Being an entrepreneur is extremely difficult, with a large number of businesses experiencing failure. Being a woman and an entrepreneur or business executive, adds a whole host of other challenges. Although the number of women CEOs in the top 3,000 firms in America has risen in the last five years, women still make up just 14%, up from 8% in 2010. According to the Census Bureau, just 20.9% of employer businesses are owned by women. Succeeding in business as a woman is challenging, but the successes of the last few decades are very suggestive of how women can find success in business.
We live in a culture that promotes “positive thinking”, and encourages us to imagine the best. Yet, this rose-colored thinking does not prepare us for the challenges ahead. The ancient Stoics had a practice that they called “premeditatio malorum”, which is Latin for “premeditation of the evils”. This practice involves imagining the various bad things that could happen to you, before they happened. The Roman philosopher, Seneca, remarked that, “What is quite unlooked for is more crushing in its effect, and unexpectedness adds to the weight of a disaster.” He also added that it was important to rehearse potential evils in your mind, so that you’re prepared for them ahead of time. Sounds rather morbid, doesn’t it? However, it had an important result: it’s important to expect the worst, but prepare for the worst. This is important from a psychological point of view, because it eases the pressure off of you when bad things inevitably happen, and, when you have “failed” in your imagination, you no longer suffer the stress of fearing failure. You are freed to chase your goals with everything you have.
Businesses can adopt this practice, by embracing the managerial strategy known as the “premortem”. A premorterm involves gathering the firm’s management or a project’s leaders, and asking everyone to imagine the various ways in which the business could fail. Essentially, they are asked, “If we failed, how would we fail?”. This exercise is important because it forces everyone to look for weaknesses in the business’ strategy, and for any threats the business faces. In doing so, managers are better able to “mask” those weaknesses or make the business or project stronger. Unless you know where you are likely to fail, you cannot prevent failure. This is true both for the individual and the business. See failure before it happens, so you can free yourself from anxiety, prepare for challenges, and make failure less likely.
Discover Your One Thing
Decision making implies making choices, and closing doors. It’s impossible to have everything. Starting a business is one thing, but not every entrepreneur has the same goal. Some people start businesses because they want to be able to spend more time with their friends and family, but this means sacrificing some aspects of their career. Another person might want to be a digital nomad, but obviously, it’s going to be hard to become CEO of a traditional firm. Another person might want to transform an industry, or to build a big business, but this will affect their personal life. Whatever decision you make will demand that you make sacrifices. You have to be clear about what you want, so you can make those sacrifices, rather than trying to achieve the impossible and have it all. You can’t have it all.
In fact, author Gary Klein argues that businesses and people must define a clear, “one thing” that they want to achieve. By having a singular goal, your planning has a greater degree of focus that allows you to achieve extraordinary results. Multitasking is not a great thing. Superwoman doesn’t exist. We suffer under the burden of trying to achieve everything. Your success will be defined not by your ability to do everything, but by your ability to achieve one thing. Each area of your life, whether it’s personal, or professional, or related to health, or something else, must have a clear, singular goal guiding it. Klein further suggests that this one thing must be broken up into daily goals, weekly goals, monthly goals, half-yearly goals, yearly goals, 5-yearly goals, decade long goals, and life goals. Your ultimate ONE thing is your life’s purpose and you have to pursue it every single day. At the end of each period, ask yourself if you have achieved your daily, or weekly, or monthly, or whatever goals. This will also help you when it comes to doing your periodic reports, giving the process a greater depth and usefulness than they otherwise would have. You can learn more about periodic reports here.
Ask yourself what that one thing you want to achieve in life is, and do everything to pursue it. Anything which makes it harder to achieve your goals, must be avoided. Your success will come from your ability to say, “no” to things that take you away from your one thing.
Enjoy the Process
While it is easy to get wrapped up in the daily grind, and to wonder if you will ever achieve your goals, it’s important to enjoy the process. Breaking down your goals into your ultimate goals to daily goals helps you to focus on what you are doing today, knowing that it brings you closer to achieving your ultimate goals.
That said, you may still be tempted to look at your ultimate goals and wonder if you will ever achieve them. The stresses and challenges of the day may also distract you from the process. It’s a bit like recovering from illness. You have this long road to health in front of you, and it’s easy to get frustrated. However, if you focus on the daily steps you need to take to get well, and forget your ultimate goals, you will achieve them with less stress. That principle applies to business. You need to have a clear ultimate ONE goal, but unless you achieve it, or your mindset changes, you should then forget it, and focus on achieving what you need to do that day. Stay focused on the present. Don’t worry about the future. If you nail today, you will make it easier to succeed tomorrow.