Transformation can make the best of us feel uneasy. Many entrepreneurs have a hard time initiating or following through with their desire to change — myself included. However, I made up my mind a long time ago to embrace change.
It’s a simple fact that change is essential to success. Constant change is a business reality and you must continually adapt. Yet it requires a consistent commitment to hard things. The most difficult among them is closing the gap: moving from your current state to a desired reality. Closing the gap often requires an unconventional, intentional and fresh approach.
Real and lasting change is possible. As you make plans in the new year, consider these five approaches to make 2018 your best year yet.
1. Old ways won’t necessarily open new doors
According to Tomasz Tungz, venture capitalist at Redpoint, “There’s a crisis in the scientific academic world. It’s called the Replication Crisis. Scientists have found that they cannot replicate the results published by many scientific studies. The same thing is happening in the world of business.” Simply put, yesterday’s ways aren’t guaranteed to produce tomorrow’s results.
You can counter this phenomenon in a few ways: Cultivate a mindset that is open to change, make more data-driven decisions, track metrics and results and/or optimize and pivot when necessary.
For example, I’ve become a change agent within my own business portfolio. I challenge myself to live in the future and build what is missing — especially when it comes to branding. For example, I built a brand known for its provocative startup insight in 2009, before entrepreneurial culture was trendy. As we explore growth markets, we look at where the startup ecosystem is now and build our hypothesis for where it will be five years down the road. When you look at where you’ve been (i.e., data) and keep a finger on the pulse of those you serve, you are free to look at new doors with a fresh perspective.
2. Focus on small wins and slow gains
We all love to win big, yet there is tremendous power in small wins and slow gains. As author James Clear says, “It’s so easy to overestimate the importance of one defining moment and underestimate the value of making better decisions on a daily basis. Almost every habit that you have — good or bad — is the result of many small decisions over time.” Perhaps instead we should focus on marginal gains.
In entrepreneurship culture, we espouse the ideology of moving fast but to a fault, overlook the power of winning slow. There’s a time to sprint and a time to pace yourself. Successful entrepreneurs win at the long game. The key to longevity is to commit to the long game, through highs and lows, even as you adapt in the short-term through test-and-learn tactics.
3. Clear the clutter
Clutter takes a toll on your mental health and subsequently on your performance. You don’t have to wait until spring to organize your life and business. Start today. What you build externally is a result of what’s going on internally. Disorder on the outside is a reflection of disorder on the inside. Declutter your home, office, car, inbox and your mind. The result is a happier, stress-free and more efficient life, which undoubtedly can fuel an uptick in creativity and your bottom line.
4. Become the architect of your life
There’s a time to plan and a time to build. If you overlook either phase, you can easily find yourself stuck in a rut. Consider that design is simply a plan. Behind every building is an architect that first draws up a plan.
Construction is then tasked with following the directions of the plan while the architect closely supervises. In a similar way, you can design your life and your business. Draw up a plan, collaborate with other “builders” (such as strategic partners) and supervise the work. Consider that architecture is art and science. A building should be pleasant to look at, pleasant to work in and strong enough to stand the test of time. The same could be said for your life and business.
5. Say no more often
It’s trendy these days to say yes to everything. It sells books, but is it practical? Not necessarily. In fact, most successful people understand the importance of saying no. Saying yes to everything doesn’t make you impressive — it makes you busy. When you say yes to everything, you become highly ineffective. What good is it to be a mile wide and an inch deep?
I’ve learned how empowering a “no” can be. When you gain authority and influence opportunities, like buses, roll in around the clock. But the litmus test is simple: Will this task advance my vision and purpose? If not, I say no. When you gain decisive clarity in these areas, you recognize opportunities that will serve it (and those that won’t).
Harvard Business Review contributor Ed Batista suggests that learning to say no is part of success: “As we succeed, a key challenge becomes prioritizing the many opportunities that present themselves.” A key element of prioritization involves saying no. Subsequently, the right no’s will make room for the most important yes.
Become a change agent
Transformation is powerful. Often, it is applied loosely (too loosely) to any form of change, however minor or routine. These approaches provide a framework designed to positively impact your plans for success. Close the gap between where you are and where you want to be. Change is hard and messy, but it is worth it. The right approach and corresponding action can produce extraordinary and sustainable results.