Cofounder Easier Accounting & Real Business Owners. 20+ years of experience growing & running multiple businesses. Author & public speaker.
In the world of business owners, entrepreneurs or anyone looking to push past the steadfast boundaries of a 9-to-5 for a better life, there is a key defining factor that is commonplace across all industries and people. That key is mental toughness.
For many individuals, this seems to be a trait and characteristic that is passed off and pushed to the rear. We hear sayings from successful icons and mentors like, “Have more drive than your competition,” “Never give up” and “Take the big risks,” but we fail to implement them fully and see the results we are pursuing.
Many entrepreneurs fail and hang up their business-owner hat for another job. They often burn out, giving up their dreams for the security of working for someone else. On the flip side, successful entrepreneurs get so enveloped in success, scaling and growth that they wake up one day to see the world has passed them by. The wife left, the kids grew up, the people who raised you died.
Mental toughness isn’t just about pushing forward at all costs. It’s much more than just drive or ambition. It’s self-awareness, knowing your edges and what your foundation can hold. Without mental toughness and reflection, you can lose the people who made it worth the fight in the first place.
One key to developing a strong mind is execution and discipline. Not just the vanilla version of showing up on time, working your stated hours or completing your daily checklist. The more encompassing version that questions, “How am I allocating each and every moment of my day?” Applied to business, this looks like scrupulous money management. “How am I allocating every dollar my company makes?”
When I take a close look at the people who have the success I want, it is imperative to look at the entire picture. What are the learned skills they have that have taken them to where they are? What skills do I need to refine and build to get there, too? Some people make it look really easy; however, I can assure you it comes with a ton of sacrifice, pain and discipline.
Commitment is doing what you say you’re going to do after the feeling you said it in is gone. Those successful people you want to be like have committed to their goals, and they don’t get soft when the bumps in the road try to knock them off course.
Additionally, the complementary piece to a strong mind is boundaries. For many successful entrepreneurs, having a strong inner dialogue on what you do and do not accept is salient for your mental toughness, both inside and outside of your professional life.
How do you navigate and negotiate when things go sideways? When life tries to question what you say you are made of, do those boundaries hold up? Do you clearly define when to work and when to rest? When you need to grind because your back is against the proverbial wall, can you kick it into high gear? These boundaries will define your success and test your mental toughness as much as any other facet of entrepreneurship.
Also, create a plan about how you’re going to show up for your kids, wife and parents. You can’t have discipline without knowing your edges first. Address these boundaries early and often and stick to them. This leads me to my next point about mental toughness and business.
One of the more cliche and ubiquitous assets to mental toughness is doing what you say you are going to do. It is self-explanatory, yet seems to be void of any real meaning for many in the business world. From simple things like showing up when you said you would to “setting up that call with the eight-figure business next week,” follow-through seems to be lacking for most unsuccessful people. They’re just not committed.
Many self-employed business owners have a decent amount of follow-through because, as a self-employed business owner, you have to save face and represent yourself professionally. But how often do you let excuses push back a deadline? For some, it’s never. For others, it’s all too common.
True mental toughness would mean only pushing back deadlines in certain circumstances, like important family events, emergencies and cases outside of your control. For everything else, you should follow through no matter how you feel.
Lastly, mental toughness means you have an appetite for risk and the intelligence to mitigate as much of it as you can. All successful entrepreneurs master risk assessment and management. The best become great at proper risk allocation.
Risk management comes in many forms. Who you hire for bookkeeping/accounting, who you hire for sales and management and who you decide to bring on as a partner in your business are all forms of risk management. When all is said and done, you reap the benefits and suffer the consequences of the risks you take.
You are the one left picking yourself up and trying again while learning from your past mistakes and, in turn, discovering new boundaries you didn’t think you needed.
This is why I love entrepreneurship — it pushes you to become better, stronger and more well rounded. It shows you what you’re capable of and teaches you to savor every moment, whether you’re cashing paychecks or getting kicked in the teeth by unexpected challenges.
Discipline, mental toughness and aptitude are virtues every person needs to survive in the modern world. Because most don’t get the option to sit back on a pension after 40 years of working a 9-to-5, not if you really want to live.