Walt Disney was once fired for lacking imagination.
Dick Cheney dropped out of Yale not once, but twice.
And Isaac Newton drove his family’s farm into the ground.
People screw up a lot on their way to success. Often times, the difference between people who end up succeeding and people who… well, don’t, is the amount of perseverance that the person has.
Of course, persevering through shitty circumstances is easier said than done. And although I don’t mean to imply that Viktor Frankl’s experiences in a Nazi concentration camp are similar to the things we experience, I do mean to insinuate that Viktor Frankl has some worthwhile lessons for you and me.
Five, in particular.
1. Stop Trying to Succeed
The more you try to succeed, the more you’re going to fail.
It’s the counterintuitive theme to life. It’s the same pattern that defines relationships, happiness, and even learning. The more tainted your motives, the less likely you are to succeed.
At least, in an honorable sense.
There’s no shortage of people who’ve succeeded at building wealth or fame by manipulating other people (Hitler, for instance).
But, of course, you don’t want to become successful because you were an ass hole. Or I hope you don’t want to become successful that way.
If you’re a decent human being like I’m assuming you are, then you want to grow a business and drive revenue because… well, you could make a massive impact with that kind of power.
And that desire for power isn’t a bad thing. But it is the wrong place to start.
Instead, you need to start with your passions and work outward to success.
What do you love to do?
What do you want to build?
How do you want to change the world?
Answer those questions before building a business and you’ll be well on your way to creating something successful — even though that really wasn’t your motivation.
“Don’t aim at success. The more you aim at it and make it a target, the more you are going to miss it. For success, like happiness, cannot be pursued; it must ensue, and it only does so as the unintended side effect of one’s personal dedication to a cause greater than oneself or as the by-product of one’s surrender to a person other than oneself. Happiness must happen, and the same holds for success: you have to let it happen by not caring about it.”
2. Let your Conscience be Your Guide
How, though, do you find the thing that you’re passionate about?
It’s a question that can drive even the most meditative yogi mad. Everyone is looking for their “purpose.”
Some find it. Some don’t. We all die.
Fun stuff, huh?
Fortunately for the most of us who can’t figure out what the hell our ultimate purpose is, Viktor Frankl points out that we don’t need to.
In fact, discovering “purpose” or “truth” is completely missing the point to life.
Rather, you and I, as Frankl argues, should pursue following the deepest leanings of our conscience — that voice inside of us that clearly tells us which way is right and which is wrong. The voice that we often ignore because the dirtier option will benefit us externally. The voice that we learn to mute because fame and wealth are far too appealing.
Call it god, nature, or the universe.
Whatever it is, we all have it. And it’s arguably the most powerful tool at your disposal when building relationships, finding happiness, and growing a business.
If you want to find success without actually looking for it, then lean on your conscience and stop making excuses for ignoring your gut.
There’s no hack to success. There’s no magic pill. And there’s definitely no tangible path.
Success happens when you’re pursuing something greater than yourself. And your conscience provides just the necessary prompt you need.
What drives you crazy?
What do you love passionately?
What do you want to change?
Craft a meaning for your life and your business from your answers to those questions. And allow that meaning to change as your life changes.
But always follow your conscience and make no allowances for inappropriate behavior.
“I want you to listen to what your conscience commands you to do and go on to carry it out to the best of your knowledge. Then you will live to see that in the long-run—in the long-run, I say!—success will follow you precisely because you had forgotten to think about it.”
3. First Ask “Why?” Then “How?”
As entrepreneurs, most of us go straight to “how?” without ever asking “why?”
We start with, “How cool would it be if I started a business that rents camping gear near popular outdoor locations so that people don’t have to lug their own when traveling?” or “Wouldn’t it be neat to start a subscription box service that delivers snacks and candies from a different country every month?”
Sure. Those are great ideas.
But no idea will ever be sustainable until you ask why you’re doing it.
If you’re struggling to continue building the business you were once passionate about, then it might be because you need to ask why you’re doing it.
Why did you build the business in the first place?
And if you can’t think of a reason other than wanting to be famous or make lots of money, then create a worthwhile purpose.
