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Strong beliefs essential for an entrepreneur

Essence, spirit and belief. No, no—they’re not from your man-bun wearing friend’s journal of feelings. Or that other guy you know who is always going on retreats to “find himself.” These are important concepts for your business as you try and grow it from scratch or take it to a new level after an initial success.

If you don’t know what the fundamental philosophy or essence of your company is—what it is you are trying to do as an entrepreneur or business leader—you might as well pack up shop. The same goes for spirit. What guides you? What is the essential spirit of what you are trying to do?  And belief entails backing yourself all the way.

A good example of a company that has kept its essence, spirit and beliefs is sporting goods, clothing and apparel multinational Nike. The company’s decision in 2018 to back American football player Colin Kaepernick, who famously kneeled during the national anthem to protest racial inequality in the United States came as a shock to some but if you look at Nike’s history, it has always associated itself with the rebel.

According to an article in Vox.com by Jane Coaston in September 2018, Nike has “spent billions over the past three decades to build a brand that is synonymous with rebellion.” And this goes back a long time. One of the most famous rebels sponsored by the company was none other than tennis superbrat John McEnroe. In his novel ‘High Strung’ published in 2011, journalist Stephen Tignor, writes how Nike capitalised on McEnroe’s rebellious attitude and infamous tantrums in the early 1980s with ads showing Nike tennis shoes underneath the headlines “McEnroe Swears By Them” and “McEnroe’s favourite four-letter word.”

Nike advert showing the face of American football player Colin Kaepernick with the words 'Believe in something, even if it means sacrificing everything' written over his face.
Nike’s Colin Kaepernick advert

The ethos at your company may be different to this.  But the same principle applies. Ensure your business has an essence and spirit and that there is a belief system behind it.

One way of constantly reminding yourself exactly what you want your company to be is to create a vision board. This is a good way to keep the ideas that inform your company front of mind at all times. The idea is to paste or write your ideas on a white board. There can be a pictorial aspect to them too.

Vision boards work best when the ideas are practical examples that can actually be attained. Pictures or words associated with your mission statement, or that capture the ethos of your company are perfect. And there is some evidence to suggest vision boards can work. According to a January 2016 article in Forbes, a study by TD Bank found that, “people who imagine their financial and business goals are more confident they will achieve them than people who don’t.” The article said one in five small business owners used a vision board and that 76 percent of these “reported their business is where they envisioned it would be when they started.” According to online publishing platform Medium, Oprah Winfrey, who came from nothing to build a multi-billion media empire is a “huge supporter of this method and visualising.”

But it would be foolish, for example, to have a vision board with ostentatious pictures of wealth that would make Jay Gatsby blush. You actually need ideas that are well within your grasp. And you have to do the leg work to achieve them.  In fact, psychotherapist Amy Morin, writing in Inc. in November 2018, is quite critical of the concept of vision boards saying they can work against you because there is a tendency among people to sit back and expect it all to happen to them without doing any of the necessary work.

“Like this one man I worked with whose vision board included a sports car, a mansion, and an attractive girlfriend. He was convinced that if he spent time visualising those things every day, somehow the universe would gift him with exactly what he wanted,” said Morin.

The key is to always remember you have to work towards what you have on that vision board. It will not just magically materialise.

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