Being an entrepreneur and running your own business is one of the hardest things you can do. It will tax every fiber of your patience, your finances, your family, your health and even your sanity.
Why motivation matters
Motivation and your ability to dig deep and keep going even when everyone tells you to stop or when people cease to believe, is one of the critical things that separates those who succeed from those who litter the pages of startup history. Your level of motivation day in day out has a direct impact on all of the following, just to name a few:
Getting S**t done: You ability to stay motivated is the primary driver in your ability as an entrepreneur to get things done. Whether it's those extra few lines of code, making 10 additional phones calls or making your 100th investor pitch, ultimately running a business and your ability to deliver is driven by how motivated you are to get the job done. If your motivation slips, things begin to get delayed and it can quickly be a downhill ride from there.
Enrolling others: I talk about this often as a coach. One of the keys to getting things done, especially things that are hard, is sharing your goals with others. When you share your goals with others, not only do you get them curious and excited about what you're doing (since, if they care about you, they'll want you to succeed) but you also enroll them as passengers in your journey. Some may even text or call you about how things are going and how much progress you're making. The more motivated you are, the easier it is to get people excited about your journey and, if you're lucky, get them to actually join or help you out in some way. This is even more important when you have a team of people around you. When people see the founder is incredibly motivated and feel that energy, it's easier for them to get motivated and push forward when times get tough.
Getting momentum: Have you ever felt that when you do a series of things in relatively quick succession they build on each other? Motivation, and being able to dig deep when you need it, is a key factor in creating momentum. The faster you, and those around you, see things happening, the easier it is to continue forward when things start to get hard. When you build momentum and see progress, you get into a flow where things simply start to happen. This is especially the case when you hire / bring on new people into your company. Getting them in can seem to take forever and be a real grind, but once they're in and start delivering on things, you'll notice that things start to happen that you're not even aware of.
Building a better product: When your motivation level is high you'll be more focused on spending additional time getting your product right. You'll work harder to correct flaws, bugs or quality issues that may make the difference between a good product and a great product. You will also inspire others to go the extra mile to come up with innovative ways to make your product do things you don't expect and exceed customer expectations.
Selling more stuff: Your ability to be excited, high energy, enthusiastic and positive will have a direct impact on your customers' willingness to buy. When you make that extra sale and get a new customer, that also helps build momentum and can lead you to the next customer. Just last week, I sold in 3 proposals in a row to clients. The energy was contagious and each and every sale just got easier and easier. Clients could actually sense my energy and motivation and that made them more comfortable to want to work with me. Motivation leads to success which can lead to more success as your confidence grows.
Staying curious: I often find that people who are highly motivated are also generally incredibly curious. They're always looking for ways to break the mold and rewrite the rules of the game. Curiosity is the lifeblood of any successful business. It helps us build better products, shorten time to market, resolve customer issues more quickly, try new things and continuously hone how we grow our businesses. When you're highly motivated you're more likely to challenge yourself and others to think outside the box to solve complex problems.
Effective ways to stay motivated
Find your Purpose: How can you reach your destination unless you know what it is? One of the key things you find among people who are hugely successful, whether they're founders, athletes or celebrities, is a crystal-clear sense of purpose. For some it's about a singular big goal like curing cancer or winning a championship, while for others their purpose might be to prove to themselves and those around them that they can achieve something epic. As a marketing coach, one of the main reasons marketing executives seek me out is because they're unhappy or frustrated with their lives. They're aimlessly running on the treadmill of life going through the motions one day at a time without any clear purpose. Once you find out what your purpose is and you share that broadly with the world, the universe simply seems to click into place and it becomes much easier to decide what you will and won't do.
Develop SMART goals: To fulfill your purpose you'll need goals. When you start with your end goals in mind, it's easier to keep your motivation up as you see yourself making progress. Establishing yearly, quarterly, monthly and weekly goals for yourself may seem daunting and you might not always hit them, but it helps you become disciplined and focused. Smart goals are Specific, Measurable, Accountable, Relevant and Time bound. Break those goals down into digestible bits that you can work towards on a daily basis. The more you see yourself hitting those goals, the easier it becomes. For example, my yearly cycling goal is 2500 miles so I know that I need to ride 208 miles per month or little over 50 miles per week. More importantly, I share my rides with all my followers on Strava each week which keeps me honest and motivated.
