Community Futures South Georgian Bay

Staying Sharp: 5 Lessons from Top Entrepreneurs

Every day, we hear and read stories of entrepreneurial achievement. The ups and downs of celebrity entrepreneurs like Oprah and Elon Musk are covered alongside Hollywood stars. And watching businesses flop or fly on shows like Dragon’s Den has become a popular form of entertainment.  

As business owners, watching these superstars can sometimes make us feel inadequate or inferior. But the truth is we have much to learn from them.

American entrepreneur and multi-billionaire, Michael Bloomberg, perhaps said it best when he said: “Being an entrepreneur isn’t really about starting a business. It’s a way of looking at the world: seeing opportunity where others see obstacles, taking risks when others take refuge.”

No matter how long you’ve been in business, or where you are in your entrepreneurial journey, here are 5 lessons on staying sharp from top entrepreneurs that we can all learn from:

1. Keep Dreaming

Dreaming often gets a bad rap. After all, calling someone a dreamer is hardly a compliment. But dreams create possibilities.

That’s why the most successful entrepreneurs take the time to dream. In fact, they practice dreaming, especially unfettered dreaming. They’re ambitious.

That’s something most of us struggle with. Instead of dreaming as big as we can, we dream according to “where I can reasonably get from here.” We limit ourselves right from the outset. We’re too modest, too conservative.

But big dreams propel big achievements. Like commercial space programs… or creating a way to carry 10,000 songs in your pocket.

Use dreaming to push the boundaries of what’s possible, and give yourself a sense of direction. Challenge yourself to imagine what the biggest, boldest version of your future could look like. Then check in regularly to keep the dream alive.

2. Take Purposeful Action

It’s not enough to dream, of course. If you don’t do anything to make it happen, a dream is really just a wish. Taking action is key.

Many of us hesitate, thinking that we need (more) clarity in order to take action.  What top entrepreneurs know is that, in many instances, it’s taking action that actually makes things clear.

But they don’t take random, unfocussed action. Instead, the most successful entrepreneurs take calculated, purposeful action: action that moves them closer, one way or another, to their dreams and goals. 

Taking purposeful action helps us preserve our energy and attention for the things that actually matter, rather than simply keeping busy with the demands of the day. Organize your time to meet your own goals first, not somebody else’s.

3. Make Connections

The most successful entrepreneurs don’t do it alone. Instead, they engage the energies of everyone around them.

They put time and effort into creating and sustaining networks and relationships.  That allows them to make the most of the intellectual and other resources people have to offer and help those people achieve their goals, too, in a win/win. 

Making connections multiplies your impact many times over, and allows you to move away from focusing on resources (and the lack of them) toward focusing on resourcefulness.

4. Always Be Growing

The most successful entrepreneurs don’t just grow their businesses; they also focus on their own personal growth and development.

They’re purposeful about what they want to learn and how they want to evolve. They have Learning Plans that are connected to their goals and values. And they ensure that they are growing in the direction of their dreams. 

They have a well-developed sense of what a Good Life is for them. They think about what matters to them, who they want to be, and how they define success. Their answers are never just about money. They’re about something bigger – something that motivates and inspires them. 

Prioritize what’s important to you. It might be community, connection, art, contributing, philanthropy, family, education, wealth, service, security, adventure, innovation, etc.  Whatever it is, take the time to figure it out, then find ways to grow and develop that support that.

5. Carry On, No Matter What

The people we think of as the most successful entrepreneurs on the planet have histories filled with setbacks, disappointments, and failures. What distinguishes them is that they simply keep going. They accept failures as valuable investments in their learning and they carry on. 

Bill Gates, for example, started with a machine called Traf-O-Data 8008—a device that transformed traffic tapes into useful data. It was a complete flop. Similarly, online publishing magnate, Arianna Huffington, had her second book rejected 36 times, despite the success of her first. She simply carried on.

What the most successful entrepreneurs teach us is that failure isn’t the opposite of success; it’s a stepping-stone on the way. Don’t be afraid to try new things and take risks in your business. Think of these risks as experiments, and look for what you can learn, whether they succeed or not.