There's one thing that all successful entrepreneurs share: They've got a positive mental outlook and a growth mindset, which drives motivation, determination and the ability to win against the odds.
You're reading Entrepreneur South Africa, an international franchise of Entrepreneur Media.
Let’s take a moment to appreciate what an incredible organ the brain is. The average brain has 85 billion neurons, each of which boast 10 000 nerve-ending connections. So, that means there are more than a trillion connections in the average brain.
It’s also estimated that a brain can store around one million gigabytes of data, and that messages travel through nerve endings at around 430 km/h.
These 12 entrepreneurs understand how important the right mindset is to sustaining your efforts and eventually achieving business success. Here are their mindset hacks. Follow them to help you improve your chances of personal and business growth.
Known as South Africa’s Good Things Guy, Brent Lindeque, founder of Chaos Theory and #RAK nominations, says that “The only real difference between today and a few years ago is that I’ve now given my positive attitude a brand. The Facebook timehop app is often showing me old posts, and I’m the same guy, sharing the same content.
“I haven’t changed; I’ve just got a bigger platform to make a difference. There’s so much you can do and achieve with the right attitude. I believe in being thankful for everything you have and paying it forward.
“My email signature has always been ‘only good things’. There’s nothing better than seeing clients and suppliers starting to echo those sentiments. These aren’t just platitudes for me, I’m sincere, which I think is important. People respond to it, and it spreads.”
“Passion for success is the most important driving force to achieving your goals. Do what you do for love, and not for money,” says Jen Su, TV and radio presenter, author and international brand builder.
“I’ve been fortunate to be blessed with an incredible power to visualise where I want to be, which has then helped me map a path to get there. Now, Jen Su has built her profile from the ground up across six countries. Don’t take no for an answer and keep picturing yourself where you want to be.”
“I write down what my goals are and speak them aloud. I then visualise those goals and close my eyes, making those images brighter, bolder, and more colourful and vivid,” Jen explains.
“I’ve had to learn to also be patient; success isn’t instant, but you have to start with a firm set of goals if you ever want to make them a reality.”
“After being patient for a long time, things generally start moving quickly as they gain traction, and that’s where the magic happens.
“When things start gaining momentum, and your name is being tossed around the room like social currency, everything comes together at a rapid pace. Sometimes there aren’t enough minutes in the day to be able to fulfil all the obligations you’ve set yourself. That’s when you need to start managing what you’ve created. There’s nothing worse than over-promising and under-delivering.”
Brain plasticity (also known as neuroplasticity) is a term that has been coined to describe the way in which a brain remains malleable (or plastic) throughout its life.
A brain can, and does, change. Depending on how you treat it, that change can be for the better, or for the worse. “We don’t often stop to consider the fact that absolutely everything we achieve is down purely to our brains. Things that we tend to prize as entrepreneurs — creativity, productivity, quick thinking — all come down to effective use of the brain,” says James Thorburn, founder of Winning Wayz. “And the good news is, our brain is trainable. We can improve the way we think.”
“About 2% of your total weight can be attributed to your brain, yet it consumes 20% to 30% of the energy you put into your body through food,” says James. “So around 30% of what you eat goes towards fuelling your brain. If you want it to be efficient, you need to feed it well. Don’t skip meals and don’t eat junk food.”
Sugar is poison for your brain; alcohol as well. “You don’t need to cut out sugar, fat and alcohol completely, but try to limit your intake. I try to stick to a vegetarian diet a couple of days a week. Even red meat should be consumed in moderation,” says James.
“We don’t sleep enough. A hundred years ago, people were averaging nine hours of sleep a night. Today, most people are lucky if they get six or seven, and entrepreneurs tend to sleep even less.
“Our brains need rest. If you don’t sleep enough, your brain won’t perform optimally. Not only will you make worse decisions, but your memory will also suffer, you’ll feel increased anxiety and you won’t be as productive as usual,” says James.
Another reason why we’re not sleeping well is the fact that we drag laptops and tablets into bed with us. “Entrepreneurs love gadgets and technology, and I don’t believe technology is a bad thing, but we do need to pay attention to how we use technology.
“We need to step away from it at times. My bedroom is a ‘tech-free’ zone, and I also make it a rule to never try and use two pieces of technology at the same time. I don’t fiddle with my phone in front of the television and I don’t use my tablet in conjunction with my laptop,” says James.
“After I had a car accident my memory changed,” says Brian Altriche, founder of RocoMamas. “I need to see something to understand and remember it. Before we opened our first RocoMamas store, I obsessively walked through the entire concept in my mind: What did the store look like, smell like, sound like? What did the food look like and taste like? What was the customer’s experience from the moment they walked through the door until they left? Every detail lived inside my head before we began.”
By being completely obsessive with visualisation, Brian achieved his goal. Visualising his life path, what a brand should look like, how customers would experience a particular offering — nothing happened until he visualised it down to the tiniest detail.
Twenty years after his accident, this fanatical relationship with the power of visualisation would lead directly to the launch of RocoMamas, arguably one of the most successful new brands in South Africa’s restaurant industry and the leader in fast casual dining.
