Tap Into Your Resilience

Having a hard time sticking with your business goals? Feeling stuck in a never-ending cycle of starting and quitting?

Let’s explore the concept of resilience, how it specifically relates to entrepreneurship, and how to start fine-tuning your ability to persevere through obstacles, rejection, and failure so that you’re always growing and evolving.

[Full Transcript]

Having a hard time sticking with your business goals? Feeling stuck in a never-ending cycle of starting and quitting?

Let’s explore the concept of resilience, how it specifically relates to entrepreneurship, and how to start fine-tuning your ability to persevere through obstacles, rejection, and failure so that you’re always growing and evolving.

Defining “Resilience”

What does “being resilient” actually mean?

More than likely, the first word you thought of was “grit.” Popularized by psychologist and author Angela Duckworth, grit is defined as “a combination of passion and perseverance for a singularly important goal. Grit is about having what some researchers call an ‘ultimate concern.’ A goal you care about so much that it organizes and gives meaning to almost everything you do.”

That all sounds great, right? Who wouldn’t want to have more grittiness? The question is, how do you develop it?

To start, let’s build on this definition of grit, and flesh out the concept of resilience a bit by exploring some of its deeper, more subtle characteristics.

Whether we call it grit, commitment, or resilience doesn’t really matter. What does matter is that your success as an entrepreneur depends on it. So it makes sense to understand it as much as possible, and ensure that you’re taking conscious control of your resilience rather than leaving it up to chance.

First, resilience is raw energy that you tap into by aligning your actions with some kind of meaningful purpose. To be resilient means that you’ve gotten clear about your calling, and you use resilience to concentrate your focus and energy on something that truly matters to you.

When you’re resilient, you’ve tapped into a powerful source of motivation that’s driving you to build the business you want to build. Resilience only exists in relation to your desired outcomes and the obstacles that are in your way—without this type of challenging goal laid out in front of you, resilience is a non-issue. You don’t need grit when the goal is easy to achieve.

Second, resilience is a catalyst for creative problem solving. It’s what lays the groundwork for innovation in a world full of obstacles and competing agendas. It’s your inner voice that says “This is important and worthwhile. I will find a way to make this happen.”

Or as Duckworth puts it: “…grit is holding steadfast to that goal. Even when you fall down. Even when you screw up. Even when progress toward that goal is halting or slow.”

Resilience at its best is about discovering creative solutions to life’s obstacles. Creative problem solving, combined with intelligent action, is how we achieve our goals.

The Dark Side of Grit

That said, resilience has a dark side—potentially harmful misinterpretations of what it means to be “gritty” that are easy to get caught up in, and that threaten to derail the very goals you’re trying to achieve.

The most insidious version of resilience is mindless persistence—a complete commitment to one narrow vision, driving you to repeat the same ineffective actions despite the lack of any meaningful progress.

When you’re caught up in mindless persistence, you see every obstacle as a wall that you need to break through using sheer force and determination. You might approach it by chipping away slowly over time, or by throwing your full weight behind every blow of the metaphorical sledgehammer. Either way, you become so obsessed with charging through the obstacle in front of you that you don’t stop to ask yourself if there’s a better path to achieving your goal, or perhaps even a better goal to pursue altogether.

One example of this type of mindless persistence is committing to building a business in a dying industry, ignoring the reality of the market in favor of some idealized dream of being “the exception to the rule.”

For example, knowing what we know about the decline of brick-and-mortar book retail, launching a business in that industry could start out as an act of love, but quickly morph into mindless persistence.

Imagine you’re a book loving entrepreneur who decides to pursue your dream and open a used book store. You start out completely clear headed about the waining financial viability and public demand for used books. You’re not interested in building an empire. You simply want to surround yourself with the books you love, build a community with other book lovers, and have some fun in the process. If you can do all of this in a way that breaks even financially—or at least doesn’t put you in bankruptcy—you’ll consider the whole thing a success.

Now fast-forward a few years. Despite building a decent customer base, you’ve struggled to turn any kind of profit, and have accumulated $30,000 in credit card debt to keep yourself afloat. Your financial struggles have made you actually resent the books—and the book buying public—that you used to love. The “grit” you’ve shown in the face of this uphill battle has metastasized into mindless persistence. The type of stubborn indifference to reality that’s more delusion than resilience.

Another example of mindless persistence is ignoring the results of a process or strategy, and actually doubling down despite it showing no sign of possibly succeeding in the future. That could be a management style, a marketing campaign, or even a target customer. The sunk cost fallacy kicks in—the more we’ve lost, the harder it is to walk away.

Being resilient isn’t about applying mindless force to an immovable object or throwing good money after bad. Sometimes the smart play is to accept that your investment or idea didn’t pan out, pull your chips, and try something completely different.

