Success, in business and in life, is about following a set of beliefs that will guide your journey when nothing else can.
“Practice the right beliefs and somehow the world starts to present you with opportunities you’d otherwise never notice, practice the wrong ones and opportunities pass you by like noontime shadows, fleeting and barely noticed.”
Beliefs are like finely tuned lighting rods, attracting what you expect them to attract. This isn’t just the colloquial “Law of Attraction” phenomenon that we hear about so often, it’s much more mechanical than that. Beliefs create the lens through which you see the world and the behaviors through which you experience it; they are the compass setting that guides you when the cloud of uncertainty, fear and doubt envelops you and obscures the future. Practice the right beliefs and somehow the world starts to present you with opportunities you’d otherwise never notice, practice the wrong ones and opportunities pass you by like noontime shadows, fleeting and barely noticed.
Here are the six beliefs that I’ve found to be essential if you are to build the right lens through which to see the path to success.
1. Believe in Yourself
Believing in yourself is more than just a platitude. You need to develop a deep belief in your ability to not only affirm your choices but to also accept the resistance that you will encounter, sometimes from the people closest to you. I recall when I started my first business an overwhelmingly unexpected response of gloom and doom from close friends and even relatives. One even went so far as to tell me that I was making the biggest mistake of my life! I was absolutely dumbfounded. You can take that sort of advice and tell yourself it’s absolute uninformed rubbish or start to second-guess yourself. If you choose the path of doubt be prepared to wallow in it until it swallows you whole.
2. Believe Everything Happens for a Reason
There are two ways to read this. One is that there is some preordained plan that plots our course well in advance. Another is that bad things happen for no good reason other than to force you to find a reason. The problem with the former is that it implies you have no choice in what the reason is. But you do have a choice! One of the most enlightening and empowering things you can do when obstacles arise is to find a reason to leverage them as launching pads for learning and greater success. That’s a tough thing to do when something that seems totally out of your control derails you. But the only control you have in those situations is the choice to find a reason, even if you have to manufacture it.
3. Believe in Your Idea
This is another of those platitudes that ends up being often misconstrued to mean that just because something is your idea, then it’s a good idea. That’s an inaccurate belief. Instead, think of the belief in your idea as being similar to the belief a parent has in his or her child; you don’t believe in them simply because they are your child, or because they agree with you all the time, or even because they always make the decisions you want them to make, but rather because you believe in their ability to chart their own course. In that same way ideas take on a life of their own. The best ones morph and change over time into something you never expected. When Apple introduced the iPod it was actually not what Jobs had originally planned to do. The original idea was to roll out iTunes for any MP3 player–of which there were many at the time. The problem was that the original idea did not provide the sort of control and digital rights management needed to get the music industry onboard. The idea had to change radically to accommodate the iPod. Yet, that reconstituted idea was the foundation on which Apple changed the music industry, and ultimately mobile communications.
4. Believe in Your Customers
No idea comes to the market fully formed. That’s because you can never anticipate all of the ways that customers will apply your idea. It’s amazing to watch sophisticated and smart companies ignore their customers’ desires and direction just because they do not conform to the original intent of the product. Worse yet, many entrepreneurs narrow down the customers they listen to by choosing to only hear those who love the product. Criticism is hard to take, but the one group you most need to receive it from is your customers. Take every critique to heart, no matter how antithetical it is. That doesn’t mean that every critique is accurate or appropriate, but it does mean each one is worth listening to. No matter how small your company is create a customer council to help guide you and shape your product. And don’t stack the deck with lovers; throw some haters in there as well!
5. Believe in Your Vision
Believing in your vision is not about putting blinders on and ignoring everything that falls outside of what’s directly ahead. Vision changes and morphs as you, your company, your products, and your markets mature. If that wasn’t the case innovation would never happen. The key here is adopting a vision that has a long-term view that allows for constant adjustment of the path you take to get there. Apple didn’t set out to create the best MP3 player, it set out to revolutionize the way we listen to, buy, and experience music. Over the course of the last 15 years that vision has remained true, despite dozens of subtle and sometimes substantial changes in the products and services Apple has built to get us there.
6. Believe in Your Intuition
Lastly, the one thing that has consistently amazed me about the process of getting older is how much more important it becomes to trust intuition. While empirical evidence may be easy to accumulate and analyze it is always evidence about the past. You cannot capture data about the future until you’ve experienced it. If innovation teaches us nothing else, it is that the patterns of the past obscure the future. Intuition is the power to see beyond these patterns and to make decisions that break free of the shackles of the past. This doesn’t mean you’re a fortune-teller, but it does mean that you need to increasingly pay attention to that inner voice that launched you on your entrepreneurial journey to begin with. It’s always there–at times screaming at you and at other times barely whispering–learn to listen to what it has to say. The more often you do the more likely you are make the hard choices that logic and data will rarely justify on their own.
This article was originally published on Inc.
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Tom Koulopoulos is the author of 10 books and founder of the Delphi Group, a 25-year-old Boston-based think tank and a past Inc. 500 company that focuses on innovation and the future of business. He tweets from @tkspeaks.tom