Success is in your DNA
Starting my own business, to me, is about fulfilling my values as a person, and I believe, to be successful in anything, that’s where one must always begin.
Let me explain.
Until recently, in the anthropological sense, humans lived in small nomadic tribes of about 100 to 150 member. If a tribe got bigger than that, it probably split into two tribes. There was no commerce, no trade among tribal member. From all the evidence we have, most anthropologist believe there wasn’t even a concept of ownership. What there was, was a sense of belonging to a community.
Alone any individual member of a tribe didn’t stand much of a chance for long term survival. Humans, compared to other animals, are slow, weak and ill equipped to fight or defend ourselves from the elements. But collectively, when we combine both our intelligence and skills, we are the most formidable species on the planet.
This lead to two important evolutionary traits in humans: the drive to be part of a community and the drive to be of service to our community. These are survival traits. Without our community, we would die, but without us – the individual – the community will go on, we need them more than they need us.
These drives are still part of our DNA. When we understand this, we can use that fact to fulfill our own dreams. Harnessing these primal needs helps us become motivated, it helps us overcome challenges, and it prevents most of the psychological traps that either stop people from succeeding or lead them to destroying their own success through self-sabotage.
If asked, I think most would be entrepreneurs would say they are motivated by money, especially if they are less than well off. But how many times have people said they were going to start a business and never followed through, in spite of their dreams of wealth? How many MLM’s have people joined and dropped out of? You probably know (or maybe you are) someone who constantly comes up with the next great business idea, only to do nothing and later see someone else succeed with the same idea. Why is this?
Because money isn’t a primal driver. Money is a reality of the world we live in today, no arguing that, and the more you have, the greater freedom and more options you have. But it isn’t the money itself that drives you, its what the money gets you that drives you.
At first, most people think of being wealthy as a way to buy stuff, big houses, fancy cars, etc. But even those are serving a more primal purpose than simple wealth. Expensive possession are a way of signaling our worth so that other people will like us. That kind of conspicuous spending is about proving to the human tribe that we are worth having around. It all comes down to ensuring our community sees value in keeping us around. Its a primal instinct we never cease working to fulfil, even if our efforts are misguided.
Money serves the drive of belonging. Unfortunately, we see too often how this approach fails. We want to belong, to be recognized and accepted, so we seek out wealth and status at any cost, and in the end, if obtained, we are unfulfilled and begin engaging in self-destructive behaviors. Why? Because our approach to fulfilling that basic survival need was only half formed, it was missing the other half – servings our tribe.
On the other had, we all love a rags-to-riches story, right? When you look around and see the most successful people who broke through in spite of all the odds, there is invariably a common theme: Service.
In many cases, its a basic need to provide for their family, or even themselves. But once that need is met, they continue to grow. Always, in every single case, that growth continues because whatever product or service they are offering is of value and improves the lives of other people beyond themselves.
That’s marketing 101: fill a need. If I tried to sell you a widget by telling you you’re buying it would make me rich, you probably wouldn’t buy it. But if I tell you buying it will improve your life, now you’re interested.
This ability to sell anything, whatever it is, is amplified by your own basic belief in the thing. If you don’t believe in what you’re selling, you will be a terrible salesperson. I know, I’ve signed up to sell everything from knives to legal services, and failed at all of them. But the moment I stumbled on something that I knew, absolutely, without a doubt, totally KNEW made people’s lives better, I sold the hell out of it without even trying. When wanted them to have it so bad I would give it away if I could, I had no shortage of customers.
That kind of passion is infectious. When your product or service genuinely improves the lives of people, they sell it for you. They tell other people, they become repeat customers. And,more importantly, they value you for it. By being of genuine value to your community, you automatically gain the status you are driven to seek.
My point is this: To succeed, you must put both the core primal drivers in alignment. You’re goal is not money, its being part of a community. Your goal is not sales, its being of service to your community. Getting paid for whatever it is you sell is a byproduct of fulfilling those two primal drives.
When a big company comes into a new market and splashes advertisements all over the place, it tends to create resentment in the community. People fight the building of new big box stores, worried (rightfully) that it will force small local businesses to close.
But when a member of that community creates a business that is tailored specifically to the wants and needs of the people around them, people flock to it, even it its not fancy and well organized and funded – and people will pay more for the community based business than they will for the big chain. (Its mostly when small local business try to compete on price with big corps that they lose – again, because they lost sight of the original twin drives.)
How do you know if you’re business is serving your community? Unless you’re a clinical sociopath, without empathy, you’ll know by looking at your customers and seeing them fulfilled by your service or product. You’ll know because your customers will refer and recommend you to others. You’ll know because your community will drive further and pay more for you rather than the competition.
When I began coaching, after being encouraged by several friends, I was not really sure I could do it (why is a whole other topic for another post). But I took classes, got prepared and found my first client. On day one, we sat and I listened to her goals, and outlined a plan for working together and gave her an assignment. It was clear from the start she was unhappy with her life at the moment, and also unsure of the value of my services – to be honest, I had my own doubts. I had always been able to help my friends, but to do it professionally? Could that really work?
One week later, when she arrived for our meeting, she was positively glowing. She could not stop talking about the assignment, and how it impacted her thinking. This pattern continued week after week, every week her attitude and demeanor getting happier and more confident. She reached her goal and our sessions ended… for only a few weeks, then she came back, wanting more because of how valuable she found them.
It was one of the most fulfilling moments I’ve ever experienced. I was being told in no uncertain terms that my time and effort were of great value to another person, and that impacted her life. Plus, she was willing to pay me to continue providing them to her! Both of my primal drives were being met, and the money was almost besides the point.
When she brought me a new client, and I witnessed the same changes in him and improvements in his life, I knew: This is what I must do! This is how I serve my community.
Yes, I want money, I want freedom, I want to walk away from my unfulfilling job. I have a lot to learn about marketing and growing my business and it takes most of my time and energy at the moment. But I have no problem finding the motivation, setting aside time I used to spend relaxing, watching movies, playing games. Those things don’t even interest me now, because I have a real purpose behind the drudgery of starting a business.
Everyday I wake up and am ready to dive back in until I have to go to work at my “regular job” because I know why I’m doing this. Money, freedom, success – those things will come when I have served my community well. I do not worry about losing them once I have them, or losing the motivation to push past the sticking points, because my thought is not “can I do this” but rather “people – my people, my community, my tribe -will suffer if I don’t do this!”
I don’t know what your business should be, I’m not you. But I do know that unless and until you dig down to how your business makes you part of a community and truly serves that community, your path to succeeding will be far, far more difficult and less likely to succeed.
What is your community? How do you serve them?