21 Ways Successful Entrepreneurs Think Differently

Barry Dunlop
    Topics: Entrepreneurship     More posts about: Mindset, Success

Successful entrepreneurs think differently!

They approach problems, fear and failure differently to the ‘normal’ person.

Successful entrepreneurs know that the impossible is an opinion, not a fact!

Above all, the successful entrepreneur has an optimism and a zest for life that transforms everything they do.

from fear and failure to successfrom fear and failure to success

#1 Failure is only failure if you believe it is

Hands up! Who knows a successful entrepreneur who has not experienced failure?

Take Jeff Bezos for example – founder and CEO of Amazon.com. Amazon was not always the huge success it is today and a long the way Amazon made some ‘wrong turns’ and ‘learning experiences’ as I call them. Examples include Amazon Auctions, Amazon zShops and more recently the Fire Phone.

But Jeff Bezos did not let those ‘failures’ define him. In referring to failed projects Bezos told the Business Insider Ignition conference in December 2014 that “I’ve made billions of dollars of failures at Amazon.com. Literally billions.”

He also told the conference that dwelling on the failures would be akin to having “a root canal with no anesthesia”.

Even the Big Internet Gurus will tell you they failed before they succeeded!

No great Entrepreneur has achieved much without first overcoming the Fear of Failure.

Failure does not define you.

The entrepreneurial journey will have many twists and tunes – sometimes you will be cash positive, sometimes you will be cash negative. It is how you handle these twists and turns that defines you!

The Top Entrepreneur makes Fear their Slave, not their Master!

If youre not failing every now and again, it’s a sign youre not doing anything very innovative.” – Woody Allen

Recommended Reading:

=> 15 Success Habits you must adopt to live the life of your dreams

=> Failing Forward: How to Make the Most of Your Mistakes

#2 The meaning you attach to events determines your attitude and response

Your interpretation of events is what really matters!

For example, successful entrepreneurs ‘give up’ all the time. Except they don’t call it giving up!

I mean, if something is not working, what is the point in repeating it endlessly?

No entrepreneur gets every decision correct – Even the best sometimes hire the wrong staff or misjudge the market. (Think Jeff Bezos again)

Yet, so many people just can’t let go, even when it is obvious something is not working.  They are too focused on the time and money they have invested, imagining that somehow investing even more time and money would fix it!

Above all, successful entrepreneurs have great business judgement – they know when to cut their losses and move on!

As Albert Einstein said:

Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.

Of course this does not mean you should give up easily – we still need to work and apply ourselves but as one of my mentors said to me many years ago: “He always reserved the right to change his mind about anything in the light of new information…”

I have always thought that a good strategy to live by.

In any case, no time is ever wasted if you learned something new or grow as a result!

#3 Successful Entrepreneurs take responsibility.

Successful people don’t blame others, they take responsibility for their outcomes.

Losers on the other hand make others responsible for their failure.

Doe Zantamata, the creator of the Happiness in Your Life book series has something very powerful to say about responsibility and blaming others…

“If a person doesn’t want to take responsibility for their actions, they may try to blame others. Don’t accept blame or try to fix things when you’ve done nothing wrong. They need to learn that if they want different outcomes, they will have to make different choices. If you fix things for them, it deprives them from learning to take responsibility and their actions will repeat with different circumstances. You’ll then be the first they’ll blame or try to have fix things for them because you did before. That can lead to a very destructive cycle which will only stop when you do.”

#4 Successful Entrepreneurs ask better questions

Successful entrepreneurs know that the questions they ask yourself determine their feelings.

We have conversations that are going on in our head all the time. These ‘conversations’ determine our feelings!

Ask yourself poor questions, get poor answers.

Common conversations entrepreneurs have include:

What if this doesn’t work out?

What if I can’t make payroll this month?

On the other hand, successful entrepreneurs ask creative and inspiring questions like:

What is the problem I’m looking to solve?

Who is going to buy and why?

How will my idea benefit my customers and society?

Recommended Reading: 5 questions entrepreneurs should ask themselves

I like this question in particular…

Are you learning from the mistakes you’ve made?

You are in charge of your feelings.

#5 Money is merely a form of energy

For many entrepreneurs, their biggest worry is debt / money.

Be an entrepreneur long enough and the chances are high that you will have face bankruptcy or having to make arrangements with our creditors.

When you’re in debt, you’re controlled.

But what if you looked at it differently?

There’s an old banking proverb: “If you owe the bank thousands (a small amount), then you have a problem. If you owe the bank millions (a large amount), then the bank has a problem.”

Or to put it another way: “If you owe the bank thousands (a small amount), then the bank owns you. If you owe the bank millions (a large amount), then you own the bank.”

Many years ago, a mentor of mine called Stuart Wilde gave me an education about debt.

Stuart pointed out, that when you’re in the business of lending money, you actually allow for some people not paying you back.

In fact, he said, “Barry, if a certain percentage of borrowers did not repay occasionally it would upset the whole apple cart!”

I mean, they had factored in risk and bad debt and it would be a shame to disappoint them!

OK, tongue in cheek, but hopefully you get the point.

