Being present is the key to a happy and fulfilled life. The stoics, religious leaders, and many philosophers explained that the present moment is where happy people live. But the ambitious, especially entrepreneurs, need to think about the future as much as they do the present. If entrepreneurs are not optimistically and routinely looking toward and planning for the future, they’ll end up stagnating and failing…
I often think about this. And I’ve noticed something in my own entrepreneurial journey over the last few years that has bothered me. It’s been a very successful few years for our business, having grown substantially in that time, but due to what my day-to-day has become, I’ve been reminded of Robin Sharma’s quote, “nothing fails like success.”
A consequence of my company’s growth is that I now spend more time on administrative stuff than ever before (compliance, taxes, HR, etc.). While reflecting on my workday during the evening, I’m often perplexed about what I even accomplished that day, despite being very busy. It’s not a good feeling. Although my business is generating increased profit, I haven’t been building much for the future. Instead, I’ve been managing the present — which has come at a cost. We are scaling fast, but we haven’t been building or innovating if I’m honest. We’re merely servicing.
How does that position my company for the future?
Entrepreneurs are builders and creators. The moment they cease to create new, future offerings is the moment they stop being entrepreneurial. Think about when you started your first business or pursued your first entrepreneurial venture… that excitement and energy you got during those uncertain, future-focused days was the entrepreneurial high we all live for. If we stop working on future offerings/launches, we will become dissatisfied being an entrepreneur.
If the future doesn’t pop up in your head, then the past will: Other than being reminded of lessons learned, looking in the rearview can be counterproductive — potentially even unhealthy. When people aren’t fulfilled by their current situation or lack ambition, they look backwards. The past is for has-beens or those looking to dial it back — to slow down. The past is for those who aren’t pursuing their potential today; and it is what you’ll think about if you’re not mindfully working for the future.
The future is inspiring: If you’re an entrepreneur, then you’re a dreamer, or at least you were at one point. Working for and thinking about the future is a beautiful element of entrepreneurship and will bring you back to the early days when you started your first company. Ironically, looking toward the future as an experienced entrepreneur can be nostalgic. And it can rekindle that fire in your belly previously experienced as a naively-blissful young entrepreneur.
Remember building your first business and how excited you were to find out if it would actually work? It wasn’t really even about the money. It was about finding out if you could build something people would enjoy… that was the ROI. Letting your peers validate your effort. If that vulnerability has been lost, as it has been for me recently, you need to start building something fresh — a proof of concept, so to speak.
Planning for the future is the only path to sustainable growth: These days, there’s stiff competition in every niche. Elon Musk doesn’t even believe in patenting technology because, in his view, a business must continually innovate to stay on top. Trying to patent technology is a waste of resources, according to Musk. Technology, and any new offering for that matter, has a shelf life — no matter how cutting-edge or novel it is today. As an entrepreneur, act accordingly.
When I have time in the evening, I like to kick back and listen to interviews/podcasts from creative entrepreneurs — the men and women who are routinely ahead of the masses, pursuing huge milestones and building the future… not just their future, but the world’s. This motivating past-time helps recalibrate my entrepreneurial brain so it never loses sight of the need to innovate and work for the future, not simply for today.
They’re an eclectic bunch, but here are some of the entrepreneurs and innovators I enjoy listening to as they help bring my mind back to the future: Elon, Naval, Kobe Bryant (R.I.P.), Cathy Wood, Arianna Huffington, Eddie Hearn, Jason Calcanis, David Sacks, Canelo, and (I say this next one sheepishly) even Dan Bilzerian (whether you like his content or not, he’s always working on big ideas for the future and never seems to stagnate).
Successful entrepreneurs can not wait for the future because they’ve been tirelessly building it.