Ask anyone who’s succeeding at self-employment the question, ”What is the most important trait for success?” and you’ll probably get a few different answers. Education, talent, connections, being in the right place at the right time… luck! I think there’s at least some merit to all. But while each of them might represent a step in the right direction at some point in the process, none—with the possible exception of talent—are likely to sustain you over the long haul. And even talent won’t get the job done if it isn’t consistently applied.
All of us have an opinion as to what drives success, but if I have to pick one trait that stands above the rest, it’s relentlessness. I credit that trait as the single most important one that enabled me to go from washed-up mortgage originator to a self-employed professional blogger in under three years.
I had no special talents, no specific education and no connections that would have made the journey worth considering, let alone likely. But the one thing that I did have was a commitment to succeed at it no matter what happened.
Why is relentlessness so powerful?
What relentlessness can do for you in self-employment
There’s a long list of possibilities here, but this captures some of the biggest benefits of relentlessness in regard to self-employment:
- It can drive you toward your goal even when others say you can’t do it
- It keeps you moving forward even when problems hit
- It keeps you going when you hit those lulls—the kind that you might camp out in then drift off in other directions
- It forces you to get what ever training, contacts or resources you need to do what you want to accomplish
- It keeps you from quitting
- It keeps you from getting distracted
- It keeps your eyes, ears and mind always on the goal
- It enables you to embrace that critical “don’t look back” mentality
All of these are important to success, especially when you’re transitioning into self-employment. There’s a the human tendency toward nostalgia that needs to be overcome. We tend to look back, especially during times of stress, to another time when life seemed simpler, safer and more rewarding. While all of that may have been true at the time, none of it will help you going forward.
If you want to enter self-employment, your future is “out there somewhere” in the unknown—and it’s not a place, a time or a specific event. It’s a world that needs to be created, and in order to do that you have to be relentless in making it happen.
The Power of Forward Motion
At its core, relentlessness is constant forward motion—you’re going forward no matter what happens in the present. Think of it as a football team that spends the early part of the game building its running attack—enough short gains early sets up big plays later. It may not be a pretty way to get where you’re going and it may take longer than you want, but if you keep going forward, even a little bit at a time, sooner or later you get to where you want to go.
We can think of it as delayed gratification, a concept that’s largely lost in our have-it-now culture, but it’s what drove Western Civilization forward for centuries before it fell out of favor. Relentlessness allows you to sacrifice the present for a better tomorrow, and forward motion is how it works.
Keep moving forward no matter what obstacles you face. That’s relentlessness –and you won’t succeed at self-employment without it.
Self-Employment Requires Becoming Single-Minded
Single-mindedness is the close first cousin of relentlessness. It’s a way of clearing the decks for the push forward. You’ll absolutely need to do this in order to be successful at self-employment. We live in a world that’s greedy for our time and attention. If we did nothing constructive with our lives, we would still be swamped with obligations, appointments, bills, problems, TV, music, sports and going to the dentist—and that’s just the short list!
If you’re to succeed in business, you have to become skilled at properly prioritizing, de-emphasizing or even ignoring many of life’s distractions. That requires that you become almost single-minded. You have to focus your most and best time and attention on the venture you’re attempting build. If you’re trying to develop a business or a sales career, you’re almost certainly trying to create something that didn’t exist until you came on the scene. Making it happen will require more than the usual amount of effort and you’ll have to get rid of a few things in the process.
And now the Really Good News: Anyone can be Relentless
This is the really good news about relentlessness—you don’t need a top education, a pedigree, influential connections or boatloads of talent. In fact, it might be better to say that a relentless person will eventually come into all of those as they’re needed. You don’t have to sit around rationalizing “I can’t be successful in business because I don’t have a (fill in the blank)”. Relentlessness can help you overcome or acquire what you don’t have.
All you have to do is resolve in your mind that you want what you’re after more than you fear the challenges that stand in your way.
If you truly want to enter self-employment—but have never done it before—be prepared for a hard and extended charge forward, always ready to confront and blow through any obstacles that come in your path. That’s relentlessness, and you’ll probably never succeed in self-employment if you don’t embrace it.
What do you think is the most important trait for self-employment success?
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