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As a young entrepreneur, all I wanted was to become as successful as the business leaders I admired. I scoured business publications every month, studying the habits and attitudes of the uber-successful featured in their pages. One way or another, I was going to crack the code for success and use it to build the life of my dreams.

I’m not saying I’ve got it all figured out now (far from it!), but I did learn a few things about what it takes to create the life you’ve always wanted. The key? Success isn’t really about what you do – it’s about how you think.

Abundance wins

I’ll never forget when my best employee quit on me. It was about six years after we first launched 1-800-GOT-JUNK? and he was striking out to start his own junk removal company. I should have been flattered that he wanted to follow in my footsteps. Instead, I was blinded by resentment. Since my business existed first, I felt like I should have exclusive rights to the industry (ridiculous, right?). I now know this kind of thinking is called a scarcity mindset: I thought there was only enough success for one of us. I was so fixated on his business, that I wasn’t focused on my own – and this toxic mentality only held me back. Now, I try to adopt an abundance mindset, where I know there’s more than enough success to go around and that we all benefit from healthy competition.

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Positivity equals results

I’ve always considered myself to be an optimist at heart. I choose to see the glass half full in most situations, but still, there have been times when it’s been tough not to fall into a doom loop. One of those times was in 1997. After just eight years, my business hit a plateau I had no idea how to climb over – our sales were flat and we suffered our first overall loss since starting up.

It’s impossible to see the light when you’re stuck in a dark place because negative thoughts tend to lead to negative outcomes. The same is true when you have a positive mindset: good things follow. Start choosing to be positive and you’ll be able to reset yourself on a constructive track. If I hadn’t managed to dig deep and find that spark of optimism, I doubt the business would ever have grown again.

Dare to dream

When was the last time you told yourself you couldn’t do something? Most people unconsciously do this every day, many times a day – which leads to a self-fulfilling prophecy. But if you can change the story in your head, you open up the “possibility factor,” the possibility that you can achieve all of your wildest dreams.

I’m talking about the difference between a fixed mindset and growth mindset. A fixed mindset says, “You don’t have the skills required for that promotion.” A growth mindset says, “You are talented, hard-working and you can do it.” I remember when I lived with these limiting beliefs running through my head; I believed the franchise experts who told me that there was no way I could franchise my business. I believed that I would never overcome our plateau. But then I started to imagine what I could achieve if I didn’t hold myself back. I wrote down every single goal and then I went out and made them reality. Giving myself the space to dream opened up a world of possibilities.

Be willing to fail

I learned most of these mindsets by observing and talking to people I admire, but there’s one that’s always been an inherent part of how I live my life. My motto is “WTF” – which stands for Willing To Fail. It means leaning into mistakes and seeing setbacks as opportunities to learn and grow. If there’s anything that’s helped me find success, it’s taking risks, believing in myself and always being willing to fail.

This mindset is something we look for in our franchise owners, too: Along with being happy, hungry, hard-working, and hands-on (the 4H’s!,) there has to be that willingness to take a smart risk in order to create the life they want – the life of a boss, the life of a business owner, the life of a founder.

I really do believe that if you change your mindset, you really can change your life – and while that may sound easier said than done, I’m living proof that it works.

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This column is part of Globe Careers’ Leadership Lab series, where executives and experts share their views and advice about leadership and management. Follow us at @Globe_Careers. Find all Leadership Lab stories at tgam.ca/leadershiplab.

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