Adopt These 3 Traits for a Positive Mindset

EntrepreneurWordArt

In a mere .40 seconds, Google serves up 79,800,000 results on “how to be a successful entrepreneur”.

That’s a lot of advice.

  • Bold headlines: Build Your A-Team … Pitch Like a Pro … Know Your Competitive Advantage
  • Name dropping : Zuckerberg … Jobs … Sandberg … Omidyar … Wozniak … Corcoran 
  • Videos on sleep habits of successful entrepreneurs … from dropout to billionaire … rocking your pitch
  • Catchy words: unicorn … killer … crushing it

With almost eighty million results to sift through, it is possible to find advice or information on just about anything and everything. But, in reality, the biggest determining factor in achieving success cannot be found on a website, in a book or in advice personally shared from the best of mentors. The ultimate success or failure of an individual has far more to do with their own mindset than any other factor. While there are many traits that contribute to mindset, here are three that, when adopted, lead to a powerful shift in thinking and outcomes when confronted with difficulties.

Gratitude

Gratitude is not an emotion but a mindset that allows for the possibility of good being derived from the worst of circumstances.

cropped-img_3192.pngSir Richard Branson, founder of Virgin Grouppublished a letter earlier this year with advice on how to be happy, and none of his advice had to do with wealth, success or achievements. Instead, it had to do with mindset. “Happiness shouldn’t be a goal, it should be a habit. Take the focus off doing, and start being every day. Be loving, be grateful, be helpful, and be a spectator to your own thoughts.”

By embracing a mindset of gratitude, we allow ourselves to hope when facing defeat and to feel joy in the midst of difficulties. When we are grateful for the good despite the bad that is happening, we are empowered to move forward, to remain tenacious, to summon the energy to struggle on. Gratitude fuels an entrepreneur to persevere, iterate, pivot or close down one venture with the courage to begin again.

Generosity

A mindset of generosity helps maintain the emotional resources and the social goodwill to survive the ups and downs of entrepreneurship.

I first met Alex Wirth, the cofounder of Quorum Analytics, Inc., at the Personal Democracy Forum in New York City earlier this year. I had asked a panel of investors and founders for advice on growing visibility for our civic-focused startup, APPCityLife, which is based in the sparsely populated state of New Mexico. Immediately following the session, Alex sought me out and introduced himself as a fellow New Mexican and offered to provide introductions into his own network where it might be of help.

Alex Wirth, Cofounder, Quorum Analytics, Inc.

Alex Wirth, Cofounder, Quorum Analytics, Inc.

Alex is one of those inspiring individuals who has found success in his own company by embracing a philosophy of generosity. He opted to extend his own network to another startup founder simply because he could and because he knew it would help. Not once has he asked for anything in return, and he has more than made good on the offer he made to me that day.

A mindset of generosity does not mean we operate in a state of naivety. We can be generous by sharing our network while respecting the privacy of those within our own network by gaining prior permission before sending introductions. We can share insight, give advice, and help others while still protecting our own intellectual property. But when we operate from a protective mindset or a scarcity mentality, where we make sure we get ours by keeping it away from others, we not only fail to help where we could make a difference, but we also fail to surround ourselves with others who embrace a mindset of generosity and who could, in turn, support and help us in a time of need. A wide network built on goodwill that we can access in times of difficulty can mean the difference between survival or failure.

Positive Pragmatism

Positive pragmatism is the ability to clearly identify barriers and flaws while maintaining a hopeful environment for exploring creative alternatives.

via Humans of New York: “I work at a tech start-up. We design sailing drones. I was the tech guy but my cofounder quit and moved to Singapore. So I just bought three suits at a Brooks Brothers outlet, and now I’m the CEO.I work at a tech start-up. We design sailing drones. I was the tech guy but my cofounder quit and moved to Singapore. So I just bought three suits at a Brooks Brothers outlet, and now I’m the CEO.”

There is this moment in the experience of every entrepreneur where some devastating setback threatens to derail all progress forward. It is the self-talk, the story that we tell ourselves about that moment which shapes our perceptions, reactions, and ultimately, our decisions. If we’ve learned to frame those moments in a mindset of positive pragmatism, we are far better equipped to endure the extreme lows that are a common occurrence within the startup industry.

A recent post by photographer Brandon Stanton, the creator of the popular blog, Humans of New York, perfectly depicted this attitude of positive pragmatism. A young entrepreneur’s comment about becoming CEO was met with derision by many readers who questioned how the purchase of a suit could turn anyone into a CEO. But the truth is this: when someone leaves a startup, it leaves a hole. Somebody else has to step up and fill the gap – – and it is usually someone who cares a little more, is a little more committed, and who isn’t yet willing to give up no matter how ill-prepared they are to fill that new role. They assess the new challenges created by the loss of that team member and weigh those new challenges against the potential for success with the remaining resources, talent and traction. And little by little, the remaining team often learns new skills and acquires the knowledge to fill the gaps to the startup forward.

While there are a multitude of factors which affect the outcome of a startup such as team, skills, knowledge, and even luck, adopting the right mindset can help an entrepreneur access deeper reservoirs of mental and emotional energy to overcome the difficulties and barriers which, otherwise, might derail the best of teams.

In Gratitude of a Father’s Service to His Country

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

I likely won’t get through this without crying, but Veteran’s Day was never about celebration anyway, so I’m okay with that.

