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9 Rules For Life From The World's Most Successful Entrepreneurs


Barnaby Lashbrooke

Founder and CEO of Time etc, author of The Hard Work Myth

10 minute read

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It's no secret that the world's wealthiest people are entrepreneurs, and the recent Forbes' real-time billionaires list proves it. From Mark Zuckerberg to Warren Buffett, these self-made moguls have reached the top and stayed there because they've figured out what works—and what doesn't.

That's why we've gathered some sage advice from entrepreneurs who have “been there, done that” and are sharing the integral habits, techniques, and lessons learned that have helped them get to where they are today.

So buckle up and get ready to discover some of the tricks necessary to succeed in life and business, straight from people who have mastered the game!

1. Plan Your Schedule Around Your Energy — Jeff Bezos

You would think that the most successful entrepreneurs have rushed days, juggling tasks and meetings back-to-back. But as Jeff Bezos, founder of Amazon, shows, it's the opposite.

As a successful entrepreneur, he knows that productivity is key, and it’s impossible to be productive if you don’t have the necessary energy to power your body and mind. That's why he plans his schedule around his energy, tackling his most difficult or impactful tasks during his peak performance times.

When speaking at the Economic Club of Washington, D.C., about his typical day, the Amazon CEO said he likes to “putter" in the morning. He drinks coffee, reads the newspaper, and makes breakfast for his family before starting work or his first meeting at 10 a.m.

Jeff schedules all high-IQ meetings before lunchtime since this is when he has the most brain power. He knows it gets harder to make decisions later in the day due to decision fatigue. So, if anything important crops up after 5 p.m., he’ll wait until 10 a.m. the following day, when he’s fully rested and recharged.

By taking a leaf out of Jeff's book and paying close attention to your natural energy flows throughout the day, you can be sure you're getting the most out of every hour of your day, and that your most important tasks get the focus and attention they deserve.

2. Ruthlessly Prioritize Your Time — Warren Buffett

You may notice a common theme among these uber-successful individuals is that they take great care in deciding how their time and energy are spent each day. The CEO of Berkshire Hathaway, Warren Buffett, puts this into perspective through a quote that has garnered a lot of controversy over the years. “Really successful people say no to almost everything.”

Say no to almost everything? Is it even possible if you're an entrepreneur looking to pounce on every opportunity?

According to Buffett, yes. But that doesn't mean you have to stop networking, trying new things, or collaborating with others. For him, it's all about prioritizing and focusing only on what's important. It's about knowing what to say no to simplify your life and maintain your sanity.

Warren Buffet's ex-pilot, Michael Flint, shared a three-step process demonstrating Buffett's prioritization philosophy. The first step involves writing down 25 goals on a piece of paper. The second step is to go through these 25 goals, circling five of the most important ones.

At this point, you will have two lists: list A, which comprises the five items you have circled, and list B, comprising the 20 items you didn’t circle. In the final steps, you should label list B comprising the 20 goals, as your "Avoid-At-All-Cost list." This means that no matter what may happen, these goals should receive no attention until you’ve achieved each of the goals on your list A.

3. Don’t Be Afraid To Delegate — Richard Branson

Whether it's a feature you've seen on television, read in a newspaper, or even stumbled upon online, chances are you’ve encountered at least one "inspiring story" of how one successful person started their company from scratch and single-handedly made it a roaring success.

And when it comes to running your business, taking on all the tasks yourself can make sense initially. But the truth is, this approach will ultimately become a major hurdle on your path to success, limiting your potential for expansion and growth in the long run.

This is where Richard Branson, the founder of Virgin Group, steps in with his advice about delegation. When speaking about the secrets to his success in entrepreneurship, he said, “When my friends and I started up Virgin, I knew that I was lacking vital knowledge on some subjects, and so I started learning (delegation) very early on in my career.” Branson credits his first accountant, Jack, and other people like him for using their skills, most of which he didn't have, to help him grow his empire.

