Entrepreneurship is a roller coaster of self. The self-confidence to try something different, the self-doubt as to whether or not you’ll succeed, the self-preservation of hustling every day. It’s a complete and utter mind game.
As an entrepreneur struggling to get ahead, it would be easier to get the cliff notes about what works and what doesn’t so you can adopt and apply them for yourself and save time. Unfortunately, it doesn’t work that way.
Since leaving the military in 2013 and co-founding my own startup, I’ve found that the principles of success on the battlefield are the same ones upon which businesses depend as well. Namely, that different people, companies, and industries define success differently but the means by which they go about succeeding — and viewing their success through mental frameworks — are always the same. It takes communication, decision making, teamwork, leadership and all the other “soft” skills that are anything but soft. They’re all extremely hard skills to learn and apply.
Related: The Importance of Having Courage
At the same time, there are common mindsets that shape success, too. Here are three of them:
1. Chaos is freedom.
If you really think about it, certainty is the enemy of opportunity because when you’re certain, you don’t ask questions, so there’s no learning. When you’re certain, it’s difficult to imagine what might be, so there’s no innovation. When you’re certain, you’re confined to a narrow mental space, so you don’t explore.
Chaos is freedom because in that space between what’s known and unknown is where opportunity lies — for businesses and for people. Take, for example, two of the largest customer service providers on the planet, Uber and AirBnb. Neither one of them owns an inventory. Instead, they create something out of nothing by first asking themselves two questions: what’s possible and what’s needed that people would pay for?
Let’s consider the whole “chaos is freedom” principle and apply it to personal development. James Allen, British philosopher and author, once said, “circumstances do not make the man, they reveal him.” Bottom line: It’s not success that defines your success, and nor is it failure. Instead, it’s how you respond to failure that sets your path. That’s why chaos is freedom. Because in chaos lies choice.
2. Suffer in silence.
I remember sitting in a car in Iraq with three other members of my team, with one being the team leader (who was sitting in back, incidentally), complaining about recent decisions. You know, the typical workplace gripes that everybody complains about. After about 10 minutes of purely unconstructive conversation, one of the guys finally asked our team leader, “what do you think about all this?” The team leader replied, “Uh uh. Complaints go up. Not down.”
Our team leader was suffering in silence because he knew that some things just need to come from the horse’s (the organizational leader’s) mouth. The same is true in everyday life. You hear people complain, criticize or find fault with things that don’t coincide with their beliefs, how they would do things, or what they know to be the facts. There’s a time and place to share your opinion, just as there is a time to withhold it.
In BUD/S (Basic Underwater Demolition SEAL Training), it was impossible to know who would successfully make it through, but you could certainly tell who wouldn’t. It was always the loudmouths, the ones who had to tell everybody about how great they are (because they didn’t demonstrate it themselves) who quit. Suffering in silence is a superpower. People who suffer in silence don’t talk less, they just talk less about themselves.
It’s easy to hop on the Complain Train Express when it’s such a natural part of life. Don’t do it, because that’s one train nobody needs to board. Set your character apart. Do better by being better.
It’s an old cliche that change is the only constant, but it’s true. What this really means is that you have two choices: to adapt now and stay competitive, or adapt later after becoming irrelevant and try to become competitive again. My recommendation is for the former. Blockbuster, Pan Am airlines, Kodak and myriad other companies chose the latter and we all know how well that worked out for them. The beauty about adaptability is that it’s something you can control. Like many things in life, there’s always something you can control, and that “something” is choice.
If you’re tired of getting the same results, try something new. Embrace newness. Doing what has always worked is a great way to ensure that you won’t be doing it for very long.