“You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.” -Jim Rohn
Have you heard this saying before? If you’re an entrepreneur or even mildly interested in personal development, chances are, you have. Motivational speaker and self-help guru Jim Rohn spoke these now-famous words, and they are words I try to live by.
This idea has practical applications both personally and professionally:
Personally: Like most people, I’m always striving to be a better person; I want to be kinder, more optimistic, more forgiving, and more empathetic. The people who bring out these qualities in me are the ones I keep close; anyone who brings out my less desirable qualities (pessimism, resentment, intolerance) gets less face time.
Professionally: I want to build a successful online business that helps people, so I gravitate toward entrepreneurs who have achieved the level of success that I want–the ones who have built influential people-centered businesses–and I surround myself with their ideas and their attitudes on a daily basis.
Am I best buds with the entrepreneurs that I look up to? I wish, but sadly, they don’t yet know I exist (keyword: yet). On the bright side, people don’t have to be physically present in my life to have a profound impact on it.
Hurrah! The fact that I’m a self-employed introvert who works alone much of the time is no longer a barrier to becoming a better businesswoman! I can put myself in great company every day without even leaving home, provided I actively seek these people out.
While there is certainly no shortage of great entrepreneurs from which to draw inspiration, there are only a select few that I keep in my “inner circle” if you will. I surround myself with their ideas and their attitudes daily in order to elevate my own thoughts and actions. It wasn’t all that long ago that I adopted this mindset, but I can already tell you it’s paying off.
Here are 5 of the people who inspire me to get better every day, and the most valuable lesson each one has taught me.
Ramit Sethi is a personal finance guru and all-around marketing genius (due in large part to his passion for psychology). He’s the author of the book I Will Teach You To Be Rich and the blog by the same name. He’s also an unapologetic over-achiever and funny as all hell.
Image: Mike Folden
Why I Love Ramit: He taught me the value of…VALUE!
Let me tell you a couple of stories to illustrate what I mean by that.
I followed Ramit for at least a year before I ever paid him a dollar. I signed up for his email list early on (and have since given him my email address dozens more times) and opened his emails religiously for one simple reason: Every single time his emails hit my inbox, they gave me something useful that I could apply to my life right away…FOR FREE.
I remember stumbling upon one of his courses called Earn 1K (for people who want to earn extra income on the side) when I was just starting out on my blogging journey. It was exactly the kind of course that would have been useful to me back then. I didn’t join, however, because this premium material came with a premium price and I didn’t have that kind of cash at the time, so instead I greedily took every free download I could get my hands on (which were plentiful).
I continued on like this for another year or so, getting loads of insights and lessons that I could apply to my life immediately, all absolutely free. My life improved just by giving Ramit access to my inbox; over and over again, he proved himself worthy of my time by giving away his hard-earned advice and asking nothing in return.
I finally conceded that a reasonable next step would be to purchase his personal finance book, I Will Teach You To Be Rich. I was convinced at this point that it would offer me value well beyond the sticker price, so I forked over the $13.95 + tax for my paperback copy. I read the book cover to cover–I never imagined a personal finance book could actually be hard to put down.
When all was said and done and I had applied his ultra-specific tactics to my life, I’d already earned back what I’d spent on the book AND THEN SOME and I knew the return on that small investment would only increase over time. In more concrete terms, his advice saved me ATM fees, late payment fees, and overdraft charges, helped me earn interest on my cash just by having the right savings account, and allowed me to start building a retirement fund through no-frills investing.
More recently, having now followed Ramit for a few years and reaching a point where I felt ready to ramp up my earnings, I realized I should start following his business advice, too.
One night, I opened one of his emails to find that he was hosting a webinar on copywriting, and yes, I knew going into it that his intention was to upsell his premium copywriting course, Call to Action. But by the end of that FREE one-hour session, I’d learned so many valuable things I was practically screaming through my computer screen…
“SHUT UP AND TAKE MY MONEY, RAMIT!!!”
As I’m writing this, I’m roughly halfway through the course material, and I can already tell you it was well-worth the investment.
The takeaway: Give people so much value for FREE that by the time you offer premium paid material, they’ll be literally begging you to take their money.
Tim Ferriss likely needs no introduction, but I’ll sum up for those who aren’t familiar with his work. Tim is an author most well-known for The 4-Hour Work Week, a self-help book all about doing things more efficiently (and widely considered “the digital nomad’s Bible”). He advocates escaping the 9-5 and living life on your own terms (sound familiar?) and getting the most out of life with the least amount of effort.
Image via fourhourworkweek.com
Why I Love Tim: He taught me to work smarter, not harder.
I’ll admit, I was a bit later than most people to jump on the Tim Ferriss train, but I’m now a huge fan of his podcast which always leaves me bubbling over with inspiration.
Listening to podcasts is just one way I’ve since learned to streamline my days; whenever I’m doing work that doesn’t require much thought, I’ll pop in my headphones and press play. Rather than working out to music, I now work out to podcasts; the same goes for long journeys like car rides and flights, or any time that would otherwise be wasted sitting in silence.
