Why Being Kind to Yourself Is Key to Entrepreneurial Success

Once we silence our inner critic, we’re free to live on our own terms. January 19, 2020 6 min read Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own. “If your compassion does not include yourself, it is incomplete.” — Jack Kornfield I remember sitting in the middle of a tech conference years ago when I first founded my company, JotForm. I watched as, one by one, established entrepreneurs took turns in sharing their stories of success. Every time one would get up to speak, I heard this small, nagging voice in my head tell me: You’re not good enough. I had fallen into the trap of comparison and self-pity, which then led to a snowball effect of self-criticism. Why can’t I reach my goals faster? Why am I the only one struggling to scale up my startup? Not only was I beating myself up over my perceived shortcomings, I wasn’t seeing the […]

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Why Alone Time Gives Your Business an Edge

Hyperconnectivity is hurting your creativity. Reset with some solitude. January 14, 2020 6 min read Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own. If you asked hiring managers to name the qualities they look for in candidates, most would say “plays well with others.” Team players support the kind of healthy, collaborative work environment that fosters creativity and engagement. Teamwork is especially important for fledgling business and startups — where lean, tenacious teams are expected to burn the midnight oil, usually over takeout containers in their open office layouts. One for all, and all for one. There’s no doubt that being a successful entrepreneur requires working closely with others. But a less mythologized, equally crucial part of running a business involves being alone. That’s when we do the kind of valuable work that can’t be automated or delegated — the work product that requires being in a room with just ourselves and […]

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How to Help Your Team Manage Soft Skills

When your focus is on people’s well being, the entire environment shifts. January 3, 2020 6 min read Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own. “Before you are a leader, success is all about growing yourself. When you become a leader, success is all about growing others.” — Jack Welch Many years ago, when I first founded my company, JotForm, I thought success came down to finding the right formula. If I could increase my technical skills and do XYZ, then I could reach clear, measurable goals. I thought that being able to demonstrate my abilities was what led to becoming a great leader, but the problem was that I was only thinking of me. If I could become the most creative, innovative and capable version of myself, then everything would miraculously fall into place. Here’s what I’ve learned since then: Helping your team manage soft skills is just as important, if not […]

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How to Strike a Balance Between Micromanaging and Under-Managing

Research shows that micromanagement can have significant costs. Under-management can be equally detrimental. December 27, 2019 6 min read Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own. Recently, I was listening to a podcast interview featuring Seth Myers. Before his entrance into late-night television stardom, Myers was a cast member on Saturday Night Live. According to Myers, the environment at SNL was filled with anxiety, and not just from stage fright. Producer Lorne Michaels was notorious for rarely giving feedback. Myers explained that cast members had no idea whether their contracts would be renewed at the end of each season. With no feedback, save for audience applause, no one knew where they stood, or how well they were performing. It got me thinking about different types of managers. The hands-off, or “under-management,” style might make for great television, but it doesn’t foster a great company culture. Nor does the other […]

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Why Your Employees Want You to Delegate

Learning to delegate like a champ can make your business healthier. December 26, 2019 7 min read Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own. The early days of entrepreneurship are both heady and exhausting: late nights, rising before the birds, fueling your body with too much caffeine. Once your business is running and you’ve hired even a small team, it’s time to step into the next phase. Now you need to lead. Leadership is more than assigning tasks; it’s a way to elevate your impact. According to management consultant and Harvard Business Review contributor Jesse Sostrin, “you need to be more essential and less involved.” Leaders have to learn how to delegate – and how to do it well. It’s the only way to step out of the day-to-day workflow and think more strategically. Related: How to Delegate Better and Become a Great Leader Yet, handing over responsibilities is easier said than done. […]

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Self-Help Books Are Bad for Your Business

Personal improvement literature isn’t just hurting your psyche … it’s hurting your productivity, too. December 19, 2019 6 min read Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own. The hashtag #wellness has been used on Instagram over 31 million times. That’s fewer times than #entrepreneur (57 million) but considerably more than #selfhelp (a mere 2.2 million). Considering they are social media hashtags, these figures shouldn’t be given too much weight, but they are, to a degree, a window into what people are interested in these days. Rather than self-help, which sounds like a treatment for a malady, people want wellness, which is aspirational and holistic. Where self-help instructs you on how to achieve someone else’s idea of betterment, wellness is a process of living more successfully on your terms. Not to downplay the self-improvement industry — self-help literature continues to be an $800 million market that grows about 6 percent annually. And for […]

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How Journaling Can Make You a Better Entrepreneur and Leader

The most important words you write are ones no one will ever read. December 12, 2019 7 min read Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own. In 2019, I have written thousands of pages — emails, memos, texts, articles like this one. Hundreds of thousands of words to communicate and connect. Most of them have an audience of at least one, even if it’s just a quick note to my wife. But not all of them. Every year, a few thousand of those pages are words no one will ever read. Journaling can often be a difficult sell to productive people. Why would you spend time working on something that by design no one will ever see? But time spent journaling can pay dividends in both your personal and professional life. Journaling can help you organize your thoughts, prompt reflection and generate creative ideas. These processes are critical to being […]

