I think that there are a number of deceptively simple questions that any business owner has to be able to answer before they can become truly comfortable with their business – even if it does succeed financially.
“What do you want?” is a deceptively simple question.
Many entrepreneurs struggle with this question more than any other, but is there a more important question in life than what you actually want from it?
It has to be more than money, doesn’t it?
I’ve met several millionaires that haven’t got a clue what they want. They thought they wanted to be a millionaire more than anything else in the world, but they find themselves bored or alone on a Sunday afternoon.
Some successful business people I know have sacrificed their marriages or missed their kids growing up in order to “succeed”.
Many people are able to drive themselves forward with the goal of a new, faster car yet drive out the people in their life that love them.
We’ve all met some very wealthy and successful people who have become very arrogant with that success, very quickly. If you have enjoyed any degree of business success at any point (and most 40-something entrepreneurs I know have), haven’t you behaved like an ass at some point? I know I have (much more than once).
I know many people who are very good at achieving material goals without achieving happiness and we all know that entrepreneurs can be very good at making money and still be very bad human beings.
Some entrepreneurs I know just enjoy building stuff. Those entrepreneurs I like and admire most share a common trait. It isn’t enough to win at all costs. You have to win with honour and dignity. They believe it’s cheating to do otherwise. The people I know who succeed in life and business with this attitude are the people I find inspiring.
Others I know don’t care how they win, as long as they do. Often these people are bullies, cheats and liars. Often, happily, they don’t succeed.
One very successful man I know (who also happens to be a very nice guy) told me that when he sold his first business and became a millionaire for the first time, he temporarily retired. He was in his late thirties.
After years of promising himself that all the hard work and stress was to achieve his goal of financial independence and retirement, he found life disconnected from the electricity of business dull, at least after a while! I remember him telling me that there are only so many walks on the beach you can take and that when a holiday becomes a permanent state of affairs it is no longer a holiday.
This man was truly surprised to realise that he felt compelled to go back and build a business again. And again. And again. He’s really good at it now, mostly, I suspect, because he enjoys winning this game he has acknowledged is what drives him.
This man changed my life. I realised that what he told me about retirement would be true for me, too. I changed my goal as a result.
For business owners, I think having an idea of what we really want from our own lives has to be the most important thing about building our business.
After all, business is demanding and can ruin you – it has the potential to ruin you financially, ruin your health, take over your life and ruin your well-being and that of your family and loved ones too – so the risk has to be really worth it, in every way.
I believe that one of the most powerful questions we can ask ourselves as business leaders is the same question everybody needs to ask themselves occasionally.
“What would you want on your gravestone at the end of your life?”
Why not write your tombstone today and even write your obituary while you are at it?
Armed with this clarity, you can build a business that delivers the life you want. Without it you’ll be asking yourself if the effort, pain and stress is really worth it. Once you find yourself asking that question, the business is far more likely to fail.
If you know why it is worth it, your business can fly. As Stephen Covey (author of “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People”) says, ”Let’s put first things first”.
This sort of thinking is essential not only for the individual business leader for the business itself of course, but that’s my next blog post.
To find out more about Paul click here, and if you’d like to read his other blog posts, click here.
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