12 Habits of Unhappy People (and How to Avoid Having Them)

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“I am determined to be cheerful and happy in whatever situation I may find myself. For I have learned that the greater part of our misery or unhappiness is determined not by our circumstance but by our disposition.” ­– Martha Washington, wife of 1st U.S. President George Washington

Happiness is something that we all strive to attain. As human beings we can accept the fact that: (a) life is short, and (b) unhappiness makes our lives difficult. As is common knowledge, our habits have a big impact on the quality of life that we live; specifically, these habits directly impact our happiness (or lack thereof). To make a clear distinction, there is a strong difference between clinical depression and chronic unhappiness. Depression is a chemical imbalance in the brain, while unhappiness is a disposition that is often acquired through how we choose to live our lives. Similar to depression, however, unhappiness can be diagnosed and treated.
Here are 12 habits that can cause unhappiness, all of which can be avoided.
1. Chronic Complaining
Happy and successful people do not complain much. On the other side, it seems that chronic complainers always have something negative to say… even when those around them are happy! The bottom line: we all have different circumstances that we are given in this lifetime, but in the end these circumstances are ours – fair or unfair, wanted or unwanted. Instead, seek solutions to problems instead of complaining, which leads to nowhere.
2. Being critical – of self and others
How we talk to ourselves shapes our self-image, for better or worse. Self-worth is an essential component to our happiness, and feeling good about ourselves is a right that we all have. Realize when mistakes are made, accept them, and move on…don’t engage in negative self-talk. Further, respect the inherent differences of others and recognize their right to live happily and without undue criticism.
3. Living beyond means
We live in a materialistic society, one where we are constantly bombarded with advertisements for the latest car, gadget, or credit card; all promising an easier, more fulfilling existence. Don’t believe it for a second. While purchasing a new product may provide a needed emotional boost, it doesn’t last. Ever heard the term “buyer’s remorse”? It exists for a reason. Instead, seek out something to do that doesn’t involve whipping out a piece of plastic – exercise, reading, sightseeing, etc. – anything brings satisfaction without the debt.
4. Negative addictions
Most things are good in moderation – food, a drink or two, entertainment… it’s when these things take center stage in our lives that it becomes a problem. Unfortunately, many good people have met their end through addictive habits, especially through dependence on alcohol and drugs. A great preventative measure and remedy to these addictions? Finding and living our passions to the greatest extent possible (see #8).
5. Regretting the past
Regret is not only useless, it can be extremely harmful. Research continues to show that repetitive, negative thoughts about decisions made in the past in often a precursor to chronic stress and depression. According to Psychology Today, there are four ways to cope with regret: (1) learn from mistakes but don’t dwell, (2) if nothing can be changed about the situation to let it go, (3) make sure too much blame is not being undertaken, and(4) reframing the situation more positively.
6. Worrying about the future
We only have so much say in what our future holds. This is not meant to disempower (quite the opposite); rather it is stating simple truth. What we can do is live in the present while fully exercising our God-given abilities and talents, enabling and empowering us to live a happier existence. There’s that phrase again: living in the present. Face difficulties as they arise and let them go. Enjoy the beautiful things in life and experience them fully…be present.
7. Being driven by fear
Yes, fear can be an enabler to unhappiness. To fully understand this, we have to again go back to being present. Quite simply, we can’t allow fear of the unknown (and/or the unavoidable) to cripple our quality of life. Fear is a negative thought process that is often on auto pilot. Remember: we are not our negative thoughts. We are not fear, worry, anxiety, or any other negative thought process.
8. Delaying goals and dreams
It’s relatively easy and effortless to get caught up in the routine of life: working, eating, sleeping, maybe even a day or two of doing something fun or relaxing. But here’s the thing: by not directing our talents and passions toward a positive and tangible goal, we potentially discard something great before its realization. The hardest part of living out our goals and dreams is taking the first step. After building a game plan taking that first step, only then can we see the possibilities.
9. Gossiping
Nothing exudes unhappiness and insecurity more than negative small talk about someone else. After all, why would a happy, confident person engage in something that is of no benefit? They wouldn’t. Gossip is something to be left to the kids at recess, not to adults attempting to make their lives (and others!) better.
10. Holding grudges
Similar to other negative emotions, animosity is a needless weight on our backs. We are all witness to the negative behaviors of other people and can become (sometimes justifiably) angered as a result. But remember: this isn’t about their ignorant behavior; it’s about your happiness. Either forgive, forget, or ignore… and move on with your life.
11. Eating poorly
Ingesting nutritionally-bankrupt food is all about immediate gratification. It’s certainly not about feeling good long-term, as eating poorly can result in bad health, weight gain, depression, lack of energy and decreased productivity; while having a well-balanced diet results in an entirely opposite effect – more energy, a healthy weight, mental alertness, and increased productivity. Eat right, look great, and feel great.
12. Expanding our problems
When we experience unhappiness and discontent, our first reaction is almost entirely emotional. In other words, we blow things completely out of proportion. After all, we still have that darned “lizard brain” (amygdala) – the epicenter of negative emotions. Instead, just take a step back, look at the problem objectively (with minimal emotion), and focus on a solution!