Ask your conscience.
What convictions do you feel about what you’re doing? Which parts of your job do you love? How can you hire people to do the stuff you don’t enjoy and spend more time doing the things that give you meaning?
Maybe you built your B2B company because you want to make the lives of other business people easier. Or maybe you built your B2C company because you want to make the life of consumers more enjoyable.
Whatever the case, you need a reason.
Fortunately, you can create one.
Actually, you must create one. That is, if you’re going to keep doing what you’re doing for a long, long time.
“Those who have a ‘why’ to live, can bear with almost any ‘how’.”
4. Love People if you Want to See Them Flourish
Have you ever considered how important it is to love the people that you work with? How about your clients or customers?
I’m willing to bet you haven’t.
And if you have, you’re among the few. Congratulations.
Why is loving people — customer or coworker — so important? And what, exactly, do I mean by ‘love’?
First off, I don’t mean that you should coddle your coworkers and be all cushy, cushy.
I do mean, though, to give a shit about people. To care about their current circumstances and show concern for the thing they’re going through — good or bad.
Because when you do that, it enables people to do their best work. Customers fall in love with your business, and people want to reciprocate the kindness.
You want to create a business that flourishes over the long-term, not just the short-term. To do that, though, you need to love everyone you come in contact with.
It sounds cheesy. I know. But that doesn’t make it less true.
Actually, the fact that it’s such cliché advice only illustrates how true it really is.
“Love is the only way to grasp another human being in the innermost core of his personality. No one can become fully aware of the very essence of another human being unless he loves him. By his love he is enabled to see the essential traits and features in the beloved person; and even more, he sees that which is potential in him, which is not yet actualized but yet ought to be actualized. Furthermore, by his love, the loving person enables the beloved person to actualize these potentialities. By making him aware of what he can be and of what he should become, he makes these potentialities come true.”
5. Embrace Suffering as a Sacrifice
We all suffer.
And no one ever suffers more than someone else. As Viktor Frankl points out, all suffering is relative to the current situation of the suffering person.
This means that someone with social anxiety who spends too much time in front of other people might suffer just as much as someone else with great resolve whose mother or father dies.
In other words, all suffering is only the result of how we perceive our current situation.
That is, suffering only happens in our heads, not externally in the world.
We don’t suffer because a friend died. We suffer because we perceive the death of a friend to be a bad situation. And we don’t suffer because things at work have been stressful, but because we perceive the current happenings at work as being something worth worrying about to an unhealthy extent.
The good news, though, is that this means you and I can choose how much we want to suffer by changing our perception of what’s happening.
And the best way to do that, according to Viktor Frankl, is by viewing all of our sufferings as a sacrifice for the greater good.
You can use that principle in your general life and your business.
With that, a canceled appointment with a potential client turns into an opportunity to pursue other clients instead of a debilitating hit on business. And someone quitting their job means the chance to hire someone else who can change your business for the better.
The point is, things are only bad if we view them as bad.
Change your perception to be more positive and you’ll lower your stress level, increase your productivity, and make the process far more enjoyable than it would be otherwise.
“In some ways, suffering ceases to be suffering at the moment it finds a meaning, such as the meaning of a sacrifice.”
You’re going to suffer and make mistakes — whether you like it or not.
And chances are, you don’t like it.
But you’re in good company. Walt Disney, Dick Cheney, and even Isaac Newton made massive mistakes on their way to success.
Fortunately, as it turns out, building a successful business isn’t about avoiding suffering, mistakes, and failures, but embracing them.
In fact, you should stop trying to succeed, follow your conscience, ask “why?” before you ask “how?”, love your coworkers and customers, and, above all else, view suffering as the sacrifice that it is.
Then, in very little time, all of the discouragement and pain of building a business becomes something worth experiencing, not something you dread.
Because, now, all of that suffering has a meaning. And it’s a meaning you’ve committed yourself to.
One that will drive you to the top, even though that wasn’t your intention.
What is the “why?” behind your own business and how does that motivate you to keep moving forward, despite constant discouragement?