How to be more RESILIENT when things get TOUGH

By Steve Reid, Centre of Entrepreneurship, False Bay College. Visit:

Want to bounce back better? Here are some tips to help you stand back up when life knocks you down…

What is resilience? It is the capacity to recover quickly from difficulties; it is mental and emotional toughness. It’s the ability of a substance or object to spring back into shape; elasticity. Resilience gives people the psychological strength to cope with stress and hardship. It is our mental reservoir of strength that we call on in times of need to carry us through without falling apart.

Dealing with change or loss is an inevitable part of life. At some point, everyone experiences some form of setback. Some of these challenges are minor; others have a far bigger impact.

Why is it important?
According to American psychologist Dr Russ Newman, research has shown that “resilience is not an extraordinary thing but is rather ordinary and can be learned by most anyone”. So, you can build your resilience by practicing some of the common characteristics of resilient people, but you should also remember to build on your existing strengths.

Over the last 12 years and after interacting with more than 200 entrepreneurs, business owners and managers within public and private enterprises, it’s clear that no-one is exempt from the curveballs and challenges of life. And, no-one is exempt from the effects of stress. Sometimes success itself is the source of the stress. Everyone responds differently to challenging times. Some seem to maintain their “cool”, no matter how big the storm. These resilient people harness their strengths and skills differently in order to bounce back from persistent problems.

I have seen a variety of challenges knock entrepreneurs at the most inopportune times. From financial stress to marital or relational challenges and even serious health challenges; they can hit any time. Somehow, many of these entrepreneurs managed to maintain their equilibrium, and didn’t become overwhelmed by the issue or challenge.

‘Resilience: the ability to get knocked down 99 times and get up 100. Learn to fail forward, in other words, let the failure inform future decisions. Let the failure help you hone your skills as an entrepreneur. Get up, dust yourself off, and try again. Learn to build an array of problem solving skills.’

Is it possible to learn how to be resilient, to bounce back faster, and to get up quickly after being knocked down regularly? It appears so, and there is a lot of research and reading material to help you build up your reserves. Here are five characteristics I’d suggest you foster:

Grow a support network. When a group of entrepreneurs were asked what they attributed their success too, they gave the answers you’d expect: Seeing and taking opportunities, gathering the resources to take on new opportunities, and managing the risks and fears associated with the new venture. But, they all also acknowledged the role that a strong supportive environment can play. Incubators, accelerators and business mentors/coaches can provide invaluable support, so be purposeful when building your own support network.

Learn to manage emotions effectively. We all have different personalities, and process and demonstrate emotions differently. Generally speaking, it is the emotionally stronger person that is able to bounce back faster. They have learnt to process and manage their emotions, and are not managed and constrained by their emotions.

Emotional Intelligence (EI) measures our ability to understand our own emotions, as well as the emotions of others, and to manage them in a productive and healthy way. When facing crises or stressful situations, the resilient amongst us respond, rather than react. Reacting is an unconscious process where we experience an emotional trigger, and behave in an unconscious way that expresses or relieves that emotion. Responding is a conscious process that involves noticing how you feel, and deciding how you want to react.

Own your vision, purpose and goals. Being passionate about your business and life, and having an unwavering commitment to personal growth is, in my experience, a strong antidote to discouragement, anxiety and a host of other draining emotions that can shipwreck your dreams. Entrepreneurs who have pushed through to three, five, seven years and more, all seem to display this focus and passion. They also know when they are “leaking” and pull out the stops to attend to this.

Mindfully expose yourself to material and people that challenge you. “You will be the same person in five years as you are today except for the people you meet and the books you read.” These words from motivational speaker Charlie “Tremendous” Jones are ones I live by. When I’ve been discouraged or overwhelmed; good books or conversations with mentors have made all the difference. At times, my thinking and perspective needed to be challenged. The words were not always easy to read or hear, but once I had got over myself, the shift happened and I was grateful for the challenge.

Reframe failure and stress, and tap into past successes to face new challenges. Failure is going to happen. As an entrepreneur you need to accept this. Clients are going to say no. The bank manager is going to say no. Cash flow will cause issues. You will struggle to make a profit. But, as an entrepreneur you need to be resilient.

When facing a new challenge, or a persistent roadblock, you may be intimidated, fearful and even think you are unable to take on the challenge. At times like this, remind yourself of some of your past successes and how you managed to successfully navigate the journey to achieve that success.  The winner of the City’s #YouthstartCT competition, Yandisa Langa (featured in the June/July 2017 issue of Your Business), is a great example of this. He took the lessons learnt in other entrepreneurial competitions to heart, and walked away a winner in this latest one.

Our former president Nelson Mandela perhaps expressed it best: “Do not judge me by my successes, judge me by how many times I fell down and got back up again.” It’s a great maxim for an entrepreneurial journey.

From stress to success: Three entrepreneurs share their stories on how they manage the challenges and setbacks of business ownership, and why resilience is the entrepreneur’s secret weapon!

This article first appeared in Your Business magazine. Read the latest issue here!