Of course, if you borrow money you should use your best endeavors to repay – but never let that debt own you or destroy you!

In his book, The Trick To Money Is Having Some, Stuart Wilde shows you that money is merely a form of energy, and that the difference between having it and not having it is merely a small but subtle shift in consciousness.

Money is neither my god nor my devilMoney is neither my god nor my devil

One final thought here…

Average people think MONEY is the root of all evil. Rich people believe POVERTY is the root of all evil.

#6 Successful Entrepreneurs focus on the opportunities

A successful entrepreneur is always on the look out for new profitable opportunities that fit in with their personal objectives and long term vision.

The average entrepreneur on the other hand is more likely to focus on the obstacles, what can go wrong and the risk.

The successful entrepreneur is comfortable with calculated risk!

#7 Every no is one closer to a yes

Long before I even knew what an entrepreneur was, I worked as a direct sales person. (commission only).

This involved knocking on a lot of doors – and I experienced a lot of rejection.

To start with, hearing NO got me down.

But I was fortunate in having a sales manager who helped me reinterpret NO in a more positive way.

He would say:

“Barry, every NO means you’re one closer to the YES.”

Maybe I was a little more ‘innocent’ than the average person – but that made sense to me!

(We even worked back from my commissions what each No was worth! A massive $4 a rejection – and that was back in 1982!)

As you can imagine, when I started to interpret every No and slammed door as being worth $4, I felt entirely different about the process!

Now, of course, you should not go off and fail and fail and fail indefinitely. If something is not working, you should determine why and one great way to do that is to hire a Mentor (like my sales manager) or join a Mastermind Group.

The greatest entrepreneurs have heard the most no’s! Have failed the most!

Remember, as Zig Ziglar said:

“Each failure brings you one step closer to success.”

#8 This is NOT how the story is going to END

Every entrepreneur has challenges to overcome – and the most successful entrepreneurs often have had the most challenges to overcome.

They don’t dwell on the bad times – they know the final outcome is in their hands.


“At any given moment, you have the power to say that this is NOT how the story is going to END”

Christine Mason Miller

Recommended Reading: The Perfect Day Formula

#9 Successful entrepreneurs are not afraid of failure.

A relatively new term in entrepreneurial jargon is the term “fail forward.”

I’m not sure if everybody understands it. You see, many of us feel that we succeed forward.

But it doesn’t work that way. We fail forward.

Again, ask yourselves the questions every time you fail, “What’s good about this? What have I learned? How can I reinterpret this in a positive way?”

When I ask people, What is they are fearful of?

I get replies like: “Well, I’m afraid I’ll look like a fool” or “I’m afraid that people will realize I’m not as successful as I thought I was, or I pretend to be, or whatever.”

I like to talk about what I call the worst case scenario.

What’s good about failure?

Say that to most people and they will say nothing!

But again it is a matter of interpretation.

How about turning it around and saying instead:

‘You have just learned something that doesn’t work” or “How not to do something’

Can you see that that’s a better way of interpreting failure than just saying:

“I failed! It’s the end of the world!”

My friend Craig Ballantyne signed of an email recently saying:

Be prepared to stumble.

He went on to say:

“Fail forward. Learn your lessons. Move on. Never stop. Keep growing. Act in the face of fear and build extreme self-confidence. Bring the Energy & Enthusiasm. Celebrate each victory and build on your momentum.”

These are the qualities of every successful entrepreneur!

Recommended Reading: Failing Forward

#10 A successful entrepreneur knows there is no such thing as luck.

I’ve always worked very, very hard, and the harder I worked, the luckier I got. – Alan Bond

#11 Laugh, even on your darkest days!

There will be challenging days, but in the end how you handle those challenges determines your eventual success.

Count your blessings every day. There is always something to be happy about if you ask yourself the correct questions.

I’m a big fan of Rudyard Kipling’s Poem: If

These lines in particular I have always felt related well to entrepreneurs….

If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same…

Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it…

#12 Successful entrepreneurs do not moan, bitch or complain!

A successful entrepreneur know that they have the power to create the life of their dreams.

They know that the outcome is always down to them – they are responsible for their business, wealth, relationships and health.

Successful entrepreneurs do not moan, bitch or complain!

#13 Successful entrepreneurs know that time is more important than money

A successful entrepreneur never trades time for money.

successful entrepreneurs know that time is more important than money.successful entrepreneurs know that time is more important than money.

#14 The best entrepreneurs are great listeners

Remember we have two ears and one mouth, use them proportionally.

The more you listen, they more you discover. 

I remember as a young sales person being told that telling is not selling and if I wanted to succeed in selling I needed to ask questions.

When you ask questions, you have to listen.

More importantly the other party (buyer) feels they are part of the process. They are buying, rather than being sold!

Great entrepreneurs use smart questioning to build their businesses.

#15 Truth Matters!

Successful entrepreneurs don’t fool (BS) themselves. When business is good they celebrate and see how it can be even better, but when they have challenges, they are honest about it, they don’t pretend.

They are positive realists who understand risk and appreciate that whatever their financial position, they are in control of it.

