What It Takes to Become a Successful Entrepreneur

By Dean Yeong on December 12, 2016

In my previous article of 2016 progress review and integrity report, I summarized entrepreneurship in three sentences.

First, entrepreneurship is not for everyone. Second, entrepreneurship is not an all-glory journey. Finally, entrepreneurship is not a sprint but a marathon.

To become an entrepreneur is not hard at all, all you need to do is to declare yourself as one and start selling something. True right? Probably. However, to become a true entrepreneur, especially a successful one, is not easy at all. The journey is tough.

13 Beliefs and Habits of Successful Entrepreneurs

After studying many successful entrepreneurs of all kinds – investors, traders, startup founders, freelancers, teachers, writers, there are certain beliefs, mindsets, and habits all of them have in common.

They are attention conscious

One of the most sacred resources of all entrepreneurs is their attention. Successful entrepreneurs are conscious with where and how they distribute their attention because they know regardless how wealthy and successful they are, their attention is limited. Mark Zuckerberg and Steve Jobs wear the same outfit in most public appearance, because the only thing they care about is how to grow their business and impact the world.

They manage their time by managing their emotions

Everyone can plan for the next day by allocating tasks into their schedule, but most entrepreneurs go beyond that. They do what they need to do even it makes them uncomfortable. They manage their emotions better than everyone else.

They embrace constraints

We want to believe we have total freedom, and we think more freedom makes us better off. The truth is the opposite. When some people naively want to have all the freedom, a small group of people embrace constraints. When they want all the glory, entrepreneurs embrace failures. When they want to be perfect, successful people embrace imperfections.

They take calculated risks

Average people take no risk, foolish people take stupid risks, smart experienced entrepreneurs take calculated risks. In most cases, entrepreneurs are not people who opt for security. They understand the fact that their desired breakthrough only comes with certain risks. Their job is not to avoid all risks at all cost, but to minimize and manage them wisely.

They focus on tiny marginal gains

There is no silver bullet idea that guarantees success in day one of execution. If someone told you so, it’s too good to be true. Instead of hoping for a huge breakthrough, entrepreneurs focus on the process. They take tiny actions and focus on small wins. And breakthrough happens when these small wins got compounded over time. This also comes back to building winning habits itself – it is never about what you do once, it is about what you do consistently.

They understand about delayed gratification

Most people failed because they give in to temptations or give up to challenges too quickly. Entrepreneurs learn and understand how to work hard and contribute more now before they even think about returns. Psychologist Walter Mischel proved the ability of delayed gratification contributes to one’s success later in life, in his Marshmallow Experiment held in the late 1960 and early 1970.

They are willing to learn and expand

Curiosity and the willingness to figure things out expand one’s reality. Read, experiment, learn, reflect. Successful entrepreneurs never stop learning, even from defeats and failures, and there is where they pick up the most important lesson.

They eliminate, delegate and automate

Successful entrepreneurs make it a habit of eliminating unimportant things in their life, delegating tasks to someone who can do the work better, then, automating repetitive decisions and tasks using available technologies and techniques. Then, they can spend time on breaking the old system to scale the business because they are the only one has the authority to do so.

They contribute before they even ask

This is an essential part that makes or breaks an entrepreneur. They find ways to provide value to others (their partners, team, customers) way before they even ask for anything in return.

They value true relationship

They know that they won’t achieve what they had today without their mentor, friends, partners and team members. Entrepreneurs don’t value all relationship, they are not here to please everyone. However, they value true and healthy relationship.

They are self-aware

They know who they are, they have defined vision, and they know their strengths and weaknesses. They understand and define their responsibilities, roles, and identity by regularly assessing and reflecting their performance and behaviors.

They understand how money works

They don’t fight the system, yet they don’t submit to the system. Successful entrepreneurs spend the time to understand how the system works and learn to work with it. They learn how to create values for their customers and then exchange it with money. And they don’t just spend money to buy assets, they buy assets that will eventually grow their business to help them make more money in return.

They think they are lucky

We’re experiencing hundreds of incidents and events in a day, a slight change of any outcome is going to turn your life to a very different path. And successful entrepreneurs believe they are lucky to be successful and feeling grateful for that.

The Definition of Entrepreneur is Expanding

I never want to coin the term entrepreneur as a small circle of people who run certain types of business with a certain amount of transaction. I see an entrepreneur as someone who invent and create, who thrive to make a positive impact on their community and work hard to create a freedom for themselves.

Is entrepreneur born or trained? This is always a difficult question to answer. Put this into my personal experience, I believe it can be both. There are certain traits in myself that come naturally, however, at the same time, there are many beliefs, habits, and skills are shaped by the environment after I decided to become one.

I guess the right thing to do is not to dwell on whether you’re born to become a successful entrepreneur or not, this happens when you are questioning the possibilities of your version of success.

Success, however you describe it, is achievable when you collect the right field-tested beliefs and habits. – Tim Ferriss

The purpose of this list here is not to belittle and discourage anyone who doesn’t possess these beliefs and habits. Instead, see it as a benchmark or a toolbox to help you and others acquire them (beliefs and habits) if necessary.


  1. This post was first published as an answer on Quora for the question: What are some of the habits entrepreneurs have that other people don’t?
  2. I had written about Stanford Marshmallow Experiment for a several time, you can read the brief of the experiment on the Wikipedia page.

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