How do entrepreneurs know they are going to succeed?

By Glenn Harper and Kyle Morris

This is a question we found ourselves discussing recently. Kind of like, why do you just know that even if Tom Brady’s team is down by 2 points with a minute to go, he is going to drive the ball down the field to kick a field goal. Or, if LeBron gets the ball with seconds on the clock and one point down, the Lakers are going to win.

The more we talked the more we realized that once an entrepreneur gets that first taste of success, there are essentially three things they all have in the DNA of what they do every single day.

  1. Failure isn’t an option
  2. A halo of optimism
  3. Natural ability to pivot

To be clear, entrepreneurs don’t just miraculously succeed. It’s a journey. And that journey begins without the glory you see when success is recognized. 

Often, when entrepreneurs are first starting off, they don’t have their swag or their confidence yet. In many cases, they feel pressure deep down that sounds a lot like this in their heads, “Everyone is against me. I want to do it, but I’m scared. I’m not used to success.” 

They don’t quite know the extent of their capabilities; they just know they want to do something great. 

The turning point is where the magic begins. The second they get that first client or positive affirmation, it’s over. They just go for it. They realize, “I knew I could do this! I can hit this out of the park!” 

Failure isn’t an option

For many entrepreneurs, it’s this turning point that is the fuel for their journey. Maybe they left a cushy job or a stable position with benefits. Maybe people around them are saying, “you’re crazy,” “that’s never going to work,” “what if you fail?”  

I (Kyle) had a student who came to interview me who was studying entrepreneurship in college. He asked, “when you were starting your business, what did you think about the idea of failing? And, it was the first time I really thought about it…that actually never crossed my mind.

I (Glenn) tell the entrepreneurs I work with that there is just too much negative energy in the word ‘fail.’ Fail means there is an out. For an entrepreneur, there is no out. You can retool, learn, or adjust, but an entrepreneur does not fail. 

You don’t have to be Tom Brady to be successful in the NFL. There are lots of great NFL players.  This is the same for entrepreneurs. You don’t have to be Jeff Bezos. You have to be willing to learn and take criticism. You don’t have to define success based on taking your company public. That’s not everyone’s journey.

Doing what you want to do, when you want to, how you want to, and making enough money to achieve your financial goals are often the real measures of success.

A halo of optimism

With professional or high performing athletes, there is a level of optimism that surrounds every athlete. This is also true for every great entrepreneur.

That halo of optimism says, “I’m amazing, and I make amazing things happen.” 

From the outside looking in, we might see a person with a relentless work ethic. Or someone who makes decisions that don’t make sense to the average person. That’s because for the entrepreneur, there is a halo of optimism that surrounds them.

They don’t go into business to ‘try it.’ Rather, there is a pure and total commitment to not only do it, but to excel at it.

Optimism is something that engulfs every high performing athlete and successful business person in that there’s no challenge that comes in front of that person that they can’t face head on. 

They have a mentality that when and they miss a putt from 5 feet or lose a deal, they look at the situation and think, “That’s weird. Why did that happen?” They are expecting greatness, and when greatness doesn’t happen, they are kind of surprised by it. 

Natural ability to pivot

When something unexpected happens…the missed putt, the lost client, or deal that went south, high performing athletes and business people naturally pivot and adjust. 

As an entrepreneur, once you make the decision to make your idea a reality, it’s on you to make it happen. You have to look in the mirror and say, “I will make this work!” Entrepreneurs believe in their ideas so much that they go for it and figure out the fine tune as they go.

The motivation is often 51% “I’m not gonna let the naysayers be right” and 49% “I will figure it out!” 

Entrepreneurs pivot. They keep tweaking their products, services, business model, or customer experience to deliver what clients want. They are on a journey with their clients, and they naturally evolve their offerings as client needs change. 

Not to be understated, entrepreneurs don’t succeed by themselves. Like high performing athletes have coaches, business builders need guidance and mentors. They know what they don’t know and surround themselves with expert partners to help them make adjustments and decisions that affect their successful outcome. 
If you are that business owner who doesn’t consider “failure,” whose mindset is stuck on “I’m doing this,” and who is able to pivot, adjust, and surround yourself with mentors and experts, you are an entrepreneur who is only going to succeed.

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