Why do we do anything? What motivates us to get up in the morning? Why bother setting goals when we can get through each day by following the same routine?
I’ve thought a lot about these questions, and they came to mind again when my wife Ja-Naé and I climbed Machu Picchu on my forty-third birthday. We reached the top plateau around lunchtime. At 8,500 feet, looking out upon the valleys and mountains that the ancient Inca called home, it was a profound and resonating moment. It filled me with such pride and peace that is hard to describe.
And it would have never happened if I hadn’t said, “I’m setting a goal to climb Machu Picchu.
Sometimes, all it takes is saying out loud the goal we plan to accomplish. Other bigger, more complex goals, may need a framework to help us reach them. But ultimately, it’s about motivating ourselves to reach past the status quo to something bigger and better.
We refuse to settle for mediocrity. We demand more of ourselves and the other people in our lives. Of course, not everyone feels this way. So what separate the complacent from the agitated? Why do some of us just care more?
The Secret Sauce of Entrepreneurship
When it comes to being an entrepreneur, the answers to these questions matter. In fact, they’re often the source of the Great Divide when it comes to having an entrepreneurial mindset. In other words, do you have the secret sauce, the X-factors, that define the most successful entrepreneurs?
It is hard to describe the X-factors. In The Startup Equation, we identify some X-factors that are constant, like drive or passion or resilience. We also see some that are variable, like curiosity, place, and state of mind. For example, do you have a constant urge to overcome obstacles, to reach your goal no matter what? Dr. Jim Taylor, a psychologist who works with and studies professional athletes, argues that your perspective affects your drive and ultimately your success.
Measuring Your Drive
So how do you know if you have what it takes to succeed and to reach your goals? Dr. Taylor recommends answering three questions:
- What are your reasons for selecting this industry?
- Do you have a sense of ownership over the final product your company puts out?
- How do you define your successes and failures?
There’s no one right answer, but you need to understand your own answers. By laying bare what drives you, you’ll gain some insight into whether you can withstand the ups and downs that come with starting a new business. Do you have the drive to keep pushing when everyone says, “No?”
Let’s say you have drive. You have a vision, and you’ve set your mission. All are key to thriving as an entrepreneur. But what happens when things go off track? You stumble. The business stumbles. Take your pick. Do you have the resilience to overcome the challenge?
The good news is that we don’t necessarily come preset with resilience. We can build up our supply and get better at handling the challenges that come our way. In The Startup Equation, we outline three ways to become more resilient.
- Create a Small Benchmark: Reexamine your big goal. Can you identify smaller, achievable goals to keep you moving forward? Set yourself up for success and build up momentum while increasing your resilience.
- Create a Support Team: It sounds cliched, but you need to surround yourself with people who have your back. When things go wrong, you’ll want someone you trust. It needs to be someone with the experience to help guide you. Find those people and keep them close.
- Sharpen Your Creative Problem-Solving Skills: There are always many solutions to a problem. Your job is not to find one, but to find the best one. When challenges arise, allow yourself to develop different strategies to test. This will help you focus on solving problems and better prepare you for the big ones that will come your way.
Look Back Without Regret
As entrepreneurs, we need to learn from our mistakes. However, we need to avoid getting stuck in the past. With practice, we can get better at dealing with the frustrations, coping with the losses, and celebrating the successes. It starts with identifying our drive and building up our resilience. Only then can we begin to capture those elusive X-factors that separates the real entrepreneurs from the wanna-bes.