Why Resilience is the Key for Successful Entrepreneurship

Why Resilience is the Key for Successful Entrepreneurship

By | 2016-12-01T19:13:41+00:00 June 21st, 2016|Startup Culture|

Entrepreneurship is never smooth sailing. Sometimes, you have the wind at your back. Other times, the seas are choppy and you have to batten down the hatches. It turns out that it’s not how you handle things when conditions are perfect but how you handle them when the winds are blowing at gale force — or when there isn’t a breeze at all.

According to Jeffrey Pfeffer, author of Power, and Jim Collins, author of Good to Great, resilience is a defining characteristic of people who make it, writes Denise Brosseau, author of Ready to be a Thought Leader? How to Increase Your Influence, Impact, and Success.

You just can’t go down for the count when you’re dealt a blow. Staying power is a hallmark of the best-performing companies of every size.

I was reminded of this when I watched Sheryl Sandberg’s touching speech at the UC Berkeley Spring 2016 Commencement and reread the heart-breaking note she wrote on Facebook about the death of her husband, Dave Goldberg, that there are lessons about resilience in the loss of a loved one. The first three lessons are based on Martin Seligman’s work. He is a psychologist and proponent of positive psychology. Sandberg recovered from her loss by understanding Seligman’s three P’s, personalization, pervasiveness, and permanence, all of which are critical to how we bounce back from hardship. 

Don’t take it personally: You’re not at fault when something out your control happens. At first, Sandberg blamed herself for the death of husband. “Not taking failures personally allows us to recover — and even to thrive,” she said.

Allow moments of non-sadness to seep in. The sadness around loss and failure can seem pervasive. Everywhere you go and everything you do is colored by the sadness of your situation. The truth is that not everything will suck as a result of your situation. Don’t let it become pervasive.

This, too, shall pass:  We think that our feelings will last indefinitely. “We feel sad — and then we feel sad that we’re sad,” said Sandberg. “Instead, we should accept our feelings — but recognize that they will not last forever.” Feelings aren’t permanent.  

Applying Resilience to Entrepreneurship

How do these rules transfer from personal loss to entrepreneurship? Very directly. The success of a business is affected by many things, some of which you can’t control. Focus on those you can make better and wait for the wind to change. To bring about the change, you can also:

Ask for help: It’s a myth that entrepreneurship is a lonely journey. If there’s one thing I’ve learned from the successful entrepreneurs I know, is that they don’t do it alone.

Resilience can be learned: You may say that it’s not your nature to bounce back after adversity. That you don’t have the resilience gene. You are only half right. In Sonja Lyubomirsky’s The How Of Happiness, she says fifty percent of our propensity for happiness is based on genetics, which we can’t influence very much. Ten percent is based on life circumstances (such as getting a new client, receiving funding, or being mentioned in the media). And, 40% is “intentional activity” that we can influence with our behavior. It is in your power to help control those things.

Be grateful for what you have: Consider entrepreneurial defeats in a broader context. Appreciate what you do have. Research finds that grateful people recover faster from setbacks. Building a practice of gratitude will not only help you personally, but it will help you be a better leader. In her speech, Sandberg also spoke to the importance of gratitude.

Get mentally tough: Remember that old adage “It’s not what happens to you, but how you react to it that matters.” It couldn’t be more true than when handling the pits and valleys of entrepreneurship.

Know your purpose: Knowing who you are and what matters to you will help you be strong in the here and now. Find your passion, chart your path, and know where you’re going.

Nurture yourself: Pay attention to your own needs and feelings, says the American Psychological Association. Engage in activities that you enjoy and find relaxing. Taking care of yourself, which includes getting enough sleep, helps keep your mind and body primed to deal with situations that require resilience.

Paint me a survivor, not a victim: How you frame things and your mental mindset changes how you react to a situation. So picture yourself as a survivor, not a victim.

Geri Stengel is president of Ventureneer, a marketing research company targeting small business. Geri is a regular Forbes contributor, consultant, Kauffman facilitator and the author of Forget the Glass Ceiling: Building Your Business Without One.