Leeds station, 11.35pm. It’s a dark, cold November evening. The last train to York departed 5 minutes before my train from Huddersfield arrived. But for the night-time usuals I’m on my own, frustrated and penniless. But my need to achieve will get me out of here.
Impatience is a failing of mine. I can’t hang around and wait for things to happen. Built within me is an innate desire to get on and do things. And if like me you recognise the strong need to achieve in yourself, then it’s quite possible you possess a powerful entrepreneurial streak. But how do you know for certain?
In the early nineties, I attended an excellent week-long sales training course where Frank Atkinson (the trainer who modelled buyer behaviour) talked about our deeper personal ‘needs’. He summarised them into 6 key areas and we completed a self-test to establish which were most dominant. The 6 needs included:
Power; Achievement; Order; Safety; Recognition; and Affiliation
My need to achieve was the highest of the group. And it was on that day I began to fit together the pieces of my behaviour into a model that made sense. I started to understand who I was and more importantly why I did things the way I did.
Further exploration showed I spend much of my time thinking about the future. I am driven by targets and reaching goals. This thinking gives me a sense of purpose and identity. For more on the psychology of achievement and success, you’ll find a lot of research and thinking published by Brian Tracy. Brian certainly knows how to sell himself and his products, but from reading other peoples’ comments about his material, it’s good stuff.
For the record, my ‘Affiliation’ score in the needs test was extremely low. I don’t really seek reassurance or follow the herd when making decisions, nor really cherish being part of a team. And I discovered ‘Safety’ and ‘Order’ needs were not high priorities for me either.
Desire to do something
If you sense your need to achieve burns away (whether it’s learning a musical instrument, doing well in exams, getting fit etc.) then this side of your personality is going to help you should you start your own business. Entrepreneurs have to be hungry to succeed and impatience, whilst also being a weakness, is a vital energy source. It drives you.
That cold winter’s evening, the walk to the edge of Leeds on the A64 was 3+ miles. I didn’t fancy hanging around the city centre and the idea of waiting over six hours for the first train the next day was a non-starter. So off I went.
Aware of the risks and slightly nervous I spent 20 minutes hitching in the dark before the first car picked me up. I don’t remember anything about the journey apart from the fact the driver dropped me at the A1/A64 junction where it was pitch black and very little traffic going my way. It was 1.30am. Home was still 12 miles away.
Clarity of solitude
In the still darkness I felt vulnerable, uncertain but also curious about the new experience. After only a few minutes I came to like being out of my comfort zone yet still in control of my destiny. I discovered the freedom of the space because I was alone with myself. In a world dominated by mobile connectivity, people experience the wonder of such solitude less and less these days for fear of being disconnected. We have inadvertently become trapped by the very technology which ironically was designed to release us and present new opportunities.
Guided only by the lights of the passing traffic a large vehicle eventually pulled off the A1 and rounded the bend towards me. In the gloom he would have seen the lonely figure late, but in those few seconds everything changed.
The brakes hissed, the engine screeched and the lorry ground to a halt by my side. Elated, I climbed into the cab, quickly judged the situation to be safe and said I was heading to York. Happy to give me a lift, the friendly driver drove off. In no time, all was good with the world and success was within my grasp.
Travelling the empty road, I discovered my new companion was destined for an early morning livestock market near Whitby. He was working all hours but loved his job – his own new business. The world had contrived to bring our lives together but in completely different ways the two of us were focused on and driven to make things happen for ourselves; we weren’t waiting for others to give us a lead to follow. Bizarrely, behind us in that lorry were 80 sheep.
Half an hour later, the wagon stopped right outside my student digs in the centre of town. The driver insisted on going out of his way to get me home safely. We shook hands and smiled knowing it was extremely unlikely we would never meet again.
It was 2.10am. In less than 6 hours I would be presenting an assessed piece of work in front of class. I didn’t mind, in fact in a strange way the experience had energised me. I loved the need to achieve and the feeling of achieving something I had never done before.
Key Learning Points. The need to achieve creates impatience and drive. It helps to make the entrepreneurial mind ‘hungry’ but it also makes you impatient. Analyse your own deeper personal needs to better understand what motivates you to do things. Achievement makes us feel good.