Editor’s Note: Entrepreneur Richard Branson regularly shares his business experience and advice with readers. What follows is the latest edited round of insightful responses. Ask him a question and your query might be the inspiration for a future column.
Q: Is self-motivation an innate quality or is it something that can be learned and improved upon?
- Chris Prior, Liverpool, England
If you aren’t good at motivating yourself, you probably won’t get very far in business – especially as an entrepreneur. When you’re starting up a company and for the first couple of years afterward, there are a lot of long nights and stressful days, and the workload is heavy. You have to be able to give the job everything you’ve got every day, or it will easily get the better of you.
The ability to tap into your determination and grit is not just an innate skill. You can teach yourself to get up every day and try to keep a new business going despite long odds, partly by structuring your life and job to make sure you are working toward your larger goals.
I learned a lot about this from my mother, who is a very energetic and strong-willed individual. As I wrote recently, I’m thankful for the life lessons she taught me, without which I would probably not be where I am today.
I always wanted to go out there and prove myself, but I was very shy when I was young, and it was clear that I would have to master this if I was going to succeed. My timidity could have easily held me back if she hadn’t helped me come out of my shell. She feels that shyness is very selfish, as it means you are only thinking of yourself, and so she was very insistent that I look adults in the eye and shake their hands, and carry on conversations with guests at dinner and at parties — no excuses.
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