Whenever I speak to groups of entrepreneurs I typically start with my story – both the personal and the professional since they often interweave. And when I look back at my last 20 years of life milestones, like graduating college early with multiple degrees, or co-founding my first company out of a failed startup, or making millions and losing millions, I’ve noticed a reoccurring pattern that propels me through obstacles: perseverance.
We all have struggles; they’re part of the adventure of life. But I believe it’s overcoming them that gives us perspective. Insight. Wisdom. The only reason I am able to help others push through challenges is simply because I’ve been there. I’ve failed forward, and I learned along the way.
Like everybody, I’ve encountered points in my life where it felt easier to just give up, to go a different direction, to listen to what others wanted for me. Those times were painful and created self-doubt.
When I reflect on my life, however, I realize that it’s the decisions made at those points that have most defined me. I didn’t teleport from starting a company with no experience to one generating nearly $2 billion in sales. It took years – all of which included growing pains, mistakes, financial loss, and naysayers.
But when others wanted to quit (and many did!), I kept going, for I’ve found that the only difference between successful people and the unsuccessful is that when the successful ones were at the same points where others quit, they continued moving forward.
When we get to pivotal points where we feel stuck and must decide to stop or go, here are some key beliefs to adopt that will keep your foot on life’s gas pedal.
Belief #1: It’s what you think, not what they think, that matters most.
I remember being introduced to network marketing at age 19 sitting in my UCSD college dorm room and seeing an AOL instant message pop up. It asked me if I wanted to make some money and attend a meeting to find out more. Because I had no idea what I was getting myself into and didn’t want to go alone, I brought 15 of my dorm friends to that meeting.
Afterwards, 13 of them turned down the business opportunity; some criticized me for pursuing it. A few even laughed at me. Why would a top academic student on the path to becoming an attorney want to bother with a distraction like starting a home-based business, they wondered.
It was through that opportunity, though, when I met the man who would eventually join me in starting two companies and spend the next almost two decades as my partner building a global lifestyle brand.
During those years, we received a lot of ‘advice’ from those who thought we should be walking a different career path. They – some of whom were friends and family – continually pointed out what I was ‘supposed to’ do. Peer pressure tried to deter me. My beliefs were tested. But I knew that my success was defined by what I believed and not what they believed.
When you come to a place where you are challenged by your peer group, many stop… but I kept going.
Belief #2: When you don’t feel like it, do it anyway.
I have yet to meet anybody who hasn’t had moments when they simply don’t feel like doing something they know they need to do. A couple years into building my current company I was invited to launch a leadership team in Florida. It was a big deal because at the time we were based only in California. I was told there would be 3,000 people in the audience, and I was thrilled.
Weeks later I started walking onto the convention stage in Florida and was blissfully anticipating 3,000 filled seats. I’m sure you can imagine what I felt like when I saw that only five seats were filled. Five. Did I feel like giving the presentation? No way. Was it incredibly awkward to speak to five people in a room set up for 3,000? Absolutely.
But I decided to do the full presentation and full training hour on that stage to those five people. Who what have guessed that one of those five referred somebody who referred another somebody. And that somebody ended up becoming the top earner in my company for about five years.
When you come to a point where you don’t feel like doing it, many stop… but I kept going.
Belief #3: It’s okay to learn and lead at the same time.
You don’t need to know everything before you do anything. At age 19, I along with my business partner, Nick Sarnicola were running around building our first business and asking people to follow us. Our suits were too big, we rode around in beat-up cars, we had no relevant experience, and we really had no track record to stand on.
But we learned as we led. And eventually I would learn what I needed to run a company as Chief Marketing Officer with 300 employees reporting into me. In fact, there was quite a lot of learning between the time from my first job as a high school pool lifeguard to where I am today.
When you come to a point where you don’t have the answers, many stop… but I kept going.
Belief #4: The only way you fail is if you quit.
Most people are afraid to do the things they know they should do simply because they fear failure. But if you believe that the only way you fail is if you quit, then you’re in control of your success.
This doesn’t mean you’re not going to make mistakes. I’ve made a lot of mistakes, but I don’t see them as failures. They’re opportunities for learning and growing so that you develop the wisdom to get it right the next time and then help others do the same.
Whenever I speak to aspiring entrepreneurs, I like to ask them: What would you do if you had 100% certainty that no matter what goal you wanted to pursue you could not fail? Ask yourself the same.
We all go through struggles. There will always be painful points when we feel defeated or lost or stuck. The only question you should ask when you come to these points, and you see most people around you quit, is what will you do…?
About the Author: Blake Mallen is an Entrepreneur, Angel Investor, Philanthropist, and the Co-Founder & President of ViSalus, a global healthy lifestyle brand. Blake has been featured in industry publications as well as speaks at national conferences and international events on the topics of social marketing, brand building, organizational culture, entrepreneurship, leadership and personal growth. Connect with Blake at https://blakemallen.com/contact/.