Richard Branson’s Guide to Finding a Mentor – Richard Branson

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No matter how smart you are, or how brilliant or disruptive your business concept might be, every entrepreneur needs a good mentor. Someone, somewhere, has already been through what you are experiencing right now, and he has come out the other side armed with invaluable insights.

In fact, the difference between a budding entrepreneur who merely shows promise and one who is already enjoying some success often comes down to mentoring. Good advice can be just as crucial as funding in the early stages of an enterprise.

The need for a mentor is obvious, yet seeking one out can be quite difficult and daunting. How do you find the right person?

There are many different routes, some which I have described in previous columns. Often, you have to do some research. Try going to industry events like lunches, seminars, talks and conferences. Join community groups — your local chamber of commerce is a great place to start. Chambers of commerce often host networking events and meetings that bring beginning entrepreneurs and successful businesspeople together. Talk to people, listen to their stories and pursue further meetings with those whom you can learn from.

Another great place to find a potential mentor’s name is online. Look for sector– or industry-specific events and groups on Facebook; subscribe to useful newsletters; follow interesting or relevant individuals from your region on Twitter or LinkedIn; then get in touch and ask questions — just like you can with me.

Be sure that you choose someone who has experience and connections within your area and level of business. If you’re a budding entrepreneur in, say, the building and home repair industry, you shouldn’t waste your time trying to court a senior executive at a multinational engineering company. Focus on finding someone who has started a venture that’s similar to yours, and who understands the trials and tribulations of building a business in that area.

Keep in mind that an adviser who offers his time in return for compensation is not the same thing as a mentor. While advisers and consultants can be very helpful, true mentors are effective partly because they are only interested in helping others succeed.

If you don’t yet have someone in mind who might fit the bill, make a list of successful people in your community. Is there someone on that list whom you admire and respect? Ask her to lunch, to coffee, or simply ask for 30 minutes of her time to chat.

When you do decide to approach someone, make sure that you don’t go in blind – know what you want to ask. Explain what excites you about your service or product, be honest about your fears, and ask for feedback.

It is rarely a good idea to make a hard and formal request for mentoring upfront, like “Will you be my mentor?” Such relationships blossom on their own. A mentor-mentee relationship takes time to grow, so start by asking for simple advice on one project or problem, and move on from there.

When you do locate a good mentor, he will serve as an example, a sounding board and, ultimately, a friend. Done well, mentorship is rewarding for both of you. It’s important to nurture the relationship, so find fun ways to meet regularly, even without a business agenda.

Mentoring has had such a profound impact on my life and Virgin’s success that I feel it’s paramount to any promising businessperson’s journey. As I have written before, I attribute much of the success of Virgin Atlantic to my relationship with my own mentor, Sir Freddie Laker, the founder of Laker Airways. I wouldn’t have gotten anywhere in the airline industry without Freddie’s down-to-earth wisdom. He was actually the one who told me to make myself the face of the company – a piece of advice that has influenced my entire approach to business.

If you are in a position to share the skills you have learned, you should give back by becoming a mentor yourself. Finding success is hard work, and entrepreneurs could use a little help along the way.

As the American businessman Zig Ziglar once said: “A lot of people have gone further than they thought they could because someone else thought they could.” So get out there and find the right mentor to help you along the path to success.

The Flawless Way to Open a Business – Jeffrey Hayzlett

So you’re just starting a new business. Congratulations! It’s probably safe to assume that you’ve hired a staff, created a website and sent out word that the enterprise is now open for business. So now what?

Although it might seem easy to sit back, relax and let customers come to you, resist the urge to be passive. There’s still plenty of tasks that will keep you busy during the first days, weeks and months of your new venture. Here are a few suggestions that you won’t want to overlook:

1. Make sure employees are properly dressed.
If there’s a uniform, be sure that each new hire is equipped with the correct wardrobe. Running a business is a team effort, and one of the first ways to create unity is by having staffers dress in a similar fashion.

If your new venture doesn’t require a uniform, be sure that employees understand the dress code. Is it business casual or something more formal? This may seem obvious, but set the tone in choosing your attire. If a blazer and dress pants are the look you want to convey, be sure you’re not coming into the workplace in a polo shirt and sneakers.

2. Educate staff to be knowledgeable about the firm.
Did you give employees a welcome packet or an orientation outlining your company’s business model, goals and strategies for success? Getting everyone on the same page is important.

Also, let your employees know that you’re available should they have any questions. It’s better for them to know how to handle certain situations beforehand rather than when a customer becomes involved and it’s too late.

