This is a guest post by Gregory Ciotti
I have had the fortune to meet a lot of successful businessmen (and women) at my time working for First State Innovation, and nearly every time I’ve talked with a successful entrepreneur I feel like I’ve walked away having learned something very valuable about pursuing my passions and making them work as a successful business.
While that may be a lesson in itself (seeking out advice from those with experience), I knew I had to take the bits of insight that I had picked up from being surrounded by successful people and use them to compile a list of my own personal “rules” that I would abide by to find my own success.
I wanted to share them with you today, along with some personal examples that were given in their telling, in hopes that you can be inspired to adopt and create some of your own rules that you will follow on your path to success, wherever it may take you.
1. The Best Investment Is In Yourself: Invest In Training
There are so many things to invest your money, and more importantly, your time into, but none are so valuable as the resources that you invest in yourself.
You are your own product, and just as you must market yourself correctly, you must also improve yourself.
Make sure that the current version of “you” out their on the market is the latest release, and assure others that updates will be coming out regularly, and they will trust in your abilities, and in your ability to deliver down the line.
But investing in yourself does not stop with skills and knowledge, it also means investing in your health, which encompasses both mental and physical.
On entrepreneur who I admire but haven’t met is Noah Kagan of AppSumo. I bring him up because he once mentioned what he considered a few aspects of a potentially good employee were, and one of the traits he came up with was a person who worked out consistently.
I was unsure of what he meant by this at first, but it didn’t take long for me to fully grasp why after he gave his reasoning.
When you take care of yourself, it shows to others many things, but most importantly, it shows you are willing and able to put in consistent effort everyday to make sure things stay as they should.
This is not to discount the work ethic of some people who aren’t too keen on working out, but consider this: if you can make yourself go to the gym everyday, an activity you may or may not enjoy, in order to take care of your health, what does that say about you?
To me, it says you are willing to make a commitment to something for your betterment, despite the fact that it may be something you don’t exactly jump for joy looking forward too (let’s be honest, even those of us that love the gym aren’t looking forward to it every single session, but yet we make ourselves go even on days when we’d rather stay home).
So, taking care of yourself by keeping your body, and mind, up to snuff, says a lot about your commitment to self-improvement, and it speaks volumes to others in ways that you might not think.
Noah says that he always asks his potential employees about whether or not they consistently work out, and while you may not hold those around you or whom you employ to the same standard, I think the idea of bettering yourself as a way to teach good work ethic is something that we can all support.
2. Build Great Relationships – They Trump Almost Everything
In the world of entrepreneurship life, relationships can be the single factor that differentiates from success and failure.
I can attest to this due to the simple fact that I would never have had a great work experience with FSI if it wasn’t for a connection that I had in the building.
I therefore would not have been able to bring you this post, and what a loss that would have been.
On a serious note, I’ve learned that relationships with people that you not only admire for their accomplishment and work ethic, but also for there character, can have long term benefits that are really priceless.
Pat Flynn (of SPI, if you’re a reader) mentions how his blog took off after a mention from a fellow more popular blogger, and has seen traffic growth ever since.
Great relationships can have that effect: they can be the push that you need to find your own way, your “foot in the door” so to speak.
You shouldn’t pursue these connections for only your benefit though, look to people who you truly learn from, and learn to do for them not out of some plan to get benefits later, but because you truly appreciate what they’ve provided for you.
This can be connecting with bloggers, other business owners, really anyone who’s character that you admire and you think has a good head on their shoulders, to put it bluntly, “if you are always the smartest man in the room, you’re in the wrong room.”
Look for people who will help you be a better person, and grow that relationship to your mutual benefit, which will be much greater than most things you could have achieved trying to do all the leg work yourself.
A great way to do this can be found in working with a successful “mastermind group”, and using the power of being held accountable by other motivated people to help you stay focused and connected with others that can do for you. Many people find that if they have no one checking in on their progress, motivation begins to decline as long projects trudge onward.
It is especially hard to continue working on something for long periods of time that other people haven’t even seen yet, be it a new startup, project, comprehensive guide or blog post, time can be either a friend or foe for long-term projects.
A mastermind group can alleviate this, as it spurs friendly competition, feedback from outside sources (a new perspective), and a way to be held accountable for your progress: if you need to check in with your group at the end of the week, how much more motivated will you be knowing that your other group members are likely out their striving?
You won’t want to let them down, and that is the true power of the mastermind group; if a gathering of motivated people come together, they keep each other sharp whereas time alone would have them lose their edge.
3. If It’s Not Worth Measuring, It Is Probably Not Worth Doing
This advice came from one of my closest mentors, who actually ran a social media and marketing firm, a topic many of us our interested in, who was very successful, working with companies such as PNC Bank and Wawa (if you are on the East Coast, you might know about “Hoagie Fest”, they were the major contributor to that marketing campaign).
One of the best pieces of advice that he gave me about business, and one I tend to focus on with my marketing blog, is the importance of measuring action.
You will hear so many people proclaim that all you need to do is to start “taking action”, but in reality, that would be like heading off on a long trip without the appropriate supplies or a plan.