Brian has taken his concept from three stores to 49 in 18 months and is spearheading South Africa’s renewed love affair with the burger.
At 26, Kate Moodley was a GM at Momentum. She’s gone on to owning one of the most successful Discovery franchises in the country and has won top franchisee more than once. A focus on hard work, discipline and integrity have allowed her to build an impressive career — without taking any shortcuts.
“I’ve found that a critical component of success is the ability to be disciplined. If you’re disciplined, you not only follow through on any promises or commitments you’ve made, but you give yourself the time and space for self-development. This might not come naturally but commit to going the extra mile. I’m non-negotiable about my own development; I always have been,” says Kate.
If you read up on Bill Gates or Steve Jobs they’re also brutal about facing challenges head on and finding solutions. “This has made a big impact on me. I emulate this in my own work environment and personal life. Challenges won’t just go away. You need to address them so that you can move on. It’s an integral part of being solutions- orientated as well.”
“Success is a marathon. There’s no end point; no milestone you reach where you can say, ‘now I’ve made it.’ It’s a journey, so enjoy the process. My journey is defined by me. I’m fully responsible for it. There may be external factors influencing my life, but ultimately how I deal with them is what moves me forward on my journey,” explains Kate.
“You should always be open and honest with yourself about both your strengths and weaknesses. It’s easy (and tempting) to ignore your flaws and not acknowledge them, but if you’re not self-aware, you can’t improve and better yourself. Self-improvement begins with the realisation that improvement is actually needed,” says Justin Cohen, international speaker, author of four books and seven audiobooks, and television host.
“As an entrepreneur, you typically need a multitude of divergent skills. You can’t be an expert in all of them, but acknowledge any large gaps in your knowledge and educate yourself.
“You don’t need to become an expert in numbers, for example, but you need to be able to have a meaningful conversation with your accountant,” explains Justin.
“We all know that entrepreneurship is risky. Most new businesses fail. However, you can’t let fear of failure incapacitate you. Instead, try to see failure as an opportunity to learn and grow. Entrepreneurs fail on average 3.8 times before they finally succeed. Those failures are school fees.”
“The biggest failures never fail, they sit on the sidelines telling you why it’s not going to work and they’re always right. How can you score a goal if you don’t get on the field? And if you do get on the field and lose, there’s always a lesson to win.”
“It’s easy, for instance, to blame the economy when your business takes a hit, and you might even be justified in doing so, but this sort of mindset doesn’t help you to come up with a solution. As long as you’re pointing fingers, you’re not taking charge of your own destiny,” explains Justin.
“You can’t control what happens to you, but you can control how you respond. What do Microsoft, Burger King, CNN, and Hyatt have in common? They are just a few of the many companies started during a recession. What’s going on out there is less important than what you do about it.”
“Of course, money is a driver, but it cannot be the only thing that inspires you. Life rewards people who are on a mission. Huge success comes from the dedication to making a real difference.
“In my experience, most great entrepreneurs are motivated more by making a difference in the world than in their bank balance. But when you’re truly driven to make a difference in the world you’ll feel the difference in your bank balance. When you serve others, you serve yourself.”
“Success lies in self-motivation, especially if you’re an entrepreneur. If there’s anything you need to accomplish, but you’re struggling to motivate yourself, it’s probably because you’re focused on short-term pleasure instead of long-term gains. You have to actively re-orient yourself. Make a conscious effort to focus on long-term success,” explains Justin.
“This can be hard at first, but once you get into a healthy habit, you start getting intrinsic pleasure from it. It’s like exercise: It can be torture for the first few weeks, but once you get into the habit, it becomes a crucial and very enjoyable part of your day.
“Your ultimate motivation is purpose. Continue to remind yourself why you’re doing this; how the world is going to be a little better off because of you.”
“Never measure the mountain until you reach the top. Everything looks big and daunting until you realise how easy it is when you get to the top. There is no such thing as impossible. There are minds and attitudes that create excuses not to attain goals, that’s all,” says TBO Touch, radio personality, entrepreneur and brand powerhouse.
“No brand is an island. It’s important to start creating villages of like-minded people with vision, integrity and the tenacity to take knocks in order to create and build the services and products that resonate with people.
“I’ve been fortunate to interact with media champions to discuss visionary ideas that have the ability to alter and influence the future. The ability to cross-pollinate thrives in a competitive and healthy environment. Brands need to come together and feed from each other’s energies and strengths.”
Nicholas Bell, founder of Decision Inc. doesn’t just deal with challenges as they arise. He sets goals, determines what’s stopping him from reaching them and puts strategies in place to eradicate any and all obstacles.
This is how the entrepreneur, who is now in his early 30s, reached his goal of building a R100 million business before his 30th birthday.
“I don’t ever want a challenge to slow me down,” he says. “You can let a setback derail you, or you can use it as an opportunity to learn and carry the business forward. I believe it’s important to dissect everything — even opinions and advice I don’t initially agree with.
“Mentors have taught me that it’s important to be adaptable and that nothing in business is hard or fast. We’re constantly faced with new sources of data needed to grow our business, and I’ve learnt that the only real question is whether you’re willing to use that data to drive the business forward.”