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Your Search for Productivity Tools Is Killing Your Productivity

Productivity apps make big promises, but it’s how you use them that matters. December 9, 2019 6 min read Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own. Presented by There are tools for just about everything these days: apps for meditation, for making sure you’re drinking enough water, even apps whose primary purpose is to keep you off your phone. The app store is littered with millions of tools and software that claim to make us better, at work, and at life. If you Google “Pomodoro technique,” you’ll see a minimum of twelve apps recommended for you to try. We have choices, which at face value sounds like a great thing. So many options mean there must be the perfect tool for us— we just have to find it. Related: 4 Productivity Tips That Changed My Life Pomodoro means tomato in Italian. But, it is also a unit of time. The technique was […]

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The Secret to Writing Emails with Military Precision

Strategies to ensure your message is heard and save you valuable time. December 5, 2019 7 min read Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own. “Emails like this are usually riddled with corporate speak so I’m going to give it to you straight,” began a company memo from Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey. He went on to outline a planned staff cuts, intended to strengthen the company moving forward. Though I can count a few ways I would have shored up that email, I commend the CEO on his efforts to get straight to the point. Unnecessarily wordy, and sometimes downright unnecessary, emailing has gone unchecked for far too long. The effects go beyond the anxiety you feel every time you hear the ping of another email notifications. Unruly emailing may be hurting your team’s productivity, and over time, your company’s bottom line. The average full-time worker receives around 120 emails […]

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‘Grin and Bear It’ Is Wrong. Here’s What Great Leaders Understand About Emotional Intelligence.

December 4, 2019 8 min read Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own. “One of the things that I was told early on is that you should never let them see you sweat,” Ursula Burns once said in an interview. Burns, then-CEO of Xerox, was reflecting on leadership advice she had received over the years. She continued, “I remember hearing that and saying: ‘Oh, my God! I think that they have to see you sweat.’” When I first read that interview, I was a few years into launching JotForm and was still figuring out my leadership style. I had figured that the best leaders were stoic types — Teflon-strong with impenetrable poker faces. Burns’ words were kind of a revelation. Could emotions be a strength rather than a weakness? In times of stress — and in the startup world — those are far from uncommon. Should entrepreneurs share, rather than smother […]

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How to Use Music to Boost Your (and Your Team’s) Productivity and Creativity

When it comes to listening while you work, not all songs are helpful. November 21, 2019 5 min read Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own. Early in my career, I wouldn’t have dreamed of wearing headphones at the office. Today, if one of our employees stays inside a pair of noise-canceling airpods for the better part of a day, I don’t think twice about it. Listening to their favorite playlists helps them work better. A growing body of research supports them, too. One study focusing on Canadian software developers found that listening to music resulted in improved moods, productivity and work quality. It also boosted the developers’s creative problem-solving abilities. One participant explained that the music helped with relaxation and getting around mental blocks. Also, the more developers listened to music, the greater effect it seemed to have. The researchers confirmed that music listening should be encouraged in the […]

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Want to Grow Your Business? Stop Making To-Do Lists.

Don’t focus on more — focus on more of what grows your business. November 20, 2019 7 min read Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own. I have a proposition for you. Stop organizing your day based on time. Think in terms of priorities, instead. Once you do, you’ll progress faster toward your business goals. Let me explain. When you’re launching, running or trying to grow a business, every day is a hustle. Even if you, like me, aim to maintain a solid work-life balance, your schedule can fill up before you even reach the office. For many of us, our first instinct is to create a to-do list and organize our days into neat blocks of time. We feel a sense of accomplishment the moment we strike through another item on our list. But, as it turns out, this isn’t the most effective way to manage our workday. Related: Harnessing […]

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Don’t Learn More, Learn Smarter. A Quick Guide to Agile Learning.

Just like your body, your brain needs to be regularly looked after, fed and trained. November 8, 2019 7 min read Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own. Owning a Business 101: Streamline your operation to provide more value to users. Lately, I’ve been thinking about this idea and how it might apply in the learning context; whether we should apply the same “lean” approach to our knowledge acquisition and squeeze more value from what we learn. It’s a method that experts call agile learning, and it also entails unlearning information that is no longer useful. Learning agility is a more dynamic and smarter approach, trimming the fat and leaving the most valuable information. So when I forget for the umpteenth time where I left my keys, perhaps that’s not a bad thing. Maybe I’m just making room for more useful data. To be competitive, entrepreneurs must be able to learn with agility […]

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Boost Your Creativity — and Your Business — by Decluttering Your Mind

When you declutter your mind, you free up mental space for your next big idea. November 4, 2019 7 min read Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own. There’s no denying that in today’s global economy, creativity gives companies a competitive edge. Creativity fuels new ways of thinking, inspires innovation and can lead to new business ventures. Just think, there was a time when brick-and-mortar video shops were the best way to deliver entertainment into people’s homes. Some innovative thinking led one company to try an online platform instead. Netflix now dominates the market, Apple is tossing its hat in the ring, and Blockbuster — well, you know how that story ended. To tap into our creative impulse, however, it’s essential to have a certain level of mental clarity — a state of mind that’s increasingly elusive, with the constant onslaught of information. Related: 5 Powerful Methods to Declutter Your Life From […]

