Entrepreneur? Or Just Another Business Person?

(Published in The Unity Community newsletter in January 2019)


Norm Brodsky
, who writes a regular column in Inc. magazine, has a very interesting story for us for this issue

He and his wife stopped by a store where Linda Pagan manufactures and sells ladies’ hats. 

Linda makes some very broad-brimmed hats that many people like for outdoor events. Since she includes boxes with all her hats, she needs larger than normal boxes for these hats. 

She took the “bull by the horns” and helped her box supplier develop the capacity  to produce these outsized boxes. The supplier hadn’t identified the market for such hat boxes. She did, and stepped up to make it happen, with benefit to herself and other marketers, the box supplier, and the customers.

This is the way business should be done – win-win-win! It’s how a market economy generates wealth. 

Through cooperative effort, everybody benefits. Linda, the box supplier and other milliners earn a profit by selling their wares for more than it costs to make them. The customers get the hats worth more to them than the money they pay for them.

So here’s the difference between an entrepreneur and another business person. Many people start a “business” which is really just a job for them. They don’t answer to a boss per se (except their customer), but they’re selling what others sell, with few if any unique features.

Those who identify and fill a gap, or space for a product or service that nobody is offering, are entrepreneurs. Others compete with existing suppliers without offering anything new. They must compete on price, delivery time, or other mundane features of their product or service. They have much more competition than the entrepreneur does.

Enjoy Norm’s story about entrepreneur Linda Pagan. This insight may be useful to better understand and explain the difference between entrepreneurs and other business people.

What Makes Experience a Better Teacher?

We’ve talked a lot about mindset in the last several issues of this letter. I’m sure some among you think all this mindset talk is “woo-woo” pointless chatter. 

“Just get on with the program!” you may say. I assure you, there’s abundant science supporting the idea that mindset affects performance. It also affects life satisfaction and happiness.

Effective “getting on with the program” requires a positive mindset. Are you working with an abundance, rather than scarcity, mindset? Focusing on solutions, rather than problems? If so, you’re in the most effective mindset. If you’re focusing on scarcity and problems, you’re not as effective as you may think! For sure, not as effective as you could be.

A few mindset-related concepts this week:

  • Reflection makes the most of experience.
  • Worry does nothing to fix what you’re worrying about. We have a quick recipe for dispelling worry.
  • Happy positive people are happy whether they’re materially wealthy or not.

Here’s Karyn Danielle on the topic of reflection. She begins by citing this quote:

We do not learn from experience, we learn from reflecting on our experience.” – John Dewey

Careful reflection can bring to light: 

  • What went well. 
  • What we can improve upon. 
  • Where life worked against us despite our best effort. 
    • Celebrate that effort, even if the outcome was less desirable than you hoped for. You gave it your best shot!

Karyn expands on that idea – all part of the concept of a positive mindset. 

Worry detracts from performance. Worry is nothing more or less than negative expectations. It’s a negative mindset. If you find yourself worrying about something:

  • Explore what you can do about it. Then do it – take positive steps.
  • If there’s nothing you can do about it, decide to accept the outcome, whatever it is.
    • Be on the lookout for anything you can do to mitigate its effect on you. Do that thing.
    • Then stop worrying.
    • Get on with the things you can do in the rest of your life.

The scare about the coronavirus is a perfect situation for practicing this.

There are many negative people who make lots of money or show other signs of success. Usually their “success” is short-lived, and they lead unhappy lives. 

Annette Bau has studied happy people enjoying life and those who fight it. Each category includes some who have money. And others who struggle financially. In 30 years of study, she’s found it’s all about mindset! Money, or other trappings of “success”, don’t make unhappy people happy. They just result in unhappy people with lots of stuff!

Focus on things you can control – especially your mind!

Need Some Inspiration in This Time of Challenge?

The world is in turmoil. The news media is full of over-blown hype about it. Perhaps you need some inspiration.

