Ron Gibori
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The future is inevitable, and the direction we take in 2020 may depend on how clearly we can see our lessons from the past.

For most, the turn of a new year is a time of reflection. Personally, as we approached another new year — and this time around, a new decade — I couldn’t help but reflect on the last ten years as an entrepreneur.

It’s taken me some time to truly understand the lessons I learned as an entrepreneur over the previous decade, but it’s crystal clear now.

Entrepreneurship should be a lifestyle, not a life sentence.

We set out to build empires, but sometimes build prisons instead. At first, they look the same. But over time the difference is obvious. One thing is continuous in prison, you’re trying to get your life back. Entrepreneurship should be a life of freedom and fulfillment. Don’t make the mistake of locking yourself up in your business.

A lifestyle entrepreneur starts with the question “What type of life do I want?” before they ask “What kind of business do I want?”

Run your business instead of it running you.

If you don’t make yourself the priority, no one will.

If you find yourself making the last priority you–because you think it will result in a reward of some kind–then you’re going to be sorely disappointed. I used to tell myself that in the long-run, I will reap the rewards to justify the means. I know now that isn’t the case. It’s an entrepreneurial belief that is deeply rooted in so many aspiring entrepreneurs that I feel like I will never be able to convince people there is another way.

It’s a habit that needs to stop. It’s impossible to be successful as an entrepreneur feeling depleted. There is no way around it. Your business will only suffer or fail if you’re left feeling bankrupt; financially, physically, mentally or otherwise. To be successful and happy as an entrepreneur, you have to take care of yourself first.

In the short-term, entrepreneurship can seem like a zero-sum game. Your life shouldn’t.

Pay yourself what you are worth, not what you need.

There are two choices when it comes to deciding how much to pay yourself. The first is paying yourself enough to get by and the second is paying yourself what you are worth. As an entrepreneur, if your paychecks are few and far between you will find yourself using every dollar you have just to keep going. Trust me, if that’s the case then being an entrepreneur won’t make you very happy. Once you recognize that you have to be in business to make money or you can’t keep serving your client, you will become the priority.

Your business should be providing more than just dribs and drabs after all of its expenses have been paid. It should be giving you financial freedom. To do that, it is not enough to “take the owner’s draw” after everything else has been paid. Your salary needs to be an intentional, non-negotiable, documented line item in the company budget. Not an afterthought.

Remember, you started the company at least in part to help yourself. Paying yourself first is one of the best ways you can accomplish that.

Treat your health an investment as opposed to just another expense.

If you’re surviving on four hours of sleep a night and a diet of coffee and fast food, you’re not going to achieve much as an entrepreneur. As entrepreneurs, we often treat our bodies terribly in exchange for success. You’ll most likely use everything you earned with your hard work to pay for your health. Your health needs to be treated as a premium investment as opposed to being written off as just another expense.

Placing your physical health on the back burner will eventually be the end of you and your business in the long run.

Trying to be involved in everything is just a road to ruin.

Surround yourself with talented people. All of those first hires, partners, co-founders need to be people you think are going to be equally devoted to realizing the dream. Those who fail to build them will either have to join them, or not be able to keep up. The best thing you can do is to start building the right team. Be an effective and successful leader and lead from the front. Remember, you’re a business owner. Work like one.

A business can’t grow until an entrepreneur is ready to hand over some control. Control is a sacrifice every entrepreneur has to be not only prepared, but eager to make.

Your only hope as a founder is to get some really brilliant people on board that share the vision and the mission, and then, frankly, get out of their way.

The biggest killer of entrepreneurs is not what you would expect.

It’s not a failure, the economy, or bad ideas. It’s doubt — in ourselves, our surroundings, and our abilities. Self-doubt kills entrepreneurs, long before any external factors can come into play. You have to have a healthy mindset to be fearless as an entrepreneur. I know for a fact that successful entrepreneurs think and act in similar ways — no matter how different we are as individuals — they think like entrepreneurs.

Mindset is king. In fact, it’s all you have in this life. Everything else can be taken from you in an instant. Whether you choose to become an entrepreneur like me or something else entirely, the lessons hold true.

Forget it and things will end quickly.

The message that I want you to take away from this article regarding your personal and business goals as an entrepreneur is very simple — you will not be successful as an entrepreneur if you’re constantly running on fumes.

We have no idea how much time we’ll be given in this life. The path of entrepreneurship is fraught with challenges, detours, and unexpected hurdles. It can be so full of twists and turns that in the long-run, no one circumstance matters nearly as much as we may be led to think.

No one said being an entrepreneur would be easy, but it doesn’t need to be a struggle. You’ve chosen entrepreneurship as your path, so stick to it. Forget about the failures and mistakes of the past decade and focus on the possibilities the next ten years have to offer.

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