“Truth shakes out when ideas and perspectives are banged against each other” – Jeff Bezos

Truth really matters – beware of Fake Gurus.

#16 Successful Entrepreneurs have Great Vision

Successful entrepreneurs never stop aspiring to even greater success.

They know that what you focus on is what you get!

A strong desire to achieve something great is the secret sauce of all great entrepreneurs.

As Real Estate Entrepreneur and Bestselling Author Frank McKinney puts it:

“Motivation washes off and goes down the drain with the soap at night, inspiration lasts about as long as a bad sunburn, but aspiration can alter your DNA and forever change your life, and in turn, the lives of those you love.”

See yourself as the success you really are, driving the car you wish, taking the vacations you wish and living in the home you wish.

#17 Stay Away From Negative People – They Have A Problem For Every Solution

Stay Away From Negative People - They Have A Problem For Every SolutionStay Away From Negative People - They Have A Problem For Every Solution


A successful entrepreneur knows that – Impossible is not a fact, it’s an opinion.

“Impossible is just a big word thrown around by small men who find it easier to live in the world they’ve been given than to explore the power they have to change it. Impossible is not a fact. It’s an opinion. Impossible is not a declaration. It’s a dare. Impossible is potential. Impossible is temporary. Impossible is nothing.”

Muhammad Ali

#18 Successful Entrepreneurs have no tolerance for drama and fake people

Top entrepreneurs are very selective in their friendships and relationships.

Social Media can give the impression that the modern entrepreneur is a very social being – and often they are. But anyone ever involved in a Start Up will tell you that the life of an entrepreneur is lonely. Long hours, ‘worry’ and pressure are common and we all handle that differently.

One thing for sure, is you have to be selective in your friends and the ‘distractions’ you allow. Reaching your goals take grit and determination and you really don’t want anyone in your life who distracts you or adds to that pressure!

Some of the most successful entrepreneurs are actually quite anti-social. They recognize they have no time to waste. They have no time for gossip.

Sometimes those who don’t socialize much aren’t actually anti-social, they just have no tolerance for drama and fake people

Sometimes those who don't socialize much aren't actually anti-social, they just have no tolerance for drama and fake peopleSometimes those who don't socialize much aren't actually anti-social, they just have no tolerance for drama and fake people

#19 It is not what happens that matters…

“Man is Affected not by events, but by the view he takes of them” – Epictetus

#20 Contribution is your legacy

Successful entrepreneurs are driven by contribution. Sure, they may have been motivated by making money and success but ultimately it is the difference that we make in the lives of others and society that gives us our greatest satisfaction.

And I am not just talking about how entrepreneurs stimulate the economy, in terms of employment, investment and contribution to the GDP. 

True entrepreneurs are driven to serve as much as they are called to leadTrue entrepreneurs are driven to serve as much as they are called to lead

#21 Successful Entrepreneurs believe in Self-education

Formal education will make you a living. Self-education will make you a fortune. Jim Rohn

Personally, I’m a great believer in things such as masterminds and groups of people collaborating together and sharing what they know. Mastermind Groups are a great way to create deep and lasting connections with some incredible people and today some of my closest friendships started in a Mastermind Group.

Masterminds are about sharing what is working – but also they can on occasion be about sharing about what is not working!

Don’t make friends who are comfortable to be with. Make friends who will force you to lever yourself up

Thomas J. Watson

Seek out others that challenge your thinking.The reality is that many times the greatest support and inspiration for an entrepreneur does not come from family or friends, but rather from fellow entrepreneurs – especially the ones who practice: Tough Love!

Successful people are always learning, while poor people feel they have learned enough already.

Recommended Inspiration:

The Richest Man in Town: The Twelve Commandments of Wealth

Entrepreneurial Mindset Masterclass

Final Thoughts on Life, Love, Everything!

# Remember it is health that is real wealth and not pieces of gold and silver

The capacity to recover and heal is natures greatest gift. I have not always made the best decisions with regards to my health and fitness (That breakthrough is a more recent event) but the amazing thing is that despite on occasion treating my body very badly it has always fought back and I have recovered – from deaths door on at least one occasion.

Now of course we should treat our bodies better, watch what we eat and exercise regularly. As Mahatma Gandhi said:

“It is health that is real wealth and not pieces of gold and silver.”

# It is human nature to be kind, helpful and generous

Some will not agree – but it is my experience that it is human nature to be helpful and generous and that includes your customers and even your competitors.

It is amazing how helpful people will be if you give them a chance. Even unhappy customers whom you have let down will help you and work with you if you give them a chance.

Always approach conflict positively and with a kind heart. It makes a difference.

# Successful entrepreneurs make every second count

successful entrepreneurs make every second countsuccessful entrepreneurs make every second count

What do you think is the most important trait in an entrepreneur?

Are there any important ones that I have missed?

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Author Bio:
“Barry“BarryBarry Dunlop is a lifelong Entrepreneur, Business Coach and Sales Turnaround Expert who is passionate about helping business owners grow their businesses and make a positive change in the world. You can contact Barry HERE or connect with Barry on LinkedIn