3. Develop business relationships.
One great way to expand your circle of business relationships is through social media. Set up social media accounts on Twitter and Facebook for your company. This is a great (and free!) way to market your new company and reach potential clients while also nurturing current business ties.

Also, don’t fall into the trap of marketing only from behind your computer screen. Sign up for networking events in your community where you can meet other entrepreneurs and build contacts outside of your company. Be sure to bring a stack of business cards to hand out to all your new acquaintances. It’s a small world and you never know whom you might meet.

4. Never stop learning.
Attend talks with other business leaders in the community. Some good resources for finding events are LinkedIn or the local newspaper. Also consider signing up for a noncredit class at an area college in a subject you want to learn more about, be it accounting, marketing or customer service.

What are some things you’ve done as a business owner to position your new venture for success?

7 Things Confident Entrepreneurs Never Do – Sujan Patel

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If you want to be a successful entrepreneur, you have to bleed confidence. Starting something on your own takes tenacity, faith and determination to make it work. To have a business that makes it past the first 18 months, these qualities of poor leaders are certainly going to be on your list of things to avoid:

1. Second guess themselves and their employees
True confidence comes from being able to trust your team and yourself. Make sure your hiring process is long enough to find and keep the right people, as this can make or break your company. Many employers are now offering pre-cations or hiring employees for an initial first project to make sure they are a good fit before hiring them full time.

Offering a fun and secure work environment with great benefits, profit sharing and new technology can let employees know you appreciate them while also helping them become more emotionally invested in the future of the company.

If you find yourself second guessing yourself or your employees, take the time to fix it before your confidence becomes too shaken.

2. Compromise their priorities
When you are building a business, great employees are key, but many entrepreneurs get so tied up in making their business work that they forget about what else in their lives are important to them. Building a business is their main concern, but relationships with friends and family can slip through the cracks if they don’t make it a priority to schedule time for them.

This also goes for hobbies and “self-care” time: meditation, exercise, reading and other things done for enjoyment (even if it’s just browsing on ESPN or some other news site for a few hours) deserve to be scheduled just as much as work projects or meetings. It has been shown that hobbies make people more happy than money, according to the Portland Psychotherapy Clinic. Confidence is boosted when stress is reduced through hobbies and time with loved ones.

3. Refuse to learn new skills
The confident and successful entrepreneur has to adapt to their business’s current needs. While you may need a programmer or designer to make website changes, it may not be in the budget, or they might stuck working on a different project. Instances like this require the confident entrepreneur to put aside any trepidation at learning something new, such as coding or graphic design. Websites such as Skillshare, Lynda, CodeAcademy, UniversalClass and Treehouse (or local community colleges) can help entrepreneurs learn new skills without a high monetary cost.

4. Focus on external validation
It can be endlessly satisfying to hear positive feedback from the media or others about your company or products, but confident entrepreneurs and companies shouldn’t take it less (or more) seriously than negative feedback.

Focusing on internal goals and ideas is what built the company in the first place, so while external feedback is a great way to improve a product, it shouldn’t have the power to completely overhaul how you work or ruin your day. Too many business owners focus on what others are thinking and it ends up impeding their creative process, which in turn causes their products to suffer.

5. Worry about competitors
There’s a difference between worrying about competitors and knowing what they are up to. It’s smart to see what products and services are available in your current market, but just like external validation, if you get caught up in trying to “keep up with the Joneses,” it doesn’t leave much room for actually outpacing your competition.

If you want to stay on top, think of all the ways the customers in your market aren’t being served, and focus on solving that need.

6. Avoid networking and public speaking
When it comes to finding out industry needs, it’s a cold, hard truth for introverts and other shy people that being able to communicate confidently and well is key to building a business.

For most entrepreneurs, having good networking and speaking skills are key, as others’ impressions of you will in turn influence how they feel about your product or company. If you aren’t good at networking or speaking, try joining Toastmasters or attending free events by your local chamber of commerce.

7. Be ignorant of trends or current events
There’s a quiet confidence that comes from staying up to date with the latest technology, national and international news and other trends that are popular in mainstream culture. Society has a huge effect on businesses, no matter the industry or niche, and knowing what’s popular now can help influence and improve products and businesses.

While it’s important to look to the future to solve upcoming needs, current trends can help predict what’s happening next. Subscribe to blogs and websites such as CNN, The New York Times, Wired and Reddit to see what is new and part of current pop culture.

Whether you are networking in a room filled with potential customers or working with your trusted employees on a new, innovative product, confident entrepreneurship means trusting in your brand, business and yourself.

7 Communication Skills Every Entrepreneur Must Master – Jayson Demers

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Your success as an entrepreneur is determined in large part by your ability to communicate. You can be the best at what you do, but if you’re not communicating effectively with clients, staff and the market, then you’re missing opportunities.

