5 Must Read Books for the Busy Entrepreneur

by Keetria on March 8, 2017

Reading shouldn’t be something that you give up because you’re an entrepreneur on the go. Sometimes we get so busy that we leave behind hobbies that we feel take up too much time, like going to the movies or reading. You may not be able to squeeze in the romance or spy novels that you used to love, but if you don’t want to lose the spark of love for reading, consider opening the pages of these five books about useful and entrepreneurial topics.

“Tools of Titans: The Tactics, Routines, and Habits of Billionaires, Icons, and World-Class Performers” – Timothy Ferriss

This book is a long read, but it’s well worth setting aside the time. If you want a crash course on how to be insanely productive, buy this book and read it cover to cover again and again. Strategist and podcaster Tim Ferriss shares the productivity secrets he’s learned during his time interviewing entrepreneurs, and this book contains more than 200 different interviewees from “The Tim Ferriss Show.” Ferriss ensures that all of the insider tips have been applied to his own life, and they’re certainly tried and true.

“Disrupted: My Misadventure in the Start-Up Bubble” – Dan Lyons

A delightfully entertaining read, Dan Lyons has written a book about moving from his job as a journalist to a position at software marketing startup — HubSpot. This hilarious and insightful look at entrepreneurship and the inner workings of a startup company can both bring a smile to your face and make you reconsider where your life is going.

“Originals: How Non-Conformists Move the World” – Adam Grant

Our world isn’t dictated by those who keep going down the same old roads over and over again. The roads less traveled are the ones that contain the most beauty, and this is true for entrepreneurs who come up with new ideas. Adam Grant takes readers on a trip through how modern leaders can break the mold and truly explore the world as an innovator and creative, not a follower who sticks to the safer methods.

“The Code of the Extraordinary Mind: 10 Unconventional Laws to Redefine Your Life and Succeed On Your Own Terms”

Founder of MindValley, Vishen Lakhiani knows a lot about life and how the mind works. In his book, Lakhiani flips the script on everywhere we know in his world — life, love, work and more. The book explores how our thought processes are are driven by rules, generational thoughts and old concepts of what success really is. This book isn’t just about changing how you think about business, but also how you think about societal constructs in general.

“Thinking, Fast and Slow” – Daniel Kahneman

This is an “oldie but goodie” volume that any and all entrepreneurs should have on their shelves. Daniel Kahneman’s award winning book explores the two systems that make our minds work — one is fast and emotional, the other is slower and more logical. As a psychologist, Kahneman explores how both of these mind center’s shape our everyday judgements and how they apply to our lives in a entrepreneurial context.

Don’t miss this episode! Online entrepreneur, author, and speaker Lakia Robinson drops in to talk about her thriving business concept, the #PrayPlanHustle initiative, her new book: The Truth about Ugly Women, I Want Beauty Within, how she stays motivated and her future plans. You can follow her on Twitter @LakiaInspires.

4 Motivation Crutches and How to Avoid Them

by Keetria on February 28, 2017

Self-activation is the art of self-motivation. When you’re self-activating, you don’t need any sort of outside reward or stimuli to get you going. For instance, saying “if I succeed I’ll eat one of those cookies that I usually save for diet cheat days” isn’t being self-activating — there is a reward put in front of you in order to move you forward.

Within that example, that cookie is a motivational crutch. When we find that we’re only allowing ourselves to be motivated because of an outside stimulus or other source outside of ourself, we’re falling victim to relying on something that might be unhealthy or that won’t always work in order to finally succeed.

Here are four common motivation crutches and how to avoid using them while still coming out on top.

Food and Unhealthy Rewards

Many professionals find themselves using food as a reward. While treating yourself isn’t inherently bad, studies have even shown that using food as a reward creates unhealthy eating habits within ourselves. It’s okay to say “I’ve worked hard so I’ll have a night out on the town,” but using food as a consistent motivational tool isn’t a good idea.

The Praise of Others

How often have you done something well just to hope to receive praise from someone? When you’re a child and your id and ego are developing around how others (namely parents and guardians) see you, thus developing your self esteem, it’s perfectly alright to feel like the approval of others is an immense motivator.

However, a professional adult should only concern themselves with the approval of others as a way of keeping their job. Focusing heavily on outside criticism creates an environment where the opinion of another person is unreliable, and therefore a person’s ability to motivate themselves is also unreliable.

Apps and Planners

Applications and planners designed to help you go through your to-do list are great for those starting out on a productivity journey. However, these should be like training wheels — the idea is to one day get rid of them in order to move onto that big kid’s bike.