A few suggestions:

  • Turn off the TV
  • Put down the newspaper
  • Read, or re-read, my recent posts on The Unity Community. The open rates for these messages currently stand at 18-21%. This tells me there are many of you who have yet to benefit from them. I refer to:
  • Listen to Eric Lofholm’s live (7:45 AM PT every business day) or recorded 15-minute motivational calls. The recordings and the instructions to join the live call are here. Eric is always upbeat and shares valuable business and sales tips, as well as pure inspiration.
  • (For those with children under 20: Eric has just announced he is doing a special daily training for kids. Most schools don’t teach kids mindset, goal setting, effective communication, etc. Eric is filling that space at a time when kids need it most. I just watched today’s episode and recommend it.)

Mindset is vital. It always works best to approach any situation, however dire it appears, with a positive attitude. There’s a positive side to every situation. Focusing on the negatives will only depress you.  It will do absolutely nothing to improve the situation, or your own performance.

You must be positive to perform at your best. 

You can be positive only by eliminating the negative. 

It’s impossible for the brain to recognize positive and negative simultaneously. Focus on the positive.

Fear and faith cannot co-exist (Napoleon Hill). Have faith that you will do what is necessary. Then do it!

Be aware of facts. Intentionally avoid the hype.

When you can do something to help, do it. When the situation is out of your control, worry won’t help. Move on to whatever good you find. Can’t find it? Look harder – it’s there.

In this time, we can appreciate these observations:

  • Some down time is a good thing.
  • Quiet time with family is good.
  • More relaxed interaction with friends is beneficial.
  • More time to think about and plan for our business and life will have long-term benefit.
  • It’s pretty easy to reduce expenses when we’re not moving around much, restaurants are closed, etc.
  • We may learn more effective or efficient ways of working while our mobility is limited. Example: We have essentially 0 commute time and expense.
  • Think of other benefits!

Stay positive! Better times are coming.

All Work and no Play Makes Jack a Dull Boy

As an entrepreneur, you’re probably very good at working hard. Many fail see the value of taking a break. Here’s Rebekah Lyons, in an interview with Alex Sanfelippo, describing a more balanced approach. The interview is about 34 minutes long. On the linked page there’s a brief outline of what she covers.

It’s very easy for a business owner, or anyone driven to succeed, to buy into the “work harder” syndrome.

The truth is, if you keep your head down for much more than an hour, your effectiveness diminishes. When you’re working, or concentrating on other routines in your life, it’s important to take breaks. 

I have to admit I sometimes violate this. I can get engrossed in writing and lose two or three hours very easily. I do my best to guard against that, and it still happens.

The most effective breaks come in several varieties. You should be intentional about taking:

  • 10-minute breaks during the day after 50-70 minutes of focused work.
  • A full day off from work each week.
  • A several-day, or even several-week vacation at least once per quarter.

In the hourly short breaks, some physical activity boosts the level of serotonin. 

Serotonin is known as the “feel-good hormone”. It helps you feel energized and upbeat, so you can return to focused work with renewed vigor. 

Levels of serotonin gradually decline during sedentary work. This can leave you feeling dull or lethargic. Physical activity restores your serotonin level – walking or other light exercise is ideal for this.

Your work keeps you physically active, you say? You still need the mental break to stay energetic and ideally focused.

Here’s a very good article on serotonin and melatonin, which work pretty much opposite to each other.

In Rebekah’s interview she talks about rhythms everywhere in life. In the world of work, she discusses:

Rest and Restore, which she places in the category of input rhythms.

Connect and Create, which she calls output rhythms.

Want a more effective work day? Want to get more done in a month? Follow Rebekah’s advice to bring more balance into your routine.

Many studies have shown it. You can do more in 6.5-7 hours, net of breaks, than in 8-9 hours of unbroken effort.

What Will Help You Most to Navigate Hard Times?

This month seems to be developing into a time of philosophical exploration. Last week we discussed Wayne Dyer’s wise life improvement suggestions. This week, I go  back a little further in history (about 700 years!) for for some Persian wisdom on life.

Yalal ad-Din Muhammad Rumi, better known simply as Rumi, was a 13th-century Persian poet, faqih, Islamic scholar, theologian, and Sufi mystic.

Nikos, who has commented on several of my articles, recently sent me 75 Rumi quotes. Most of them are worthy of thoughtful note. In the list, every 10th one is highlighted. There are many nuggets of wisdom in the entire list. For different people, different ones will have the biggest impact. I won’t try to select for you.