Surround yourself with OQP: Les Brown, who is considered by many as one of the world's best motivational speakers, says it well: Surround yourself with Only Quality People. The higher the quality of the people you surround yourself with, the more inspired you'll feel about pushing yourself beyond your limits and the more motivated you'll be by their success, drive and passion. You might even learn a trick or two about how they stay motivated as well.
Share your goals: If you're the only one accountable it's easier to cheat. If you have people working with you, particularly OQP, you can use tools like Asana to create your goals, break them down and allow others to "follow" you as you complete them (or don't). Sharing your goals with others not only enlists them to help you deliver the goods, but also holds you accountable to taking action as well so that you'll really question yourself when you don't achieve what you set out to do.
Develop a "killer" routine and stick to it: Routines are key. I can't stress this enough. On average, it takes about 14 days to get into a new habit but once you get into it, it can make a world of difference. For me, the killer routine is on my calendar. For example, I call Tuesdays Typing Tuesdays, because every Tuesday I'm creating great content.
Here's what my Tuesday routine looks like:
- 6am up and at em!
- 6:15am 10 mile / 38 minute bike ride
- 7:15am Ice cold shower (the benefits are awesome!), dress, breakfast
- 8:30am - 9am Gratitude journal / email
- 9am - 10:30am Podcasts creation
- 10:45am - 12:15pm Blog post creation
- 12:30pm - 1:30pm Lunch with client, contact or friend
- 1:30pm - 2:30pm Content Syndication and SEO
- 2:45 pm - 3:30 pm meetings
- 3:30 pm - 4:15 pick up kids from school
- 4:15 pm - 5:30 pm calls / meetings
- 5:30 pm - 7:00 pm emails / prep for next day / expenses
- 7:00 pm - 9:00 pm dinner / time with kids
- 9:00 pm - 10:00 pm emails / meeting schedules
- 10:00 pm - 11:00 pm reading / meditation
- 11:00 sleep
You might notice that I try and take breaks every 90 minutes or so. At the very least, I try to go for a quick walk, get some air, stretch and get some water. Why? Well according to this article in Fast Company: "Your brain can only focus for 90 to 120 minutes before it needs a break. Why? It’s the ultradian rhythm, a cycle that’s present in both our sleeping and waking lives."
Sleep: In Silicon, many people, particularly young entrepreneurs seem to think it's a badge of honor or that it's cool to permanently be in crunch mode and get little sleep. Guess what? It's not. It will literally, make you dumber. In this article on Business Insider, University of Berkeley sleep expert Matthew Walker, who is professor of neuroscience and author of "Why We Sleep", attributes a lack of sleep to increases in blood pressure, increase in the chance to get cancer, a low level of amnesia (due to our inability to effectively create new memories), and increased risk of developing alzheimer's (due to the build-up of certain proteins in the brain). Extreme levels of wakefulness (ie. being awake 16+ hours after you should be sleeping) basically act as "low level brain damage" according to Walker. So do yourself a favor: stop being cool and get your 6-7 hours. I sleep 7 hours a night and don't function properly if I don't get them. I'm moody; lacking in energy; don't get enough done and then get even more moody because I don't get done what I need to get done. The result: My level of motivation plummets.
Music: It's widely proven that the right music can really give us bursts of motivation and energy when we need it most. In my case, it's electronic dance music (EDM). When I'm writing, music helps get me into a zone and is highly motivating. The key is to understand what kind of music motivates you and when is the right time to use it. For example, when I'm doing strategy work or crunching numbers, I can't use music as it distracts me too much. But when I'm doing more creative work like writing posts, creating graphics or writing a speech, the right music not only motivates me, but also improves the quality of my work.
Motivational videos: I admit this one is a bit new to me, but I recently started listening to motivational videos on YouTube several times a week. Some of these videos, like those from Motivation Madness, can certainly help and provide bursts of inspiration when needed. The important thing is always to tie this back to your SMART goals and to keep the ball moving. Nothing will give you more motivation than actually working hard and seeing the results of your work or getting the praise of colleagues, friends and clients. Motivational videos can provide that extra boost each morning and could be part of your routine, but don't make the mistake of thinking that just watching this videos is going to help you reach your goals.
So that's it for me folks. I hope this post has been useful. If it's been helpful please like, share and comment below.
Also remember that mad mork stories is now on audio so check out my podcasts.
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