There are many different ways to look at communication in the small-business world — from the individual formats such as writing and speaking, to different contexts such as client communication and employee management. But I’d like to take a closer look at a handful of overarching themes that transcend specific situations. Mastery of these different communications skills ensures that you’ll be effective at every level.

1. Listen deeply
Are you a good listener? Studies suggest that our daily communication breakdown is as follows:

9 percent writing
16 percent reading
30 percent speaking
45 percent listening
Yet, most of us are terrible listeners. The reasons vary, from being distracted by our own internal monologues to superimposing meaning on what’s being said before we allow others to finish. Instead, try this: focus on the person speaking, and verbally play back a summary of what was said to make sure you understand, before proceeding to build on the conversation with additional points.

Solid listening skills help you more effectively serve clients, make sales and manage employees because you’re picking up on and connecting to people’s most urgent concerns.

2. Interpret non-verbal cues
You’ve heard the refrains on the importance of body language. Sit up straight, think about your facial expressions and remember to lean forward when listening to show interest. But how good is your ability to interpret others’ non-verbal cues? It turns out that it’s essential.

One study from UCLA suggests that as much as 55 percent of the meaning in face-to-face interactions is conveyed non-verbally. Don’t just practice awareness of your own body language. Analyze specific cues — such as posture, expressions and gestures — being made by others when they’re speaking.

3. Manage expectations
“Under-promise and over-deliver” might be the most on-point summary of managing expectations ever devised. As an entrepreneur, you have many people asking for significant accomplishments from you in short time periods with limited resources (or so it often feels!). The easiest way to alleviate pressure as an entrepreneur is to manage expectations.

Be clear about deliverables, timeframes and results. If issues arise, communicate clearly and frequently. It’s always better to commit to less than raise people’s expectations and fail to follow through.

4. Productive pushback
Conflict management is an essential part of being an entrepreneur. The Washington Business Journal reported that managers spend between 25 to 40 percent of their days resolving conflicts. A major component of successfully resolving conflicts is your ability to productively push back.

Whether you’re dealing with scope creep in a client case or dealing with management challenges, the ability to communicate under pressure is a key entrepreneurial skill. Pushback should always be polite, productive and non-personal. Focus on clarity and resolution.

5. Be concise
Whether it’s statistics on how little time people spend focused on a single issue (according to one source, eight seconds) or simply the need to get more done in less time, concise communication wins out. Even the technological context supports this. As screens get smaller, we have to say more in fewer words.

Develop the ability to get to the point in a sharp and focused manner and communicate that across mediums. Find ways to cut the fat off your verbal and written communications and notice whether it gets you better results.

6. Confidently state your value and differentiation
Branding and selling are all about being able to confidently communicate both your points of value and what makes you different than anyone else on the market. The same skills are essential to helping you motivate yourself on a daily basis, hire the right employees, and ultimately even connect with friends and partners.

Spend time getting clear about the value you bring to the table and your unique selling points, and build your ability to confidently share that in different contexts. Practice boiling that proposition down to no more than two to three sentences.

7. Know your why
Most people focus on what to say and how to say it. How can I sound smart? How can I deliver this speech for maximum impact? But it’s more important to know why you’re communicating. What do you want people to take away? What action should they take after you interact?

Every communication should have a call to action, even if that call to action is to leave with a positive feeling about your or your brand. Ask yourself why you’re communicating before you write, pick up the phone or step into your next meeting and make sure your tone, word choice and delivery are in service to that goal.

Conclusion
Developing the soft skills needed to succeed as an entrepreneur takes time. Focusing on your communication skills — from reading body language to summing up your value in a few sentences — is one of the most powerful things you can do to advance your career and success.

Work to find the gaps in your communications arsenal and then mindfully practice until each of your skills is up to par.

What 6-Year-Olds Can Teach Us About Getting Promoted – Kathleen Murphy

On what I assumed was going to be a pretty standard day at the office, I ended up learning a valuable life lesson about the power of self-confidence and optimism…and it was all thanks to a precocious six-year-old girl named Piper.

Piper is the daughter of a colleague, Karen, who recently had to bring Piper to the office. To keep Piper occupied while mom worked, Karen brought along some dolls and a “My Little Pony” coloring book and gave Piper a cubicle. Piper had no interest in playing with dolls or coloring. She wanted to be an intern and get to work. Upon sizing up the office environment, Piper very quickly wanted to know what it took to get an office (with a window view of course).

She introduced herself to some of the people around her, and the next thing her mother knew, she was having meetings with a variety of senior leaders in the department – asking them about their jobs and discussing what it would take to get promoted. What a little go-getter! At just six years old, this first grader is fearless. She doesn’t yet know about boundaries and what people are “supposed” to do or not do.

Contrast the Piper story with a very different experience I had just a few days later while visiting a high school as part of a financial literacy program. We were speaking to a class of 9th grade boys and girls to help educate them on basic financial knowledge. To get them engaged in the exercise, we played a quiz game for prizes. The questions were basic and we asked the kids to raise their hand if they knew the answer. To my astonishment, not one girl raised her hand during the entire game. Meanwhile the boys were fully tripping over one another to compete for the prizes.