Note that it’s perfectly okay to stay organized via an app or a planner, but many people look at motivation through the lens of clearing off a checklist, not actually absorbing experiences and doing tasks to the best of their ability.

Punishment

Sometimes motivation comes in the form of a negative — the stick matters more to someone than a carrot being dangled in front of them. Someone who uses procrastination as a motivational crutch will put something off until the very last minute, using that added panic and urgency to help them get the job done.

Others use punishment more literally, using the idea that they won’t get something or will be reprimanded as a means of working towards success. This sort of mental masochism isn’t healthy, and it often leads to more stress and mental health problems than necessary.

When we practice self-activation methods, we avoid these crutches. The best way to motivate yourself to rely only on yourself and understand that you can do it with no outside help. You’ve got this, and that’s all you need to succeed.

Branding isn’t easy. Some assume that it’s just slapping a logo onto a product and calling it a day, but so much more goes into creating a brand. A brand is a company or a person’s personality made marketable and/or tangible. When you create a new business and need to work on branding, you’re crafting a very human aspect of a business and then figuring out how that human aspect appeals to an audience.

Because branding takes experience to truly get right, new entrepreneurs can easily fall into branding traps and make rookie mistakes. Seasoned entrepreneurs can easily make branding mistakes, so how can newbies avoid these pratfalls?

The key to avoiding mistakes is knowing what they are. While branding holds a lot of mistakes specific to the brand in question, there are a variety of general mistakes that they should know about and avoid.

Going Over the Top

New entrepreneurs and small business owners have a tendency to want to go big or go home. Remember that when you’re first starting out with a business, this is your most vulnerable time — especially financially. It’s a good idea to be willing to invest a generous amount into your branding, but there’s a difference between spending a lot and creatively coming up with a lot.

A brand shouldn’t be complicated. Going all out and creating complicated branding schemas can be very detrimental to brand success, especially when the business in question is newer. Spend money, but spend money on something you think will work.

Non-Digital Integration

Some businesses have a very online presence, and that’s where they perform best. Online marketing and branding are very popular because they reach larger audiences and are often cheaper than non-digital options. However, this doesn’t mean non-digital options should be ignored.

If you have a business that has the potential to exist outside of the Internet, don’t let this possibility pass you by. Even if it’s something as simple as buying business cards with your business URL on them, invest in some sort of tangible, “IRL” branding mechanism.

Taking the Next Step

Many brands start out with a bang but end with a fizzle. Branding isn’t something that’s a one and done operation — it takes maintenance. Many early businesses make the mistake of considering branding to be something they do once and sprinkle throughout their marketing strategies, but this is completely inaccurate. Make sure to keep working with your branding, even after the initial brand launch.

Not Paying Attention to Analytics

Online branding is something that should be paid attention to in the context of analytics. If you send out a tweet that’s relevant to your branding strategy, assess how well that tweet is doing. How many interactions does it have? What’s the retweet to interaction ratio?

Paying attention to branding analytics is one of the easiest ways to tell whether or not what you’re doing is succeeding or failing miserably, or even somewhere in between. Whether you use free analytics resources provided by social media and Google, or you pay for your analytics tools, one thing is for certain — analytic data is necessary for branding success.

No one is ever entirely free of stress…or are they?

Stress is something that we consider as a standard in life. Sometimes stress is more dire than it is simple. We stress as teens studying hard for tests and as adults stressing over how much money we need to make to break even. Stress creates a very cluttered mental space, which then begins to impact other areas of life, like productivity and health. In short, stress is something that we don’t want but that seems almost inevitable, especially as professionals.

This is where mindfulness comes in. You may have heard the term in passing, but are you familiar with what it is and what it can do for you?

What is Mindfulness?

To keep things simple, mindfulness is being very aware of the world around you on a moment-by-moment basis, as well as accepting it simultaneously. People assume that this is simple — aren’t we all already living and experiencing every moment of our lives? Experiencing something and actually being 100% aware of it, however, are two different things.

While it’s true that we are physically present for all of our lives, we aren’t always mentally present. The opposite of mindfulness is mindlessness, or essentially running on autopilot. Many people don’t fully understand how much of their life is spent lost in thought, avoiding outside stimulus.

Say that you’re walking down a busy city street. What are you doing? Are you keeping your thoughts to yourself, running through your daily to-do list? Are you listening to music from earbuds, lost in the sound and not paying full attention to the world around you? Both are examples of clogging our minds with something in order to avoid being cognizant. Someone who has embraced mindfulness is fully living in that moment, noticing things and taking them in.

