Resilience: the secret to entrepreneurial success

What’s the magic characteristic which allows an entrepreneur to weather the storms of abysmal revenue statements and a tsunami of change? Resilience. The good news is that you don’t have to be born with it. Resilience can be learned. defines resilience as the power or ability for someone or something to return to its original form after being bent, compressed, or stretched out of shape. But that definition falls far short of telling the whole story.

The reality is that resilient people don’t return to their former state after being bent out of shape. Resilient people are different from one day to the next. And that’s their secret to success. A resilient person never starts the next day in the identical spot they left the day before.

Resilient entrepreneurs quickly learn that success is not about bouncing back. You can’t go back in time and set your feet into the same spot in the water. Resilient people spring forward from disappointment and land in a new place – with a different vantage point, and a new perspective.

Thomas Edison, at the age of 67, after viewing the charred remains of his factory summed up resilience in these words: “There is great value in disaster. All our mistakes are burned up. Thank God we can start anew.”

Albert Bandura, the David Starr Jordan professor emeritus of social science in psychology at Stanford University and celebrated Albertan, theorizes that the underpinning of resilience is self-efficacy. Self-efficacy is the optimistic self-belief in one’s competency to successfully accomplish tasks and produce favourable outcomes.

People with high levels of self-efficacy belief in their own capabilities to influence events that affect their lives. They believe in their ability to exert control over the way events are experienced, run their course, and end.

Mahatma Gandhi understood perfectly Bandura’s thoughts on self-efficacy: Your beliefs become your thoughts. Your thoughts become your words. Your words become your actions. Your actions become your habits. Your habits become your values. Your values become your destiny. Bandura promotes four ways you can get more self-efficacy:


The foremost strategy of increasing your personal feeling of control over your destiny is to persevere through a multitude of different situations where one may succeed or fail.

Role models 

Carefully select and pay close attention to role models and mentors that time and time again demonstrate that success is achievable with sustained effort. There is no greater motivator than seeing a role model get up before the count of three over and over again.

Hear no evil speak, see no evil, speak no evil

Do not listen to whining. Pay attention to failure. Speak only words of success.

Attention to mind and body health 

Maintain a healthy lifestyle including regular exercise, eat nutritional food and keep amiable acquaintances who boost one’s self-confidence, minimize stress and provide social support when the going gets even tougher.

Psychologist James Maddux, university professor emeritus and senior scholar at the Center for the Advancement of Well-Being, has suggested a fifth route to self-efficacy: dreaming in technicolor. It’s the ability to close one’s eyes and clearly visualize what success looks like now and in five years.

George Everly, Douglas Strouse, and Dennis McCormack, authors of Stronger: Develop the Resilience You Need to Succeed have compiled a list of behaviours that can be practiced to build resilience:

Be decisive 

Decisiveness mitigates adversity, helps you rebound and take responsibility, and promotes growth. You can build decisiveness by eliminating fear, procrastination, and the urge to please everyone. Understand that any decision is usually better than no decision.

Tap into your moral compass

Solidify your moral compass by setting virtuous goals and setting socially acceptable norms of thinking and acting.

Exhibit persistence, tenacity, determination 

Be confident in the direction you are headed, give it your all and don’t give up.

Great entrepreneurs become tenaciously defiant when told they cannot succeed.

Gain strength from the support of others 

Interpersonal support is one of the best drivers of human resilience. Surround yourself with team members, advisors, investors, partners, and peers who may not understand, but support you. Avoid toxic people like the plague. Practice active listening. Be humble.

Just like elite athletes, entrepreneurs practice resilience daily by putting themselves in the path of rejection. Over time resilience becomes a habit and with every rejection, resilient entrepreneurs spring forward to land in a new spot with a new vantage point.