Daily habits and routines lay the foundation for long-term entrepreneurial success. The Greek philosopher Aristotle touches upon ideas beneficial to all entrepreneurs. Whether it’s content marketing or utilizing habits as the prerequisite for excellence. Aristotle has entrepreneurship covered.
"We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act but a habit." Aristotle
Entrepreneurship is fundamentally creative. Like artists, entrepreneurs create businesses and lifestyles which previously do not exist. Their craft are their businesses while their masterpieces innovate and positively affect their communities.
The daily habits of history's great minds from Mason Curry’s book Daily Habits offers glimpses into how one intentionally cultivates a lifestyle which facilitates success. Despite obvious differences in temperament, environment and experience - successful creators and artists share common threads. They always put in daily work (or try to) regardless of commitments or circumstances. They display acute awareness of their own unique strengths and weaknesses, adjusting accordingly. Lastly, they hone in and utilize the powers of intentional focus to accomplish what needs to be done.
Inspiration is for Amateurs
A popular myth is that of the inspired artist. Flashes of brilliance and voila! Pure gold. Entrepreneurial success stories perpetuate such fairy tales - overnight successes and magical ideas plucked out of thin air.
American composer George Gershwin emphasized the virtues of hustle and consistency over creative whim. "He was dismissing of inspiration, saying that if he waited for the muse he would compose at most three songs a year." Gershwin harnessed the mindset of competitive athletes, claiming that "like the pugilist, the songwriter must always keep in training."
Successful people live the daily grind, treating their work with reverence and respect. Entrepreneurs embody their passions. But It's not always sunshine and rainbows. The word passion comes from the Latin passio - suffering. Following a passion involves a journey through suffering. Building tolerance of suffering through daily habits increases one’s chances of success. In the face of adversity and uncertainty, successful entrepreneurs persist anyway.
No matter their lifestyle, those featured in Daily Rituals crafted their daily routines for the sake of their work. Choices are consciously made to optimize one’s ability to go full throttle on their chosen craft. Surprisingly, artists notorious as larger than life characters often live rather mundane daily lives. They streamlined their lives to minimize decision fatigue to perform and execute at the highest level.
Recognizing one's strengths and shortcomings is invaluable within any creative context. Entrepreneurship is no exception. French novelist Honore de Balzac swears by "orgies of work punctuated by orgies of relaxation and pleasure." Truman Capote claims to be "a completely horizontal author" who is only productive while lying down with cigarettes and coffee. Charles Dickens oscillates between completing two thousand words a day and hardly writing anything. But he sticks to his work hours without fail.
One of the book's most valuable insights is that what works for one person may be entirely inapplicable to somebody else. Great minds tailor their habits in accordance with their unique personalities to best increase the chances of success. A staunch anti-night owl, W.H Auden claimed that "only the 'Hitlers of the world' work at night; no honest artist does." Then there's Thomas Wolfe, merrily beginning his writing at midnight and "priming himself with awesome quantities of tea and coffee."
A theme of work-life integration occurs throughout the book. Despite going all in, many artists recognize the impossibility of working non-stop all the time. Various artists engage in activities which seem unrelated to their craft at surface level, but are fundamentally important in ensuring sustainable productivity. Daily exercise, long meditative walks, life-affirming naps and even scheduled socializing appear sporadically throughout the book.
Success has no one-size-fits-all magic pill. Knowledge of self is crucial. Don't fall into the trap of imitating entrepreneurial heroes play by play. Inspiration is powerful but imitation leads to sub-par copies. History's great minds only seem predestined to succeed in retrospect. But they're fundamentally not that different from everyone else.
Everybody battles procrastination, everybody leans toward certain areas and struggles miserably in others. All part and parcel of being human.
In a world awash with distraction and information overload, focus is a skill that's more important than ever. With urgent tasks bombarding entrepreneurs from all sides, many face an uphill struggle creating order out of chaos. Which actions actually help entrepreneurial success? Which actions chase empty distractions and vanity metrics?
Focusing on what needs to be done is only half the battle. As numerous artists in Daily Rituals attest, the struggle involves actively choosing not to waste time and energy pursuing bells and whistles. Unfortunately, being busy for the sake of being busy is an over achiever's best friend.
Busy-ness is a short term drug that's unsustainable in the long run. Successful people focus on and prioritize what really matters. Filmmaker Ingmar Bergman for instance eats the same lunch every day, "a strange kind of baby food...with corn flakes" to minimize wasted time deciding what to eat so that he focuses on his work and craft.
A key element of focus is the ability to blend theoretical knowledge with actionable steps. Theory is useless without action, while action can be easily misdirected without knowledge. Decide what to focus on and then promptly throw analysis paralysis out the window.
Inspiration is for amateurs. Know thyself and focus. Start now.
Quotes in this piece are drawn from from Mason Currey's "Daily Rituals".