Today I turn 45. Honestly, it’s pretty great.

Over the past few years I’ve made a habit of recapping 45 of the most important lessons I’ve learned or have been reminded of recently.

Some of these I’ve shared before, as so many ‘truths’ will show themselves over and over again…while others are lessons that have recently come into focus. Enjoy!

  1. People are the biggest difference maker. Last year I earned more than I ever have before. I took more vacation time than ever before too. By most every measure, things were ‘more’ or ‘better.’

But when I look at the past year, the things that made last year my favorite year to date were the people.

I was able to spend more quality time with more people I really enjoy than ever before…and that’s the stuff I both remember and enjoyed the most by far.

  1. Think Bigger. Most people settle for so much less than there capable of achieving. We place these ceilings on ourselves about what we can accomplish, how much we can earn…almost everything.

You know what is the main difference between the average entrepreneur and the one who thrives is? It’s not their talent or ability. It’s what they’ll settle for. It’s what that think they’re worth.

We often can do much, much more than we give ourselves credit for.

  1. Play to Your Strengths. I talk about this one a lot, but it’s because there is rarely a day that goes by that I don’t see the difference that it can make first hand.

Virtually everyone I know who achieves big things takes this approach and most everyone I see who underachieves spends too much time on things that fall outside of their strengths.

Let me give you just one personal example of this that I’ve shared before…

Back when I was leaving a company that I co-founded and was in the process of starting PatRigsby.com, I would hear ‘through the grapevine’ about many of my former employees or even partners doubting that I would be successful in my new endeavor.

Their logic was that my weaknesses or the areas that I hadn’t focused on would be my new path’s demise. I get this line of thinking because it’s common…people focus on what someone can’t do rather than what they can…but what I knew was that I could easily outsource the things they thought would be stumbling blocks to people that were strong in those areas…and do it for a fraction of what we’d spent on it in that business – all so I could focus on my strengths.

The result…within a few months I had more than tripled my personal income and had 4X higher profit margins…and was focusing almost exclusively on my strengths.

But it’s not just me. Look around at anyone you find to be successful in any endeavor…they’re more of a specialist. Focus on being the best in a few areas and fill in the other areas of need with others (and freelancers are fine) who are strong in those spots.

  1. Time is Life. Plain and simple.

It’s often said that you can tell what’s important to someone by checking their bank statement and their calendar…and it’s true, but the calendar is 80% of it. Money is a renewable resource. Time is not.

That’s at the core of why I started my Ideal Business and then started teaching that concept. I didn’t want to miss my kids growing up. Their growth feels like it happens in the blink of an eye and if I missed it – I wouldn’t get a ‘do over.’

So when I’m not interested in something or someone…they just no longer get any of my time because that’s time I could be spending one people and activities that are important to me.

  1. Who you surround yourself with makes a massive difference.

Jim Rohn often talked about us being the average of the 5 people we’re around most. I’m not sure there is any magic in the number 5, but I am sure that who you’re around is as important as anything other factor when it comes to your personal and professional success.

Over the past year I’ve spent more time than ever before around people that lift me up in one way or another.

It might be that they motivate me to be better because of all they’ve accomplished or it could be that they are just fun or share similar values.

For the most part, over the past 2 or so years I’ve done a good job in picking people that fit that criteria to collaborate with, work with, spend time with or learn from…from business ventures to vacation to who has come on the podcast…and it’s been such a powerful thing.

The more value or energy ‘adders’ that are taking up the space in your life and the fewer ‘extractors’ there are…the happier and more successful you’ll be.

  1. As an Entrepreneur, we need to have a strategic plan that factors in our life as well as our business. The strategic planning approach that big corporations use doesn’t fit for small, owner-operator businesses. At best, it just doesn’t fit and is useless. At worst, you get a full bank account and an empty life.
  2. No One Succeeds Alone. I had a mom who believed in me at every turn. Even when my dad questioned my direction, he supported me. I’ve had the same best friend since the 4th grade and he’s offered unconditional support every step of the way. Holly has believed in me even knowing that a failure on my part would adversely impact her too. I’ve had a number of friends and colleagues who have believed and supported me along the way too. The truth is that we may choose our own path and our actions determine our outcomes…but without a support system in place – it’s far, far harder to stay the course.

Now I’ve been lucky in that regard…but I also have sought out friendships and masterminds to help make me better and that would inspire me to push ahead toward my goals. We can all find people who’ll support us, even if they aren’t with us today.

