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Our Hard-and-Fast Rules for Success

You will, as an entrepreneur, have countless opportunities to learn from successful entrepreneurs via books, articles, videos, in person, and even by researching successful entrepreneurs on the internet. Before we launched our first business more than five decades ago, we took a course at Indiana University called “Enterprise and Entrepreneurship” from a professor named Bill Haeberle, and the class sessions were at Bill’s house. Bill was a champion of entrepreneurship and every week we would meet in this informal environment with our classmates and Bill, along with a different entrepreneur he had invited to talk with our class. This was a fantastic learning opportunity, and it informed a lot of our views on entrepreneurship. 

The class was much less formal and structured than in a normal classroom setting. The visiting entrepreneur would start out having a nice dinner with Bill beforehand, and due to informal conversation and an enjoyable meal, along with a few drinks with dinner, these entrepreneurs would be ready to go in casual conversation mode, rather than business-presentation mode. 

Then we would arrive with our classmates after dinner and find the guests were generally very relaxed. We’d all sit and listen to each entrepreneur as Bill prompted them with interview-style questions. One of the key questions Bill was sure to ask at these meetings was what each entrepreneur believed were “the hard-and-fast rules for success.” 

Over the course of the semester, dozens of fantastic, successful entrepreneurs shared their thoughts, and through this learning experience, we discovered that each entrepreneur had a different set of “hard and fast” rules for success. As a class, we would study the answers for commonalities and look for useful insights, but it was eye-opening for our entire class to realize that each entrepreneur had their own unique style and their own set of motivating beliefs, without a lot of overlap.

After more than 50 years as entrepreneurs, it’s safe to say that we have quite a few of our own “hard and fast” rules for success. Additionally, because we are teachers, not only do we want to share our passion for entrepreneurship, we have developed teaching tools to help entrepreneurs understand the origins and applications of each of our rules. 

We have compiled all of our entrepreneurial rules and teaching tools into our book LIFT, so we can reach as many entrepreneurs as possible. What follows is one of our teaching tools for some high-level thinking about how we have leveraged passions and learned skills to our advantage in business.

“PLAY” is a word we use to remind entrepreneurs of habits that will help them acquire more and more valuable entrepreneurial interests and related skills over time. “TNT” is a term we use to help you remember how to organize your acquired interests and skills to make a dynamite business. 

PLAY stands for the habits of: 

Always learning: A deeper knowledge of topics turns interests into valuable skills.

Yet again: Repeat these behaviors until they become habits. 

Following these habits will help you collect valuable passions and gain related skills.

Side note: 

To simplify our explanation, we use an analogy with a word game almost everyone knows. Scrabble. When people hear the word “Scrabble,” most instantly think of the board game with letter tiles that have been around for generations. The way the Scrabble board game works is that the more valuable letter tiles you have, the more valuable words you can spell in the board game. And the more valuable words you can spell, the higher you will score. The secret to winning the game is to spell valuable words. 

In the board game Scrabble, you only get seven letter tiles. And you don’t get to choose the letters, you draw the tiles blindly from the pile. But the good news is that in the game of life, it’s much different. You can have as many Scrabble tiles as you want, and you get to choose what the letters will be, based on your interests and passions. 

Our Scrabble analogy is that area in life and business that you know more about than others are like valuable Scrabble letters. The more areas of knowledge you know, the more successful business ideas you can put together, and the better you will do. Accordingly, one goal of an entrepreneur should be to develop areas of knowledge you know more about than other people so you can put them together to make winning business ideas. 

Most important, you need at least one strong passion (Scrabble letter) on which you can build a business. You need to build your business around something that energizes you while you’re working and keeps you moving forward when it seems like things are going wrong. 

If you have two or three or five strong passions, great! Don’t worry yet about which one should be the one that drives your business. Your passionate pursuit won’t be standing on its own—it will be part of the bigger picture. 

If you don’t think you have one single passion that could light your entrepreneurial fire, you probably actually do, but you’ve just told yourself, “Nobody would pay me to do that,” or “There’s no way to turn that into a business.” 

Here’s a little booster exercise to open your mind a bit. Read this sentence and fill in the blank: 

“If I could wake up every day and get paid to _________________, my life would be fantastic!” 

