In The Turn

How Successful Entrepreneurs Navigate The Journey

The journey matters as much as the destination.

Well-intentioned people like to drop this pearl of wisdom on entrepreneurs who are single-minded in their determination to reach their goals. But the adage doesn’t sit well with destination-oriented people. In business, partnerships or parenthood, they like to know where they’re going and how they’re getting there. The rest is just scenery, right?

Not true.

It’s true that as an entrepreneur, you must be focused on the destination. If you don’t know where your company is headed, who does? You can get a lot accomplished if you’re a driven soul. But in your constant attempt to find the next “there,” it’s easy to forget to enjoy the ride. As a result, instead of taking time off for yourself, your friends and your family, you double down on your efforts to hit your goals — sometimes even raising the bar after you make progress.

When everything is about professional goals, however, there isn’t much room left for personal joy. And without personal joy, your chances of professional success are small. Shawn Achor‘s positive psychology studies have shown that when we’re happily living in the moment, “our brains become more engaged, creative, motivated, energetic, resilient and productive at work.” Another study found that, similarly, “happy people appear to be more successful than their less happy peers in the three primary life domains,” including work.

I’ve reached a lot of destinations in my career, but many of them weren’t all that satisfying when I arrived without fully engaging in the journey. I learned to ride a motorcycle several years ago, and it helped me find joy in the journey. Many times, you ride with no particular destination in mind but just for the pure pleasure of riding. Through these experiences and others, I’ve realized that the journey isn’t just a means to an end; it’s something to be savored and experienced. That realization has transformed my approach to both my work and personal life, and it’s made all the difference.

Here are three ways successful entrepreneurs embrace the journey to make it matter as much as the destination.

1. They embrace uncertainty.

Much of entrepreneurship is about taking calculated risks and then adapting and responding to whatever happens next. I’ve spent many sleepless nights wondering about the impact of a decision and thinking through various options for next steps. It’s maddening not having more clarity about how things will turn out.

One of the qualities that will endure is your willingness to embrace uncertainty as part of the journey. I started my company when I moved to a relatively small market years ago, feeling like I’d been bumped off the fast track in my career and unsure of how to reclaim it. But with the help of a talented team, I managed to build a successful business despite the challenges, eventually selling it to a global organization that I’m still part of today.

Life will take you places you never thought you’d go. You can have a plan, but it rarely works out just the way you’d hoped. It’s up to you to be willing to scrap the map and follow the detours, even when the way forward is unclear. You must be nimble, resilient and patient enough to stay on the journey — no matter where it leads. When you do, you’ll find yourself reaching destinations you never thought possible.

2. They don’t sacrifice the journey for wealth and power.

Financial success is always a top priority in business. Everyone wants to make money. At some point, however, you must ask yourself how much you really need. When material wealth becomes more important than life experiences and being with those you love, it’s time to re-evaluate your priorities.

Only a few years ago, success was defined largely by what people acquired: job titles, bank accounts, homes and cars. But according to a Xero survey, safeguarding your personal relationships makes good business sense, too. Among 2,000 business owners, nearly 60% said the ability to spend time with their families in the evening was essential to their success.

More business owners are striving to build companies that have a positive impact on their employees, customers and communities. They value work-life balance for themselves and those around them, and they want to find passion and purpose in what they do — those things that make life worth living.

The same can be said for power.

Even the best leaders struggle to share authority

Even the best leaders struggle to share authority. But power is unfulfilling if it alienates you from those you want to be close to. The journey is more rewarding when you make it about connection and collaboration, exchanging ideas and bringing them to fruition as part of a team.

Victories begin to feel hollow when you can’t share them with anyone. So be willing to examine your leadership style in a new light: Do you let people in? Are you empowering your staff members so they can excel with you? Do you need to practice trust more often with your team? Sharing power is challenging at first, but freeing up your time and resources is crucial to finding greater balance and enjoying the journey.

3. They define their own measures of success

In a study published in the Journal of Managerial Psychology, researchers found a positive correlation between engagement and performance in the workplace and a negative correlation between workaholism and performance. Rather than working tirelessly to hit traditional milestones, focus on doing your best as a leader every day and building an exceptional company along the way. Don’t just try to create the biggest brand or make the most money possible; instead, try to create a company that is known for excellence and empowers people to do and be their best.

Once that mindset became my “there,” the journey became much more satisfying — and, surprisingly, we achieved many of the traditional measures of success, anyway. As long as you commit yourself to these lasting ideals and keep your focus where it should be, you’ll reach the destination.

Embracing the journey requires courage and a shift in thinking. It’s hard to look at the challenges and volatility of running a business with an open mind and a positive heart. But there’s more to being an entrepreneur than making money. Personal and professional success will follow if you make the journey matter as much as the destination.

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