What does it really take to succeed as an entrepreneur?

Mark Wahlberg published his daily schedule and it’s gone viral. Why? Because he leads a lifestyle that is largely different from most people. That’s a common theme when you study the lives of successful entrepreneurs and business leaders.

To become truly great at something, whether it’s acting / modeling or computer programming, Malcolm Gladwell’s Outliers claims that you need to spend 10,000 hours honing your craft.

This level of dedication requires something more than simply “wanting it”, or “dreaming with your eyes open”. You need to build your lifestyle around accomplishing your objectives – something that requires massive sacrifice and perseverance.

Do you want to succeed as an entrepreneur? You’re not alone. An entire generation of millennials grew up on a constant diet of entrepreneur porn from hollywood. Movies about Steve Jobs, Mark Zuckerberg and NBC’s Shark Tank have brought entrepreneurship into the mainstream.

If you’re ready to take the plunge, here’s what it takes:

An Indomitable Work Ethic

Steve Jobs’ best advice was to find something you love doing, and don’t settle. This is a cornerstone to successful entrepreneurship. While speaking at the D8 conference in 2010, Jobs remarked that the difference between successful people and those that quit is purely a matter of perseverance. And in order to persevere, you need to love what you’re doing – because otherwise, you just won’t put up with all the BS that gets thrown into your path.

A Vision of a Better Future

If what you are doing will not make the world a better place, why are you even trying? You might answer, “Money!” You wouldn’t be alone, but the pursuit of money isn’t enough to push you through the long nights and lost weekends as you hustle your way to the top.

One of my favorite entrepreneur quotes comes from Mark Cuban: “I’d rather be tired, than broke.”

Yes, money is important. It provides a runway for you to try and take flight. But launching a startup is like building a plane at the end of a runway that keeps getting shorter and shorter with time. Eventually you’ll run out of money, time and resources. You have to take flight.

And the path to taking flight involves a clear vision for what your startup will achieve, and when. You have to be able to articulate your mission in a few sentences – not just for VC pitches, but for the team putting their lives on hold to support your dreams.

Capitalism is a fascinating system. Yes, it has flaws. But at its core, capitalism demands that you service your fellow human being. When you provide a service that they value, your market will reward you with sales revenue. But, if you fail to improve the lives of your customers, you will never see them again.

Successful Entrepreneurs Live Healthy Lives

I mentioned Mark Wahlberg at the beginning of this article. Did you take a look at his daily schedule?

Mark Wahlberg Daily Routine

Did you notice that he has two separate workouts scheduled? He spends time meditating / praying. He carves out time for family and a healthy eating schedule.

When you’re in the middle of the grind, it’s hard to remember to take care of yourself. But, you only get one body. The way that you treat your body will impact your brain’s ability to function, and your ability to live a physically fulfilling life.

Of course, it’s almost impossible to imagine an early-stage startup founder finding time for all of this in one day. I remember my time spent building my first startup. It was all consuming.

But, as I’ve matured and learned about how important it is to run a marathon, instead of a sprint, I’ve readjusted how I operate. I find ways to make more time for a healthier lifestyle. I’m not perfect. None of us are. But, you can see the type of discipline it takes for a celebrity like Mark Wahlberg to achieve success in the corporate arena, on the big screen and in his personal life.

Are you dedicated enough to make these types of sacrifices and develop an almost legendary level of personal discipline?

A few quick suggestions you can work into your hustle…

So far I’ve covered some pretty broad areas where you need to focus in order to succeed as an entrepreneur. But, before I wrap-up, let me leave you with ten specific things I wish I knew when I started down this path:

    1. Stop comparing yourself to other people’s highlight reels. We only share our best moments with the world. The toil, mistakes and rough patches are purposely hidden from the world. You cannot compare your daily life to someone else’s social media posts or PR puff pieces. You’ll drive yourself crazy.
    2. Focus on wowing your customers. They decide whether your startup succeeds or fails. The experts are full of opinions, but if you know your customers, you can dedicate your life to fulfilling their needs. In return, they will fill your bank account.
    3. Find something you enjoy doing and make time for it in your schedule. All work and no play makes for a dull personality that will hamper you as you begin to network and grow. Find some passions and pursue them, within moderation, while still keeping your eye on the ball.
    4. Never lose sight of the importance of relationships. The people that you surround yourself with will have a huge impact on your success or failure. Find ways to add value to your social circle. Be a good listener, and trust your inner-circle with your thoughts. If you’ve chosen wisely, they will add value in your life that far outweighs your investment in them.
    5. Get disagreements off of your chest, and be prepared for the blowback. Clear communication is critical to ensuring your organization succeeds. Frustration left unspoken festers into a grudge. Be honest with your team members, and accept their honesty in return.
    6. Everyday is day one. I first heard this during a talk that Jeff Bezos gave, and it has stuck with me. Don’t be afraid to apply fresh innovation to today’s problems. Avoid getting trapped into doing things a certain way, just because they were done that way yesterday or the day before.
    7. Track your time. Time is your most valuable asset. Where are you investing your minutes, hours, days and weeks? Keep a log of how you spend your time. Review your log at the beginning of everyday. Cut-out stupid investments and double-down on smart ones.
    8. Improve focus by limiting social media, email and phone calls to specific periods of the day. A quick text, or browse through facebook can cost you precious chunks of time. It’s easy to get sucked into a phone call. Focus on the task in front of you, and then break away to catch-up. Don’t let the tail wag the dog.
    9. Accept that you cannot do everything. Do not expect some superhuman capabilities to magically manifest themselves. Successful entrepreneurs understand that they can’t achieve every goal, so they prioritize their time on high-value tasks.
    10. Protect your equity. Every percentage you give away is a potential vote against you in the future. You need the freedom to run your company as you see fit – which may include short-term sacrifices for long-term gain. Think twice before giving someone else control over your startup’s future.
James Lang

James is the Editor of Small Business Sense. His background includes freelance ghostwriting about things that impact SMEs, startups, freelancers and entrepreneurs. He hasn't had a boss in more than six years, and hopes his content will help you fire yours.