The Big Happiness Interview: How to escape the rat race to find happiness

‘I’m a great believer in the self-fulfilling prophecy,’ says Hasan Kubba, millionaire startup entrepreneur and co-author of The Unfair Advantage: How You Already Have What It Takes To Succeed. ‘I was just reading a recent study which said if you believe stress will make you stronger, then it probably will, and for the people who thought of it as being a purely negative thing, it did actually affect them badly.’

As Hasan joins me on Zoom, he is calm, quietly spoken and has his cat weaving across his desk. He is as unstressed as a person could be as he tells the story of building a successful startup from his bedroom of his parents’ home, with nothing more than an online course and a yearning to escape a corporate ‘rat race’. He has now gone on to advise and mentor hundreds of startups all over the world and is passionate about spreading the opportunities of startup entrepreneurship.

In his new book The Unfair Advantage, co-authored with Ash Ali, another millionaire award winning tech entrepreneur who started from humble beginnings, Hasan suggests that despite our upbringing and circumstances, we all have an unfair advantage and it’s not just wealthy and well-connected people who can get ahead. Hurray!

Here Hasan talks to about happiness and starting your own business.

Can anyone be an entrepreneur?

I consider myself an unnatural entrepreneur. I had to learn to develop my instinct for working without an externally imposed structured and a boss. And as an introvert I had to really push myself to learn to sell, I had to learn to put myself out there, and I had to learn to live with the uncertainty that entrepreneurship creates. So I would say that anyone can certainly learn to be an entrepreneur.

What is the connection between starting a business and happiness?

Often, we mistake the symbols of success for success itself. People might look at designer clothes, luxury holidays, flying first class, fancy cars but that’s not what success is, and it won’t make you happy. What makes you happy is climbing the mountain, achieving the achievements, and fulfilling what gift we have, and that’s what entrepreneurship gives you. 

What makes you happy is climbing the mountain, achieving the achievements, and fulfilling what gift we have.

Entrepreneurship is on the rise, despite the fact that most startups fail, so how do you make a success of it?

If you’re looking to take the plunge and start your own business, you can massively increase your chances of success by finding and leveraging your ‘unfair advantage.’

Unfair advantage – what’s that?

My business partner and co-author Ash Ali and I coined a phrase called ‘unfair advantage’ – which we define as a condition, circumstance, or asset which puts you in a favourable business condition. It is unique to you and cannot be replicated, copied, or bought. It can be internal or external, earned or unearned, psychological or circumstantial.

Your unfair advantages might be where you were born, who you know and what money you have. Equally, your unfair advantages can be your personal interests, your skills, your talents, or expertise, your lived experience that gives you a unique insight into a problem. Your ‘unfair advantage’ can’t be easily copied or bought and is usually unique to you. Ask yourself: ‘What do I personally have going for me that few other people do?’

Why is the right mindset in business important?

Without the right mindset, you can’t get very far. After all, there are rich kids with tons of unfair advantages who have amounted to nothing. All the world lay at their feet, yet they never took action. Perhaps an even better example in today’s world is the huge numbers of people who have paid huge amounts of money for an education they are not using. Others have status but may not be leveraging it. Yes, we start from what we have and what we are born into, but we also start from how we see the world, and what we are driven to do in it – and we can change these things in our favour at any time.

Your ‘unfair advantage’ can’t be easily copied or bought and is usually unique to you.

How do we create the right kind of mindset to be happy and successful?

I grew up reading a lot of self-development books when I was younger, but those books are generally quite American. And they would say things like, ‘there are no limits.’ When actually there can be some very real barriers in life.

The mindset I think we should adopt is what I call the ‘reality growth mindset’. There are four characteristics to this. Firstly, you have to have vision – the ability to see plainly what will exist. It’s not magic, it’s imagination and goal setting. Second is resourcefulness. You need to be able to solve problems quickly. Third, you need to commit to constant growth and life-long learning. I believe the future belongs to the person who will commit to a life of constant growth through continuous learning. And finally, you need grit and perseverance. You need thick skin, be able to bounce back and take responsibility, because when you’re a founder there is no one you can blame.

You also wrote in your book that luck plays a part in entrepreneurship– how do we become luckier?

According to psychologist Dr Richard Wiseman, becoming luckier is largely a matter of mindset. He identified four basic principles to great good fortune. First, maximise your chance opportunities by being observant, proactive and initiating conversation. Next, trust your intuition and gut feeling – in a survey of over 100 self-described ‘lucky’ people, over 90 per cent said they trusted their gut in the personal relationships. Third, expect to be lucky – self-fulfilling prophecies are real. You’ll be more likely to notice opportunities if you try to. And finally turn even the back luck into good luck. There will be obstacles and challenges along the way. You can’t control this but what you can control is how you view them and how they impact you. It could be a learning opportunity and a way to do better next time.

I would also add to that – take more action. Do more things. Meet more people. Go to more events. Blog about your start-up. Produce things and publish them. Increase your chances by doing more.

Expect to be lucky – self-fulfilling prophecies are real. You’ll be more likely to notice opportunities if you try to.

So just work harder?

No, I think there is a huge oversimplification of the hard work equals success equation. It’s misleading and downright confusing when you don’t know what to work hard on. For example, you can work incredibly hard designing and building a product, but if it’s product that nobody wants, then tough luck, you’ll get nowhere. You need to take smart action.

What is smart action?

Busy doesn’t mean productive. The key is to leverage your unfair advantages, your strengths, what you’re good at already – be it your communication or your people skills – and delegate the rest. Partner up with somebody, hire someone if you can to do the bits you’re not good at. I think that most people, including myself, are not working at capacity. Most people have more capacity to do to do more. The key is to be more strategic. Yes, burnout exists. You need time to recharge, and rest and rejuvenate. And the key here is to not be in the grey zone, where you’re neither working hard and being productive, nor are you actually unplugging and recharging very well. A good example of that, which I fall into often, is scrolling social media. Am I really having a break here? Is this actually good for my brain or my emotions? Or should I go for a walk in nature instead, or spend some time with family or pet? Figure out where to go to recharge, rejuvenate, and get some good sleep.

Most people have more capacity to do to do more. The key is to be more strategic.

Is there anyone who definitely shouldn’t start a business?

If you are living in extreme poverty or financial instability and if you are living with the stress and fear that comes from not being able to meet bill payments, rent or mortgage, these are not the right circumstances in which to embark upon a start-up. The same goes for if you have children and dependants that you need to support. You need to have your basic needs met before you can even think about founding a business.

What advice you would give to anyone considering starting their own business?

Tinker, try lots of things. Often I’m asked what would I tell my younger self. I’d say – I wish I’d tried more things so I could have found out faster what I really liked, what my values are. For example, I used to think of myself as quite introverted, but actually I love having a co-founder and a business partner, a co-author for the book to bounce ideas off and to have that camaraderie to go on a journey together. My first business was being by myself, and I didn’t realise that a business partner was something I needed or wanted. 

To make a business work you have to ask – what do people want as a product or a service, and what do you have to offer, and look for the intersection. And find the fulfilment there. It’s also knowing that you’re never going to enjoy every piece of a business, you’re never going to enjoy every piece of a career, you have to experiment and tinker until you find what makes you happy.

How to get emotionally fit to start your own business

The Unfair Advantage: How You Already Have What It Takes to Succeed (Profile Books, £10.99) is out now.

Do you have a story to share?

Get in touch by emailing [email protected]

Source: Read Full Article