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Why Good Listening Is a Critical Skill for Founders and Entrepreneurs

Here are seven ways to improve your listening skills … and your business. October 31, 2019 7 min read Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own. Listening can be a matter of life and death. Imagine a distracted hostage negotiator or an airline pilot who tunes out air traffic control. Consider an ER physician who fails to hear a critically ill patient’s symptoms. These are extreme examples, but listening well is also a game-changing skill for leaders and entrepreneurs. Only 10 percent of us listen effectively, research shows. Often, we’re technically listening — remaining silent while someone else speaks — but our minds are busy with other thoughts. As author Stephen R. Covey wrote in The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, “Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply.” At my company, JotForm, listening has consistently driven our growth. I do my […]

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Why Mindfulness Matters for Entrepreneurs

Mindfulness techniques help to decrease burnout and minimize staff turnover. October 22, 2019 6 min read Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own. Take a big, deep breath. Inhale through your nose and exhale through your mouth. As you continue breathing deeply, check in with your body from head to toe. Feel the sensations in your head, neck and shoulders, then sweep down to your legs, knees, ankles and feet. Notice the feeling of each breath as it moves in through your nostrils and out past your lips. You’re now in the present moment. Staying engaged with what’s happening, right here and now, is the key to finding greater inspiration, accessing your creativity and living a more meaningful, fulfilling life. Related: How to Create a Program Focused on Mindfulness to Reduce Stress Staying mindful in the midst of business chaos. The breathing exercise you just finished is one example of mindfulness — defined […]

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The Key to Making Your Failures Productive, Not Destructive

Here’s the difference between informative and unnecessary failure. October 21, 2019 8 min read Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own. Failure used to be a private affair, like eating peanut butter from the jar or dancing in your underwear. Now, many founders wear their failures as a badge of honor. From confessional blog posts to gatherings like startup funerals and FailCon to podcasts and online communities, entrepreneurs have taken the “fail fast, fail often” mantra to heart. “Failure teaches self-confidence and tenacity,” FailCon founder Cass Phillipps told Entrepreneur in 2014. “There are people who fail and take it very, very personally, and that makes it hard to recover from it… We tell people ‘Don’t take this so personally. Failure’s actually really great.’” Statistics show that 70 percent of new tech companies fail, usually about 20 months after their first financing round. A staggering 97 percent of seed- or crowd-funded consumer hardware startups will also fail. These figures make me […]

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‘Systems Thinking’ Fires Up Your Brain’s Ability to Problem-Solve. Here’s How to Do It.

Systems thinking can help you manage and solve problems big and small. October 15, 2019 6 min read Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own. Being an entrepreneur is about problem-solving. On a granular level, there are dozens of issues to tackle each day. On a higher level, the big question is: how can I do a better job of delivering my product or service to my users? Recently, I’ve discovered a new approach to handling the issues we face as entrepreneurs. It’s called systems thinking and it made me realize how often we go about problem-solving the wrong way — attempting to fix one isolated part, instead of focusing on the underlying system. Take the New York Jets football team. Jets fans hoped that new head coach Adam Gase would bring better luck this season; maybe their team would even make the playoffs. Unfortunately, Gase seems to be following […]

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How Recovery Can Make Entrepreneurs More Resilient – and More Successful

Quality downtime is the key to keeping your mind and body in peak shape and more resilient to adversity. October 7, 2019 7 min read Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own. In 2018, Megan Craig suffered a mild traumatic brain injury at an ice rink. A doctor told the associate professor of philosophy and art that to speed her recovery, she had to commit to three months of “brain rest.” That meant no reading, writing, screens or strenuous thinking. If you’re feeling exhausted or overwhelmed as you read this, a few months of prescribed mental downtime might sound ideal – minus the brain injury, of course. But for many hard-driving entrepreneurs, this story strikes fear in their hearts. How could they continue to grind out those long, hyper-focused days? It’s no secret that the startup culture glorifies the 24/7 hustle. We hear that to build resilience, we just need to […]

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Avoiding Negative Emotions Won’t Get You Anywhere

Difficult feelings aren’t the enemy. October 2, 2019 7 min read Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own. I’ve been thinking a lot about dessert lately. What’s the most memorable, delicious bite of dessert you’ve ever tasted? Chances are, it wasn’t a store-bought, plastic-wrapped ball of sugar and food coloring. It probably had complex and thoughtful ingredients, designed to delight your senses. The same, I think, is often true outside of the kitchen. While we may be hard-wired for emotional sugar cravings, it’s the more complex parts of life — a dash of salt alongside the caramel — that create a full, meaningful experience. And just as bitter notes can enhance food, challenging emotions, even in the workplace, can improve our lives. The Case for Getting Emotional at Work Addressing anger or sadness at home or in a relationship can be dfficult, but beneficial. Addressing these same things in the workplace can be both difficult […]

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