  1. Find Mentors. In person. From a far. It doesn’t matter. Learn from those who’ve done it. I consider everyone from Abraham Lincoln and Walt Disney to the people I’ve hired to mentor me this year and my best friend my mentor.
  2. Business is about people…not products and not processes.

You’ll never learn a more important lesson when it comes to business success than that one. Products & services are nothing more than vehicles to help PEOPLE solve problems and achieve goals.

Processes & systems are nothing more than tools to help PEOPLE be more productive, efficient or effective.

Everything starts with people.

People who have dreams and goals and problems.

People who have dozens of things going on…and we’re just one of those things.

  1. Being nice can be a competitive advantage.

A couple of month ago I shared the following thought on Facebook:

On 3 separate occasions today someone has referenced my professional success being linked to me being ‘nice’ and ‘honest’. Pretty cool compliment but also pretty interesting that being nice and honest are a competitive advantage instead of common practice in business. 

Think about that…things like ‘nice’ and ‘honest’ and all the stuff that we associate with it like integrity, authenticity and anything else associated with just being a good person…it’s actually a competitive advantage in business.

Crazy, right?

Just treating others like you want to be treated sets you apart from the competition.

But it’s true.

There’s not a week that goes by that a fitness business owner doesn’t tell me about something like a company holding them hostage in a 5 year contract for a program that they don’t even sell anymore – even though that fitness pro doesn’t use their service any longer or someone selling them coaching for 5K and being their best friend to get them on board…then ignoring them once they’ve paid.

And we see gym after gym promising coaching, accountability and success…and doing nothing more than hosting workouts.

We see business owners acting as if their clients are a nuisance and calls coming in are a hassle…instead of recognizing that those things are the lifeblood of their business.

So if you want to win at business, let me give you one of the most important lessons I can teach you:

“Be nice.”

Use this simple approach as your competitive advantage. You may not always be the first choice…but you’ll always be the best one once they do connect with you.

  1. When you feel overwhelmed, don’t try to do everything — just simplify things and do something.
  2. You can do almost anything you want…but you can’t do everything you want…at least right now. Any achievement of significance requires focus, so you have to dedicate the time and effort needed to make it happen. That doesn’t mean you can’t accomplish everything that you want to…you very well may be able to…but you just can’t do it all simultaneously.
  3. Take Action Daily. We’re either getting better or worse…every day. Small actions compounded over time will guarantee your success.
  4. It doesn’t matter what you know…It matters what you do. If you don’t apply something it’s wasted knowledge. Action is critical for success. The most successful people often aren’t any smarter or more talented. They just actually do the things everyone else just talks about doing.

Do the same thing you’ve always done and you’ll get the same thing you’ve always gotten. The people I’ve enjoyed watching achieve tremendous growth all have stepped out of their comfort zone to get there.

  1. Never compromise your integrity, for anything or anybody.
  2. If you want to know who someone really is…give them money or power…or see them in the face of adversity. For some, it will spotlight their greatness, while for others…well – it will expose their warts.
  3. Deadlines are the difference between getting stuff done and just talking about it. All of my biggest successes have come with deadlines attached to them.
  4. Don’t make promises you can’t keep.
  5. Saying ‘no’ is the toughest challenge for an entrepreneur…but the truth is that success comes far more often to those who are great at a few things rather than those who are jacks-of-trades.
  6. 9 times out of 10 your biggest limiting factor is your own mind.
  7. There is almost nothing better than a workshop, a product or a great book for accelerated progress. Someone is basically condensing a decade of their work into a day and teaching it to you.
  8. The only thing better is private coaching. It’s more expensive…but if you can get that same expert to customize their advice for you it can potentially save you years of work. I’ve started taking this approach more recently and it’s incredible.
  9. It’s Not What You Make, It’s What You Keep. I’ve had 30 businesses. Some very profitable. Others…not so much. I’ve coached thousands of business owners…many who had a big gross revenue number and struggled with the net.

Focus on profit and paying yourself first once you’re past the start up phase.

Here are 2 books that will help reinforce the message:

  • Profit First
  • The Millionaire Next Door
  1. Invest early. Compound interest is magic. I didn’t and have had to make up for it later…and while it’s gone well for me, it could have been much easier.

