Over the last nine years, I have learned a lot of valuable lessons building iContact from its small start in 2003, to over 250 employees and 70,000 customers today. Here are some of the most important personal development lessons I've learned along the way:
- Align what you love with how you make money. Figure out how to create value for other people by doing what you are passionate about. Too many people take jobs they aren't passionate about. Instead, figure out how to make money by doing what you are most passionate about. Find an activity you love doing so much that you enter the flow state when you do it. Then figure out how you can create value for others and make a difference in the lives of others by doing this.
- Surround yourself with people you like and admire. You are who you surround yourself with. It pays to carefully choose them.
- Don’t worry too much what people think about you. Work hard, treat people well, have strong internal values, and have high integrity. Other than that, be yourself and don't worry about dancing to your own drumbeat and some people thinking you are strange. The world needs crazy entrepreneurs and innovators to push it forward!
- Put positive thoughts into your head. The internal message that you tell yourself over and over becomes reality. Thoughts become things. Don't be insecure. Be confident. Know that you are amazing. Life is a wonderful opportunity. Believe in your power to do good.
- Laughter is the best medicine for stress. Laugh at yourself often. Find what is funny in whatever situation you're in.
- Write down your goals and frame them. One key trait I've found in successful people is that they take a couple hours to actually write down their goals at least once per year. The most successful people, I've found, go to the extra step of actually printing their goals out and putting them in a place where they will see them daily. I recommend setting about 10-15 goals each year and making them bigger goals than you think are actually possible to achieve. Try to hit half of them. If you're hitting much more than 50 percent, your goals are not ambitious enough. Print out two copies of your goals and frame them. Put one copy in your bedroom and one copy in your office.
- Travel the world at every opportunity you get. Take an interest in what's going on in the world. Know about the tremendous opportunities in Asia, Africa, Central America, and South America. The biggest business opportunities of the next ten years remain in Asia, but the biggest business opportunities of the next fifty years will probably be on the African continent, as these 54 frontier markets develop and Africa reaches a population of 2 billion people by 2025. Don't miss the opportunity to build a truly global business and be part of creating sustainable economic growth that makes a huge positive difference.
- Build authentic relationships. Seek to give to relationships and authentically help others who are working to make the world a better place without expecting anything in return. Don't build fake relationships based on a desire to have a one-way benefit.
- Stop analyzing. Just do and then adjust. Take one step forward each day toward your goals. Don't get stuck in analysis paralysis or over-worrying. Often you won't be able to see the whole path in order to take the next step. Just get going and keep taking action. Once you take the leap and fully commit, a lot of people and resources will come into your life that you previously didn't know existed.
- To find a job, stop sending resumes out. Instead, find five people who are doing today what want to be doing in 20 years, who have accomplished what you want to accomplish. Build an authentic relationship with them at least a year before you need a "job." Start by offering to take them to coffee or lunch and keep asking once a month until they agree. Get in touch with them via Twitter, Facebook, email or, even better, via an introduction from a mutual connection. Be persistent as well as clear about how you can benefit them rather than just how much meeting with them would benefit you. Never take a normal job. Only take a job working with great people doing something you really enjoy doing.
- Pay off your debt and then invest extra cash in things that generate more cash. Save and invest money whenever you can and never ever go into debt for something you don't need. Make your money work for you.
- Spend more hours reading each week than you do watching TV! My top book recommendations for everyone are Think and Grow Rich, Rich Dad Poor Dad, and How to Win Friends and Influence People. Internalize the messages in these three books and you will be well on your way toward a life of entrepreneurial success.
Ryan Allis is a technology entrepreneur and social entrepreneur from Chapel Hill, North Carolina. He is the co-founder and CEO of iContact, a leading email marketing company.
The Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC) is an invite-only nonprofit organization comprised of the world's most promising young entrepreneurs. The YEC leads #FixYoungAmerica, a solutions-based movement that aims to end youth unemployment and put young Americans back to work.