That’s the grand vision I had as a college student when I founded my company, InChek. I was listening to a lot of resources from Brian Tracy, a well-known authority on the development of human potential and personal effectiveness.
He advised young entrepreneurs to envision how much money they wanted to make each year. At the time, I only had $250 to my name, allowing me to buy my first fax machine for $99 on clearance. An annual income of $50,000 seemed unfathomably large, and a cruise seemed like the ultimate symbol of the ‘CEO lifestyle’.
Now, with many more years of entrepreneurship under my belt, my vision for life and business has evolved. I’ve learned a lot through my experiences and my mistakes, and I see now more than ever how important a strong vision is to success.
Here are five things I’d tell my younger self about casting a vision for your future.
Never let your mindset limit your vision.
Today, my original vision of $50,000 and a cruise seems laughably modest. I didn’t realize how small that vision was until I connected with an investment banker and listened to the way he talked about money.
While my mind was stuck on five figures, he casually talked about sums in the millions. He was the first really successful person I’d ever known, and he showed me that vision and mindset are inextricable. You have to think on a grand scale to do grand things. My limited mindset had been holding me back, but when I let myself consider greater possibilities, my vision suddenly grew.
Find a mentor you respect.
One reason so many young entrepreneurs allow their mindset to limit their vision is due to a narrow scope of experience. That’s why finding a mentor is essential. An older, more experienced perspective will open your eyes and help you identify business obstacles before they block your progress.
Look for a mentor who will see your strengths and weaknesses, tell you hard truths, and keep you from wasting time and energy; most importantly, find someone whose life represents much of what you want in your own life. A great mentor will also help you make key connections. Without my mentor, I’d never have met the investment banker who helped me think big.
Manifest your vision.
I’m a strong believer in manifesting your vision. This means focusing on what you want and putting that intention out into the universe, as well as writing it out and verbalizing it. The final piece in that equation is to take an action step because taking the first step will allow the next steps to become clear.
That might sound like a load of crap, but even if you don’t believe it, the mere act of focusing will prime your subconscious mind to jump on opportunities. In the past, I struggled to set clear goals. I tried to do too many things at once and lost focus. Manifesting my vision has helped me articulate my goals and recognize opportunities.
Don’t hold too tightly to the ‘how’.
My mentor once told me, “You’re clearly on this path, but don’t become attached to the manifestation of this path.” It took me a long time to figure out what he meant, but as I’ve grown, I’ve realized that a vision must be dynamic — not static — and that the path to fruition is even more dynamic.
Hold onto your vision, but let the path to it open up however it does. If I were attached to the original vision and its manifestation, I’d have stopped expanding my business the moment my income hit $50,000 a year.
For example, when I first started InChek, our company focused primarily on recovering funds from bounced checks. This delivered a fair amount of business for years, but around 2008, our volume started to decline. If I had held tightly onto my original model, we would have been trying to survive on a rapidly melting iceberg. Instead, I gave my vision room to grow and change. InChek pivoted to credit card processing and was able to continue expanding.
Make a life, not just a living.
Generally, if you ask an entrepreneur about his or her vision, you’re likely to hear an answer about yearly profits, number of employees, and the percentage of market share. But the reason most entrepreneurs launch companies is about more than just business. Entrepreneurship isn’t just making a living; it’s also making a life.
Remember how my original vision included a cruise? It wasn’t the cruise itself that mattered to me; it was the lifestyle that the cruise represented. I have many interests and hobbies, and part of the reason I wanted to build a company was to pursue my other passions, including martial arts, EMS, firefighting, and travel. And because I can’t stay in one place, I wanted to create a lifestyle that included multiple places. My company allows me this flexibility and lifestyle.
As a young entrepreneur, you may feel like your business is the be-all and end-all, but I encourage you to expand that vision. Find powerful, honest mentors, and manifest a vision that will give you not only the business you want, but also the life you want. Remember, the business is the means to what you want; it’s not the end in and of itself — unless your vision for your life only includes business goals.