All of this advice, no matter the source, essentially comes down to positive mindset. Travel restrictions, wild stock market fluctuations, etc., can lead one to think negatively. We have no control over those things. One thing we can always control is our mindset. Keeping a positive mindset helps us through the toughest of times. In a positive mindset we are much more effective at addressing what we can control.

Napoleon Hill famously said, “Fear and faith can’t co-exist.” Have faith that you can produce the results you want, and set fear aside.

Be positive and grateful.

Employee: Can I Email You 24/7?

When are you connected to technology? More importantly, when do you disconnect?


Here’s the story of a lady who stayed connected 24/7…until she “blew a circuit breaker”.


The lesson she learned from that was to set strict rules for herself. She decided when she would check email. And when she wouldn’t. Of course she told her colleagues that her email responses might be delayed. She also advised “If it’s a true emergency, text or call.”


Studies indicate the majority of business leaders haven’t made that decision. To their detriment, I’ll wager!


A little aside on decision-making I hope you find valuable:


Dr. Benjamin Hardy has some unique and valuable ideas about decision-making. He contends that willpower is for those who haven’t decided.“Design trumps willpower.” – B. J. Fogg, Stanford psychologist

Ben is one of my most trusted mentors. Since I started working with him several months ago, I’ve found this to be true. Several decisions I’ve made have simplified my life and work considerably. Among the most important are:

  • Rising at 5:00 AM every work day, which also means going to bed before 11:00 PM every night before.
  • In the first few minutes after I get up, I take a quick cold shower and drink 20 ounces (0.6 l.) of water.

When I was first presented with these suggestions, in prospect they looked difficult. Now, having made the decision to follow this routine, it is indeed routine…and easy. No decisions required! No will power required! The decision is made.
The benefits in improved engagement and focus are huge.

To get back to the “lead story”. Mathilde Collin, her company (Front) and her life have realized big improvements. Her new focus on “the important things” (usually not urgent) has brought her many great things.


Read on!

Music Often Reflects Business

Like much entertainment, music often reflects the realities of life and business. 


This week, we check in with Mark Oldman, entrepreneur, Inc. contributor, and author. He finds many parallels between the lyrics of Neil Peart’s Rush band and the company he co-founded, Vault.com.


As many of you know, Peart died last month. Oldman has been a loyal follower of Neil Peart and Rush for many years. His recent article is a tribute to the ideas reflected in Rush’s songs. It also catalogs many of the lessons he’s learned in business. You’ll find parallels to Ami Kassar’s experience, which we discussed here.


What makes a song popular? It’s usually its reflection of realities in life and/or business.


The lessons Mark relates to Rush’s lyrics are:

1. “Resist safety”.

2. Pursue your passion.

3. Choose complementary co-founders.

4. Progress is incremental.

5. Say no.

6. Prepare to pivot.

7. Assume control.

Oldman selects a passage from one of Rush’s songs to illustrate each principle. Common themes for them are:

  • Control your destiny.
  • Find what excites you – and focus on it.
  • Pay attention to what the market is telling you, and be prepared to react. The best reaction may be saying no to an apparent opportunity (shiny object).

Enjoy Mark’s comparisons between Neil Peart’s music and the realities of business.

How Do You React to Frustrations?

This week, we again visit Jim Riviello, who takes up the idea of the “Teflon leader” in this 23-minute podcast. It’s well worth listening to. The idea is to let things “slide off”.

Jim reminds us that we are never responsible for what others say or do. We are responsible solely for our reaction to those things.


He recommends making two lists of things that trigger us – “set us off”. 


One of those lists should be for the things in business that bother you. Maybe an employee does something irresponsible. Or someone is late, or doesn’t show up, for an appointment. Perhaps the weather interrupts some project you’re trying to finish.


The other list is for things in your personal life that set you off. It could be something your spouse does. Or how about a teenage son or daughter? Kids often trigger parents with their behavior. Some delight in doing that. Maybe it’s traffic delays – very frustrating for many. Only you know what bothers you most. Be honest with yourself in making these lists.


Now take those lists, and think about the items – what bothers you about them? Do this in a calm moment. Consider how you might react in a more rational way than you usually do. List ways of reacting rationally to each one. Just making the list is very effective. When you’re consciously aware of something, you’re well on the way to addressing it.


