Stuart Broad: Citius, Altius, Fortius – how top performers make it happen

Stuart Broad produced another barely-believable spell of bowling on the third afternoon of England’s Second Test versus South Africa last week in Johannesburg to catapult England to a series win.

There are few greater sights in Test cricket than a quick bowler in full flow, and few can claim to have wreaked the type of devastation Broad has proved himself capable of time and time again in a single spell.

This latest spell further furnished that reputation as Broad claimed five wickets in 31 balls for the cost of just one run – and even that was a dropped catch. The timeline of his wickets revealed the extent of the damage in 49 minutes:

  • 1.23pm – Elgar c Bairstow b Broad 15; SA 23/1
  • 1.42pm – Van Zyl c Stokes b Broad 11; SA 28/2
  • 1.50pm – De Villiers c Bairstow b Broad 0; SA 30/3
  • 2.01pm – Amla c Taylor b Broad 5; SA 31/4
  • 2.12pm – Bavuma b Broad 0; SA 35/5

South Africa were 35 for 5 and Broad had the lot. Broad seized the moment in a way that he so often has in a Test career that started a little more than eight years ago when he was 21. It was the seventh time he had taken five or more wickets in a single spell.

He finished with 6 for 17 in 12.1 overs, figures that did not quite match his 8 for 15 at Trent Bridge last August against Australia, but then nothing will ever match that. He is now England’s third all time highest test wicket taker, and his match winning spell has propelled him to the top of the Test bowling rankings as World number one. Since 2012, Broad has taken more test wickets than any other bowler in the world.

Stuart Broad is that rarest thing in English sport, a player who thrives under pressure, he just loves the big stage. He rises to the moment with an inner strength few sportsmen are blessed with. Players like that are excited by the challenge.

There are two ways of looking at pressure. There is the negative mindset of worrying you might fail and could make a mistake in front of thousands of people, and you could cost your team the game. The alternative is, and Broad looks at this positive – he sees the opportunity, sees the crowd and it drives him on to seize the moment and win the match and be a hero.

He has 330 test wickets in 90 Tests, still someway behind England’s all-time record wicket taker, James Anderson on 429, but with Anderson now 33, Broad has the opportunity to aim for that top spot. He should use what Jimmy finishes with as a target to beat.

However, it’s not just the 330 wickets in 90 tests, but his match winning performances. Broad is often the catalyst. As soon as he starts lifting those knees up and running in hard, batsmen are in trouble. He was helped by conditions last week – the clouds hung around, the floodlights were on all day, the new ball was venomous and brutal. But the bowler still has to put the ball in the right place and, in those circumstances, Broad is a formidable man to face.

The spells that Broad bowls – all against Australia – have been a phenomenal statement of a high performer making it happen when it counts: The Oval in 2009 (6 for 91), Chester-le-Street in 2013 (6 for 20 in 45 balls), Trent Bridge in 2015 (a barely believable 8 for 15) and the spell last week, symptomatic of his character. If your team is in a situation where someone needs to stand up and be counted, then Broad wants to be that man, be the match-winner.

There has been a long-running debate about whether Broad is a great bowler or a bowler of great spells, bur he’s now ranked World number one so that debate can go on hold. Broad is just the 19th England bowler to be adjudged World number one since Alfred Shaw first assumed the mantle in 1877.

Close up shots of Broad as he prepared to run into the wicket showed a calmness in his face and a determination in his eyes, an inner belief and resolution. You just knew that he was going to knock those wickets over. Success is most often achieved by those who don’t know that failure is inevitable. Believe you can and you’re halfway there, as the saying goes.

The worst enemy to Broad on the field would have been his own self-doubt, but I recall an interview once where he said, I do not believe in taking the right decision on my bowling, I take a decision and make the bowl right. So what gives Broad this self-starter attitude and self-belief, what is the framework for his mental toughness and inner confidence?