Every Veteran’s Day, I’ve known exactly whom I wanted to honor. Stationed behind enemy lines as an Air Force aircraft mechanic during the Korean Conflict, my father was the bravest, most stoic man I knew – and while he spoke very little of his time in combat, his commitment to his country was of paramount importance to him. He firmly believed that his time in the military turned him into a man with discipline and strength of character and often voiced his opinion that there was little wrong with the young men in our country that couldn’t be sorted out with some time serving their country. He spent his entire career working for the Air Force, first as an enlisted airman and then as a civilian. He was part of the 4950th Division, serving as the lead mechanic on experimental air craft, meaning that he could rarely talk at home about the top secret projects he worked on. There were times he left in the middle of night to catch a military hop halfway across the world to repair an aircraft just enough to for its crew to hobble back home. When a blizzard shut down most of Ohio in the late ’80’s, my father spent several days with his men at the base. And when an aircraft needed to land without the benefit of any landing gear, he was one of the first to be called as a consultant to help the aircraft and crewmen land safely (they did).

But it wasn’t until his last years as he fought valiantly against the encroaching loss of memory and speech to Alzheimer’s that I learned things about my father’s service that I’d never known. One day when my mother dropped him off to visit me, he brought along a box of mementos. I expected him to share a nice collection of rocks or old silver dollars he’d collected over the years, but, instead, he opened the veil for a few short moments on a career that was mostly shrouded in secrecy.

I discovered my father was a consultant to NASA. Who knew? I didn’t. He never bragged about it, despite the prestige and respect it would have garnered. He didn’t care at all about those things. He cared about people, about helping others and doing the right thing by those he encountered. Fame and accolades were never an attraction for him.

I also found a small card tucked away in the box that stated that my father was an essential emergency responder and should be allowed passage and support when the card was presented. Again, I had no idea.

My father died this past summer, and even now, I sometimes feel completely adrift when it hits me that this man – the rock of my childhood – is no longer here to tell me everything will be okay. I miss him terribly, and I am so grateful for every memory he was able to share before it was too late.

And so today as I remember my father and the life he gave in service to his country, as well as the pride he took in quietly contributing where and how he could, I honor not only his sacrifice but the kind of man he became because of his service to our country. I am deeply grateful for so many who, just like my father, contributed and continue to protect the freedom I enjoy today.

I can’t call my father this Veteran’s Day. Oh, how I wish I could. If it isn’t yet too late for someone you know, take a moment this Veteran’s Day to thank them for their sacrifice. One day it will be the memory you hold dear when, like me, the gratitude simply resides in the heart because the words have nowhere else to go.

Also published on Huffington Post.

Watch New Mexico Rise: choosing a new view

IMG_3317-0.JPG

The dinner dishes were cleared away. A few of our friends and fellow entrepreneurs sat with us around the dining room table. The conversation turned to the spate of negative stories proliferating in the news and on social media. At least eight separate businesses based in New Mexico were represented that night, and each had already made an impact on some level or another on the economy as well as having contributed to the momentum of our growing startup community. Our dinner companions talked with us about the frustration of reading the words and stories of individuals who were no longer a part of the community, and, thus, should have no impact on the economy. Even after moving away, the platform of news stories made it possible for these individuals to negatively impact morale of those purposed with driving forward the momentum of change beginning to take root. The cumulative effect of the barrage of recent negativity was heavy on some of the most inspirational, driven entrepreneurs in our state.

I’ve thought a lot about that conversation and have come to a few conclusions.

I cannot change the news. I have no influence or say over what is deemed to be newsworthy – and I’m glad. I wouldn’t want to even if I could, because – as much as it may sometimes be a practice in futility considering the ever-growing conflict between journalists covering the news and publishers wanting to protect the bottom line – I very much want our news to aspire to the highest standards. I want stories by journalists who aren’t afraid to ruffle feathers, strain friendships, and weather public scrutiny in order to write hard-hitting news stories. While I may want news agencies to leave the public relations spin with those who should carry it into social media – from the cheerleaders to the woe-is-me crowd, I’m pretty sure that the line between news coverage and using spin and social media to build eyeballs – and thus enough revenue to stay afloat – is not going to go away. It is here to stay, and, like it or not, has become a part of the news cycle. I can’t change that, either.

What I can do is choose a new view and purposefully focus on what is right in our state. During the last five years which I’ve spent growing a tech company in New Mexico, I have crossed paths with an incredible number of people who – in the process of our interaction – inspired me in some way to push forward, think bigger, be more generous, rise above the pettiness, protect my integrity and build faster and better.

And here is what I will do.

For the next year, I am committing to turn the inspirational call to action – watchNMrise – started by my good friend, Jessica Eaves Mathews, and turn that call to action into a yearlong project. I will write about the people who have inspired me, about the companies that I am proud are a part of our economy and the organizations who have earned my respect because of the contributions they are making towards our future. It won’t be a complete list, and I’ll likely fail to cover some of the real movers and shakers among us, because this will be an in-the-moment decision to focus on a single reason we can watch New Mexico rise. This isn’t about PR or getting the spin just right, so I won’t be asking for updated projections or bios or photos. This is simply one person’s decision to combat the drain brought on by fighting negativity by reminding myself what an incredibly inspiring community we call home here in New Mexico.

If my project inspires you, here is what I hope you’ll do. I hope you’ll start on your own list – for everyone else to read or just for yourself. I hope you’ll send an unexpected email or text – or pick up the phone – and thank someone for the value they are adding to our community. It would be great if you decide to volunteer a day at a nonprofit you admire. And I hope you’ll spend a few dollars in a locally owned shop.

And the next time you read an article that covers a tough topic but is fair and balanced, take note. Make a point to acknowledge journalists who cover tough stories that must be addressed, who uncover the unseemly underbelly of the world in which we reside. Acknowledge their efforts, because these journalists are also doing their part to better our community – whether their words make us feel better in the moment or not.

Tomorrow I begin with my first Watch New Mexico Rise post. I may not post every day – I am running a startup after all. But I’ll be here often – and I hope you’ll join me.