The takeaway here is that you don't have to—nor should you—handle everything yourself. Think about all the moving parts of your business that need to run smoothly for your business to thrive. With customer service, sales, digital marketing, content creation, business admin, and so much more that needs to be done on a daily basis, you can’t be everything to everyone. One particularly effective solution is to outsource some of your tasks to virtual assistants.

Remember, you are the best person to grow your business and cannot be replaced as its founder, visionary, innovator, and creative lead. The more time and energy you can free up with fewer tasks on your plate, the more you can dedicate to putting your strengths to use and taking your business to the next level.

4. Slow Down And Take Breaks — Arianna Huffington

From an early age, parents, teachers, and society at large have instilled in us the belief that hard work is the surest route to success, i.e. “anything is possible if you work hard enough”. Naturally, we all want to succeed, so we're willing to accept a life of "hard work" and sacrifice if that's what it takes for us to achieve it. And more often than not, this takes the form of long working hours.

One thing many entrepreneurs are shocked to learn is that the "I'll sleep when I'm dead!" mentality does much more to harm your business than it does to help it.

The founder of The Huffington Post, Arianna Huffington, learned this the hard way when she collapsed from exhaustion and broke her cheekbone.

Since then, Arianna has been a staunch advocate for rest and recovery as essential to success. In one of her blog posts, she writes: “Living a life in which we work all the time and never prioritize recharging simply isn't sustainable -- not for individuals, and not for companies either.”

In another post, Huffington cites the findings of scientific studies to emphasize the benefits of resting. According to these studies, "we perform better, we think better, and we make better decisions when we're refreshed and well-rested." She even references a study that found that sleep deprivation has cognitive effects on the same level as being drunk.

Her advice is simple: slow down and make time for yourself. Instead of pushing yourself to the brink of exhaustion, take breaks and allow yourself to rest and recover. This way, you can be more productive when it matters most.

5. Schedule Time For Solitude — Bill Gates

We all need some time for ourselves now and then. We can reflect, make sense of the world, and develop groundbreaking ideas that can shape our lives in ways we never thought possible. Microsoft founder, Bill Gates, understands this better than anyone else.

In the 1980s, he started taking “think weeks.” For seven days, he would retreat to a secluded forest cabin in the Pacific Northwest and spend time reading papers submitted by his employees.

The papers often contained new ideas he could analyze and turn into something revolutionary. These periods of uninterrupted, distraction-free time eventually led to the birth of the groundbreaking Internet Explorer.

Gates' example shows that spending time alone benefits your mental health and helps you find new insights. But you don't have to own a forest cabin to reap solitude's benefits.

You only need a few minutes a day to disconnect from the world and its distractions. Your ideas will come to you faster, and life-changing epiphanies can easily take form in your mind when you put aside the noise and focus on yourself. Who knows? You might just come up with the next big thing.

See: Why Scheduling Creative Time Is Crucial For Success

6. Ditch Perfectionism — Mark Zuckerberg

The idea of trying to do everything perfectly can be a real burden. It's like chasing the wind—you can never quite catch it. Instead of aiming for perfection, you should be striving for progress.

Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg understands this concept very well. His mantra is the famous phrase “Done is better than perfect,” which he painted on the walls of his company's headquarters in California.

Zuckerberg uses the philosophy of “the Hacker Way” to explain the concept behind his mantra. He says, "Instead of debating for days whether a new idea is possible or what the best way to build something is, hackers would rather just prototype something and see what works.” This way, they can quickly make progress on their projects.

The essence of Zuckerberg's words is simple: Don't let perfectionism paralyze your progress—instead, seek out opportunities to test boundaries and continually improve. Do your best and then be ready to move on.

See: The 3 Ps That Stop Entrepreneurs From Achieving More

7. Learn From Every Mistake — Oprah Winfrey

Life is full of mistakes, but that doesn't mean you should be afraid to make them. Mistakes carry invaluable lessons for growth and progress.