We all have moments where we have to keep that self-belief. In those moments it’s just about the process. It becomes the norm. It’s a learned skill and self-belief is massive within the psychology and discipline of thinking.

Everyone faces those pinch-point situations when the heat is on – from making a critical decision in-the-moment at a meeting, to keeping a cool head on the cricket field – those times when you need to function correctly under pressure. The reality is that most people fail in extreme situations. They choke, they get stage fright and their astute, high-wire decision-making skills fail them.

We applaud champions, knowing that we would never have been able to do what they have, all attention on the champion Olympic athlete who epitomises the Olympic motto of Citius, Altius, Fortius Faster, Higher, Stronger. There is something deeply captivating about exceptional performance in sport. It’s about human dignity as well as human achievement. For me it’s about saluting the person.

Given all the factors that contribute to performing – or choking – in high-pressure circumstances, what lessons can we take from Stuart Broad, what can you do to improve your performance?

Belief in self: First and foremost, Broad simply believes in his abilities and strengths. He believes he can make great things happen. I’ve never met a successful person with low self-esteem. Self-belief is vital, how many things have you not done or tried because you lacked belief in yourself? As Eleanor Roosevelt so deftly put it: Nobody can make you feel inferior without your consent.

Belief in beating the odds: To be successful, we have to be open minded, with no sense of what you cannot do. But, bit-by-bit, life starts to teach you to limit yourself. Broad doesn’t hope he can beat the batsman on his run in to the wicket, he believes wholeheartedly that he will.  There is no second-guessing.  As they say, those who say they can and those that say they can’t are both right.  If you don’t believe you can beat the odds – chances are you won’t.

Belief to deal with the inner negative voice: When you start to doubt yourself listen for a moment to that negative inner voice. Whose voice is it really? It’s often a collection of lots of different voices from different times and people from your past that causes self-belief to wane. One thing’s for sure, that inner self-critical voice shouldn’t be yours. It may masquerade as belonging to you now, but it doesn’t really. One of the first steps is to re-examine and discard many of the limiting ideas you have about yourself, ideas that you’ve somehow collected along the way. Get rid of the baggage!

Belief in flipping a weakness into strength: Dumbo, my favourite cartoon character, was humiliated by his outsize ears. He hated them at first. But, through time, he came to use them, to fulfil his destiny, even changing his attitude. Like Dumbo, if we just focus on what is not right about ourselves rather than what is, then we miss opportunities for self-belief. Focusing on perceived weaknesses without either taking steps to improve them or also giving fair focus toward our strengths gets us nowhere. Know that the positive flipside of a weakness, in the right context, can be put to good use.

Belief in perseverance: This is a big attribute of Broad’s down the years. The obstacles that cause many people to quit are minor setbacks for the true champion. Winners persist, losers desist. It is often that simple difference in self-belief that separates the successful person from the frustrated failure.

Belief in the vision: For Broad, his vision was bigger than just the winning his own individual battles with the South African batsmen. It was a vision of being part of a winning England team. It was never about his personal success, but being part of a collective team. His self-belief got him into the team, his self-belief helped him be part of a winning team.

Belief in accountability: High performers realise that only they are responsible for what they accomplish, and that their value to the team will be assessed according to their accomplishments. For this reason, they make sure to give top priority to their own preparation and performance. They take responsibility for themselves and make it happen.

Recent research into top performers and their output, looking across several industries, revealed that the top 5% of the workforce at the researched firms produced 26% of the firm’s total output. The top-performing 5% produced 400% more than you would expect. That means that top performers have an incredibly high ROI because they produce more than four times more.

Just like on the business side of the enterprise where the 80/20 rule prevails (80% of your profit comes from 20% of your products) there should be a similar 80/20 rule covering employee performance. This disproportional impact means that despite the fact that many are enamoured with the practice of treating everyone equally, it turns out that that approach may be well-intentioned but misguided because in business, just like sports, top performers have a significantly higher business impact than the average. Top performers need to be nurtured, developed and prioritised.