While it is important to not always be caught up in the planning stage, something that paralyzes a lot of people looking for success online (and off), it is vital that you actually measure what you are doing, to see if the action you are taking is having any effect and whether or not you need to take further action and change up.
One of my favorite one-liners from this guy (and he had many) was that he felt “if it’s not worth measuring, it’s not worth doing.”
If you truly value your time, I think it is important that you heed this advice as well.
4. Always Plan, And Learn To Harness The Power Of Momentum
With many people looking to start their own ventures, one of the biggest problems can be the balance of education vs. action.
I know I am guilty of having this problem: you seem to get conflicting advice on the subject when you are first starting out, especially online.
“Read as much as your can!” they proclaim, and then a few minutes later everyone is reciting “Take action, don’t wait!” as the key to success.
What I’ve learned, like most things in life, is that the key is finding a balance between the two.
I’ve learned the importance of planing from many of my mentors, and when it comes you money, it is never wise to place your own (or even worse, other’s) on the line without a comprehensive plan of how exactly you are going to make this whole thing work.
This goes for all ventures, so if you are an aspiring blogger and reading this, know that this applies to you as well.
Your blog is your business, and you need to know early your general strategy for creating good content, getting traffic, and monetizing that traffic, at the very minimum.
You also need to know how to plan and do these things effectively, and this is where all that reading can come in handy.
…Until you fall victim to the other side of this double-edged sword, that is, becoming one of those people that always reads, but never acts.
So how can you find balance between the two?
The idea is to always plan your next move, but to know when you have momentum going, and to take advantage of that momentum.
This can happen in little and big battles.
If you’ve ever sat down and started writing a post, finding that you are getting some great stuff down on the first run, then don’t stop!
Learn to take advantage of these moments and really push yourself: turn that 1,000 word post into 2,000 words of insightful and memorable content.
When things are going great, plan for what may occur, but keep everything rolling along: sometimes entrepreneurs can sabotage their own mission, not taking advantage when their venture starts picking up steam out of fear of failure.
If you have the guts to really dedicated yourself to something, even if it has low overhead such as a blog, knowing that it might fail and be a waste of your time, then you’ve already overcome a fear that halts most people.
So don’t be afraid of success, and when things are going your way, let them.
5. Never Forget What’s Really Important, No Matter What
As a last note, knowing what’s really important can be one of the most essential things to remember about growing a businesses, and indeed in life, for you may find success in your work but lose yourself should you not heed this advice.
I was taught this lesson by a very sad and touching story of a business owner (we’ll call him Mr. S) who operated a family business that handled IT services for hospitals. The story actually had to do with his wife’s father, who was the vice president for a large company in the area.
When the economy tanked, the business came under hard times, and top level people started getting let go, including this man.
Mr. S stated that he always felt that his wife’s father had placed too much emphasis on his job, it had became the reason he got out of bed in the morning, not as a pleasant part of his life but literally his entire life, as he placed so much emphasis on his position and the work that he did as the main calling in his life.
When he was laid off, despite the loving family and good health he was blessed with, he felt the need to take his own life.
Mr. S confided with us that although he was deeply upset that he had lost his father in-law and was saddened that his wife would have to lose her father in this way, he thought that he could never understand how someone could let their job “own” them in such a way.
He also told us that it was this moment that he knew he would never let work consume what his life was truly about: work was simply a means to an end, and not the thing he held most dear to his life, which was his family.
I don’t mean to end this post on such a somber note, but I felt it was important to include because it could possibly resonate with many of you: while you should always approach your work with the most serious focus and desire to do well, it shouldn’t consume you.
It’s perfectly fine and even enviable to enjoy what you are doing so much that you can get wrapped up in it, but just remember, as Mr. S reminded us, “it won’t be your work by your bedside during your life’s last hours, it will be your family and friends.”
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Gregory Ciotti says
Glad to be able to contribute to your blog Benny!
Hope everybody enjoys the post!
Justice Wordlaw IV says
If a person works out a lot it really does show how much of a dedicated person they are to their health. It shows so much about their character and how devoted they are to one thing. Mastermind groups have been really great for me in my development over the past years as I have been creating products and when you’re working solo you some times want to stop or you take frequent breaks in between knowing that you should continue to work. I also started having a reliability partner that I know would be there for me when my motivation is low and out.
Gregory Ciotti says
Glad you agree Justice!
I really look at different aspects of people’s reliability, it means a lot in a person, from a business relationship to a friendship.
I wanted to make clear that I was insinuating just because a person doesn’t work out doesn’t mean that they don’t have a “dedicated” personality, just that whenever I meet someone for the first time, that is one trait I look for in everyone: how dedicated do they appear to be to what they do?
I agree with you on the mastermind groups, I just joined one using Posterous Spaces as the discussion medium and it definitely keeps me on task and focused knowing other people are watching my progress.
Justice Wordlaw IV says
Yeah the mastermind sessions I have been apart of were a big help in the products I created and released and made sure that the goals that I were set out to reach that I did.
Deacon Bradley says
Love this list Greg! In particular numbers 1, 2, & 3… and yea numbers 4 and 5 too.