According to media mogul Oprah Winfrey, “Mistakes are a life experience designed to move you in the right direction.” She says that sometimes, a mistake or failure is more important than a triumph because it can provide insights you wouldn't have gotten any other way.

Rather than beating yourself up for making a mistake, learn to embrace failure and use it as motivation to make the next right move. As inventor Thomas Edison once said, “I have not failed 10,000 times—I've successfully found 10,000 ways that will not work.” So ask yourself, “What could I have done differently?” or “What did I learn from this experience?”

8. Read More To Go Further — Warren Buffett

With everything there is to watch in this digital world right at your fingertips, reading is probably the last thing you feel like doing. But if you want to be a more successful entrepreneur or business owner, it's time to crank up your reading habits.

You don't believe us? Just ask Warren Buffett, who credits reading as the key to his success. The Oracle of Omaha devotes 80% of his day to reading, consuming around 500 pages a day.

Warren Buffet doesn't just read materials that entertain him. Instead, he actively seeks resources that can help him enhance his knowledge and further his personal growth.

Bill Gates agrees, stating that “You don’t really start getting old until you stop learning.” This is especially true in today's rapidly evolving world. No matter how much knowledge you may already be equipped with, there is always something new to learn.

The right books can open your mind to a whole host of new perspectives, as well as help you make better decisions, solve problems, and boost your success in ways you might have never imagined. So, why not head to your local bookstore and see what valuable insights you can glean? You never know—the inspiration for your next big idea could be waiting for you on a bookshelf.

See: Seven Essential Books Every Entrepreneur Should Read This Year

9. Always Remember Your “Why” — Armancio Ortega

It's easy to get lost in our day-to-day lives and forget what made us start down a certain path in the first place. But when you remember your “why”—the purpose behind why you do what you do—you can stay motivated and achieve your goals no matter how hard it gets.

Armancio Ortega, founder of the Inditex clothing empire (which includes brands Zara, Pull&Bear, and Massimo Dutti), exemplifies this perfectly.

At 13, Ortega witnessed his mother being rejected for credit in a grocery store. This was a defining moment for Ortega, and his "why" was born. He left school to join the world of work, determined to create a successful business that would make sure his family would never have to experience poverty again.

While entrepreneurial life can be incredibly fun, exciting, and rewarding, it’s not always a walk in the park. Long after the thrill of starting your own business has worn off, there’s no one to make sure you stay disciplined, dedicated, and productive but yourself. This is why motivation is a key component to success for entrepreneurs. You could have all the resources and skills imaginable, but without a strong driving force that keeps you going when times get tough, you'll struggle to reach your full potential.

So during those times, you should remind yourself of your "why", and you'll be back on track in no time. Remembering what's waiting for you on the other side will keep you focused and committed to your goals, and you'll find it easier to achieve them, just like Armancio Ortega did!

See: Why Motivation Matters: The Key to Success for Entrepreneurs

What’s The Bottom Line?

While there are no surefire rules for success, we can all learn something from the world's most successful entrepreneurs. Their stories provide valuable lessons we can apply in our lives, both at work and at home, to be happier and more productive every day.

If you’re ready to start doing more, achieving more, and earning more in your business, Time etc is here for you. We are dedicated to helping hardworking and ambitious entrepreneurs take back control over their days by providing the best virtual assistants for their businesses.

Speak to our team to get started, and we’ll set you up with a dedicated professional that’s ready to tackle all the tedious and time-consuming tasks that are holding you back.

Or try a skilled virtual assistant for free today!

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About the author

Barnaby Lashbrooke is the founder and CEO of Virtual Assistant service Time etc as well as the author of The Hard Work Myth, recently recommended by Sir Richard Branson. Barnaby is a Forbes Columnist on productivity and is also an accomplished entrepreneur, selling more than $35 million worth of services.

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