Do you have the capability to be a top performer? The capability to constantly get out there and make an effort, to work at what you want, to believe in yourself, to keep going when others have thrown in the towel. The capability to realise that you can achieve your dream, the capability to keep focussed?

Broad undertook the challenge because he was willing to do what he needed to do, to get what he wanted. It’s not about medals of victory, it’s more about the scars of defeat. Champions believe in themselves when no one else does, it means going beyond your comfort zone and learning to win the game your own way. Remember, every champion was once a contender that refused to give up.

Life has a unique perspective. Along the way, various landing pages, trials and tribulations will offer themselves up. It’s self-belief that determines your direction and ultimately success – its not how often you’re knocked over but how many times you get up that makes the difference. As Dr Seuss said, You have brains in your head and feet in your shoes, and with self-belief, steer yourself any direction you choose.

It’s down to perseverance – it’s the hard work you do after you get tired of doing the hard work you already did. The words of Dick Fosbury will always resonate with me: When my body got tired, my mind said this where winners are made; when my mind got tired, my heart said this is where champions are made. Make it count and take control when it matters most, inside your own head.

Life’s too short to go unnoticed, especially when you’re 52.

Life’s defining moments do not always announce themselves with the glorious fanfare of positive celebration. There can be the unwelcome milestones of big birthdays, the loss of an elderly, iconic family relative or trauma (I can remember puberty). They can just come out of nowhere silently and with a soundless impact.

Three years ago I experienced just such a moment. Early one morning when out with the dog, my brain unplugged itself and the lights were on but no one was home – more so than usual. I remember thinking ‘This is the kind of life-changing thing that happens to old people, not me’ as I was unable to move or speak but observe lots of clever, caring people doing stuff to me as I lay in hospital.

Eventually my brain rebooted and my mind rewound itself back up enough to formulate a conscious intention but the neural pathways still slumbered. The next couple of months were enforced recuperation with chess, Sudoku and canasta to complete the rewiring, and thereafter I got on with things as if nothing had happened.

Looking back, I recognise now this period impacted me much more than I thought at the time. It was like some bizarre prefiguring of my future life, a bad fortune telling of my tea leaves. From that moment, I’ve never regained an absolute trust that my body will automatically fall into line with my will, rather it will falter and fail. I can no longer depend on it to function properly as this incident was solid indication that my youth had ended and middle age begun.

These days we are persistently told that age is just a number, that 40 is the new 30, and 50 the new 40. Odd then that entire cohorts of the cosmetics and medical industries are dedicated to rolling back the effects of passing time. We are all living healthily for longer, working later and shunning the putting out to pasture we once happily greeted as well earned retirement.

Today, I just dismiss my brain switch-off as ‘one of those things’ and fortunately the random stream of consciousness output that comes from what I have between my ears is still pretty good. I still do stuff, work and have a good social life. I switch and click between being husband, son, father and friend. I am nowhere near the end of my productive life. And yet I know as surely as day is not night that one season of my life has ended and another begun. I’m not maudlin, just poignant at the passing of time.

So what’s brought this self-reflection on? Ok, it was my birthday at the weekend and another page on the calendar was torn off. I took it badly, as you can probably gather by now. I turned 52. Bloody hell, 52. Old. I am now officially middle aged. Still got my own teeth and hair mind you. I’ll admit that it remains fuzzy as to whether middle age qualifies as a biologically distinct phase of life (one that comes with its own neurological and biochemical map) or is just a label we give to a period of mental adjustment that helps us accommodate vague feelings of loss.

Then again, perhaps it is merely a socio-cultural construction, a shorthand way of dividing people up by their attitudes and lifestyle choices? Beginning, Middle and End. When the term ‘middle age’ came into general use in the late C19th it was principally in a socio-economic setting. Empire and industrialisation had expanded and enriched the middle classes, and women who had finished raising children could enjoy another decade or two of vigour and relevance. The negative tarnish came with the mass production of the 1920s and the theories of scientific management that underpinned it, sharpening our association of youth with productivity and middle age with decreasing efficiency.

