karen lancaster blog

What is optimism? Someone said, “The difference between something happening or not happening is the belief that it will happen” A self fulfilling prophecy. An obstacle is to be climbed or smashed through, not something to stop us. But how do we choose to be optimistic?

Optimism is not a result of a life of ease and comfort. Suffering and struggle is usually part of the deal. According to Viktor Frankl’s “Man’s Search for Meaning”, our power to choose our attitude in any situation allows us to be hopeful. Many times when people choose pessimism over optimism it is because they are trying to avoid disappointment or failure.

It is risky to choose optimism as your viewpoint. Disappointment, betrayal and hurt are guaranteed, but a life without hope, desires and dreams will never lead to success. Optimism is realistic. We don’t stubbornly proclaim that everything will miraculously happen as expected, but rather that we will make the most out of whatever we face. We have the power to make this choice at any time, in any and every difficulty.

Remember the story of the twins. One was an eternal optimist and the other a complete pessimist. On one birthday the father thought that he could sway their points of view. He gave the pessimist a pony and the optimist a room full of pony dung. The father crept outside each of the boys play areas to see how his experiment had gone. The pessimist was bemoaning the fact that looking after a pony was hard work and that there was so much that could go wrong. With a sigh, the father turned to the optimist and heard laughter and activity. Listening closely, he heard the optimist saying with all this dung, there has to be a pony here somewhere!

Make your choice. Where you are going in business?


By Karen Lancaster




“One of the most common causes of failure is the habit of quitting when one is overtaken by temporary defeat. Every person is guilty of this mistake at one time or another.

An uncle of R.U. Darby was caught by the “gold fever” in the gold-rush days, and went west to DIG AND GROW RICH. He had never heard that more gold has been mined from the brains of men than has ever been taken from the earth. He staked a claim and went to work with pick and shovel. The going was hard, but his lust for gold was definite.

After weeks of labor, he was rewarded by the discovery of the shining ore. He needed machinery to bring the ore to the surface. Quietly, he covered up the mine, retraced his footsteps to his home in Williamsburg, Maryland, told his relatives and a few neighbors of the “strike.” They got together money for the needed machinery, had it shipped. The uncle and Darby went back to work the mine.

The first car of ore was mined, and shipped to a smelter. The returns proved they had one of the richest mines in Colorado! A few more cars of that ore would clear the debts. Then would come the big killing in profits.

Down went the drills! Up went the hopes of Darby and Uncle! Then something happened! The vein of gold ore disappeared! They had come to the end of the rainbow, and the pot of gold was no longer there! They drilled on, desperately trying to pick up the vein again – all to no avail.

Finally, they decided to QUIT.

They sold the machinery to a junk man for a few hundred dollars, and took the train back home. Some “junk” men are dumb, but not this one! He called in a mining engineer to look at the mine and do a little calculating. The engineer advised that the project had failed, because the owners were not familiar with “fault lines.” His calculations showed that the vein would be found JUST THREE FEET FROM WHERE THE DARBYS HAD STOPPED DRILLING! That is exactly where it was found!

The “Junk” man took millions of dollars in ore from the mine, because he knew enough to seek expert counsel before giving up.

Most of the money which went into the machinery was procured through the efforts of R.U. Darby, who was then a very young man. The money came from his relatives and neighbors, because of their faith in him. He paid back every dollar of it, although he was years in doing so.

Long afterward, Mr. Darby recouped his loss many times over, when he made the discovery that DESIRE can be transmuted into gold. The discovery came after he went into the business of selling life insurance.

Remembering that he lost a huge fortune, because he STOPPED three feet from gold, Darby profited by the experience in his chosen work, by the simple method of saying to himself, “I stopped three feet from gold, but I will never stop because men say ‘no’ when I ask them to buy insurance.”

Darby is one of a small group of fewer than fifty men who sell more than a million dollars in life insurance annually. He owes his “stickability” to the lesson he learned from his “quitability” in the gold mining business.” This story is from ‘Three Feet from Gold’ from ‘Think and Grow Rich’ by Napoleon Hill.

The difference between those who succeed and those who fail after a number of attempts is persistence. It is a vital ingredient for success in any field. The opposite of persistence is giving up, an activity that is far too common. Perhaps another way of describing persistence is ‘bloody minded determination’. It’s an unwillingness to give up and an ability to continue against the odds. Persistence is not accepting the words, “no” and “can’t”. Take the “t” off “can’t”. It is looking for the other ways when there seems to be no way forward.

“Nothing in the world will take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than the unsuccessful person with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent.”
– Calvin Coolidge

By Karen Lancaster


Hard Work

Entrepreneurs rely heavily on hard work, however due to the passion and love for the job, it usually doesn’t feel like work. A strong work ethic is absolutely essential to success and 100% effort is continuously necessary. Hard work is often a time consuming activity and most of the successful entrepreneurs are workaholics, despite the many calls for balance and the need for relaxation.

