s I mentioned in previous postcards, I do not believe New Year’s resolutions. In general, I am not a big fan of New Year’s Eve – I think it is a night like any other. Furthermore, I think it is a better strategy to constantly work on smaller, more realistic goals instead of having a list of unrealistic goals which I will stop to pursue after a few weeks anyways.
Nevertheless, I have to admit that the start of a new year always puts me in a mindset of reflection and analysis of what I can do better. One of the things I have decided to work on is to think positive. I would not consider myself a pessimist but I am not the stereotype of an optimist either. I tend to focus on the negative much more and I have realised that very often this mindset holds me back.
This morning, I was reading the newspaper and stumbled upon an interview with German historian, entrepreneur and author Rainer Zitelmann who analysed the paths of 50 successful people – from Arnold Schwarzenegger to Serena Williams. In addition to the obvious – focus on goals, hard work and resilience – he identified two further major traits. As they relate a lot to positive thinking, I decided to share Zitelmann’s insights and quotes with you today.
Identify and Dare to Seize Opportunities
“No person only has either luck or bad luck during their entire lifetime. Over the decades there will be a balance. Therefore, success is not based on mere luck and coincident happening to you. It is about having an eye for them. Successful people do not receive more opportunities than less successful people. But they seize opportunities more often than others instead of thinking if it is smart to seize them.”
This is definitely confirmed by the people I know personally and who I consider successful in their particular fields. They have all been in situations where many others would have overlooked the opportunities. They seized them. After they had become successful, many people commented that “these people had been particularly lucky or that it had been easy for them”. I can tell you, it was not. They dared to seize opportunities – despite the many comments they got about how crazy they were and despite all the barriers they had to overcome along the way. They may have made it look easy to outsiders but it definitely was not.
I remember when I identified the market opportunity for my first business (a fitness platform for Chinese women). Many called me crazy. And even more would have never risked their careers and money for such a project. But when I questioned myself because of the negative talk of others, I thought about those who dared.
Break Taboos and Have the Courage to be Different
“Courage does not mean to not have fear but to act despite our fears. Furthermore, successful people are more likely to experiment and grow in crisis siutations.”
The term “crisis situation” always sounded scary to me. It is perfectly normal that we as human beings try to avoid crises as much as possible. However, when I look back, these very crisis situations were the ones who helped me grow the most. They made me stronger. When I realised had to move from the app project to something new, it did feel like a crisis to me sometimes. I had built it, but I also had the feeling it was time. At this point, I had actively looked for other opportunities but several job interviews and leads for consulting which could have served as reasons to stop the project did not work out either.
“By chance” I discovered the opportunity for Pelagona. It happened on a casual day at a market in Asia. Suddenly the crisis I had before had led me to something really positive. Was it really just chance? I agree with Zitelmann’s argument above – no it was not. It may have been chance that I went to the market that day and saw all the beautiful products. But I was open to see the opportunity and then I seized it instead of overthinking it. Moreover, I thought about how I can do it differently than others. I wanted to make the supply chain more sustainable and ethical – definitely the harder way for a trading business but the better in the long-run for sure.
Being different is uncomfortable and often it seems daunting. It definitely would be easier to hide among the crowd and go along with whatever everybody else is doing. We could avoid weird looks, derogatory comments or hate postings. However, only dead fish swim with the current. If you really want to make it you have to dare to be different and break taboos.
By being different I not only mean to follow your own style and ideas (I have written about this in another Postcard.) but also to solve problems in a different – and more creative – way than others. How can you achieve that? By being curious. Wherever you go, always open your eyes, pay attention to what is going on around you and how you could solve a problem. Did you see a solution abroad which could work at home? Do you have experience in a field which could also apply to a completely different one? In German we call these people “Querdenker” – those who think outside the box.
Hence, in addition to the two traits mentioned by Mr Zitelmann, I would like to add my third: think differently. If you think differently than others, you will not only identify opportunities but also seize them more successfully than others.
Have a great week ahead!