This chimes with my sense that we shift this way and that, mentally and physically, and it’s a labeling of bodily decline in defining the idea that middle age is a kind of subjective reckoning. I’m picturing a Venn diagram that captures the intersection of three factors – physicality, mentality and spirituality – middle age is that shady area where the circles overlap, where the light is fading and the chill of winter starts to set in. The specific age at which we enter this penumbra is different for each of us, but the common quality is a profound sense of alteration and a dawning understanding, dim at first, that there is no point of re-entry to the bright terrain of youth.

As I gear up to turn 52, what has lodged in my mind is that it is a mathematical near-certainty that I have passed the halfway mark. That from now on growing older will be less about marking the age I’ve arrived at than about counting down what is left. At 52 I will quite literally be over the hill; ahead of me, the incline runs downwards. And it doesn’t end well.

Although I can see determined resistance to ageing into the inner weakness it betrays, I don’t believe for a minute that self-denial is any better. Besides, when I journey down that path promising myself I will stop hurling spokes into the spinning dials of my body clock, I find that I’m still far from happy about ageing. I feel unprepared for it. Caught on the hop. Exposed. Most of the time I pretend it isn’t happening, only to be pulled up short by that terrible sense of dissonance occasioned. Greying hairs on my temples look back at me from the mirror, lest I forget.

But I’m a positive fella really, just tend to think and overthink too much. I’m actually more ambitious about doing stuff than I was last year, got an expanded list of things to do, it’s just that I enjoy the juxtaposition of ‘What if?’, ‘So What?’ and ‘If Only’. So what’s in my road map to create an expansive and lasting network, my manifesto to shape new innovations for myself as I hurtle to middle age tranquility?

If you’re not doing something hard, you’re wasting your time When you’ve been through a lot, you know that the best times are when you get through them. You know that feeling when you’re working right at the edge of your capability and you’re so engaged in trying and failing and trying more that time just flies? That’s when you’re really testing yourself. Ask yourself every day, every week, ‘What is something hard that I can tackle?

Life is actually really, really random Bad things will happen to you, you will fail and things outside of your control will happen. You need to lean into this, and expect things to be messy. Remember, the other side of randomness is that some really great things can and do happen. When they do, don’t balk at the opportunity, seize the day.

Get good at using your time The most important thing you have is time because you can’t make more of it. Think about every use of your time and give it all equal weight. Recognise that grunt work takes time just as much as learning takes time. Figure out what you like doing, what extends your capabilities the most, and organise your time to strike the right balance. Ideally, this leaves some space for reflection and sleep. If you don’t give yourself space, there won’t be any room for good, random things to happen to you.

The 20-40-60 rule The rule goes something like this: At 20, you are constantly worrying about what other people think of you. At 40 you wake up and say, ‘I’m not going to give a damn what other people think anymore.’ And at 60 you realise no one is thinking about you at all. Actually, nobody is thinking about you from the very beginning. Of course, this is good news and bad news. The bad news is that no one is constantly wondering if you’re okay, consequently, you need to be your own advocate. You need to think about you. You need to do stuff for yourself.

Success starts with self-mastery Self-mastery is being in control of the internal thought processes that guide your emotions, habits, and behaviors. It’s the ability to direct rather than react.  The former is done with intention and awareness, the latter is visceral and without reason. Self-mastery is captured well in this quote attributed to many: “Watch your thoughts, they become words; watch your words, they become actions; watch your actions, they become habits; watch your habits, they become character; watch your character, for it becomes your destiny.”

Talk to yourself There’s a voice inside your head, and that’s completely normal. It’s your internal dialogue, the inner commentary that strives to make sense of the world.  The first crucial step is to become an observer of your thoughts, to become self-aware, self-reflective. To think about your thinking. Become the best version of yourself you can be. I give myself a good talking too every morning and it’s always a lively conversation and debate.