If nothing comes to mind, keep reading and come back to it and read the sentence again later. Read it when you first wake up and see what comes to mind. Read it in front of your friends or your spouse or relationship partner and ask them to fill in the blank with what they think your passion is. Just keep coming back to this exercise from time to time and you’ll generate answers that will highlight your passions. 

Grab these Scrabble letters:

Collecting more Scrabble letters is always a good goal and a fun part of life. Regardless of your current collection of Scrabble tiles, every entrepreneur needs the following three in their collection: 

Remember that PLAY refers to your interests and behaviors that will help you acquire more valuable passions and skills over time. TNT stands for things that will help you sell those passions and skills: 

Trust: Being a trustworthy person is necessary to get people to be willing to depend on you. People trust someone who they think respects them and has their interests at heart, is predictable, and plays by fair rules. 

Needs: The way entrepreneurs get ahead is by seeking out and taking care of the needs of others. A good way to find those needs is to remember what your target market (and actually everyone) is thinking all the time, and that is “What’s in it for me?” 

Triumph: The final T refers to a triumph with solutions to the needs of others.

Put your Scrabble letters together in ways that meet the needs you have discovered, and you’ll have solutions that provide a profit.

In the end, your true entrepreneurial success will come from the combinations of Scrabble letters to apply “TNT.” Greater success happens when you have more Scrabble letters that can be combined to make even more structured business offerings.

Collecting Scrabble letters needs to become a skill set in and of itself. Pursuing knowledge pays off in ways you could never anticipate. Until you actually acquire a new Scrabble letter, you don’t know how it might be combined with other letters in your collection, and how valuable it will become. 

About the Authors

John and Martha King’s use of technology and clear, simple, and fun teaching have made aviation knowledge more accessible to pilots throughout the world.

After a dismal failure in a business for which they did not have a passion, John and Martha King decided to relax and indulge their love of flying for a while. In the early 1970s, they began teaching flying to mark time while looking for a “serious business.” After teaching live seminars for over a decade, they put their courses on video and began to revolutionize the flight training industry.

For more than 40 years, King Schools has delivered many millions of courses to pilots in training. Through intimate video instruction, John and Martha King have taught more pilots than anyone in the history of aviation—for many years teaching more than half the pilots in the United States to learn to fly.

Through the years, the Kings have retained their enthusiasm for flying. They fly their own Dassault Falcon 10 jet wherever they go, swapping captain and copilot duties on each leg. They have flown as pilots in every continent of the world except Antarctica, including a trip completely around the world via the length of Russia.

In September 1994, John and Martha became the first and only couple to both hold every category and class of FAA rating on their pilot and instructor certificates. Martha is the only woman to achieve this complete rating sweep. They remain active in many categories, regularly flying everything from jets to piston airplanes and helicopters. They have enjoyed periodically serving as backup pilots for the Fujifilm blimp, having flown the blimp over such events as the Kentucky Derby, the Davis Cup, the Super Bowl, the U.S. Open tennis tournament,

and the Experimental Aircraft Association convention at Oshkosh, Wisconsin. Their airship adventures have been part of national television coverage on the Fox, ESPN, CBS, and USA networks.

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The Kings appear frequently on national TV as aviation experts. They also have starred in numerous video presentations on Microsoft’s Flight Simulator program providing instruction for the “Getting Started” Wizard and for numerous informational topics. Plus, they were featured on CNN’s “Business Unusual.”

For many years both John and Martha served on the Board of Directors of the San Diego Air and Space Museum. They are both currently on the Board of the Charles A. and Anne Morrow Lindbergh Foundation and John was previously the Chairman. Martha was formerly the Chair of the Chancellor ́s Community Advisory Board of the University of California, San Diego.

About King Schools, Inc.

King Schools, Inc. is the world’s leading producer of aviation training videos and computer software. It was first established in 1975 when John and Martha began flying throughout the country to teach aviation ground school courses. A decade later, they began producing video courses in a spare room of their house.

Today, King Schools operates from an 18,000 sq. ft. complex, housing a dedicated video and software production facility. King has delivered more than 700,000 video-based knowledge courses and millions of short-subject video “Take-off” courses.

King Schools is keenly aware of the importance of the work we do. During the time someone is learning to fly, flying is the most important thing in his or her life. We are privileged to play such a significant role in the lives of so many committed individuals. We take pride in producing quality work for these special people. Learn more at KingSchools.com.

by John and Martha King, King Schools

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