We were stunned. These young girls – who clearly were bright and interested – were completely silent when the game started. You could almost feel society’s stereotypes settling in all around us as the game wore on. For me, it put a spotlight on the overall experience for young girls in their adolescence. What happens to them between grade school and high school that causes them to lose their self-esteem? Why are they so paralyzed by a fear of failure or not being “cool?”

I’m not an expert on child psychology, but I did some quick research. The National Science Foundation reports that 66% of 4th grade girls say they like science and math, yet only 18% of all college engineering majors are female. In an American Association of University Women’s report, 60% of elementary school girls feel “happy the way I am” vs. 29% of high school girls. And while 49% of those elementary school girls take pride in their school work, that number plummets to 17% in high school.

Now fast forward and you wonder what the consequences are of this early gender-divide later on in life when women go on to college, enter the workforce, get married, or pursue whatever path they choose to take in life. Unfortunately, I fear that the completely contrasting experiences I had with Piper and those high school girls provides insight into the constraints women place on themselves well into adulthood. These differing experiences underscore the cultural biases that impact how girls and women perceive themselves and how they ultimately proceed through life.

For example, an issue near-and-dear to my heart is the lack of confidence women have with regard to their finances. The good news is that we’ve made incredible advancements: we’re more educated and more financially independent than ever before. In two years women will make up 60% of undergraduate and graduate students in the U.S. Today, 40% of women out-earn their spouse as the primary breadwinner in the household. Despite this progress, there’s no shortage of research in the marketplace showing a confidence gap for women in areas ranging from salary demands to career advancement.

A study we conducted last year with 800 couples at various stages in their relationship showed that women are still less confident than men about investing, they routinely defer to their spouse on financial decisions, and they actually believe men are better with numbers. In fact, only one in four Boomer women identify themselves as the primary decision maker for day to-day financial decisions. And this is perpetuated among even our youngest couples – with only one in eight members of Gen Y calling herself the primary decision-maker.

This confidence gap is an issue that impacts all of us, whether you are a woman, or whether it’s your mother, wife, sister or daughter. At some point in a woman’s life – either due to longevity, divorce or other life choices, she is likely to be the sole financial decision maker. Women are fully capable of making these critical decisions and statistically do a very good job when they do. They cannot let confidence stand in the way of living to their full potential, particularly when it comes to being financially ready for the next stage of their life.

It’s clear we need to break this cycle. There’s no good reason why women shouldn’t be just as confident as men.

We can learn much from young girls like Piper. These young girls are not yet weighed down by stereotypes or conflicting emotions. They are not worried about whether it’s “cool” to be smarter than the boys. They aren’t preoccupied with their looks or their weight. They ask a lot of questions. They aren’t held back by fear of being wrong. They’re direct. They have high expectations. They are very capable and want to improve all the time.

As we each continue on our own journey, Piper is an excellent reminder of the power of possibility, the freedom that exists before bias sets in and the boundless optimism that propels us forward in any endeavor. We would all do well to take a page out of Piper’s book and channel our “inner six-year old.”

In case you’re wondering what ever happened to little Piper…you’ll be happy to know that before she left Fidelity that day, she was promoted to “senior intern” and got her window office.

Act Like the Leader You Want to Be – Eric M. Ruiz

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Nick Bilton, a prominent New York Times columnist and the author of Hatching Twitter, shared the best career advice he ever received in a tweet: “Imagine you in your dream job in 5 years, then work backwards figuring out how you got there.”

Knowing your end goal is crucial. And visualizing yourself as the next bestselling author or head of marketing for a newly funded startup will empower you to take the necessary steps to arrive there.

But maybe more important than the visualization is to act as if you’re already in your dream position. One of my favorite scenes in the 2000 cult classic Boiler Room is when the Ben Affleck character informs a room full of brokerage firm trainees how to behave. “Act as if you’re the president of the firm,” he commands.

The film may have been based on the corrupt world of Wall Street in the late 1990s and early 2000s and inspired, in part, by Jordan Belfort, whose autobiography was adapted into 2013’s The Wolf of Wall Street.

But the advice remains valid and strong, no matter what you want or where you want to go in your life: Act as if you’re “already there,” much like the John West song.

Humans are creatures of habit. So it only makes sense that if they practice excellence every day, then they will eventually achieve excellence. As Tony Robbins said, “Whatever you hold in your mind on a consistent basis is exactly what you will experience in your life.”

Want to be an author? Act as if you’re already a New York Times bestselling writer.

Want to start a company? Act as if your startup is about to be acquired by Facebook.

And don’t just play the part (that would be useless). Walk the steps.