Then watch for those triggers in daily life, and catch your anger rising when they occur. Force yourself to settle down and react as you imagined when you were thinking calmly. As with any behavior change, this takes practice. You’ll get better, though certainly not perfect – as Jim reminds us, we’re human! Keep working to improve – you will!


Jim calls this method “catch-n-release”. Catch yourself reacting angrily, and  release it.

Thinking of Starting a Company?

What makes an entrepreneur successful?


Of course that question could have about a million answers! 


One might also ask, “What makes an entrepreneur fail?” Again, many possible answers.


Ami Kassar started his company, MultiFunding, 10 years ago. He’s endured and persevered through the usual ups and downs in a start-up company. Here he describes ten of what he considers the most important lessons he’s learned. In his bio, it’s mentioned that he’s written a book. Strangely, the title of the book is omitted from the bio. It’s The Growth Dilemma. Of course, it’s available on Amazon.


Many of these lessons we’ve discussed here over the years. I’ll comment on a few of them.

6. Live your values — and build a team that shares them.
7. Love what you do — or it’s not worth it.

For me, these two concepts are centrally important for business…and for life in general.If you’re doing something that misaligns with who you are and your core beliefs, you’re being inauthentic. Being inauthentic is always a recipe for trouble.Of course there will be chores you find unpleasant. Sometimes you can delegate those chores to someone who enjoys doing them, and does them well. Often you just have to bite the bullet and do a job you don’t enjoy. As the leader, you often have to say, “The buck stops here”.Find satisfaction and joy in the result you’re producing. That’s the key concept here. Usually that means, among other things, that you’re bringing someone great value.


1. Join a peer group.
8. Keep mentors close.


These two together remind us that asking for and accepting help and advice is important. Trying to do any new thing without that is far more difficult than it needs to be. And…as has often been said, it’s “lonely at the top”. A supportive person to talk with can be just what you need when the going gets tough.Everyone needs a coach! Scroll down to the middle of that page to skip all the extra stuff I was then including!


2. Don’t be a jerk.
10. Transparency wins the day.


Treating people the way you want to be treated is important. This includes customers, employees, suppliers, and others. And remember to think about how they want to be treated. In some cases it may be different from how you want to be treated.


9. Celebrate victories along the way.


In any endeavor, it’s valuable to congratulate yourself on your wins. Learn from your losses but don’t dwell on them.


Kassar fleshes out these ideas, and a few others, from his own personal journey. Enjoy!

Why Would You Stop Selling a Lucrative Product?

As I contemplated the strong response last week’s issue generated, I explored more of Simon Sinek‘s work.


Here’s a story of CVS, the big pharmacy company, eliminating tobacco sales. The hit to revenue would be $4 billion per year. A smart move? The financial pundits didn’t think so. They look at monthly or quarterly numbers as finite outcomes.
Sinek suggests that business, and life, are infinite games.


CVS’ motto was, “Helping people on their path to better health.” How does that fit with selling cigarettes? Their leaders decided it didn’t!


CVS’ earnings per share dropped initially by almost 10%. A year later, EPS had increased by 70% from just before they announced their decision.


Business decisions that align with one’s purpose work! Business is an infinite game! What happens next month, next quarter, next year, matters less than what happens in the longer term.

All around us are examples of people or companies winning by making courageous decisions. Examples:

  • CVS’ decision to stop selling tobacco – 70% improvement in EPS.
  • Our colonial forefathers’ switch from communal production to an individual incentive system. The flagging economy came to life!
  • Chobani Yogurt’s immigrant CEO challenged established business rules. A failed yogurt producer saved! (Here’s that story).
  • W.L. Gore (maker of Gore-Tex) operates with no assigned managers (Read about that here).

Uncourageous short-sighted decisions, with disastrous results, are also legend:

  • VW doctoring emissions test results. Very expensive, CEO fired!
  • Boeing rushing the 737X to market, short cutting pilot training requirements. The jury’s still out on that one – it could kill the company.
  • Theranos’ “Ponzi” scheme (Here’s Wikipedia’s summary of that story – it did kill the company.)

My friend and mentor Brian Tracy says (paraphrased): “Following the leader may work out. Following the follower is usually disastrous! It’s best to be the leader”.