5 Harsh Truths Every CEO Must Grasp to Be Successful & Happy

9 min read
Jul 20, 2022

Most CEOs like the idea of running a business.

However, they do not like the reality.

In their head, being a business owner equals freedom to live their dreams.

While that is true and possible, it is impossible to have the perks without taking on extra responsibilities.

Moreover, it is impossible to experience the highs of running a business without paying the costs!

That said, I am shedding light on five harsh truths of being a business owner.  Accepting these truths is essential for every CEO to reach their fullest potential AND be happier.

Remember, there is no such thing as something for nothing.

Being a business owner is one of the greatest privileges in the world.

However, it comes with greater responsibilities than most people imagine.


Many CEOs Do Not Live in Reality


Many CEOs do not live in reality.


Because, they want to experience the perks of being a business owner without paying the costs.

As a result, they always:

  • Make faulty decisions;
  • Miss out on valuable opportunities; and
  • Wonder why they are unhappy and not performing well.

Business gurus get you to listen by telling you that being a CEO is easy.

On the other hand, I will tell you the hard truth.

Is being a business owner simple?  


But it is definitely NOT easy.


Facing Reality Would Mean CEOs Have to Change

Facing the reality of being a business owner is challenging because being a CEO requires you to get out of your comfort zone.  

Nobody likes to face the fact that they must leave their comfort zone to run a business.

Instead of getting a secure paycheck and healthcare, you have to secure your own money and future as a business owner.

Instead of relying on your boss for answers, everybody looks to you for solutions.

Facing this reality is challenging to say the least.


The Grinding Effect: How CEOs Ignore Reality

One clear sign that a business owner is out of touch with reality is they are constantly grinding.

Everybody knows what it means to grind: To put your head down and work while disregarding reality.

It is crucial to work hard regardless of the conditions, but you cannot disregard the world around you.

If a grizzly bear is in the area, would you put your head down and pitch your tent as if nothing is wrong?  

Or, would you immediately stop what you are doing to grab bear repellent?

Of course, you would stop grinding away and grab the bear spray.

While this is common sense, most CEOs continue to grind away despite reality kicking them in the behind.

Then they wonder why they are not making progress!

That said, keep working hard without grinding.

Work hard without disregarding reality.


1. You Do Not Have All the Time in the World


Business owners do not live in another realm in which time does not exist.

Instead, business owners live in the same reality as everyone else, where time can make or break you.

Unfortunately, many CEOs live in a fantasy where they tell themselves they have all the time in the world to accomplish business goals.

For example, they get a new business idea but hold off on taking action because they tell themselves it is better not to rush.

Moreover, they tell themselves not to rush because they have all the time in the world.

However, the hard truth is CEOs do not have all the time in the world to achieve goals.

Instead, they probably have less time than they think.


You Have Less Time Than You Think to Achieve Greatness

Rushing is not a good idea because it causes CEOs to panic.

However, you can get started immediately without rushing.

The hard truth about life is that nobody knows how much time we have to live.

Nobody knows what will happen next year or even tomorrow.

Years ago, my dad died the day before he was supposed to retire. 

Nobody ever plans for situations like this to happen, yet it always happens.

You might have less time to accomplish your business goals than you think.

While it is comforting to tell yourself that you have all the time in the world, it is a delusional idea.

Stop living in a fantasy and start living in reality!


The Longer You Wait, the Less Likely You Will Take Action

The longer you wait to start, the less likely you are to take action.

As you sit around twiddling your thumbs, believing you have all the time in the world, the rest of the world will keep moving.

While the rest of the world moves forward, you build up even more resistance to action than before.

For example, many CEOs lie to themselves.  

They say that they will take action when the timing or circumstances change.

However, they rarely take action because perfect timing and circumstances do not exist.

Do not tell yourself you will get started later because people rarely take action after telling themselves they will start later.


2. Customers Care Less About You Than You Think


Most CEOs naively walk into business assuming their customers care about them and their needs.

Unfortunately, CEOs are forgetting that customers are people, too.

Like 100% of people, customers do not lay their heads on the pillow every night and think about others' needs.  

Instead, they lay their head on the pillow and think about themselves!

That said, CEOs should not be so naive to believe that the customer base cares about their interests.

In reality, customers care 99% about their own interests and 1% about everybody else's.

I am not saying customers are selfish or self-centered; caring about your own interests above everything else is a product of human evolution.

My interest is telling CEOs the truth about their customers: They do not care about your interests, and assuming so is a set-up for problems.


Do Not Expect Customers to Care About Your Interests

As I said, customers caring about themselves first is a product of human evolution.

Anybody who says they do not care about their interests first is lying or oblivious to their human instincts.

Hundreds of thousands of years ago, human ancestors needed to be hyper-vigilant of their own needs.

If they were not vigilant of their own needs, they could be eaten by a saber tooth tiger or banished from their tribe.  

Human brains and human nature molded according to those circumstances.

While most people today do not face saber tooth tigers or tribe banishment, we still have the human instinct to put ourselves above others.

That said, it is not just your customers who put themselves first; you do it, too!


