How I Had To Change My Mindset When I Became An Entrepreneur

2008 was the last time that I received a paycheque as an employee.  Ever since that time, 100% of our family income has been business income derived from various entrepreneurial ventures.

I was reflecting on this today, and thinking about the mental shift that happened when I became an entrepreneur for the first time.  There were several “mindsets” that I had to change in order to be successful as an entrepreneur – some of which were very difficult to change because of deep routed mental conditioning.

I wanted to share five of these mindsets to those of you who may be starting new businesses, or entering into the world of entrepreneurship for the first time.

I discuss these mindsets in the “Employee To Entrepreneur Transition Workshop” that I teach.

1.  I had to stop thinking about myself as a wage earner, and instead become a “long term investor”.  

It can be pretty discouraging if you think of yourself solely as a wage earner when you are an entrepreneur, at least in the start-up phase. Until you get your business up and running your hourly wage is usually much lower than what you were making in your previous employment.  That is why you can’t think that way. I had to shift my focus to that of a long term investor.

A long term investor is patient because they know that, if their investment is sound, their long term payout will be very significant.  A long term investor mindset forces you to build a strong foundation for your business, and not cut corners just to make a quick profit.  A long term investor also understands the law of the harvest and the concept of seasons – seasons for planting, seasons for cultivating and seasons for harvesting.  A wage earner doesn’t understand these concepts.  If their wage gets impacted in the short term then they often look for new employment.  That is why very few wage earners ever generate real wealth.  Wealth comes to the long term investor.

2.  Instead of executing instructions I had to make decisions and create systems.

There are a lot of advantages in being employed.  One of them is that you generally have a set of job duties that you have to perform.  You don’t have to “guess” or “experiment” with what to do.  All you have to do is show up and execute properly and you get to keep your employment.

If only it were this easy as an entrepreneur. I had to learn to shift my thinking and embrace the fact that I had no boss, no set of instructions to execute, but rather I had to make decisions. I had to create systems.  No one would do it but me.  This, at first, for many entrepreneurs is a little unsettling, but over time it becomes a source of great pride and freedom.

3. There was no one up the line that I could pass responsibility to.  I had to become the backstop. 

This was probably the hardest lesson that I had to personally learn.  In every other employment situation I had been in there was always someone up the line.  I was never the ultimate boss, and so as long as I executed the instructions that I was given I would be ok.  If I was given bad instructions I could pass the responsibility up the line. It wasn’t my fault.  I was doing my job.

When I became an entrepreneur I had to embrace the fact that everything was my fault.  I had 100% responsibility for everything that happened, good and bad. I had no one to pass the blame to – no one to send it up the line.  I had to become the backstop. Again, at first this was somewhat unsettling, but over time this became a very empowering idea, and this idea actually became a keystone habit for me.  The more emotionally self-reliant I became in my business the more emotionally self-reliant I seemed to become in my personal life as well – and the less I wanted to criticize others or play the victim card.

4. Instead of job security for myself, I had to shift my focus to creating value for others.

My focus when I was an employee was on myself – how much was I getting paid, how many days vacation did I get, how would this job help MY career trajectory, how was MY job impacted by the economic slowdown.  MY, I, MY, I.

This shift in mindset is honestly one of the most refreshing and rewarding aspects of being an entrepreneur.  Out of necessity I had to shift my thinking away from MY and I, and turn it outward to others.  I had to learn to create value for others.  If I couldn’t find a way to show others my value proposition then I wouldn’t be in business.

This shift away from me, and onto others, has been a critical factor in the enjoyment and fulfillment I feel as an entrepreneur.  If you find yourself unfulfilled and unhappy – you should consider how much time you focus on yourself, and how much time you focus on others. The correlation might surprise you.

5. Instead of avoiding criticism and failure, I had to seek out data and feedback

When I was employed criticism and failure were things to be avoided at all costs.  Severe criticism or catastrophic failure could be the end of the employment as I knew it.  As a result I’d hedge, I’d play safe, I’d execute instructions, and I could pass the blame up the line if necessary.

With this mindset what you don’t do is put yourself out there.  You don’t take massive risks.  You don’t innovate, if that innovation could cost you your job.

Everything is so much different when you are an entrepreneur.  You aren’t scared of criticism and failure doesn’t exist.  There is no such thing as failure – there is only feedback.  If you do something, and you don’t get the result that you want then you have a data point.  If it’s data that you don’t like then you just have to change your action.  This is the feedback loop.  Same thing for criticism.  It is good if it allows you to correct a process, or improve your service.  Innovation and risk taking is necessary.  You have to put yourself out there.

This point is the essence of the freedom that an entrepreneur feels – a freedom that I can’t, at this point, live without.  Even if all my business interests fail (which I don’t believe they will), and I am forced to find employment, it will only be for as long as I need to get my next entrepreneurial venture in play.  Once you have that taste of freedom you never want to go back.  You become an entrepreneur for life.

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