Make peace with your past We’re not just the sum total of our experiences, self-mastery tells us we have got new things to learn ahead of us, so we’re certainly not confined to them.  It’s not easy to do, at times I do find myself nostalgic, in a positive way, but do let events and memories seep deep into my soul.  Fortunately I have no regrets, I would imagine it’s hard to pick up anything new when your hands are full with burdens.

Don’t be a bystander I’ve always taken an active approach to life, being a performer rather than a spectator. There’s no room for passivity and sitting on the bench. Don’t hesitate, just do it. Life’s too short to go unnoticed, so make a difference. I think I get this positivity from my parents, and it’s a personal trait I’ve instilled in my kids too. As Tennessee Williams said ‘Make voyages, attempt them, there’s nothing else’.

Have a positive mindset This psychological strategy can be understood in the question, Is the glass half empty or half full?  It’s changing your interpretive lens to uncover the best version of events there can be. Give yourself a call to action to define how you want to do things. It’s easy to write your own manifesto, and while you don’t have to do it in a specific way, figure out what you care about, how you perceive yourself, and how you want to act moving forward. It’s not always a key to figuring out exactly what you want to do with your life, but it’s a great starting point for at least figuring out how you want to go about those goals.

In our formative years, we fancy ourselves doing this or that, life is all before us and open to adventure. But life may have led us to do neither. Later, in maturity, what draws our attention is usually something that has bid for it on previous occasions and we’ve left it out of journey, and they keep calling out to us: Don’t forget me, please don’t forget. As I get older I find there is usually something about a spontaneous affinity when we recall a memory that remains pertinent to our present.

You can’t know where your quest will take you, but do it with vitality.  The most valuable knowledge that you will ever discover is, and always will be, within. So as I elbow my way into middle age, I reflect on the past- where a takeaway was a mathematical problem, a Big Mac was what we put on when it was raining, when you had to peel potatoes if you wanted chips at home, and water came out of a tap; if someone suggested bottling it and charging more for it you’d have laughed out loud.

But more importantly, I’m interested in the future because I am going to spend the rest of my time there. As Steve Jobs said, ‘you can’t connect the dots looking forward, you can only connect them looking backwards, so you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future’.

There’s always a moment when the door opens and lets the future in, and I’ll be barging right in there with my manifesto outlined above, which I hope you found useful. My brain is working well, but sometimes plays tricks – I just looked in the mirror and thought, ‘who’s that old man staring back at me?’ Then I realised it’s not a mirror, it’s a fish fingers box I was holding.

My blog was scribbled whilst scoffing birthday cake, reading my birthday cards and wondering when to spend my vouchers for a skydiving experience, volcano hopping or a trip to the garden centre, but I drew inspiration from Marina Benjamin, Heidi Roizen and Thai Nguyen, and some of their published work to shape my thinking and craft my words.

The enduring legacy of John Kennedy: self-belief

The Independent ran a story this week, which caught my eye: since 1927, Jack Haddock has lived in the same council house in Walsall – for almost nine decades, with only a brief pause during the war, Jack has lived in the same house.

His late father first received the keys from the council in 1927, and having taken over the tenancy, Jack has never missed a week’s rent. Haddock, who is perhaps Britain’s most loyal council tenant, is 86 and lives alone. He rides his bicycle every day, eats little and often, starting with five Weetabix for breakfast, and has not seen a doctor for anything more serious than a flu jab for 40 years.

He has no siblings and never married, partly, he says, because he is wedded above all else to his home – twice he was due to marry and backed out. One girl wanted me to move up the Delves (in south Walsall) but I said, ‘no, Jean, I’m not leaving here’. We parted amicably in 1958.

After the war in 1919, Lloyd George’s Liberal government passed the Housing Act, which for the first time required councils to provide subsidised housing to those in need. It triggered a building boom in the 1920s and established council housing as a social service. In Walsall, Haddock’s parents applied for one of the first new homes. When Haddock’s father died in 1963, 10 years after his mother’s death, the council assumed Jack would want the house for his own family, so let him inherit the tenancy for life at the age of 36.

