouldn’t you agree that you would have what you wanted by now?

As I tell my clients: you must focus on the what before you can focus on the how to. You must be clear on exactly what you want, so you can map out the steps to get you there.

So take a moment right now, and start writing down your goals for your business (or your life in general). Then start outlining what it would take to achieve those goals – and the quickest ways to make those goals a reality. Take your time and give your answers some thought.

Remember: Thinking can be your strategic competitive advantage. Don’t waste it.

[Ed. Note. Rich Schefren is known as the “guru to the gurus” because he has coached more Internet gurus than any other business coach alive today. Besides growing three multi-million-dollar businesses, he is also the author of the Internet Business Manifesto, which has been downloaded over 1 million times. Click here to learn more wisdom from Rich.]