1 Is a big one for me and something I need to take more seriously. Sometimes I have a hard time shelling out cash for personal development stuff, but this year I’ve been more diligent about building my success library (for starters) and it’s made a big difference. I’m hooked!
#2 is probably my biggest weakness right now and something I really need to focus on more. I have no shortage of examples or beliefe that it’s crucial, I just tend to be a slow relationship builder at times so I have to really force myself to get out and build those connections intentionally.
This is a great list Greg, thanks! And thanks Benny for sharing it with us!
Gregory Ciotti says
Glad you liked it Deacon!
I’ve found that guest posting can be a relationship builder in itself, for instance, I initially started emailing Benny due to our usage of the Standard Theme Framework and the fact that both of our sites got TimThumb hacked (Benny will definitely remember this, bad times!)
Later on though it got me into checking out his blog and I ended up doing this guest post for him, so honestly reaching out just casually can lead to collaborations and the like.
As another example, the interview I just posted with Brian Gardner of Copyblogger today just came about from a casual email about their new Synthesis hosting, and went from there.
I guess my point is relationship building doesn’t always have to be about ‘plotting’ to get in good with an influencer, if you just reach out to people in a casual way sometimes good things come from it!
Aaron Andrews says
Nice post Gregory. I work out at least 4 times a week and I never really thought about how much working out can tell about a person. When I read the 1st rule it made a lot of sense and it has encouraged me to invest in myself a little more and push a little harder during my workouts.
Rule #5, I thought was the most important rule. It’s so easy to get caught up with your work that some times you forget to stop and think about the things that really keep you going each day. I know for me work can be stressful and it really takes a toll on me some days. I need to start pulling back more and letting myself not to let work control my day and attitude.
Great post Gregory!
Gregory Ciotti says
Glad you enjoyed the post Aaron!
I agree with you on both points: every experience I had with these entrepreneurs made me question how I did things.
I think I better understand the importance of coming off like “you give a damn”, or rather, that you are dependable, it’s an important vibe to give off to people.
Secondly, I agree with you on the importance of evaluating what’s really important in life, that last story definitely opened my eyes to that.
i guess related to your last point on keeping in mind what’s important, it’s also crucial to define what “success” is to oneself. it could mean different things to different people, and once we have our own definiton and measures, unnecessary to compare with other people’s successes….
Gregory Ciotti says
I totally agree.
That story had a lot of impact on me in how I looked at others success.
Being in a prominent position or making a lot of money doesn’t always guarantee your happiness if your self-worth is tied only to the work that you do.
I would agree with the list. There are some things worth doing that are not measurable in life, but in regards to business this seems a good point. Point five is – as many point out – perhaps the most important. It is not always measurable of course. And a good test of how well you are doing with understanding what is important is to tell someone – a stranger – who you are without mentioning what you do for a living. Give it a try.
Gregory Ciotti says
A lot of insight in your comment Aaron, thanks so much for reading!
Michael Gibson says
Having a detailed plan from the get go is so vital to success. Now days I don’t start anything without first creating a mind map or something similar to help me get the foundations laid down for whatever it is I’m doing.
Gregory Ciotti says
Fully agreed, a roadmap can be the key difference between success and losing your way early on in any endeavor.
Ben – I love this post, especially #5. “Never Forget What’s Really Important, No Matter What” it’s so easy to lose sight of that – and something I really want to keep on remembering. I always remember why I’m so happy after leaving your blog. You’re fantastic!
Gregory Ciotti says
This post was actually by me, but I leave happy after reading Benny’s blog too ;).
Great to see your here Andi! I can’t take credit for the great post. It’s all Gregory. He did a fantastic job. Thanks though!
Steve Wells says
Awesome list, thanks for sharing! Here is what I would add – from my own experience: making a list of problems that might occur in the process of reaching your goal and concrete options on what to do in such cases.
Thank you Steve! That’s great advice. It’s like an athlete practicing different game situations so that when it’s time for the game, they are better prepared to handle it. The same thing could be applied to pick up I’m sure!
Judith @JudithZen says
Great post Gregory, thanks for sharing! Recognize you from SPI which I have just stumbled on last week and have left a few comments, esp. on Danny Iny’s “Dark Side” post, what a great community of dynamic, enterprising people and it’s good to see the same people everywhere! I love Benny’s success story about the iPhone app too.
I’ve just posted a similar article on my brand new blog on “The Mindset of the Successful Entrepreneur—10 Essential Attributes”. Would love it if you would care to check it out and let me know what you think :)! Bear with me about the scarce contents on the site, I’ve barely launched the site last week.
I’ve been looking for just the right WP plugin for easy tweet and found it here on Benny’s other post. I’m going to install it now!
Hey Judith! Thank you for reading Greg’s post. I’m glad you found out about the easy tweet plugin. It’s a great one!
nice post, Gregory! thanks for this sharing! what a great list of rules! They can really help you have success in your business! You are a lucky person, Gregory! I would also like to meet successful businessmen like Yury Mintskovsky, Bill Gates or Donald Trump! can’t wait to read other interesting posts, Benny!