We often share how the eight life lessons at the core of the Ice House Programs were “distilled” through observing hundreds of entrepreneurs. For some, this calls to mind a magic elixir that only a few special people are privileged enough to sample.
Spoiler alert: There is no magic elixir. These eight life lessons flow like water all around us—we just held out the cup and let entrepreneurs fill it up.
The ability to choose how we respond to our circumstances is perhaps the most incredible power we have. It’s the foundation of entrepreneurial behavior. All the things going on around us could dictate our lives if we let them. But when we set compelling goals and look toward the future, we choose to make our current circumstances a mere starting point.
Often, our current circumstances have a problem or two. Or maybe many. Here’s the upside: Problems are simply opportunities in disguise. Entrepreneurs have learned to look at problems through this lens. They use empathy to hone their focus and then dive right in to find solutions—the actual currency of an entrepreneur’s mindset.
Entrepreneurs like to get things done. They don’t always have everything figured out before they take a risk, and they don’t plan out every aspect of their business. But, they don’t blindly leap toward solving the most significant problems first, even though they are action-oriented. They take an incremental approach, using micro-experiments to keep the cost of their risk-taking low. This way of thinking transforms failures from danger zones into small chances to learn and continue moving ahead.
Knowledge, combined with effort, is the engine that drives entrepreneurs. After all, making a choice based on missing or inaccurate information would be foolish—and entrepreneurs are nobody’s fools. They may not learn best through traditional means, like classroom courses. Still, curiosity drives them to seek out knowledge from many sources: micro-experiments, other people, online sources, observation, and more.
Entrepreneurs tend to focus their attention on things that will advance their goals—and they tend to think in terms of value instead of profit. The idea of making money simply for the sake of building wealth doesn’t occur to them because money without resourcefulness doesn’t get to the heart of the types of problems (aka opportunities) that they are focused on.
Your brand is the message you send to the world about who you are and what you stand for. It’s the result of your actions. One of the most important messages for an entrepreneur to send is that they are reliable. To succeed in any industry, an entrepreneur must have a reputation as someone trusted to solve a problem.
Creating an intentional support network—whether it’s an informal group of peer supporters or a formal mentor relationship—is essential. Surrounding ourselves with people who are more successful and more knowledgeable than we are can be uncomfortable. However, one way to get past that is to let curiosity drive instead of ego. Get in there and ask questions. And, more often than not, others are genuinely willing to share their experience and insights with others who are authentically interested in learning.
Solving problems is hard work. Reaching compelling goals takes determination. In a way, the ability to persevere is similar to how we can choose to respond to our circumstances. One choice is to give up. Or, we can refuse to accept limitations and get back up with resilience when we get knocked down.
None of these eight life lessons requires special talents or unique abilities. In combination, they shift awareness and behaviors in ways that enable entrepreneurs to succeed. It may seem like entrepreneurs have discovered a secret formula. But really, they have figured out how to make themselves useful to others – and in doing so, they empower themselves.