Haddock, who boasts that he can hold his breath for a minute, says he never gets lonely and is determined to die in the only place he has called home. He wants his ashes to be scattered on the site of an old engine shed up the road, where he developed his love of trains as a child.

Jack’s a throwback to a bygone era, rich in personal social and economic history. Filled with the habits of a lifetime, soon to be lost along with the poignant passing of another generation’s way of life. We can only wonder the line of sight Jack had from his front window on the evening of 22 November 1963, fifty years ago.

Over in Dallas that day, President John F. Kennedy was killed by an assassin’s bullet. As the youngest elected President, Kennedy, who served less than three years, is ranked among the most revered Presidents. Just 46 when he died, he is praised for his youthful vigour, his leadership through the Cuban missile crisis, and his vision to put a man on the Moon.

On 22 November 1963, Kennedy and his wife travelled to Dallas for early campaigning for the following year’s election. Crowds lined the streets. As the presidential motorcade entered Dealey Plaza at around 12:30 local time (6.30pm GMT), Kennedy’s convertible passed the Texas School Book Depository.

Gunshots rang out across the plaza. Bullets struck the president in the head and neck. Half an hour later, Kennedy was pronounced dead. He was the fourth US president assassinated in office, but the first to have his death captured on film. The events of that November day plunged America into mourning, and many Americans still recall where they were when they heard the news.

At the beginning of Kennedy’s presidency, America was in crisis. The Soviet Union had put a satellite into Earth’s orbit, and Yuri Gagarin became the first human being in space. Kennedy could feel the anxiety, he knew America needed a bold stroke. On September 12, 1962, at Rice Stadium in Houston, Texas, Kennedy gave America back their self-belief. He said, The United States was not built by those who waited and rested and wished to look behind them. This country was conquered by those who moved forward.

Then he added what are for me, some of the most inspiring words ever crafted: We set sail on this new sea because there is new knowledge to be gained, and new rights to be won, and they must be won and used for the progress of all people. We choose to go to the Moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win.

Kennedy injected energy and self-belief with the speech, and a statement of ambition that was a turning point in history. Having ushered in the tumultuous 1960s with an idealistic message of empowerment – ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country, Kennedy captured the hearts and minds of an entire population, urging them to participate, engage with the world, and believe.

But just 14 months later, Kennedy would die in Dallas. Kennedy was silenced in a moment none thought possible. On July 20, 1969, Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin landed the Eagle Lunar Module on the Moon, at the Sea of Tranquillity.  A few hours later, on July 21, they stepped out on the Moon.  From Kennedy’s speech to the landing had taken 8 years, one month and 26 days.

But although Kennedy’s legacy is muddled, the aura battered with the faithless and reckless womanising, and the tragedy of Vietnam, the Kennedy message of self-belief is tenacious. Polls regularly list him among the highest-regarded presidents. He lifted the country from a tide of anxiety, daunted by the future. His self-confidence emboldened an orator’s words marking a nation’s consciousness, he fostered a contagious idealism born in the belief that, with our own hands, we can craft a better future, stating: one person can make a difference, and everyone should try.

He has lingered in our memory, witness the number of articles and television retrospectives this anniversary week. Kennedy had an expansive vision in which, as he put it, no problem of human destiny is beyond human beings. He proved it by challenging Americans to go to the moon.

It was Kennedy’s positivity, vision and self-belief that made him such an iconic leader, traits you see in the founders of many start-up businesses. There’s a depth of research on the defining characteristics of entrepreneurs, but for me the common trait that I’ve come to recognise in successful start-up entrepreneurs is that shared with Kennedy – self-belief.