I act as if I can bench-press 325. I’m far away from it, but in thinking and acting like I already do, everyone else around my sphere of influence is positively affected.

I watch what I eat, get enough rest and carry myself like I’m going to break NFL combine records every time I step into the gym. It goes without saying that the mind is a powerful tool and seeing yourself with the gold medal will motivate you to put in practice every day steps to make that a reality and not just a distant dream.

I’ve long been fascinated by Kanye West. Not just because I’m a fan of his work but because of his confidence and swagger. If you trace his career since 2003, you’ll notice that Kanye acted and worked like he was the king of hip-hop from the start. And he did this years before mainstream America took notice.

A few months back, during guest appearance on Jimmy Fallon’s show, Dave Chappelle recounted the first time he met Kanye West.

“You could tell he was going to be a star,” Chappelle recalled. “It was like Muhammad Ali at Olympic Village,” he said. “He just knew he was going to get the gold.”

Chappelle was showing the largely unknown Kanye West and other hip-hop performers some footage. In the middle of this show-and-tell, West’s phone rang.

“No I can’t,” West declared, according to Chappelle, “because I’m at the edit for the Dave Chappelle Show, watching sketches that no one has seen before … because my life is dope and I do dope things.” Then West hung up the phone.

“And that’s when we knew he was going to be a star,” Chappelle said to Fallon.

Similarly, you need to act like a king before you get the crown. One way to do this is by studying the habits of successful people in the targeted field and emulating them.

Make their habits your habits. For example, Tim Ferriss reads two to three books a week (that’s actually a good habit to emulate, regardless of whether you’re into entrepreneurship).

In the end, it doesn’t matter what your goal is. Whether it’s training for greater strength, becoming a platinum artist or releasing your first book, the first step in the right direction is to act as if you’ve already accomplished it. With time and hard work, eventually you’ll become what you set out to be.

7 Traits Elite Entrepreneurs Display at Work and in Their Zest for Living – Sherrie Campbell

An elite group of successful entrepreneurs operates with a mindset that sets these leaders apart from other people in the world of business and in life as a whole.

For instance, these entrepreneurs are not afraid to forfeit the security of a job to pursue their business dreams and desires. These men and women use causal reasoning and diligently seek the best ways to achieve their dreams. In other words, they are inwardly driven to be the masters of their own destiny.

These individuals don’t just operate as entrepreneurs in the business world. They tend to bring the same passion and commitment to their private life, making each area a passionate priority.

Top entrepreneurs believe having it all is possible and because of this belief, they illustrate the following seven traits:

1. Loving their work.
Elite entrepreneurs are driven from a deep feeling within to do what they love. Their minds are consumed with creativity, adventure and the desire to see what they envision come to life.

They think past boundaries, turn fear into faith, generate original ideas, explore new options and rationally think through obstacles. Because these entrepreneurs love what they do, they experience gains such as personal satisfaction, financial abundance, security and self-fulfillment. These rewards affect their home life in dramatically positive ways.

2. Living with determination.
Successful business leaders deeply believe in their mission in life: They view themselves and the services they offer as necessary and helpful to the whole of society.

The emotional drive that accompanies their deep-seated purpose does not allow these entrepreneurs to get sidetracked or demotivated. These entrepreneurs believe so profoundly in what they do that they take every aspect of their business and personal life seriously. These individuals come across critics and naysayers but their internal belief is unshaken. They press forward, inspiring others, including family, friends, employees and customers to be a part of their cause. Everyone wins under their influence.

3. Staying organized.
Entrepreneurs know one of the master keys to success in life is being and staying organized. A business or family cannot be managed well without an organized system for its operation. Top entrepreneurs establish routines in an effort to keep their minds operating rationally yet available for change and new possibilities.

Established routines ensure that they are always on top of time rather than behind it in business and family life. One master calendar is all that’s necessary for scheduling their free time and family time so each critical part of life is maintained and managed while they passionately run an empire.

4. Creating positivity.
Top entrepreneurs are aware of their emotions and others’. There is clarity in how they motivate the people in their life. Top business leaders have clear and firm goals and know the key to motivating others emerges from their own attitude.

The most successful leaders are those who inspire others and who are flexible, open and direct. Elite entrepreneurs do not sweat the small stuff. They reframe all detours as positive learning experiences and continue to motivate and reward hard work by following that motto themselves.

5. Building an elite business team.
Truly successful entrepreneurs are aware that their business is only as good as the people who run it. They have no ego involved in the realization that a successful team is not made of one player. Team members are treated as extensions and representatives of the product being sold.

Top leaders in business know how to get team members on board and infuse them with passion. These entrepreneurs are always on the lookout for toxic team members and quickly dispose of them. Furthermore, these adept leaders know the most important team members are their satisfied customers and don’t see clients as separate entities but rather as part of the business family.

