Successful entrepreneurs develop emotional resilience, the armor of modern life
You were certain that you’d get that new client – but the company chose your competitor, instead. Right on the day when the plumbing backed up and the repairs weren’t cheap. Oh, and yes. That was also the day when there was a glitch with the payroll software and, boy, were employees mad when their paychecks weren’t direct deposited on time!
If you’re a small business owner or manager, you’ve had a day like that. Guaranteed. And, the reality is that you can either let it defeat you or you can overcome the situation. And, Will von Bernuth – cofounder of Block Island Organics – believes the ability to overcome is crucial to entrepreneurial success.
Known as “emotional resiliency,” this is the “process of adapting well in the face of adversity, trauma, tragedy, threats or significant sources of stress . . . ‘bouncing back’ from difficult experiences,” according to the American Psychological Association (APA). The good news? The APA says that resilience is not something that you have – or don’t have. It “involves behaviors, thoughts and actions that can be learned and developed in anyone.”
Not yet convinced of its importance? Well, this trait is so vital in the 21st century that a British newspaper calls emotional resiliency the “armour you need for modern life.”
“Being emotionally resilient,” says Will, “is the hardest part of being an entrepreneur, and it’s something that nobody really talks about. You get your business started, you invest your money, you get others involved. People talk about that all the time. But few people will talk about the emotional toll it can take on you, as you go from days when all goes really well to those days when things change on a dime and you say to yourself, ‘is this really what I want to be doing???’”
Will’s experience in developing organic spa products such as sunscreen, face cream, cleanser, moisturizer and so forth has taught him that you “need to have the ability to look beyond a specific day and recognize a pattern of ups and downs. As business owner, you take the full brunt of the challenging days and you need to, instead, see the full picture. As the owner, you can’t compartmentalize like you can when you only have a certain job within a company.”
Emotional resiliency traits
Psychology Today says this about resiliency: “Resilience may be an art, the ultimate art of living, but is has recently been subjected to the scrutiny of science. This much is known so far. At the heart of resilience is a belief in oneself – yet also a belief in something larger than oneself.”
More specifically, the site lists ten traits of resilient people, which include:
- Enlisting your team, knowing to whom you can reach out to for help: Will cofounded his company with his sister Lauren von Bernuth (far right in the photo) and wife Kelly Hsiao (center of photo). “People would say, ‘Don’t work with your spouse because that will cause marriage problems,’ but Will and Kelly learned how to divide tasks (she does public relations while Will takes care of finance and IT) and to consult one another in their areas of expertise.
- Having a menu of self-care strategies: “Kelly and I make sure that we each have time on our own. She loves to dance and so takes classes, while I enjoy golfing. We see friends together – and separately – without feeling that we aren’t spending enough time together.”
- They consider the possibilities: Which parts of “our current story,” Psychology Today asks, “are permanent and which can possibly change”? Interestingly enough, when we interviewed Will, he listed three key traits for entrepreneurs. One was emotional resiliency – and the second is a component of considering the possibilities: flexibility.
- “If a certain marketing campaign doesn’t work,” Will says by way of example, “you have to know when to stop putting money into that campaign and trying something else.”
- “Flexibility can be more profound,” he also says, “perhaps changing a business entirely, or holding on to one aspect that works, and dropping plans and projections for what didn’t.” Early on, Will spent too much time developing an app and didn’t say “enough is enough” soon enough. He’s learned from that experience – just as emotionally resilient people do.
- They get out of their heads: When in the midst of stress and overwhelm, Psychology Today says, “thoughts can swirl with dizzying speed and disconnectedness.” The article suggests you deal with those feelings, perhaps by writing them down. Will talks about something similar – the looming specter of fear. “Many folks do not pursue their entrepreneurial dreams – or any dreams for that matter – due to fear. Fear of failure, fear of shame, fear of ability. However, everyone has the fears. They are natural human tendencies. To be an entrepreneur one needs to recognize these fears exist yet still be willing to plow forward.”
Building up your emotional resiliency
Psych Central offers suggestions on strengthening your resiliency, something crucial for every single entrepreneur. One tip is to be “curious and strive to make connections to bridge knowledge gaps. Listen to others with an open mind to see if you are missing something. Accept and learn from constructive criticism. Take time out to read or watch something that challenges you to think deeply. The ability to make wiser decisions comes in part from having more information.”
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