It only takes a few minutes in a conversation with start-up founders to feel their positive energy – it’s contagious.  They all share an overwhelming positive outlook even when facing daunting challenges that appear to have the bleakest of odds for success.  I’ve noted a set of core beliefs that they share:

Belief in self: First and foremost, starters believe in themselves, their abilities and their own strengths. They believe they can make great things happen. I’ve never met a successful entrepreneur with low self-esteem.  Self-belief is vital, how many things have you not done or tried because you lacked belief in yourself? As Eleanor Roosevelt so deftly put it: Nobody can make you feel inferior without your consent.

Belief in beating the odds: To be successful, we have to be open minded, with no sense of what you cannot do. But, bit-by-bit, life starts to teach you to limit yourself. Children don’t learn to limit their own horizons, so why does it happen? Successful starters don’t hope they can beat the odds, they believe wholeheartedly that they will.  There is no second-guessing.  As it goes, those who say they can and those that say they can’t are both right.  If you don’t believe you can beat the odds, chances are you won’t.
Belief to deal with the inner negative voice: When you start to doubt yourself listen for a moment to that little negative inner voice. Whose voice is it really? It’s often a collection of lots of different voices from different times and people from your past that causes self-belief to wane. One thing’s for sure, that little inner self-critical voice shouldn’t be yours. It may masquerade as belonging to you now, but it doesn’t really. One of the first steps is to re-examine and discard many of the limiting ideas you have about yourself, ideas that you’ve somehow collected along the way. Get rid of the baggage!

Belief in flipping a weakness into strength: Dumbo, my favourite cartoon character, was humiliated by his outsize ears. He hated them at first. But, through time, he came to use them, to fulfil his destiny, even changing his attitude. Like Dumbo, if we just focus on what is not right about ourselves rather than what is, then we miss opportunities for self-belief. We shouldn’t assume there’s nothing to improve about ourselves, but just focusing on perceived weaknesses without either taking steps to improve them or also giving fair focus toward our strengths gets us nowhere. Know that the positive flipside of a weakness, in the right context, can be put to good use.

Belief in intuition: Most entrepreneurs rely more on gut feelings to make decisions than they do on conscious analysis of a situation. Even though they may be highly analytical and accumulate data, their decisions are usually based on what feels right – gut instinct. Most people wait for the right opportunity to present itself, but the true self-starter is always on the lookout for yet another new opportunity. It is often just a matter of perspective. There is the famous story about the shoe company who sends an employee to a new country to ascertain if there is a market for their shoes. The representative reports back: There is no shoe market here. These people don’t even wear shoes. The founder, on hearing this news, exclaims This is wonderful! No one has any shoes yet! What a huge opportunity!

Belief in perseverance: This is a big attribute. The obstacles that cause many people to quit are minor setbacks for the true entrepreneur. Winners persist, losers desist. It is often that simple difference in self-belief that separates the happy successful person from the frustrated failure – to quote Calvin Coolidge, Nothing in the world can take the place of persistence; talent will not, nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent; genius will not, unrewarded genius is almost a proverb; education will not, the world is full of educated derelicts; persistence and determination alone are omnipotent.

Belief in the vision: For most of the successful starters I’ve met and researched, their vision is always bigger than just the money.  For most entrepreneurs that I admire, the money is never the goal.  Starters believe that they, and their start-ups, can make a real difference, and those that set out to leave their mark on the world usually do – Walt Disney and Steve Jobs are cases in point.

From Jack Haddock to John Kennedy to start-up entrepreneurs to you, life has a unique perspective. Along the way, various landing pages, trials and tribulations will offer themselves up. It’s self-belief that determines your direction and ultimately success – it’s not how often you’re knocked over but how many times you get back up that makes the difference.

Self-belief means being yourself, everyone else is already taken. As Henry Ford said if you think you can, you can; if you think you can’t, you’re right. It’s not who you are that holds you back, it’s who you think you’re not. Personally, I find it easier to believe than to doubt. You have brains in your head and feet in your shoes, and with self-belief, steer yourself any direction you choose. No, that wasn’t Kennedy, it was Dr Seuss.