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How to Play the Inner Game of Business

Not all entrepreneurs are business people. It’s perfectly reasonable to regard any professional who works for himself or with others as an entrepreneur. Even doctors, lawyers, and accountants who work on a semi-autonomous basis participate in the entrepreneurial spirit.

The ten psychological themes

An entrepreneur usually faces the following psychological cycles when starting something new.

1. There are many emotional and financial highs and lows. Hope for what is possible alternates with despair over what can be done.

2. There are too many things to do and too few people to do it. This can result in a loss of focus.

3. There are numerous questions on how to do things that go unanswered.

4. There are many experiments to test the market.

5. The position of the business is often not clearly defined, and this creates ambiguity, which in turn creates a loss of purpose.

6. The entrepreneur may often feel lost, misunderstood, and unsupported by family and friends who feel that a more conventional way of working and earning a living are the only correct choices.

7. The entrepreneur begins to doubt him- or herself, question the validity of the vision, and wonder if the idealism is resulting in unrealistic expectations.

8. There’s a temptation to fall for get-rich-schemes to stimulate low cash flow in the business. These waste time, money, and energy.

9. The entrepreneur tries new management philosophies to see how to manage time, money, people, and resources more efficiently.

10. The entrepreneur realizes at some point that business is not about merely following business principles and relying on the advice of others. Instead, it’s more about self-organizing ideas expressed in a coherent way to meet market conditions.

Three steps for regrouping and realigning

After the entrepreneur has cycled through these psychological states, he or she reaches an understanding of how to play the inner game. While it varies from one person to another, here are three discoveries you often make when you put together an inner game.

1. It’s not possible to work all the time and remain productive. It’s better to use the eighty-twenty rule. Discovered in the early part of the twentieth century by an Italian economist, Vilfredo Pareto, the principle basically states that eighty percent of success comes from twenty percent of one’s actions.

2. It is best to remain productive regardless of mood, sense of well-being, or fluctuating circumstances. Persistent productivity works very much like dollar-cost averaging. Sometimes the stock goes up, sometimes it goes down; but if you stay in the market long enough, you’ll be able to make some good returns on your investment.

3. Once an entrepreneur finds momentum, he or she should stick with whatever it is the person is doing. Trying out new things, even better ideas, disrupts momentum; and when that happens, everything begins to fall apart. New learning, growth spurts, and other changes have to be enfolded within momentum.

Entrepreneurs, whether they are business people or professional consultants of one sort or another, need to do more than follow technical guidelines. The psychology of business has to be mastered as well.