Recently I connected with serial entrepreneur, Woody Woodward, who told me a funny story. When Woody was 11 years old, he got wrapped up in telling a lie to his mother. He followed her from room to room weaving a web of Tom-Sawyer-size tales. Finally, out of utter frustration, his mother said, “That is B.S.!”
Woody wasn’t yet savvy to the angry abbreviations adults sometimes use, so he curiously asked, “What does B.S. stand for?” She paused and gave a puzzling look as she chose her next words carefully. Finally, she pointed her finger at him and shouted, “It’s your Belief System, now go to your room.”
Today, Woody Woodward says that we’re all full of our own “B.S.” (belief systems). For example, when you believe that you are smart and creative, you may feel like you can accomplish anything. But if you feel like you’re average and boring, you may feel like nothing goes your way no matter what you do. It is your belief system that empowers you with confidence or holds you back with self-doubt.
To be a successful entrepreneur, you must have a strong, confident belief system. Entrepreneurs forego traditional safety-nets like a consistent paycheck, employer-provided health care and paid vacations to pursue their dreams. And they do it even though statistics say that 61% of small businesses will never make any money, according to the National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB).
The Successful Entrepreneur’s Power of Belief
Sometimes the only one who believes a business idea will work is the entrepreneur making it happen. And it’s that belief that makes the business idea not only possible, but maybe even inevitable. Take a look. According to Woody, there are 5 stages of belief that entrepreneurs go through while building trust and confidence in their abilities..
The 5 Stages of Belief:
The self-doubting entrepreneur or non-entrepreneur may never get past the first stage — they believe their idea is impossible, and so it is. Other entrepreneurs will slowly work their way through each stage of belief as they experience incremental success. But the most successful entrepreneurs are able to skip stages of belief — from impossible to probable or even inevitable — not through proof or validation, but through visualization.
Take Thomas Edison, for example. Edison is rumored to have tried between 1,000 and 10,000 different ways to construct a light bulb before finally stumbling upon one that worked. Without belief that it could be done, Edison may have given up after a dozen tries. But his beliefs and his vision of a working lightbulb drove his seemingly super-human effort to invent electric light.
Walt Disney is another example. When he said he was going to produce a feature-length sound and color animated film called Snow White, the film industry mocked him. It had never been done before. They called it “Disney’s Folly.” But Disney had a vision that no one else could see, and when Snow White was released it became the highest-grossing movie of 1938. The doubters ended up presenting Disney with an Oscar for the film, which was shaped as one regular statuette surrounded by 7 miniature statuettes.
And then there’s Elon Musk. Before he created Tesla, the future of electric cars was uncertain. Many people thought it was a pipe dream, but because of Musk’s vision, a world full of electric cars is looking more and more inevitable. What’s even more amazing is that while Musk was creating Tesla, he simultaneously built SpaceX, another company many thought impossible. A stated goal of SpaceX is to colonize Mars, even though there’s no reason to believe that’s possible or probable. The only thing driving the business is Musk’s belief system. He is quoted as saying, “When something is important enough, you do it even if the odds are not in your favor.”
Thomas Edison, Walt Disney and Elon Musk were constantly bombarded by naysayers and skeptics. However, Woody believes their belief systems and vision made their success “inevitable.”
How to Turn Vision into the Inevitable
The secret weapon that allows entrepreneurs to skip from the “impossible” stage to “probable,” or even “inevitable,” is vision. The entrepreneur who visualizes their idea succeeding is much more likely to see it happen. And Woody believes there is research to support this.
Woody says some of the best research ever conducted on the power of thought was published in 1958 by L. Verdelle Clark for his Ph.D. thesis. His research paper focused on a study conducted at the University of Chicago showing the mind can increase performance just through visualizing. The study measured the free-throw performance of three groups of basketball players.
On day 1, they measured the free-throw accuracy of each group. For the next 30 days, the first group was asked to go to the gym and practice shooting free-throws for an hour each day; the second group was asked to go to the gym and visualize shooting free-throws (no actual shots allowed); and the third group was told not to even think about basketball.
After 30 days, each group was tested for free-throw accuracy again. Unsurprisingly, the group who was asked not to think of basketball had no improvement. The group who practiced one hour per day improved their accuracy by 24% — again, no surprise. But the group who only visualized shooting free throws did surprise people — they improved performance by 23%, nearly as much as those who actually practiced!
Says Woody, “This is quite significant. We can no longer ignore the fact that our thoughts and the way that we visualize have a significant impact on our outcomes. If you will change what you focus on in your business, you have the ability to change your outcomes.”
Woody also recommends practicing visualization to improve its effectiveness. Says Woody, “To increase your ability to visualize, try this mind trick. Take a photograph and for 30 seconds memorize everything you can in the photo. Close your eyes and visualize everything you saw. Then open your eyes and see how many things you got right. If you will do this exercise 3-5 times a week you will increase your mental muscle for visualization.”
From Impossible To Inevitable: How Your Beliefs And Vision Create Unstoppable Businesses (Forbes.com)