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Recently I was talking to a fellow entrepreneur, who shared with me a very interesting statistic.

You’ve probably heard that 80% of small businesses fail within 3 years, maybe you’ve had one or two fail, but have you ever wondered why?

According to this study, the reason most start-ups fail has nothing to do with the business idea or the business model.

Chances are, your idea IS good.

Reality is, your model is JUST fine.

The reason businesses fail is the entrepreneur doesn’t stay MOTIVATED.

Deadlines aren’t met, projects are drawn out forever, and eventually the business crashes.

So how do you stay motivated?

What is this secret?

You might have tried tricking yourself into staying motivated, just to find it doesn’t work. Here are some common “tricks” that I’ve found are NOT very effective.

Trick 1: Remembering what got you into business in the first place.

Though this might seem like a great way to motivate yourself, it’s actually terribly ineffective.

When you first started your business you started because you believed you could do it. You had high expectations.

However, now that you’ve started, your expectations hit the cold hard stone called reality. Things didn’t lay out in front of you the way you expected. And now that it’s looking more difficult to achieve your dreams you start to slow down.

Even if you try to believe in your dream again, it’s not the same. You can’t, because you have new information now. Real information.

Trick 2: Just do it.

“Just doing it” is essentially acting without having motivation. It’s essentially shutting off the part of your brain that bases decisions on past experience, then re-evaluating after the act.

This is a two-sided coin, because if you get results, the technique worked.

However, if you don’t, you are thrown into even deeper disappointment because now you took an irrational risk and it failed.

“Just doing it” is often a last ditch effort, and can be an extremely frustrating experience if it doesn’t work.

So what is the trick to staying motivated? And subsequently having success in your business as well?

There is a trick. And it works extremely well. And it has worked amazingly well in my businesses.

Here it is:

The secret to staying motivated: Leverage past successes.

Leveraging success is to use your past victories to your advantage.

It’s a type of motivation based on real past experience. And it’s a motivation that happens naturally and is completely rational.

Compare it to the other two strategies:

Remembering what got you into business is based on dashed ideals. Leveraging success is based on real results.

“Just doing it” is a form of irrational hoping. Leveraging success is a form of rational knowing.

Let’s take a look at how it works.

There are two parts to this technique: having success, and leveraging it.

Obviously before you can leverage success, you need to HAVE success. However once you have it, leveraging success is a very powerful thing.

Consider the following:

How do you feel when you accomplish something. Don’t you feel good? Don’t you feel like you could take on the world? You could talk to anyone, do anything.

When you feel this way, do you feel like you could start a business? 100% yes, no problem.

This feeling of confidence is described as “the winner effect,” and has been the basis for many psychological studies. Whenever you win, your body releases testosterone into your body, which in turn increases your confidence. With increased confidence comes more successes, and the cycle repeats itself.

You might have noticed this in sports, where an athlete is just “on fire.”

Or you’ve probably noticed this in yourself, those days where you just feel on top of everything. And you win all the time.

This is a very good state to be in.

These are the effects of success, so what does it mean to leverage success?

Unfortunately, we don’t always experience success 100% of the time. We have failures, shortcomings, maybe at times even loads of failures. At times it seems like the entire world is against us and rooting for our downfall.

Fortunately for us, we have an incredible tool called empathy. When success isn’t staring us in the face, we have a back up plan, it’s called past successes.

Empathy is the ability to feel what other people are feeling. And it is the same ability that allows us to relive past experiences. Including past successes.

When we empathize, our bodies literally trigger the same emotions that we would experience if we were experiencing the situation in person.

When we relive our past failures, we feel sad. When we relive our past problems, we feel frustrated. And when we relive our past success we feel… you guessed it… “the winner effect.”

And that is how you stay motivated.

It’s easy to stay motivated when success is just happening. Anyone can do that.

The trick is to stay motivated in the rough times, and every business goes through them. And the trick to getting through them is to leverage past successes.

And once you’ve taken a moment to really relive your past successes, you’ll find that you are suddenly ready to take on your new challenges.

