May 19, 2024

Every entrepreneur needs to focus on developing resilience—the ability to stay the course when times are tough and to take setbacks in stride. In fact, an article in Forbes magazine several years ago placed the quality of resilience at the top of its list of essential character traits for entrepreneurs.
If you are resilient, you continue to work toward your goals, even when financial resources are low, and the window of success is narrow. Resilient entrepreneurs stay calm in the face of unexpected challenges and steady when things do not go according to plan.
However, all of this is easier said than done, and business schools seldom teach classes on resilience. Here are a few points based on a survey of the literature on the topic, as well as my own experience.
Entrepreneurial resilience
1. Blend confidence with humility
Entrepreneurs must be confident. The very fact of taking an idea and offering it to the world as a unique and indispensable way to solve a problem or make life better is a leap of faith. We all need that kind of bold vision in order to succeed.
But successful entrepreneurs also learn to develop their fair share of humility. You need to be able to make many minor—and sometimes major—adjustments over the unfolding of a plan. The ability to spot your own weaknesses, as well as to tweak design plans and long-term goals, is an art in itself.
2. Gain strength from adversity
People don’t succeed without experiencing setbacks along the way. Resilient entrepreneurs can turn failure into success, pain into insight, and fear into bravery.
Some entrepreneurs who have emerged stronger from difficulty say that resilience means understanding that while you can never truly go back to how things stood prior to the problem, you can become stronger and wiser as a result of difficult experiences.
3. Keep your edge
Many experts point out that complacent companies, specifically those that have lost their ability to roll with the punches of the market, technological developments, and consumer demands, tend to fade from the scene. Blackberry and Kodak are two prominent examples of business models that failed to adapt.
4. Remember that you can learn resilience
Research shows that some people have a neurochemical makeup that may naturally help them to withstand pressures and challenges. But all of us can adapt our style and change our outlook to become more resilient.
5. Stay grounded
Developing resilience doesn’t mean becoming blindly optimistic. You need to remain realistic, making sure you completely grasp the implications of each situation. Entrepreneurs who allow themselves to ignore problems—or worse, deny they exist—will not make tough choices go away. They will simply postpone the inevitable, often with disastrous results. Using the courage gained through resilience, these entrepreneurs can face challenges head on.
Staying grounded also means following your internal sense of what is right. By sticking to your own vision and understanding of what is right and just in each situation, you will find a source of wisdom and guidance during times of doubt. You’ve got to stay in touch with your ethical foundations—your values of honesty and integrity—and seek out mentors who can give you broader and deeper perspectives on these issues.
6. Learn from your mistakes
Thomas Edison is said to have told others that he didn’t believe he had failed. He simply discovered thousands of ways of doing things that didn’t work. Resilience means not giving in, but rather learning from your experience and incorporating even negative experiences into your toolkit moving forward.
Don’t waste your time lamenting the problems that you encounter and allow yourself to hang onto self-defeating or self-pitying feelings about your worth as a businessperson. Instead, assess your situation and ask yourself how you and your company can improve going forward.
7. Be creative and resourceful
Learn to use your imagination to foresee possibilities and challenges. Envision different courses of action you can take to get the best results from each situation. When you learn to be resourceful, using the materials you have on hand, you’re more likely to be able to overcome temporary stressors and thrive even in the midst of difficulties.
8. Seek out support
Other people with similar values and mindsets can be valuable sources of support as you work through problems to develop resilience. Even as you seek to cultivate the insights of sharp and critical thinkers, you need to stay away from doomsayers and people who choose to be negative simply for the sake of being negative. Surround yourself with positive people—on your team and as investors, mentors, and peers—who can lift you up when you need it. And be prepared to return the favor when necessary.
9. Don’t give up
You may find that your grit and determination to see a project through will become self-sustaining as you rise from one level to the next. Successful entrepreneurs, like the late Steve Jobs of Apple, have demonstrated the value of staying true to a vision or an idea, even in the face of seemingly impassable obstacles.
Pat Gelsinger, the CEO of Intel, says entrepreneurs need three things to succeed: mentorship, audacious goals, and passion. I absolutely agree with him. But the bow that keeps that all tied together is resilience. They win the battle who remain on the field.


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