Customers Are Not Talking About You at Their Dinner Table

CEOs have a HUGE advantage because their customer base does not care about them.

Consider this: Many CEOs do not take action because they fear what people will think of them if they do.

For example, CEOs and sales professionals do not make follow-up sales calls because they fear coming off pushy.

Or, they do not tell prospects the price of their services because they fear coming across as a con artist.

The good news for CEOs is that they should not fear what other people think because other people are not thinking about them!

Ultimately, your customers are not sitting around the dinner table talking about how pushy or conny you are.

Instead, they are sitting around the table talking about themselves and their problems.

Therefore, CEOs should not fear taking action over what other people think because people are not thinking about them at all!


3. Successful CEOs Fail More Than Everybody Else


Want to be successful?

Fail more.

Want to double your success?  

Triple your failures.

Perhaps the hardest CEO pill to swallow is accepting that the most successful CEOs are the ones who fail the most.

Everybody wants to be successful without failing.

However, success and failure go hand-in-hand.

The more you fail, the more you learn, and CEOs who learn the most become masters of their craft.

Because they master their craft, they hit the most business home runs.

To be more successful, you must accept failure as a part of the process.


More Swings = More Strikeouts = Learning.

Think of a business owner like a Major League baseball player: Players who hit the most home runs ironically also hit the most strikeouts.

Why do players who hit more balls out of the park also strike out the most?

Players who hit the most home runs take more at-bats than everyone else.  

They take more chances hitting the ball than everybody else.

The more swings the player takes, the more opportunities they have to perfect their craft.  

Each time they strike out, they learn from the situation and use the knowledge they gain to master the game.

As they master the game, they eventually make more home runs.

Meanwhile, players who refuse to take more swings out of fear of striking out do not hit as many home runs.


Because they did not give themselves chances to strike out, learn, and then apply what they learned to the game.

The best athletes and business owners are the best because they are willing to fail more than everybody else.

The willingness to fail more often, rather than pure skill, takes people to the top.


4. Business Will Always Be Uncertain


The world is uncertain.

The business world is even more uncertain.

We can make predictions about the future, but the truth is nobody knows what will happen.

Therefore, business owners should not spend time worrying about the future.  

Instead, they should focus on working in the present moment.

Focusing on what will or will not happen in the future is like asking for anxiety to go through the roof.

While the idea of working in the present moment is cliché, it is not worthless advice.

CEOs who are aware of the present moment are the people who see opportunities and solutions right in front of them.

On the other hand, CEOs who focus on the future cannot see what is right in front of their face.

Business is uncertain, and it always will be.  

Do not waste your time trying to change that!

Instead, use it as a chance to find more opportunities in the present.


Uncertainty Is the Price You Pay For Entrepreneurship

As I said, the world, in general, is uncertain.

However, the business world is even more uncertain.

Uncertainty is the price you pay for playing the entrepreneurship game.

The entrepreneurship game is one many people refuse to pay the price for despite wanting to play.

You cannot play the entrepreneurship game without putting up with additional uncertainty.

Do you want to be in the ring or on the sidelines?  

If you want to be in the ring, then pay the price of being in it.

Most importantly, remember there is no such thing as something for nothing.


Pay the Price and Be Grateful for It

The fact that you even have the chance to be an entrepreneur means you are very blessed.

Some people do not have food, shelter, or schooling, yet you are blessed to have all those things plus the chance to run a business.

That said, the fact that you have an opportunity to pay the price of being a business owner is a reminder of how blessed you are.

Instead of seeing uncertainty as something unfortunate, use it as a reminder of how blessed you are.


5. You Will Never Not Be Afraid


Stop trying to stop being afraid.

It is a waste of time.

Instead of trying not to be afraid, you should focus on building strength to take action despite fear.

You will always need to overcome scary situations.  

The more successful you get, the more risks you will take and the more fear you will feel.

Therefore, focus on building strength instead of trying to eliminate fear.

You would have to stop taking risks to eliminate fear.

Unfortunately, taking fewer risks means you have fewer chances to be successful.


The Most Successful CEOs Never Get Over Fear

Social media has many people believing that CEOs do not get afraid.

However, CEOs do feel afraid because CEOs have human nature, like everybody else on earth.

Just like how human nature is self-centered, it is also fear-averse.

Human nature avoids fear-inducing situations like the plague!

When you look past the glossy social media filter, you see that even the most dominant CEOs still get afraid.

The only difference between them and everyone else is they keep moving forward despite what fear tells them to do.


Being Afraid Is an Essential Part of the Entrepreneurial Process

Not only do successful CEOs feel afraid, but they actually feel more afraid than everyone else.


Because the most successful CEOs tend to take the most calculated risks.

Because they take the most risks, they inevitably feel the most fear.

Fear inevitably increases with success because achieving success requires you to take fear-inducing risks.


Final Thoughts on Harsh Truths of Being a CEO


How much longer will you put your head down and grind before you stop and acknowledge reality?

Being a business owner is challenging; you cannot ignore that fact unless you want reality to swallow you.

Business success and happiness depend on you facing reality!

How much longer will you live in a fantasy world before embracing reality to live to your full potential?

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