Barriers to leveraging past successes:

Hopefully you are now excited to start leveraging past successes and to keep yourself motivated like never before.

However, there are a few attitudes that can put a mental block on your ability to leverage success. Keep these in mind and avoid them.

“Been there, done that.” – This is literally when a person decides that a past success is no longer a success. This is illogical and a lie, a success is always a success. It is also a form of manipulation used to either extract consolation from other people (i.e. “My life is so terrible!” is another way of saying “none of my successes count!”) or to give the appearance of having a larger status than one actually has (i.e. “Meh, that was no big deal”) in which case they are in the process of nulling their ability to leverage that success ( pretty soon they will believe it WASN’T a big deal. )

Comparing – This is when a person compares their success with the results of someone else’s success, and determines that they should no longer leverage their success because of it. Again, this is a lie and an indication that the person isn’t being completely honest with themselves. A success is always a success. It’s akin to winning a game of basketball, receiving a trophy, then after the fact deciding that the game should have been played by the rules of soccer, which means everyone played terribly, and subsequently taking away your trophy. If you win by your set of rules, don’t cancel your win after the fact because someone else is playing a different game.

Now is more important than then – Similar to “Been there, done that.” This is the mental attitude that only present successes matter, and all past successes are irrelevant. If the person with this attitude is currently in a success dry spell, their motivation will be sucked away because they will have no past successes to leverage.

Then is more important than now – This is the opposite of the previous attitude. This is when a person gives complete credence to a past success, such that no future successes are allowed to feel exciting. Since they are shutting off their ability to empathize with the new, they tend to be isolated socially because no one will join them in admitted their random past success was the only thing worthwhile.

At this point, I hope I’ve given you plenty of ideas to think about, as well as plenty of tools to keep yourself motivated and leveraging your successes!

If this article has been game changing for you, share your thoughts in the comments below!

  • Gordon Bean

    What are some examples of how you have used past successes to stay motivated?

    • Zach Smith

      Gordan, a great example from my persona life is the success I had with my first company, Epic Profit Group, LLC. I’m constantly using this as leverage and motivation to create new businesses and grow existing businesses.

      Often, when you’re building a business, it’s easy to get lost with all that is involved. However, when you have an established, former pattern for success, in my case, Epic Profit Group, it’s much easier to know the next steps involved.

  • Tj

    Would it be like keeping a positive journal and read it every now and then to help remind yourself of what you had achieved and can achieve if you do your best and stay positive…

    • Zach Smith

      TJ, yes, that’s a great idea. But, it’s more than just reading. It’s studying out your past successes, in your mind and then leveraging those past successes so that you can “push on” to newer and greater successes. Reflect on how you made your first dollar, how you wrote your first article, how you obtained your first job, etc., then, apply those same principles to achieve new heights.

  • Scott Wiser

    Wow, what a helpful article! Thank You! Leveraging past successes has given me more motivation and more ability to push toward my full potential. I’ve been working on this new animated shot which has a section that has been “throwing me for a loop.” By sorting through past solutions, I not only found motivation to push it to the max, but I also though up a solution I’m going to try today. Also, as I’ve been searching for a job for quite awhile, I could either describe my current situation as “unemployed” or “considered by studios all over the industry, pushing my work 40+ hours a week, seeking every opportunity to collaborate. The first describe may invoke pity (or worse, the must-be-lazy judgement), but the latter works wonders … so there’s no question as to which approach I’m choosing. By leveraging past successes, I FEEL and AM successful!

    • Zach Smith

      Scott, wonderful observations and insight! Thanks so much for sharing. By continuing to leverage your past successes, no matter how small, bigger success will come. I can guarantee it!

  • Rainer Proksch

    Great article. Yes it really motivates us when we think about the past success and how we achieved it. This will help us in achieving success in any task that we undertake. This is something that no one will ever think of. Thank for sharing.
    - Rainer Proksch (mconception)

    • Zach Smith

      Rainer, thanks for your comment! You’re exactly right. Sometimes, the best way to motivate oneself is to leverage the sometimes simple, often overlooked “mini-successes” of our past.

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