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This article was published on October 14, 2021

Being ‘successful’ is a state of mind — so adopt it

Perception is reality, so shape it the way you want it to be

Being ‘successful’ is a state of mind — so adopt it
Boris Veldhuijzen van Zanten
Story by

Boris Veldhuijzen van Zanten

Founder & board member, TNW

Boris is a serial entrepreneur who founded not only TNW, but also V3 Redirect Services (sold), HubHop Wireless Internet Provider (sold), and Boris is a serial entrepreneur who founded not only TNW, but also V3 Redirect Services (sold), HubHop Wireless Internet Provider (sold), and Boris is very active on Twitter as @Boris and Instagram: @Boris.

Boris is the wise ol’ founder of TNW who writes a weekly column on everything about being an entrepreneur in tech — from managing stress to embracing awkwardness. You can get his musings straight to your inbox by signing up for his newsletter!

I have a reputation for being a successful entrepreneur, but the rumors of my success have been greatly exaggerated. Mostly by me.

I have learned that perception is reality for a lot of things in life. So over the years, I have always celebrated my wins and downplayed my failures. Unless I could spin whatever failed into a good story. But even that is clever marketing: if you openly and proudly talk about your failures, you seem even more confident and successful.

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I’m also convinced that how you frame your adventures is how they’ll be perceived. For example, there’s the famous story of Edison talking about how he didn’t fail two-thousand times trying to invent a working light bulb. His framing was that he invented two thousand light bulbs that didn’t work. And that led him to the eventual light bulb that did.

This positive reframing seems familiar to optimists and entrepreneurs. We don’t just accept failure. A failed startup is always a learning experience, and rejection is simply a hurdle on the way to success.

This type of framing also works the other way around. The pessimist is always correct. And so is the suspicious or paranoid person. Why? Because if they aren’t right at first, their framing will eventually lead them to failure.

If you’re in a team with someone whose paranoia gets in the way of teamwork and makes them always second-guess you then — at some point — you’ll start thinking twice about telling them everything.

After all, they keep misinterpreting your words, maybe telling them less will prevent miscommunications? Before you know it, you’re actively keeping information from them.

So just be expecting the worst of people, the paranoid person creates a situation that enables and confirms their paranoia. The same goes for pessimists. If you go into a project thinking it will fail, the chances are likely it will, and you’ll prove yourself right.

I know it isn’t easy to change our nature, but you do have a choice in how you walk into a meeting, approach a new employee, or present yourself to the world. And if your project failed, you can decide whether to present it as a great injustice and failure or an exciting learning opportunity for yourself and those around you.

Being optimistic and trusting is a state of mind you can adopt — and the same goes for beingsuccessful.

Can’t get enough of Boris? Check out his older stories here, and sign up for his newsletter here.

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