Successful businesses have definitely been built upon the shoulders of founders who have had an attitude of working harder than the average employee. The difference is that the hard work is seen from a different perspective and an energy seems to emanate from entrepreneurs. The time flies by and much of the work seems like play. In fact, much of the time, work and play seem to merge into living.

Without a doubt, entrepreneurs seem to work harder than most, but their attitude is completely different. Ideas for their businesses seem to pop up at the most inopportune moments, with no regard to business hours. Sleep is sometimes elusive as the mind races solving problems and coming up with new innovations.

Commitment to success is a must. It keeps the entrepreneur going when all else is going wrong.

Noel Coward – “Work is more fun than fun.”


By Karen Lancaster



I have friends who have a German Shorthaired Pointer who is their pride and joy, named Casey. She is the most amazing dog with boundless energy and the most incredible focus that I have seen. One of her favourite activities, amongst the many that she loves, is to play ball. Casey can play for hours and in all that time, she never once loses focus. No matter the size of the ball, she will catch it or find it every time. She leaps to incredible heights to catch the ball and it is like poetry in motion. Her eyes stay fixed on the ball and don’t stray until that ball is in her mouth.

And so it is with entrepreneurship. Focused determination is an essential element to successful entrepreneurship. It has been said that focus gives exponential results.

What is Focus?

Focus is clarity of vision.  It is the recognition of where you are and where you want to be. Knowing what is relevant to you and what will get you where you aim to be. Focus is carefully choosing the right opportunities and discarding all others. It is eradicating distractions, which will cause you to struggle on the path to your success. Like Casey, you need to single-mindedly pursue your ball.

When the sun is directed through a magnifying glass, it’s heat is intensified and it has the power to ignite fire. So focus can intensify your path to the future. So, choose your destination, then focus on the means to get there with determination.

By Karen Lancaster



Walt Disney said that all of our dreams can come true if we have the courage to pursue them. Last week we looked at courage in the life of an entrepreneur, but this week we are looking at another element of successful entrepreneurship – vision.

Without vision and goals:

  • we will have nowhere to go,
  • no-one or nowhere to lead,
  • nothing to focus on.

Dreams lead to vision. Vision leads to goals. Goals lead to action and results.

So the question is “What are you trying to achieve?”

Vision gives us consistency, however we don’t just need vision for that end result, we also need vision for the many steps that it will take to get us there. We need targets, monthly goals and so on.

I have heard the suggestion that when you know where you want to go you can work backwards to get the steps to get there.

We all have different ways of setting our vision and going for it, but it all starts with a dream. Here are some questions to help you work through vision.

  • What makes your heart beat a little faster?
  • What would you love to do all day every day?
  • What do you want to do with your success?
  • What do you want your venture to look like?
  • What kind of people do you want to hire?
  • What kind of company culture do you dream of?
  • How are you going to get there?

And most importantly, do you have a vision and what is it?


By Karen Lancaster



I’m sure you’ve heard it said that courage is not the absence of fear, but going ahead anyway, despite the fear. Anyone who has ever had to face a fear head on, like bungy jumping with a terror of heights or caving with claustrophobia, knows the amazing sense of achievement that comes when the fear has been tackled and overcome.

A first time business start-up needs this same courage to break out of old ways and take the calculated risk of going for the dream. The rewards certainly make up for the risks, but it doesn’t make it easy in the early days when bills are piling up and making enough to pay them is a challenge. The most frightening part is probably the initial decision. However, with every big milestone in business, there will be new challenges and courage will have to be exercised again.

Here are a few moments of courage that will be needed as you start your new venture.

  • Courage to turn your back on the security of a job
  • Courage to walk a different path to start your own business
  • Courage to follow your own convictions
  • Courage to stand your ground against those who challenge you
  • Courage to step into unknown territory
  • Courage to follow your instincts

The problem is where do we find the courage for all of this? The following are some simple tips to help build courage.

  • Start with small steps
  • Acknowledge your fears
  • Be willing to fail
  • Don’t focus on anxiety
  • Don’t give up
  • Just do something every day
  • Revisit your vision frequently
  • Manage your stress through exercise, breathing techniques, meditation or whatever helps you best

Courage grows with use. The more we use courage, the easier it becomes. It is much like exercise – difficult initially, but it improves with practice. So, there is nothing else to do but to simply do whatever you keep putting off.


By Karen Lancaster


drive and determination

I recently read the story of the son of a horse trainer who worked at stables and ranches. At school the boy was asked to write about what he wanted to be when he grew up. Without hesitation, he wrote a seven-page paper about his dream of owning a horse ranch, including many details, the location of buildings and stables and even a house plan.