Why Resilience is Critical For Entrepreneurs

Entrepreneurship and resilience are inseparable. Building a business and keeping it profitable over the long term requires the ability to overcome a non-stop stream of obstacles under constantly changing conditions.

There are hundreds of complex external and internal forces at play that directly impact your success—market demand, competitive landscape, supply chains, your own skill sets and aptitudes, disruptive technology, global pandemics, and on and on.

Without resilience, you can end up buckling under these forces. When things get hard, it’s too easy to either quit altogether, or start chasing the easy wins. Instead of rising to the challenge, you can get caught up addicted to the path of least resistance.

But when you commit to building a business, you’re also committing to embracing obstacles that most people are unwilling to face. And that’s a good thing. After all, if building a business was easy, a lot more people would be able to do it, and there would be little to no value in the effort.

A great analogy of this balance between obstacles and value is posting on social media. Since there’s almost no barrier to entry, most people can easily share their ideas, thoughts, and opinions on LinkedIn and Twitter.

But far fewer people are willing to take the time to write and share unique, useful content—let alone keep up that effort day after day for months with little to show for it while slowly attracting an audience. That’s why there’s such a small number of people who reach that tipping point and break through the noise, compared to the millions of people who post content for a few weeks and then give up when they fail to become “internet famous” overnight.

The commitment required to build an audience on social media shares a lot of similarities with the commitment required to build a business. Resilience—the willingness to bring your best every day and stick it out for the long haul—is one of the key factors that makes the difference between those who succeed and those who don’t.

What’s Blocking Us From Being More Resilient

At its most basic level, resilience can be framed simply as the interplay between motivation and belief.

  • Motivation is the energy behind the goal itself. The power of the inspiration and intention you bring to it.
  • Belief is whether you think you can accomplish that goal. It’s the difference between thinking “I got this” and “this won’t work.”

This motivation/belief dynamic has four basic variations:

Version 1: Low Motivation, Negative Belief

If your goal is something that you don’t really feel inspired by, and at the same time you don’t really believe you have what it takes to achieve it, then you’ll have little to no resilience to carry you through.

Version 2: High Motivation, Positive Belief

On the flip side, if you are completely driven to achieve a goal—and you truly believe that you’ll be able to—then your resilience will be much higher.

Version 3: Low Motivation, Positive Belief

The first two examples are pretty obvious. It gets trickier when you have a goal that doesn’t really light you up, but you’re confident you can achieve it…

Version 4: High Motivation, Negative Belief

Or when you have a goal that you really want to achieve, but you lack confidence in your abilities (or even your sense of worthiness).

How to Turn Things Around

Versions 1 and 2 pretty much take care of themselves. If you’re Low Motivation/Negative Belief, there’s probably little point in pursuing that particular goal to begin with. If you’re High Motivation/Positive Belief, you’ll naturally be more resilient (although you’ll want to be on the lookout for dips in motivation or negative beliefs that can hit you as you pursue your goal and face more difficult challenges).

Version 3, Low Motivation/Positive Belief, is a non-starter—particularly when it comes to goals like building a business. If a particular business, or being an entrepreneur in general, doesn’t light you up and inspire you, then why would you take on that level of risk? Are you simply aiming too low in order to stay in your comfort zone? You want to start Business A, but you don’t really believe you can do it. So you settle for Business B, the shadow version of what you really want to do, simply because it feels more “realistic.”

Finally, we have version 4, High Motivation/Negative Belief. If you’re like me, this is the version you struggle with the most. You have a vision that inspires you, but you just don’t believe you can make it happen. Pay particular attention to this version of Motivation/Belief angle, because unpacking this is where you’ll most likely have your biggest breakthrough.

We’ll dive into more details about motivation and beliefs in future posts. But for now, I want you to think about which of these versions you can relate to the most. Then think about a particular business goal that you’ve struggled to stay committed to.

Ask yourself two simple questions (and be honest about the answers):

  • Is this something that truly inspires me?
  • Is this something I believe I can achieve?

The answer to these questions will hep you home in on the core issue, and where to start so you can move past it. Which version did you land on?

  • Version 1: Low Motivation, Negative Belief—Ask yourself if this goal is even worth pursuing.
  • Version 2: High Motivation, Positive Belief—Ask yourself if your natural sense of resilience is consistent, or if it rises and falls based on external conditions.
  • Version 3: Low Motivation, Positive Belief—Ask yourself if you’re aiming too low.
  • Version 4: High Motivation, Negative Belief—Ask yourself how you experience those negative beliefs. The specific thoughts and feelings that this goal triggers within you.

In the next post, we’re going to move on to the topic of how to clarify your thinking. We’ll explore how to think and plan more strategically so you can take decisive action and make more effective long-term decisions.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: