Seasoned entrepreneurs know the power of perseverance. It’s just that not all practice it consistently.
Fortunately, perseverance isn’t an innate skill or one that can only be learned early in childhood. Everyone has the potential to achieve a “perseverance mindset” and equip themselves with the tools to pursue it.
Whether you’re discouraged by a recent business setback or just looking to increase your resilience in uncertain times, these six lessons will help you face and overcome whatever challenges your entrepreneurial journey brings.
1. Seek Honest Feedback From People You Trust
Self-doubt is the archenemy of perseverance. But sometimes self-doubt is warranted — a sign that you may be taking your business down the wrong path. Seasoned founders know that it’s important to acknowledge that little voice and ask whether it has a point.
This is actually a sign of boldness and decisiveness, says Colin Hodge, founder of the popular dating app, DOWN. Hodge initially experienced some doubt in his startup’s ability to gain enough users and investment, which is why he advises entrepreneurs to “Courageously ask hard questions about your startup’s viability.”
This will then lead entrepreneurs to seek outside counsel from trusted experts to gain an unfiltered view of where their business stands.
This kind of vulnerability later led Hodge to a conversation with entrepreneurs from other startups that was “Refreshingly honest, funny, and raw.” Ideally, trusted outside counsel won’t be as afraid to give you tough love (or bad news) because they care about your success, not as much your feelings. It might be difficult at times to hear, but your company will be stronger for it, and you’ll be a better entrepreneur in the long run.
2. Set Ambitious But Manageable Goals
Another enemy of perseverance is overwhelm. Every entrepreneur gets pulled in multiple directions at once, but great ones prioritize and balance these competing forces in the service of longer-term goals.
Setting goals you’ll achieve — that you can achieve — is the key here. According to experts at the University of Eastern Washington, the best goals are:
- A mix of short- and long-term, but always with well-defined timelines
- Goals that motivate you to achieve them
- Flexible, so that you are able to adjust as needed
- Written down and posted somewhere you can see (such as on your office wall, a digital calendar or productivity tool, or anywhere else that makes sense)
In addition, the achievable goals are “SMART”:
- Specific, meaning goal statements include the “who, what, when, where, why, and how”
- Measurable, meaning you can objectively demonstrate that the goal has been met
- Attainable, meaning they are reasonable to achieve on your own (or as part of a team) with hard work
- Relevant, meaning they align with your longer-term objectives
- Time-based, meaning they have a set “due date”
SMART goals can be ambitious, but as you can see, they should also be achievable. And you should reward yourself for reaching them or attaining milestones along the way.
3. Have a Five-Year Plan
Related to goal-setting, perseverance requires long-term, strategic thinking. Because it can take years to build a stable, successful business, this is especially important for entrepreneurs.
That’s why many abide by comprehensive longer-term plans that lay out the company’s big-picture mission and objectives, along with tactical instructions to achieve them. Five years is a good plan length, but you can go for a shorter or longer time horizon if you prefer. What’s most important is to set out a sweeping yet actionable plan to which you can hold yourself accountable.
4. Break Complicated Projects Into Smaller Tasks You Can Do All at Once
Life has a tendency to get in the way. Even the SMARTest goals and most comprehensive long-term plans can fail when there are too many demands on your time and attention (or your team’s).
The solution is to break longer or more complicated projects into smaller tasks that you can do in one sitting. This sounds like Productivity 101, but many entrepreneurs find it difficult to follow amid all the chaos that comes with building and running a business.
Incorporate these “task plans” into your goal statements and hold yourself accountable for achieving them. And give yourself smaller rewards when you successfully complete them.
5. Embrace Uncertainty
Global economic uncertainty is affecting industries as diverse as construction and cybersecurity right now. Some say the macro challenges entrepreneurs face are unprecedented, but let’s be honest: Uncertainty and instability are facts of life. Successful entrepreneurs acknowledge uncertainty and persevere through it.
In fact, they do more than acknowledge uncertainty. They embrace it. They recognize that a certain amount of chaos is inevitable in life and business. They build this recognition into their business plans, goals, and day-to-day work. While not ideal, there’s no way around it — the only way is through.
6. Hire People Who Want to Be There
Successful entrepreneurs don’t persevere on their own. Sheer force of will gets you far until it doesn’t anymore, and that inflection point often comes earlier in the growth cycle than first-time leaders expect.
The solution is to hire people who believe in what you’re building and see their work as more than just another job.
“People seek purpose in their lives — and that includes work,” says Gartner analyst Jordan Turner. “The more an employer limits those things that create this sense of purpose, the less likely employees will stay at their positions.”
It’s not enough to hire employees with positive attitudes and willingness to take on more responsibility. They might be agreeable and ambitious, but that doesn’t mean they care as much about what you’re building as you do. You need to find people who share your passion and get their buy-in for what’s next.
You’re building something that you hope will outlast you, or at least your role in leadership. And that’s going to take years, if not decades. You’re going to encounter many speed bumps (and worse) along the way.
The question you must ask yourself is: How will I react to these challenges? Will I throw my hands up, or will I push forward and persevere?
These guidelines will help you do the latter. But it’s your responsibility to follow through.