All over the world, it is tough being a small business owner.  Asides from the constant challenge to ensure healthy cash flows, manage staff, quality, service / product delivery, customer demands and then of course – find customers, we also have to navigate the treacherous waters of unstable economic and socio-political environments.

Big companies struggle with this too, but they have teams of experts that have considerable resources to chart their way through; people that are hired specifically for this expertise.

Small business owners on the other hand, don’t get to do this – we need to rely on something different; a whole different set of faculties and if we are really good at it, a bit of magic.


The thing is, is that when things get tough, we look at others (the big businesses), and decide that they have two things that we don’t:  Money and Skills

So we figure that the money we’ll get one day (because we’re optimists, we’re entrepreneurs) and we look to the area that we think we can impact most immediately – skills.

This is great, except that the more we do it; have you noticed that the less it really fundamentally changes things?

I’m not saying for one second that skills development, learning the art of doing business is not a good idea.  The let down here is when we rely on this to fix things, change the environment or create success.  This is where we get stuck.


Sure, by adding a new skill-set to your toolbox, you absolutely have a new foundation from which to create success.  Things start to happen differently because you are trying something new and are doing something new, something out of your comfort zone.

The thing is have you noticed that it happens for a while and then starts to slip?  All of the new knowledge and skill that you have brought into the business tends to disappear, replaced with the way you did things previously.


I think that Einstein was onto something when he said: The significant problems that we have cannot be solved at the same level of thinking that created them”.  What we’re really talking about here is that the more we try to intellectualise and “upskill” the problem, the less we are going to shift it.

What we need is a fundamentally different approach that is so simple and so obvious, that it eludes many of us most of the time.


Before looking at this alternative approach, I’d like to challenge you to look at where you have been making your choices and decisions from so far.

If we look at the psychology of the human being, a significant portion of all of our choices / decisions comes from how we think and how we feel at the given moment – these are the primary informer of our actions.  On the surface that sounds right and rational – actions informed by logical thought and emotional reason.  If we dig beyond the surface, we may see a different picture.


The reality is that our thoughts and feelings are random experiences that happen constantly in our minds, our psychology.  They fly in and out of our mind, impacting our experience of life, our businesses and each other without any real understanding of where they come from.

If you explore the mechanism of the brain then a wonderful and disturbing realisation is available for you:  the fact is that we do not control or author our thoughts and feelings.


The easiest explanation to start this process off is to remind you that feelings are generated by chemical infusions and reactions in our brain.  This is why psychiatry is such an effective science.  If you want to change the way a person feels, just mess with the chemicals in their heads.  So this already is not the most reliable source of powerful decisions.  You don’t get to choose the chemical and hormonal reactions in our heads (unless we take certain substances and this of course is often not legal, nor advisable).


Thinking is a little more complex.  Ultimately to understand the source of thinking, we need to understand the brain.  The brain has the function of storing and working with information.  It does this, using billions of nerve cells that spark electricity off of one another in particular routes that cause what we know as thought.

One of the systems in our brain is the subconscious and the job of the subconscious is to act like a massive and very powerful recording device.

It records every moment of our lives from the womb to the last moment we live in full HD, 360°, all 5 senses, what we see and don’t see etc.  Along with this recording process, it is designed to identify patterns of behaviour under repeated circumstances / experiences and stores these as “programmes” if you will, in order to use again later.  This includes our thinking and feeling.

Just think back to learning how to drive – how with repetition, over and over of doing the clutch, accelerator, indicators, checking your mirrors has now allowed you to do it on “autopilot”.

So at future instances, where certain circumstances arise, the subconscious uploads the programme most relevant so that we have a tool to respond to these circumstances, and along with that comes the same thinking and feeling that we previously experienced.  Does that sound a little bit like “Goundhog Day”?  Do you often have the feeling that “you’ve been through this all before”?


It was William James (late 19th century) who said that “the average person rarely achieves but a small portion of his or her potential”.  Possibly this is because we rely too heavily on our uploaded subconscious programmes to determine our response or reaction to circumstances, and to easily slip into “best practice” or the way things were done previously, without exploring beyond what we know, what we think and indeed what we feel.


What could we do that expands the use of our brain?

The first thing to recognise is that no matter what your skill set is, the thing that is going to fundamentally impact your business is your behaviour.  Your behaviour is currently informed by  your relationship to your thinking and feeling and, your subconscious programmes.  If you allow them to control you “autopilot” style, then your results are pretty much going to be what they’ve always been.

See that no matter what we’ve done in the past, how we choose to act from now on, is going to create the results we experience now and in the future.

The alternative approach I offer you is to connect absolutely clearly with your vision for yourself, and for your business.  Ask yourself the following questions:

  1. What is the step that I need to take that serves the vision that I have?
  2. What commitment can I make right now to create action here? (make sure that this includes what, how much and by when).
  3. What would it take for me to be incorruptible in this commitment?

Then go and do it  🙂


This approach is about not only behaviour shift, but also choice to be in action.  This always creates more success than any skill you bring into your business.  It is never dependent on optimal circumstances – just on you being your word.

Just go and ask Herman Mashaba, Mark Shuttleworth, Richard Branson, Oprah Winfrey, Bill Gates and many others.

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