And much like Ramit’s work, everything Tim produces adds immediate value to my life in some way, however small.
His blog features detailed systems for doing all sorts of things quickly and efficiently:
The takeaway: Longer hours don’t always mean you’re doing more work. Cut out all the noise, prioritize, and learn the systems that can automate your life.
BONUS!: For a double dose of my favorite entrepreneurs, here are two episodes of Tim’s podcast featuring Ramit–he talks about how creative entrepreneurs should negotiate and how he turned his blog into a multi-million dollar business.
Sophia Amoruso is the founder of the online store Nasty Gal which sells women’s fashion including modern and vintage clothes as well as jewelry and accessories. She’s the author of #Girlboss and the host of #Girlboss Radio, a podcast that features the stories of successful women from all industries. She was recently featured on the cover of Forbes Magazine as one of America’s richest self-made women.
Image: Chad Pitman
Why I Love Sophia: She taught me that business lessons often come in unexpected forms.
When I first started listening to #Girlboss Radio, I remember scrolling through the names of each guest to figure out which ones I most wanted to listen to, based on how relevant I THOUGHT the conversations and insights would be to my life.
Not that I even knew who most of her guests were, I just made the foolish assumption that some episodes would be more valuable than others.
How terribly arrogant of me.
What I quickly learned was that every guest was infinitely fascinating and wise and that I did INDEED have a lot to learn from them, regardless of their field or background. In fact, Sophia’s podcasts are so laden with golden nuggets of business wisdom and inspiration that listening to them has become a near-daily ritual.
Here are a few of my favorite #Girlboss Radio snippets so far:
“I think it’s important for our listeners to know…we didn’t all start with a million dollars in the bank and a huge business plan. Nasty Gal is very much in that same boat.” -Sophia Amoruso
“Showing up is the most important part in any role.” -Christine Barberich, Global Editor-in-Chief at Refinery29
“No does not mean ‘No.’ No means ‘Not right now.’ When someone tells you no, you should be listening to why they’re telling you no and you should actually be asking them a lot more questions.” -Jenn Hyman, Co-Founder & CEO of Rent the Runway
The takeaway: Treat every situation and every encounter as a learning opportunity. Everyone has something valuable to teach us.
Dale is a serial entrepreneur and a dedicated family man. He’s the Founder and CEO of Sevenly, a company established on the belief that “people matter”–the company donates $7 to a charitable cause for every product purchased. He’s also the author of the book People Over Profit, and he now helps other entrepreneurs build businesses centered on the same core values.
Image via Startupcamp.com
Why I Love Dale: He taught me to put people first.
A quote of Dale’s that really stood out to me came from his experience starting Sevenly, a company in which his underlying goal was never wealth. Sevenly did become wildly profitable, but only as a by-product of helping others (they have so far donated over $4 million to charities around the world). His lesson:
See money not as the primary goal, but as a by-product of helping a million people.
This is where I think a lot of businesses go awry–the focus is on how the business will serve the business owner (how they will make a profit and become wealthy) rather than how the business will serve others.
This is particularly a problem for many bloggers; they take cash wherever they can get it while overlooking real opportunities to make life better or easier for their readers.
The takeaway, and a challenge to my fellow bloggers and entrepreneurs: The next time you create content of any kind, before putting it in front of one single person, ask yourself “Do I believe in this message? Does this add value to people’s lives?”
Todd Herman is a seasoned performance coach who has helped everyone from Olympic athletes to billionaires achieve new levels of success. He’s spent decades perfecting a system he refers to as The 90-Day Year which he’s used to transform businesses en masse, and he’s recently begun sharing much of this knowledge publicly (no, really–just follow that link for free training videos loaded with great content).
Image via toddherman.me
Why I Love Todd: He taught me that multi-tasking is the true enemy.
And he’s not just talking about doing two things simultaneously, like walking while chewing gum. When Todd talks about the pitfalls of multi-tasking, he’s talking about the way our time is organized on a larger scale, too–our days, weeks, and months.
When our focus is split between one million different tasks over the course of a day, a week, or even a few months, we become far less productive because we actually lose a small part of our day each time we shift our focus from one task to the next. He refers to this phenomenon as “context switching” and when we do it too often, it eats away at our time and can have a severe impact on our productivity and ultimately our ability to reach our goals.
“Your ability to execute is the only thing you get rewarded for in business.” -Todd Herman
Knowing this (and having felt the deleterious effects of context switching in action) I plan to map out my goals in short bursts moving forward and focus on just one major project at a time.
My major project at present is creating my first digital product, my ebook which is set for release next month. Once that goal has been accomplished, I can shift to a new major project, such as increasing my earnings from affiliate sales, setting up an automated sales funnel, or even creating another digital product.
The takeaway: Focus is everything! Switch between tasks as little as possible to see your productivity skyrocket. This, of course, requires knowing what your immediate goals are (not your 3-year goals or even your 1-year goals) and prioritizing accordingly.
Who do you keep in your “inner circle” of entrepreneurs and how do they help you do better business? I’d love to hear in the comments.