“I used to gym in the morning, but then I realised that it wasn’t tapping into my personal productivity needs,” explains Matsi Modise, founder of SiMODiSA.
“I’ve learnt that I need to prepare myself for a successful day. I wake up at 5.30am and meditate. I have a conversation with myself. If the previous day made me unhappy for some reason, I address that first.
“How you create your day is personal — it should suit your personal productivity needs. The trick is to pay attention to what those needs are, and then create a schedule that supports them.”
Rapper and entrepreneur Siya Metane (aka Slikour) believes his success is the result of one key element: The aspiration to make something of himself, and create a platform for his voice to be heard. Now he’s bringing that mindset to South Africa’s black urban youth.
“Before you can achieve great success, you have to believe in the possibility of success. This is the single greatest secret to changing your circumstances — you have to believe it’s possible,” explains Siya.
“If they can dream it, they can be it — provided they realise they can dream it in the first place.” This is his challenge, and greatest driving force. He’s determined to help South Africa’s urban youth see – and believe – that anything is possible if you put your mind to it.
“That was one of the biggest and earliest lessons I recall growing up: The ability to dream big can be stifled out of you. I lived in a hood where there were no aspirations past our neighbourhood — the neighbourhood and its opportunities were everything. If 90% of the people you know are suffering, who are you to not suffer?
“It’s a very limiting mindset, and one that does a lot of damage to our youth. I knew kids who had incredible potential but could only look at their immediate environments for opportunities. So, a budding young scientist doesn’t find a way to change the world — he finds a new way to make drugs.
“Those are the limiting aspirations I was surrounded by, and it’s the driving force behind everything I do today. I want South Africa’s urban youth to recognise, and understand that they should have aspirations beyond this, because they have the abilities and potential necessary to break free.”
Grant Gavin falls into that small but exceptionally lucky category of people who have found their passion in life. Not only has he found his passion, but he’s using it to build his business, one of only three RE/MAX offices to do over R1 billion in revenue per annum, support fellow entrepreneurs, and inspire individuals across the business world, from business owners to corporate employees.
Once Grant started coaching his agents, and then later other entrepreneurs, he had a valuable insight into what separates the highly successful from their more mediocre counterparts.
“You cannot make a millionaire,” Grant says. “Determination needs to be internal. We all have internal drivers and motivations, and the individuals who can tap into these are the most successful, in business and in life.
“The good news is that you can change habits and thinking behaviour. We’ve found that if we can help people change their own mindsets, they will drive the change. Coaching can focus on personal and business improvements, benefitting both areas.”
“Many industry experts struggle to run businesses,” he explains. “For example, dentists are taught how to be great dentists, not how to run a business. They need to develop as entrepreneurs and leaders. This is true of all of us. Personal development is crucial. Thanks to books, podcasts, magazines, associations, coaching and so much more being available today, there are many ways to do this. Growth is a choice; make it a priority.
“In order to tap into that which drives you internally, focus on your passion. If you don’t know what that is, make the choice to grow. Invest in your personal development.”
Siyanda Dlamini knew exactly what he wanted to do with his life from the time he turned 15. Hotel management (and eventually ownership) wasn’t the obvious choice for a young black boy from KwaZulu Natal, but he knew he had enough passion and determination to see his dreams come true.
“I’ve always taken everything I do seriously, but I don’t take myself seriously. I think there’s an important distinction. You need to give everything your all, but if it doesn’t work, laugh at yourself, learn from your mistakes, and move on,” Siyanda says.
“If you believe in yourself, that’s all that really matters. I was teased a lot at school. I was a black boy who spent all his time building up the catering club, and following one of my teachers, Mrs Meyer around. She headed up the catering club and had taken me under her wing, teaching me about buying in bulk, spotting specials and the basics of accounting. She believed in me, and really gave me good insights.
“It made me different, but I didn’t care. I didn’t need anyone else’s validation. I had the most amazing support system in my mother, and the self-belief and confidence to carry me through.
“No one can build your dreams for you — only you can do that. You have to back yourself. You can’t expect people to believe in you if you don’t believe in yourself.”
“Once I found out about Protea Hotel’s training programme, I wrote a letter to the training director — I wanted her to know who I was and what I wanted to do. I needed to get into that programme, and so I thought about what would get me noticed.
“It worked — but it also landed me in their toughest hotel; the biggest and busiest. That was okay — I’d told her I was tough. Now I had the chance to prove it.
“Through their programme Protea gets four years of service from its trainees, but we get the experience we need. You’re in control of where that takes you. The more you put in, the more you get out.”
“The road ahead is daunting, so make sure you’re passionate about what you’re doing. This is particularly true of my industry, but all entrepreneurs face a tough, uphill battle. If it’s only about the money, you won’t make it.
“You’ll need passion, grit and determination to get through all the challenges that will come your way, and the mistakes you’ll make and lessons you’ll need to learn. I started my career with R850 and a willingness to work day and night to make my dreams come true. And today I’m a hotel owner. Anything is possible.”