6. Investing in personal development.
Elite entrepreneurs are infatuated by personal and business development. They are in constant education mode, reading and buying books, magazines, journals and self-help information and taking advantage of other resources they believe will improve their understanding of themselves, their work with others and their business and marketing skills.

They collaborate with other professionals to learn how they became successful. They are regulars at business seminars, workshops and training courses and listen to motivational speakers. They are clear that being and staying successful is the foundation of personal growth and understand that they, as the leaders, are most effective in business and personal life when fully engaged in personal development.

7. Enjoying life.
The temptation to work around the clock is very real for passionate people. But ultrasuccessful entrepreneurs recognize this creates more loss than gain, especially in their personal life. Top business leaders are sure to establish a regular work schedule and set aside time for family, friends and vacations.

Self-renewal is a key component to maintaining the balance needed to lead a successful enterprise. Top leaders know breaks are essential and necessary so that they can continue to fuel their business with passion to keep it alive and growing.

Top entrepreneurs are risk takers at their core. They are fiercely independent and don’t seek only to be rich. They desire to be wealthy in all areas of life. Because of this passion, these top leaders enthusiastically take on challenge, are highly optimistic when taking chances and take a rational approach to decision making to mitigate risk.

They have a tremendous work ethic, see positive possibilities in setbacks, are not easily deterred and believe deeply in their mission.

They infect everyone around them with purpose, including family, friends, employees and their customers.

5 Ways to Have Your Customers Fund Your Business – Dave Kerpen

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A long-held notion in entrepreneurial circles is that the way to start and grow a thriving business is to come up with a great “idea”, write a great business plan, raise capital from angels or VCs, flawlessly execute the plan, and (Voila!) get rich!

But it hardly ever happens that way, as the vast majority of fast-growing companies–like those on the Inc. 5000 list–never raise venture capital. So, should venture capital–whether from VCs, business angels, incubators or others–be seen as the first port of call for getting nascent entrepreneurial ventures off the ground? Perhaps not.

As venture capital investor Fred Wilson of Union Square Ventures has said, “The fact is that the amount of money startups raise in their seed and Series A rounds is inversely correlated with success. Yes, I mean that. Less money raised leads to more success. That is the data I stare at all the time.”

So you might ask, is there an alternative? Remember Michael Dell? I had the pleasure of interviewing John Mullins author of the new book, “The Customer-Funded Business,” who shared his insights on customer-funding.

Michael Dell’s Customer-Funded Origins These days, everybody knows that Michael Dell started Dell in 1983 in his University of Texas dorm room, selling made-to-order PCs mostly to small businesses. What most don’t realize, even today, is that a core precept in the business was that Dell always asked his customers to pay in advance. With his customers’ cash in hand, Dell was then able to buy the necessary parts, hire his college buddies to assemble them or add them to basic PCs that Dell would upgrade to meet its customers’ specs. With his customers’ cash in hand, combined with the well-honed sales skills he’d been developing as a teenager selling newspaper subscriptions to The Houston Post, Dell didn’t need a dime to start his business. It wasn’t until he wanted to develop a super-fast model to take on Compaq and IBM, well into his journey, that he raised $300,000 from his parents for some basic R&D.

Pay-in-Advance: One of Five Models What Dell, and many others like him, have figured out is that starting, financing, and growing a company with your customers’ cash, instead of investors’ money, is a far more appealing way to go. “Easy for the likes of Michael Dell,” you’re wondering, perhaps, “but could I do it in my business?” In many cases, you can! Surprisingly, there are five ways–five tried-and-tested, customer-funded models–with which to do so.

1) Pay-in-advance models: Bangalore’s Vinay Gupta built Via into the “Intel Inside” of the Indian travel industry. How? By asking India’s mom-and-pop travel agents for a rolling $5,000 deposit in advance in return for real-time ticketing capability and better commissions than the airlines were giving them. Let’s do the math: signing up 170 travel agents in the first two months gave Gupta nearly $1 million in cash–his customers’ cash–with which to start and grow his business. Just like Michael Dell, but with a 21st century twist!

2) Matchmaker models: By bringing together buyers and sellers, but not owning what is bought and sold, matchmakers build great companies with virtually no startup capital.For Airbnb, the initial investment in 2007 was for a couple of air mattresses on the founders’ San Francisco apartment floor. By narrowly focusing on conventions that were too big for the city’s hotel inventory, and by generating revenue by bringing together people having spare bedrooms (and more!) with those who wanted to rent them, Brian Chesky and Joe Gebbia built their business one step at a time until they got noticed at the Democratic National Convention in 2008. VC funding followed, and the rest is history: 800,000 properties for rent in nearly 200 countries.

3) Subscription models: Krishnan Ganesh started TutorVista with three Indian teachers and a VoIP internet connection reaching American teens who needed help with their homework. He quickly learned that $100 per month for “all you can learn”–paid monthly in advance–was just what the teens’ parents wanted. When renewal rates after the trial subscription quickly materialized at north of 50 per cent, growing the business was simply a matter of adding more fuel. VC funds provided it, and Ganesh sold the business to Pearson in six short years for more than $200 million.

