Goals. Grit. Gratitude.

I have been thinking a lot lately about the most important things necessary for success in business.
My own business is going through a bit of a pivot. We initially started out by serving all wedding business owners, and while we still do that, we are focussing our service more and more to hotels and venues. Starting something new is always a bit weird. You find yourself asking really fundamental questions like "what is value and how do I create it" or "what qualifies as being important". I have been looking up dictionary searches for these words. At the end of the day, in software, it can feel very hard to differentiate. Anyone can build anything so how do you know that what you are building really is going to matter? It can all feel a little bit uncertain and foggy and I think that's why most people don't like running their own business. That ambiguous uncertainty is very hard to deal with.

Luckily, I found 3 things that have really helped me. It also seems that just about every book, blog or successful person I've spoken to have also agreed on at least 2 of these (and usually on all 3).

1) Goals
This is about having a big vision about who you want to be and where you want to take this thing.
It's what inspires you and makes you excited to even work on your business in the first place.
I have found the trick is that most people are either really good at small goals, or they are really good at big goals, but it's very hard to be good at both.
Big goals are your HUGE dream-like goals that would just be amazing. For me, that would be getting in every single Marriott, Hilton, Four Seasons, Fairmont and Hyatt Hotel in the world and having 50,000 venues using our software monthly.
Small goals though are what I used to have a lot of trouble with. Our company has learned that having a micro-focus is equally important. Thinking huge is great, but then narrowing back down to focus on the next feature, the next sale or the next "to-do" item is really important. It took me years to have the self discipline to do this. I know other people who are really good at this part, but it's the large goals that are hard for them. In my experience, it's a rare type of person who can do both.

2) Grit
I've decided Grit is the quality I admire most in others and the quality I want to cultivate for myself.
If I am the type of person who was known to have had grit, I will be proud of my life.
I recently realized that it's pretty easy to be happy when you've made it and everything is going your way. Anyone can be self-confident in this situation and I mean anyone. I don't think it's wrong for a successful person to be self-confident, but to me, it's not a huge feat. It's just that I do not think that it's true confidence. It's more of a symptom than a cause.

What I respect more is when someone is enduring a serious hardship or setback and they have grit.
Grit is a bit different than confidence. It lacks the cool, collected confidence and "the style" that you'd expect from someone like Tony Stark in Iron Man. People with grit are still full of worry and doubt. But what I like about a person with Grit, and why I value Grit so much is because when you have it, you don't stop. I have a friend who has incredible Grit. He occasionally gets down on himself because he doesn't have many parts of his business figured out. Some of the missing parts are really important and fundamental. I can tell he feels a bit foolish walking around, talking about his business month after month without having these problems solved.

What I like about that guy is that he keeps going. Grit isn't about never looking foolish or never being afraid. Grit is about feeling all of that negative shit and pushing forward anyways. Grit is about going through hell and keeping on going. To me, that's just the most badass quality in a human being you can find and something I hope people who know me say about me. If you can keep going and even have some fun while things are falling apart, with no clear path in sight, but keep looking for a way to dig yourself out and never quit - to me that means you have serious Grit and you are going to win.

3) Gratitude
Some people think this one is a bit wishy-washy and I get it, but I've learned that negative people just don't win in the long run. Negativity is different than realism. Negativity promotes inaction and defeatist thinking. Gratitude on the other hand seems to naturally promote creativity and positive thinking. Plus, if you are going to set small goals, you need to celebrate them or they won't feel like they are worth accomplishing at all. I find having a constant cycle of celebration around really small goals keeps the machine moving forward. Grit alone is not enough, life has to get better over time as you check things off your list. If it isn't, then something is wrong and that's a sign to re-evaluate. So gratitude here seems to have a pretty solid practical purpose. I also want to be the kind of person who develops internal success metrics and internal happiness.

I have noticed that people who are motivated by external factors like what other people think of them can never be happy by default. By comparing yourself to someone else, you are essentially starting by putting yourself in a position of weakness mentally speaking. Shouldn't they be comparing themselves to you? What if we all just found a way to set our own goals for happiness and stopped keeping up with one another? I think that's the best way to be and it's one of the main things I like about Warren Buffett and Charlie Munger and guys like that. I write down 30 things I'm grateful for every single day and it helps me set my own internal compass for happiness and goals. That way, I don't get bummed when I run into my friend who just sold his company making iphone ebooks that take 1 minute to write for $50,000,000.00. That's obviously a joke but you know what I mean. There is always someone else killing it faster with less effort and listening to that noise is exactly what I believe kills most people's happiness. Distraction is the enemy of focus and focus is needed to win. Focus comes from goals, grit and self-confidence. Gratitude keeps the focus fun.

I also noticed one other thing recently. Not even billionaire mentors can help you sometimes.
I have been getting advice from Michael Seibel of Y Combinator. He's an awesome guy and he is extremely insightful and VERY worthwhile to chat to. However, there are some things not even he can answer and that was really interesting to me. In hindsight, it's so obvious that he doesn't know, but it definitely hit me the moment I first realized it.

I recently asked him a question about direction and this was his response:
"Honestly I dont know - if you are excited - get in there - get some scrapes and bruises - and learn.
If you aren't then dont."

He's a great guy and in the past he's written a lot to try to help me, but he's also honest.

Sometimes in business, nobody can help you. The path is unclear and the battles are unique. You can have books, investors and mentors and all the rest and they can be very useful. But in my opinion, there comes a point where all you can do is set a goal, have some grit and practice gratitude when things finally do go right, even if it's a small win. That's actually what I like most about the game of business. I love to work on having Grit and proving to myself I have it. It's one of the things I'm most proud of and something I want to get much better at.

What do you think Grit is?