He received his paper back with an “F” on the front. When he asked the teacher why, he was told that his dreams were unrealistic as he had no money or resources. The teacher offered him a rewrite with a more realistic goal.

The boy asked his father’s advice who encouraged him to think carefully and to make his own decision.

After a few days the boy gave the paper to his teacher with no amendments. He respectfully told the teacher to keep the “F” and he would keep his dream.

Years later as an adult, he now owns a huge house in the middle of 200-acre horse ranch. He still has the school paper, which is framed over the fireplace.

We can have all of the passion and self-belief in the world, but without drive and determination, we will not achieve our goals. Passion motivates us, self-belief gives us the courage, but drive and determination gets the job done.

Drive and determination, which are fundamental to success, start with desire. We need aspirations. We need to want to get somewhere. Sit down and think about the goals for our new businesses. What are our dreams for the future of the venture. Where do we want to go? How do we want our enterprise to operate? How much do we want to expand? What are our personal aspirations that the business can facilitate? What social causes do we want to empower?

Once, we have an idea of where we are headed, we need to go for it with single minded pursuit. We need to have the attitude of “where there’s a will, there’s a way”. No matter what confronts us, we need to push through and allow the drive to kick in, always remembering why we are doing this.

We will quickly discover that nothing goes according to plan and we need to overcome challenges and obstacles much of the time. Generally, there are more setbacks than successes and without determination, we will quickly flounder and give up. Drive and determination is what will get us through all of the hard times. Think of the many different movies, like “The Pursuit of Happiness”, that have illustrated this. It has been said that most successful businesses founders failed seven times before they found success. Disney, Einstein and many others were considered foolish before they found success.   

 So, examine your desires and fuel your drive. I’d love to hear some of your success stories.


By Karen Lancaster


Network Explosion

Please excuse the interruption of our weekly look at Elements of Successful Entrepreneurship, however I have some exciting news to share regarding business matters.

As many of you know, I launched out in business in April last year after years of working for others and teamed up with Gill Bates to form Bates Lancaster Consulting. A few months later, Gill was headhunted and could not refuse the offer and I found myself continuing alone. It caused me to focus on the skills that I was offering and fine-tune the future of the business, however the name no longer made any sense. I narrowed down the offering to networking services, both online and face to face (F2F) and so the name Network Explosion was birthed.

The website should be live any day now and Network Explosion is already live on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+ and Pinterest. Please feel free to interact on any or all of those platforms. With this in mind, I will be phasing out the Bates Lancaster Consulting blog over the next few months. However this blog, which is my personal blog, will continue as normal.

I am very excited about what 2014 has to offer and I look forward to meeting, working and collaborating with many of you.

Here’s to a marvellous year!

By Karen Lancaster


Karen Lancaster Blog

If you don’t believe in something, then you will never persuade someone else to believe in it. If you don’t believe in the potential of your business, how do you expect anyone else to see it? If you don’t believe in yourself, who else will believe in you?

Self-belief is another element of successful entrepreneurship. It goes beyond confidence. Confidence is attractive, but self-belief engenders trust.

The enemy of self-belief is self-doubt, which is the most debilitating characteristic. I started the year with a new mantra – “Banish self-doubt.” All of us experience self-doubt from time to time, but we need to actively walk away from it and not entertain it in our thoughts. We need to surround ourselves with positive, supportive people and believe them when they highlight our strengths.

Self belief and confidence can be built up by increasing your knowledge in your field and by practice. Think of any new skill, such as learning to cycle. Initially, you feel afraid and insecure, but the more you learn how to do it and practice, the more confident you become, until you are doing wheelies down the road.

So take these tips to build your self-belief.

  • Build faith in your skills through knowledge and practice
  • Develop an “I can” attitude by trying new challenging activities on a regular basis
  • Do the things that you are passionate about
  • Develop your vision and work step by step towards it
  • Just do it
  • Acknowledge each small achievement
  • Celebrate each achievement
  • Surround yourself with positive people
  • Keep developing yourself
  • Enjoy yourself


By Karen Lancaster


Karen Lancaster Blog

Passion. A word that immediately evokes feelings of intense desire. Sets a person on fire. Passion is seen in romance, the arts and business. How can we use the passion we have as entrepreneurs to our best advantage?

  • Passion causes enthusiasm, which makes work so much more enjoyable and is contagious in the workplace,
  • Passion is the drive that pushes us onward during setbacks,
  • Passion gives us confidence to trust ourselves,
  • Passion inspires others,
  • Passion allows us to have the single minded pursuit that is necessary in business,
  • Passion needs to be mingled with determination and aspiration,
  • Passion needs a strong work ethic,
  • Passion and perseverance go a long way.

Obviously passion alone is not sufficient, but passion together with the 11 other elements that will be looked at over the next few months are a surefire way to reach the business goals that you have set for yourself.

How does passion help you?


By Karen Lancaster