I’m far, far from a financial planner or personal finance expert, but I’d look at these three books for personal finance to get you started:

  • The Wealthy Barber
  • I Will Teach You to Be Rich
  • Your Money or Your Life
  1. You’re Not Entitled To Anything. You get what you earn.
  2. We are a Product of our Choices. Everything matters. It all adds up. Big choices, little choices. We’re a product of all of it.
  3. 100% of the successful people that I know really embrace personal responsibility. Find people like that to work with and to spend your time around. And when you encounter those who blame everything but themselves for failures or shortcomings…leave.
  4. Invest Time, Energy and Money in Yourself. When you invest in yourself you can never lose, and over time you will change the trajectory of your success, your leadership and your life.
  5. The is far more Opportunity available to us than we need to be successful. It’s what we do with the opportunity that determines our results.
  6. Creating More Opportunity For Yourself Is Simple. Do good work. Be trustworthy, loyal and dependable. Help others without expecting anything in return. Opportunities will start appearing…almost as if by magic. I had more good opportunities presented to me in the past year than in the previous 10…and I didn’t really pursue any of them. They were all a reflection of previous work and relationships.
  7. The ‘Bank Account Approach’ To Content & Marketing Is Real…and It Applies To Life In General Too. Are you making more deposits that withdrawals in your relationships? Are you giving more than you’re taking? For me – success always comes when my relationship ‘bank account’ has a big balance and I’ve made far more deposits than withdrawals. Business or personal…it all works pretty much the same.
  8. Luck is when preparation meets opportunity…and there is plenty of opportunity. The key is being ready for it and observant enough to notice it when it’s there. Sometimes it’s not obvious.
  9. Successful people implement stuff quickly. The faster your speed of implementation – often the more success you’ll have.
  10. Everyone Needs A Coach. I’m not sure that everyone needs a trainer…but we all need a coach.
  11. You Are What You Surround Yourself With. Think about the type of person and business owner you want to become. If you surround yourself with people and education that align with what you want to be…you’re far more likely to get there.
  12. What Can YOU Do Better? I’m not oblivious to the fact that things outside of our control impact us…but until we’ve done everything we can to move toward where we want to go…why worry about those external factors?
  13. I Have Little Patience For The ‘Victim’ Mentality. It’s really an extension of #27…but most people who aren’t happy or fail to achieve their goals almost always have a ‘victim mentality’…suggesting that someone or something else is to blame for their situation.

It’s easy to blame outside circumstances. It’s harder to be self-aware and realize that you may be the problem.

  1. Focus On – and Enjoy the Process, not just the Goal. I can remember thinking it would be awesome when the franchises I co-founded hit the Entrepreneur Franchise 500. Well…it was cool for a day, then it was business as usual.

Set out to build a business that you enjoy building instead tolerating what you do and hoping that when you get to the finish line things will magically be better. In most cases…if the process was miserable, the result will be unfulfilling.

  1. Enjoy Other’s Successes. There was a point when I probably didn’t enjoy seeing entrepreneurs that I coached move on and become business coaches themselves. Now, few things make me prouder. I even sometimes saw other succeeding as something I should envy rather than something that should inspire.

I can tell you that viewing others success as a source of enjoyment and inspiration is much, much better.

  1. We Don’t Get Clean Slates…But Our Past Serves To Teach Us. I can’t go back and start investing for my retirement 23 years ago…but I can learn from it, do better now and teach others.

You cannot hold on to the past, but you can learn from it. Don’t make the mistake of trying to stay in the past—life is about learning lessons and taking those lessons forward with you into your life.

  1. Life isn’t always fair.  Accept it and move on to making the most of the hand you’re dealt.
  2. You can’t help people until they want to help themselves. You can’t want success for them more than they want it for themselves.
  3. Reverse Engineer The Business And Life You Want. Figure out what it looks like and work backwards from it to where you are today. That’s your map.
  4. You Decide. You decide what your business will be known for, how you’ll spend your time and pretty much everything else.

For me, business supports my family…not the other way around. With that in mind, I block out time for the family stuff first and then what’s left is where my business is built.

So if you want more income, more family time, more vacation time, more clients…you begin by deciding that it will happen instead of saying you wish it would happen. Then to take the necessary actions to get there.

  1. YOU Are Your Competitive Advantage. No one else can be you. You’re already different – and in some areas you’re probably already better. Plus, you can continually develop, gain knowledge and improve. All too often we relinquish this competitive advantage and settle for being a mediocre imitation of someone else.

So as I say goodbye to 44 and am on to 45 I look forward to all the challenges my life will throw at me and all the new lessons I’ll learn. Thanks for being part of it!

Dedicated to Your Success,

Pat

The 15 Minute Ideal Business Planner

Building your Ideal Business isn’t a fantasy or a dream. It’s the result of designing what you want your business to be and then taking daily steps to create it. It is really that simple and the 15 Minute Ideal Business Planner will help you create the roadmap you need to reach both your personal and professional goals.

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Written by patrigsby
Father. Husband. Entrepreneur. Coach. Author.