4) Scarcity models: Jean-Jacques Granjon and his partners created the flash-sales phenomenon by doing something simple for Parisian apparel makers who needed to move unwanted inventory. By collecting immediate credit card payments from his members who responded to the three-day online sales with limited quantity available at discounted prices, and paying his vendors long after the goods had been ordered and shipped, Granjon didn’t need any capital to sell the unwanted styles online and to start and grow what became one of France’s hottest fashion brands. Unfortunately, there have been far too many imitators to make flash sales a good business, and most flash-sales businesses have struggled to reach profitability.

5) Service-to-product models: Claus Moseholm and Jimmy Maymann of GoViral, a Danish company created in 2003 to harness the then-emerging power of the internet to deliver advertisers’ video content in a viral fashion, funded their company’s startup and growth with the proceeds of one successful viral video campaign after another. In 2011, after having turned their service business (creating and distributing viral video campaigns, and making them both targetable and measurable) into a product platform that stood on its own, GoViral was sold for $97 million, having never taken a single krone or euro of institutional capital.

The Way Forward

In each of the five customer-funded models, the entrepreneur gets her hands on her customers’ money before having to pay suppliers. That’s the key, and that’s exactly what Michael Dell did to get his personal computer business off the ground more than 30 years ago. It’s what Bill Gates and Paul Allen did to start Microsoft, too Taking a customer-funded approach is not for every kind of business, of course. You probably can’t build a biotech business or a hydroelectric power plant on some fast-moving water this way, for example. But if one of the five models is appropriate for the business you want to start, do it and prosper. It’s the most sure-footed path available. And perhaps the best part of pursuing a customer-funded path is this: pouring your time and entrepreneurial talent into solving customers’ problems is lots more fun, and way more satisfying, than pandering to VCs

Now it’s your turn? How are you funding your business? Please let me know your thoughts in the Comments section below!

The 8 Signs of a Bad Leader – Bernard Marr

It’s an interesting conundrum. Say you’re a manager, a senior-level executive, or a human resources employee; your job is to be a leader, yes, but also to pick out leaders, to select who will be promoted, given extra responsibility, head up a project or team. How do you know who will make a great leader in a given circumstance?

There are loads of articles floating around about attributes that make great leaders great, but what makes a poor leader? We can all pick them out after the fact (hindsight is 20/20 after all), but what traits set these people apart even before they assume a leadership role?

I propose that any one or more of the following traits would be a red flag that a person might not be ready for a leadership position:

1. Lack of empathy.
I realise I just wrote a post about the importance of empathy as a leadership skill, but the lack of empathy is a key indicator of a poor leader. If the person cannot seem to put him or herself in another person’s shoes and see things from a different perspective, they will never be a truly great leader.

2. Fear of change.
Hey, change is scary for everyone, especially when it involves loads of money and/or people’s jobs. But leaders who cannot embrace change are destined to be left behind.

3. Too willing to compromise.
The ability to find a win/win situation is a gift for a leader, but anyone who is too quick to compromise his or her ideas or ideals is not going to be a benefit to the team. It’s a fine balance between understanding when to give in and when to stand your ground.

4. Too bossy.
It’s a common misconception that bossy people make good bosses. Actually, the opposite is true. Someone who simply orders others around is unlikely to engender any loyalty or make subordinates feel empowered. True leaders have followers who want to be led by them.

5. Wishy-washy.
Leaders must make decisions, and so if a person always seems to vacillate on choices big and small — from who should handle a certain client to where to go for lunch — they will probably have difficulty in a leadership position. It indicates a lack of self-confidence.

6. Poor judge of character.
A person who has a blind spot when it comes to friends and coworkers, making excuses or being unable to see another’s true character, won’t surround himself with the kinds of people who will help him rise to the top.

7. Out of balance.
Someone who is the first into the office every day and the last to leave might seem like a great candidate for promotion, but ask yourself if they have any balance in their lives. A lack of balance can be a precursor to burnout, and can also signal that they may have unreasonable expectations of the rest of the team.

8. Lack of humility.
The person who acts as though they can do it all — and are the only one who can do it right — is unlikely to rise to be a great leader, because they’ll be too busy doing everyone else’s job. Micro-managers need not apply.

This is not to say that having one of these characteristics automatically bars anyone from assuming a leadership position. In fact, I believe people can learn to overcome any of these bad habits and become a better leader.

But if someone exhibits more than one trait on this list, it’s a good bet that they’re not ready to lead at this time. If you are in a position to help them grow, take the time to constructively point this out to them, and give them the opportunity to improve. You’ll be modeling how a great leader really works.

What characteristics do you think indicate someone is or will be a poor leader? I’d love to discuss them in the comments below.