What Can Mindfulness do for You?

Mindfulness is often associated with total positivity; it’s something written off as a new age, existentialist way of avoiding life’s problems. However, it’s exactly the opposite.

Let’s look at stress and mindfulness. When someone who is used to mindlessness is confronted with stress, the negative emotion and thoughts of the future cloud their vision. Anxiety gets in the way of productivity. Someone who is mindful, however, fully accepts the stressful stimuli and then formulates a plan based on their acceptance of their current predicament.

Practicing mindfulness can help reduce the harmful repercussions of stress, like panic and anxiety. Realize that stress is a state of being, an emotion — it isn’t a situation itself. When someone is mindful, they don’t experience stress because they experience a situation, not the harmful emotional side effect that comes with it.

Thus, mindfulness is growing in popularity as a way to increase productivity. When we are mindful of our surroundings, our emotional state and what we must do, we are much more likely to seize the day and get things done with no negativity involved.

I had a great time speaking with the very talented Nkenge in this latest episode. We discuss Nkenge’s musical background, his passion for creating new material, his single and upcoming album. We also talk about how he’s taken his career into his hands and created opportunities for himself.

You can check out his single “Wayment” on Spotify or connect with him on Twitter @nkenge1xmusic

4 Tips for Motivating Others as an Entrepreneur

by Keetria on February 9, 2017

Entrepreneurs often start their business journey thinking about being a stand alone individual, adjusting their work hours as they please and leading a life of flexibility. For some that might be the case, but most find that as their business grows, so do their responsibilities. With these responsibilities comes a need to structure their lives.

This also comes with a lengthened list of employees. As an entrepreneur’s employee roster grows, so does their responsibility to care for and motivate these integral parts of their business. Worker morale is a vital part of team success — when teammates are motivated, productivity goes up. With increased productivity comes more and more success.

Here are four tips any entrepreneur can use to keep their staff motivated, thus more productive.

Regular Conversations

If you talk to employees in standard businesses run by corporations, you’ll often hear employee complaints that revolve around not being heard or consulted. In businesses such as these, the people at the top often don’t understand how work flows in lower ranks, thus employees want more contact with their higher-ups in order to communicate these flaws.

While entrepreneurs and small business owners often have a more direct access to their workforce, this doesn’t mean that employees don’t want to have these same conversations about their thoughts on how the business is running. Sometimes the way to motivate people isn’t to talk, but to listen.

Have More Meetings

Another method of motivation revolves around being able to talk with employees as a collective. A common disconnect that arises within small businesses is not all being on the same page. It can be surprisingly easy to keep information to yourself and want to do things on your own as an entrepreneur; big businesses may feel a greater sense of urgency to keep things consistent across all locations and employees.

Motivated employees are employees who feel they know what direction their going in. You, as the owner or main entrepreneur, have the power to make this happen.

Don’t be a Robot

Entrepreneurs who assume leadership roles often feel like they must be a stone-faced boss, never making any decisions based on emotion. It’s never a good idea to let your soft side leave you vulnerable to being taken advantage of, but employees do react favorably to bosses that understand what it feels like to be human.

Don’t recite stock boss phrases like you’re a computer — show emotions, be understanding, and make your workplace fun by understanding that people like to cut up on occasion. Running a business like a well-oiled machine doesn’t mean it can’t also be a happy place to be.

Let Your Employees Know You

Do you find it easy to feel loyalty towards someone you don’t know? When we find ourselves disconnected from someone, it becomes harder to think of them in a positive way. This is how many people feel about their boss, and then business’ become run on fear or obligation or the necessity to make money and nothing else.

Showing others who you are is how you keep them invested in you. A boss that someone doesn’t know is a boss that is feared, not revered.

Here’s the latest episode of the SOB – Style of Business podcast. In this episode designer/artist and business owner Leah Smithson chats it up with me about her art pieces and designs. The founder and owner of art outfit Talon and the Suneaters, Leah is a talented artist who not only paints but offers a unique line of wearable goods and custom made jewelry.

Be sure to check her out on Instagram and on Twitter @leahsmithsonart

We hear all the time that it pays to be positive, but is that really true? How does positivity impact our lives, and what is the point to being so upbeat all the time? If positivity is so rewarding, does that mean there’s a consequence for sadness all the same?

Despite sounding like such a simple concept, positivity can be truly mystifying. How do we find happiness? Can I have positivity without happiness, and vice versa?

