If you’re just starting out on your entrepreneurial journey, there are three basic elements that you need from the start of your trip — basics that you should never lose sight of along the way.
Element 1: Remember where you come from
When people ask me, “What kept you going through the major ups and downs that you’ve endured over the years?” I tell them that I never forget where I came from. Living in a car and digging through garbage bins made me try hard and develop the right attitude, which wasn’t simply, “Just be positive, and everything will work out.” Instead, it was, “Despite the inevitable setbacks, I will never, ever give up. I don’t ever want to go back to that!” Looking back through the years, as I became more and more successful, that mantra helped me stay motivated.
Most people grow up with challenges to overcome, whether it’s poverty, difficulties at home, single-parent families, emotional challenges, physical challenges, being bullied, having few friends, drug or alcohol abuse, physical abuse, facing bigotry or prejudice, or several of the above. While some people want to forget their roots and their past, others want to remember so they can gain strength from where they’ve been and what they’ve been through. By contrasting where you’ve been with where you are, you can see how far you have come — even if you’ve only taken baby steps on your journey.
Your background also helps keep you grounded and humble. You don’t want to dwell on the challenges that you’ve been through or feel sorry for yourself. And it’s very easy to make excuses. “I wasn’t born into a wealthy family, so how can I succeed?” or “Look at my childhood. How can I ever believe in myself?” Yet, there are countless success stories of people who’ve pulled themselves up from no place to reach, and go beyond, their dreams. The point is, you need to be fueled by where you’ve come from. It gives you greater motivation to work hard. Even if you came from a wealthy background, you more than likely had your own personal struggles in life.
Element 2: Exercise — Building that fighter’s mentality
Most people think of exercise as fitness for the body, which it is, but it’s also fitness for the mind. Exercise can reduce stress and relieve anxiety, but it can also motivate you to be active, productive, stay focused, and even creative. The body and mind work together. I’ve found that exercise makes me feel better mentally and emotionally. You’re able to forget your problems and immerse yourself in your fitness routine. While many people turn to alcohol when things get difficult (and I must admit that I’ve done that on occasion), exercise has always been a far more productive alternative for getting me through some bad times in life.
For instance, exercise was there for me back in 1998 when I officially reached a negative net worth, owing $180,000 on my credit cards and had no assets other than my supermarket, which wasn’t worth anything. I remember after my 15-and a-half-hour work day, I would drive 20 minutes to my gym and run on the treadmill, and just keep saying, “I’m going to sell it, I’m going to sell it, I’m going to sell it.” And then, after an exhausting year, I sold it and actually did well. Exercise day after day was the key to keeping me going. It was my motivational tool.
Start slowly and come up with a routine you like, whether it’s with weights, a stationary bike, running on a treadmill or on a track, or any combination that works for you. The key is to promise yourself you’ll stick with it no matter what. It takes willpower to keep going three or four times a week, but after the first few months, it gets easier as it becomes part of your life and you begin to feel the results. You’ll feel good about yourself, not just from the actual exercising but because you’ve committed to self-improvement. Exercising can teach you discipline and build self-confidence as well.
Element 3: Surround yourself with positive, successful (or like-minded) people
If you want to be a good boxer, go up against the local champion. You may lose, but you’ll learn a lot. If you want to succeed in business, you’ll also need to learn from people who’ve done what you’re trying to do.
I always chose older friends who were more successful than I was. I was always one of the poorest guys in the group, but I knew I could learn from them. Also surround yourself with like-minded and positive people. Like-minded means you have similar goals — not necessarily the same, but you’re both striving for huge success. As for being positive, that’s very important. Negative people find excuses, while positive people find solutions. When other people say, “I give up, let’s just go get a beer,” the positive person says “We can make this work. Let’s try a, b, and c.” Even in a bad situation, positive people find something good as a takeaway.
By surrounding myself with positive people who knew more than I did, I was able to learn about business and real estate while getting the encouragement I needed. No matter what you’re trying to do, surrounding yourself with likeminded and successful people can benefit you immensely. The encouragement you’ll get from people who have been successful is very motivating, no matter what industry you’re in.