“Entrepreneurs see the thing they want or need, then try to figure out a process of how to get it. People who shouldn’t be entrepreneurs see the standard process they need to go through to get the thing they want or need then decide if they want to go through that process.” – Simon Sinek

Students often look at the success of the business we have built (The Empowerment Partnership) and ask me for business advice. Typically, they’re interested in starting (or have already started) their own business and want to avoid some of the pitfalls. In these conversations, even though I have a masters in Organizational Development, my most important advice comes from my PhD in Psychology.


Because to be a successful entrepreneur, the first thing you need to do is cultivate the mental and emotional attitude of a successful entrepreneur.


People who do not cultivate that attitude – let’s call them “nontrepreneurs” — can have all the business training in the world. But they’ll still make classic mistakes that cause their ventures to fail simply because of their mental and emotional outlook. Their nontrepreneur mindset clouds their judgment and causes them to make poor decisions.


Here are a few of those classic mistakes:


#1 Nontrepreneurs avoid failure. Every good entrepreneur will tell you that “Failure happens.” It’s just part of the territory. No one particularly likes it – but successful entrepreneurs accept it and keep moving forward toward their target.


Nontrepreneurs on the other hand avoid failure like the plague. Their focus is on “not failing” rather than succeeding. It’s like a golfer who focuses on not making a bad shot rather than making a good one. Yossi Vardi writes, “In the end, I think that people that are not willing to take the risk to fail are not true entrepreneurs.”


#2 Nontrepreneurs crumble at obstacles. Niccolò Machiavelli wrote, “Entrepreneurs are simply those who understand that there is little difference between obstacle and opportunity and are able to turn both to their advantage.”  Though I’m not a fan of much of Machiavelli’s business philosophy, I think this is a great observation.


Nontrepreneurs treat obstacles like signs from the gods that they are on the wrong path. Rather than figuring out how to go over, under or around that boulder in the road, they sit themselves down to stare at that boulder or turn around and head home (while the successful entrepreneur has brought out the pitons to scramble over it!)


#3 Nontrepreneurs feel unlucky. There was a great study that was repeated recently where people were asked to identify themselves as lucky or unlucky. Next, they were handed a newspaper and given a few moments to count how many photos were in it. If they got it right, they were given $20. Within the newspaper was an ad that said, “Tell the researcher there are 43 photos in this newspaper.” Invariably, the people who considered themselves “lucky” saw that ad where the “unlucky” people didn’t!


Successful entrepreneurs are those “lucky” or optimistic ones. They see opportunities because they expect to see them. In contrast, nontrepreneurs don’t expect “lucky” happenings so they miss what’s right in front of them!


#4 Nontrepreneurs give up too soon. As Harvey Mackey said, “I’ve known entrepreneurs who were not great salespeople, or didn’t know how to code, or were not particularly charismatic leaders. But I don’t know of any entrepreneurs who have achieved any level of success without persistence and determination.”


With rare exceptions, building a business takes time. Successful entrepreneurs understand that it’s a marathon, not a sprint, and that the process will not be in a straight line. But nontrepreneurs tend to get impatient, especially when things don’t go according to plan. As Max McKeown puts it, “Entrepreneurs don’t believe the future is predictable – but they do believe that they can create the future themselves.”


#5 Nontrepreneurs have a dysfunctional relationship with risk. Here’s how Victor Kiam describes a good relationship with risk:Entrepreneurs are risk takers, willing to roll the dice with their money or reputation on the line in support of an idea or enterprise. They willingly assume responsibility for the success or failure of a venture and are answerable for all its facets.”


Successful entrepreneurs don’t take crazy risks. In fact, they try to minimize risk whenever possible. That said, they also don’t avoid risks that are necessary. Nontrepreneurs often can’t tell the difference between unnecessary and necessary risks. They either leap too far or stay on the sidelines.


Okay, so what if you’ve identified that you may have some of the mental and emotional attitudes of a nontrepreneur? Many people believe that we are all born with the capacity to be successful entrepreneurs, but that seed gets squashed by our schools, parents, and society at a very young age—and maybe your seed was squashed!


The good news is that you can change. You can release the old limiting decisions and beliefs from the past and adopt those of successful entrepreneurs. In the Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP) I teach, we even developed a brand NEW Integrative NLP Practitioner Certification Training that integrates the Mental Emotional Release® process (MER).


MER unearths the “root cause” of your negative emotions and limiting decisions. The root cause may not be an event that you remember or even an event that is very dramatic. But when the root cause is discovered and “released,” it acts like a domino effect, releasing all subsequent events and limiting decisions. When complete, you remember the events but without the charge. The sadness, anger, guilt, and fear of the past no longer controls your attitudes in the present. 


If you have a dream, a business you would like to create, the place to start – before creating a business plan or finding funding – is to develop the attitudes that will support your success.


“As entrepreneurs, we must constantly dream and have the conviction and obsession to transform our dreams into reality – to create a future that never existed before.” – Clara Shih


Dr. Matt