While it’d be impossible to condense all that we know about positive psychology (which yes, it has its own subset in the psychology world), we do have four fun facts or tidbits about positivity that may brighten your day.

  1. Positivity lengthens your life.

If you Google “Nun Study” you’ll find a very prolific scientific research project about aging and Alzheimer’s — that’s not the study we’re talking about here. This study is instead by Danner, Snowdon and Friesen from the University of Kentucky and is strictly about Catholic nuns.

These researchers found that based on the nun’s own writings, those that expressed more positive sentiments lived longer lives. Look it up for more concrete and fascinating stats.

  1. Positivity boosts sales.

Many believe that the secret to happiness is success. That once you’ve finally found your place in life, happiness is just around the corner…and if that’s not true, then what is? Is it possible that this assumed standard is false?

According to Martin Seligman of the University of Pennsylvania, the opposite is actually true. This creates a bit of a chicken vs. egg scenario, but Seligman is sure that optimism comes before success. Based on an optimism test Seligman designed for MetLife, those who were positive based on the test results were almost always likely to outperform those who were negative.

  1. Positivity helps counteract stress effects.

Stress is a part of life and it’s one you’ll likely never fully be able to run away from. If you figure out how to live a live 100% free of stress, tell us your secret — we’d like to know.

Still, just because stress is a natural phenomena, it doesn’t mean it’s one we have to take lying down. There are a million different teas on the market meant to combat stress and its side effects, but what about something like positivity?

Many credible studies focus on how positivity helps to combat stress, but mostly how our own negativity leads to a majority of stress. While a catalyst may be the biggest source of stress, self-doubt and blame often contribute to our negativity more than the original problem.

  1. Positivity broadens your horizons.

From a young age we learn to be positive. Most children are not born pessimists, but are instead taught to be negative based on those around them and their life experiences. Children play, grow and learn while basking in that positivity. At this stage of development, their world is infinite.

This is how positivity can affect all of us every day. When we open our mind to possibilities and positivity, we see our worlds as they can be — not as they are.


To be an entrepreneur, you must be…? How do you think that sentence should end? “Brave”? “Determined”? “Innovative”?

Truthfully an entrepreneur must be many things; more adjectives than five are required in order to call yourself a true and successful entrepreneur. However, we’ve selected five of the most common and essential traits required to either become or sustain yourself as an entrepreneur.

Risk-Taking

We often think of risk as a dirty word — in fact, isn’t it better to avoid risk altogether? This might be true in some areas of life, but in others the phrase “go big or go home” is one hundred percent true. Just like in gambling, sometimes a big risk results in a giant loss. Other times it means you get a big pay day.

Without that risk, no matter the outcome, there would be no chance for that huge success. The risk doesn’t have to be monetary, either. Sometimes taking a chance on the little things can pay off in a big way.

Hungry

No, not in the way that means you want to go out to lunch. This kind of hunger is for success, for knowledge and for recognition — maybe you’d prefer to call it “drive.”

A good entrepreneur knows that they have to keep learning, but a great entrepreneur is one that truly wants to. This kind of hunger is one that drives them to better themselves and take those risks.

Adaptable

Not everything will go your way all the time, and that’s not just a lesson for entrepreneurs to learn. However, it might be a lesson that entrepreneurs benefit from more than most. Sometimes plans fall through and an entrepreneur has to adapt to the sudden changes. Not every scheme will be executed perfectly, not every vision will be clearly seen and sometimes a completely foreign scenario works its way into the mix.

A great entrepreneur doesn’t give in to this uncertainty — they embrace it.

Responsible

Gone are the days of laying around on the couch and brainstorming about your big business idea — you’re going to be an entrepreneur, which means your life is going to drastically change if you want to make all of your visions realities.

Even though you’ll be your own boss, you’ll still have all the responsibilities that come with that position. It also means you’ll have to handle money, and hopefully lots of it, in a fiscally responsible way.

Gregarious

Sure there are ways to become a great entrepreneur as an introvert, but the more outgoing and personable you are? The better you’ll be at networking and selling your brand. Creating relationships among your peers and in the business community will be vital to getting your business recognized, and you can’t do that on a concept alone.

Businesspeople are usually outspoken, self-assured and promoting. They know how to charm and talk to people in a convincing yet personable way. This kind of attitude also lends itself to sales — without being gregarious, the sales funnel becomes a lot more narrow.

It takes a lot to become an entrepreneur. How many of these attributes do you have yourself?