How Stoicism Can Help Entrepreneurs Be Successful
You might have heard about the word 'stoic' recently, or 'stoicism.'
As you jump into becoming an entrepreneur, you're constantly going to be doing new things.
You're going to be practicing new skills, reading, and learning new models, and the important part is putting it all into action.
If you've been an entrepreneur for a short period of time, you'll already know that no matter how much you read and try to prepare, there'll always be something that comes out and knocks you down when you feel like you're flying through progression.
We're in a shark tank, and the only way out is to become a shark too - the fish will eventually all get eaten up.
This is where taming your mental and emotional states is crucial for success.
Over the past two years, I've tried almost everything under the sun.
I've learned business models.
I've learned about the skills needed.
I've read books, and so much more.
The one thing I've come to learn is that your mindset is your biggest barrier to success.
Many entrepreneurs, successful ones too, have adopted the stoic philosophy to succeed in their entrepreneurial lives.
So what is stoicism really?
Stoicism is a philosophy that values 4 things.
The word 'stoic' often refers to someone who "remains calm under pressure and avoids emotional extremes."
It's a method of mastering yourself and your emotions, redirecting them in an uncontrollable world.
Rather than looking to control things that we cannot, stoics focused on dealing with the world as it is, whilst pursuing the four values mentioned above.
So why do so many entrepreneurs actually practice stoicism, why is it so popular today, and how can we take advantage of it?
Here is how stoicism can help entrepreneurs be successful.
As entrepreneurs, we already know that there is a lot we cannot control.
We can't control the markets.
We can't control competition.
We can't control people's choices - only influence them.
What's vital to understand is that a lot of people focus too much energy on things they can't control, and underestimate the things they can.
Stoicism teaches that we should only ever focus on things that are within our reach, things that we can directly control and change.
The main thing we can all control is ourselves; this is where self-mastery comes in.
Stoicism can help entrepreneurs be successful by teaching them to master their minds and bodies.
Epictetus: "The goal of stoicism was to identify and separate matters so that I can say clearly to myself which are externals, not under my control, and which have to do with the choice I actually control.”
The Stoics also believed that as humans, we use our time wastefully.
A lot of entrepreneurs may relate to this through the concept of 'procrastination.'
To avoid procrastinating is overly important.
The Stoic, Seneca, used a simple self-reflection method to see how efficient he was during the day and to identify the gaps where he could reduce waste.
Ask yourself questions like:
What did I do today?
How was my focus?
How was I better than yesterday?
What did I achieve?
With this, you'll be able to realise where you're falling short and plug the holes.
A lot of entrepreneurs don't get to see their dreams and vision flourish before them because they're fearful.
Stoicism encourages us to imagine the worst-case scenarios - you may have heard me mention this before, 'we must hope for the best but prepare for the worst.'
I'm no longer a fan of the word 'hope' as it means leaving things to chance, but preparing for the worst we must.
Learning to navigate the bumpy journey of entrepreneurship rather than hoping it gets easier will always lead to an easier journey anyways.
A few weeks ago, I wrote about the 80/20 rule.
It essentially claimed that 80% of our results come from only 20% of our actions.
For example, in your business, making the right decisions will drive results whilst doing things like customer service, aiming for perfection, editing your site, your logo, your branding, etc, will only make marginal improvements.
It's important to remember that time is limited and in fact, our most valuable commodity.
A lot of people, not only entrepreneurs, live their lives as though time is abundant.
I think that life is extremely short, and many start to realise this too late.
They go through college, into university, a few years into their jobs when they're in their 30s, they start to see how naive they've been all along.
I used to use the cringy phrase 'Time is money,' but now I see how inaccurate that statement was.
Time and money are incomparable.
Whilst one is almost unlimited, the other is scarce and invaluable.
Doing the essentials is what the Stoics practiced - the things that really drive the best results.
We often get too hung up in the finer details that we forget what we need to do to move the ball forward.
In my case, it has been fear of the unknown that has stopped me in my tracks previously.
When we focus on what is important, we're able to save a lot of time whilst maximizing our results.
When we start businesses, there's a common fear many of us face.
When I decided that university was no longer an option for me, I found myself at a low point in my life.
For the past almost 10 years or more, I've been going to school for one main reason: go to university and find a good job.
All of a sudden, I had thrown that opportunity out the window and decided to pursue something I've never ever done before.
On my way to work, I would tear up on the bus as I reflected on my life - 'Is this really what life had in store for me?'
"What will others think of me when they realize that this is what my life has led to?"
"What will my mother say?"
"What will my friends think?"
The truth is, however, I jumped into entrepreneurship because I had an unrealized ambition that no one other than people like me will understand.
Friends, family, and every other ordinary person will never see what I see and that's okay.
Once again, Stoics never worried about what they can't control - other people's thoughts and feelings.
They only worried about the factors within their reach - the things they can directly affect.
This way of thinking makes it a lot easier for entrepreneurs to take action because you're embracing the fact that there will be those who misunderstand you.
You find solace in the idea that not everyone will befriend you, or that not everyone will be on your side.
What's important is seeing your vision through, not getting others to agree with you.
Handling criticism is one of the biggest challenges humans face.
Some people simply can't face criticism whilst others are courageous against it.
When I spoke to my friends during basketball, they told me that they wanted to do what I was doing - building my own businesses, side hustles, etc.
When I asked them "so why don't you?" they told me that their parents wouldn't allow it.
They think that doing what their parents want them to do will make them proud, they don't want to experience the criticism of going against them.
Criticism will always come, there will always be someone, somewhere who doesn't agree with you.
Focus on what you can control.
Key to entrepreneurship
By now you may start to see how stoicism can help entrepreneurs be successful.
In business and entrepreneurship, our minds will always be the reason we fail.
It's never the lack of knowledge.
It's never the lack of skills.
It's never the lack of talent.
All of these will come in due time as long as your mindset is set straight.
When we tame our minds, we shape our lives. (quote that!)
Stoicism is a powerful philosophy that teaches us how to do exactly that!
We oftentimes get caught up in the wrong things.
When we learn to change the way we think whilst striving for courage, temperance, justice, and wisdom, we will be different people at the end of the tunnel.
When we focus on factors in our lives that we can indeed control, we're able to improve the quality of our lives.
With so much pressure of performing and hitting deadlines, goals, and targets, entrepreneurs need to focus on making their lives easier instead of harder.
I believe that the teachings of Stoics are the best way for all entrepreneurs to think and act going forward.
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Till next time,