Don’t you just love a good success story–the ones where someone is struggling with their career/family/life in general yet they come up with a brilliant idea, turn it into a business and have their story told in articles all over the internet?
What if that could be you?
I know not everyone wants to be an entrepreneur, but if you’re unhappy with your life, you want a way to build the life you’ve always dreamed about.
This month we chose The Lean Startup as our Science of People Book Club to learn from entrepreneur-extraordinaire Eric Ries what sets apart people who are able to build fulfilling lives for themselves from those who settle with being unsatisfied.
The purpose of The Lean Startup is to teach entrepreneurs how to be more innovative and build wildly successful businesses. However, we believe you can use the secrets of the most successful founders to radically change your life and accomplish your own big goals.
The 5 Secrets of Entrepreneurial and Life Success:
#1 You Are What You Learn
Eric Ries believes that the key to being innovative and successful is to be constantly learning.
However, he doesn’t mean absorbing as much information as possible. This leads to information overload and does nothing to help you in the long run.
In the book, Ries teaches what he calls “validated learning” which means not only learning but proving that what you have learned will play a valuable role in shaping your future.
To do this, you need to focus on learning the right information – things like identifying what responsibilities add the most value to your life and figuring out how you can do those better. Then, apply what you learn and make sure it actually improves your life.
#2 Hypothesis Test Your Entire Life
Unless you have a job that involves processing lots of data, you probably haven’t done hypothesis tests since a high school or college stats class. But don’t worry, there’s no need to bring out your graphing calculator, these hypothesis tests require zero math but will make a huge impact on your life.
Hypothesis testing is the idea that instead of coming up with a big plan and following it, you constantly come up with and test lots of small hypotheses about things in your life. This way, instead of finding out after you’ve invested lots of time in something that it’s not right, you can catch problems early on.
Here’s an example: Say you’ve tried getting in better shape off and on over the years but nothing seemed to work. This year though, you’re determined to succeed.
Option 1 is to blindly follow whatever the current fad is that’s supposedly guaranteed to help you drop ten pounds in two weeks and ensure you keep losing more.
Option 2 is to run a few hypothesis tests to see what actually works for you:
Hypothesis 1: You’re a morning person and there’s a nice trail near your house. You think you could develop a habit of running in the mornings and believe that it will help you meet your weight loss goals.
Do research to learn how long it takes to see results from running and do that as a test.
If you make progress, you’ve proven that running works for you. But if it doesn’t or you struggle to stick with the habit, start working on a second hypothesis.
Hypothesis 2: It was hard for you to stay motivated to go running alone. So, sign up for class at your local gym. Test to see if being with other people helps you be more motivated to succeed.
Keep creating and testing hypotheses until you find one that generates the results you want.
#3 Become Your Own MVP
I don’t mean Most Valuable Player though you should certainly strive for that too. I’m talking about becoming your own Minimum Viable Product.
A Minimum Viable Product is the simplest form that something can be in and still be considered technically complete.
In the book, Ries describes MVPs as the earliest product creation that a business can sell. He believes that for businesses to succeed, it’s critical for them to be willing to sell their early phase products, even though they’re not the best that they can be.
A lot of startups fail because they’re so obsessed with being ‘perfect’ that they don’t realize the full potential of the product until it’s too late either because they’ve run out of funding to sustain their business or because a competitor took over the niche they were going to occupy.
While you yourself aren’t a product, you can use this lesson by giving yourself permission to celebrate the milestones along the way of achieving your big goals. Doing so helps you see the progress that you are making and stop to reflect if the path you’re on is right for you.
#4 Discover Your Unique Keys to Productivity
A lot of productivity advice claims that there are certain universal things that anyone can do to become instantly more productive. However, just like no two startups can succeed by using the exact processes, there is no productivity advice that is guaranteed to work for everyone.
This is why instead of doing what everyone else is doing, Eric Ries says you can work smarter, not harder by creating plans that are personalized to your unique needs and preferences.
So, how do you do that?
Combine the skills of validated learning, hypothesis testing and embracing your MVP to make sure that everything you do is measurably moving you towards your goals.
#5 Your Secret Weapon: The Rule of Five
When all else fails and you’re dealing with a problem that you don’t even know how to begin solving, there is one tool you can always fall back on and that’s the Rule of Five.
The Rule of Five is simple: any time you are struggling with a complex problem, ask the question “Why?” five times. By the end of the exercise you’re almost guaranteed to have a better understanding of the issue and an easier starting point.
Here’s an example of the Rule of Five in action:
Problem: Lately you’ve been feeling unmotivated at work even though you love your job and colleagues.
- Why do you feel unmotivated?
Potential answer: I’m not really sure. For the last couple of months I have dreaded going to work.
2) Why do you dread going to work?
Potential answer: My work is boring and it feels like it has lost its meaning.
3) Why do you feel bored and like your work has lost its meaning?
Potential answer: When I first started working, everything was challenging and new and I miss that excitement.
4) Why is your work no longer challenging?
Potential answer: I’ve become really good at my job and there isn’t much that I don’t already know how to do.
5) Why don’t you pursue an opportunity that gives you more chances to grow so you can feel excited by your work again?
Potential answer and your solution: I hadn’t considered that. Maybe I can talk to my boss to see if there are any openings for a promotion or look for new jobs outside of my current company.
You can use the Rule of Five in any situation to help you get to the core of what the actual problem is. It also works great with other people. If someone ever comes to you with an issue that you don’t know how to solve, asking them “Why?” questions is a great way to figure out how you can help them.
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