Mental Toughness for Entrepreneurs: The Path to Success
Living the entrepreneur life is not for everyone. If you’ve broken away from the 9-5 in favor of the 24/7, you know you’re that special kind of human who’s willing to trade simplicity for the chance to work on something meaningful.
But willingness is only part of the entrepreneur’s mental toolkit. Resilience, aka mental toughness (aka the ability to bounce back when the shit hits the fan) is also crucial.
A growing business is only as resilient as its founder. So if you want your company to succeed, you need to be mentally tough.
In this post, we’ll expose the 3 biggest challenges to entrepreneurs’ mental toughness (naysayers, imposter syndrome, and unexpected failures), and explore ways to develop the resilience to beat them.
Three Mental Roadblocks Blocking Entrepreneurial Success
Some challenges to mental toughness come from the outside, like naysayers. Others come from the inside, like imposter syndrome. And then, inevitably, unanticipated failures rear their heads and chase us off course.
But entrepreneurs can’t afford to give in to doubt, whether it’s coming at us from within or without. That’s why a resilient mindset makes all the difference between success and failure.
Mental toughness prevents you from giving up when the going gets tough. It keeps you from talking yourself out of greatness. Here’s how.
At some point in their journey, every entrepreneur runs into someone who thinks they’re nuts. Some people can find fault with anything. Others don’t have the vision to understand starting a business from scratch. Still others don’t understand how you’ll pay your bills (parents are often culprits here).
But naysayers don’t know you or your business like you do. If you believe in your idea, and are willing to put in the work for better or worse, yours is the only opinion that matters. (Of course, it is a good idea to have a plan for paying your bills while you develop your company.)
Yes, it’s possible that your idea is not perfect. It may even be terrible. But if you’re committed and resilient, you’ll learn as you go, make improvements, and work your way to a better idea.
Naysayers are not worth the mental energy it takes to worry about them. Here’s the resilient way to deal with them.
- If someone offers constructive criticism, learn from it and get better.
- If not, kick them out of your brain space and get back to work.
Even the most successful entrepreneurs have experienced the insidious anxiety of imposter syndrome — that is, the self-doubt that plagues high achievers — especially, but not always, women. Whether caused by lack of experience or just nerves, imposter syndrome can brutally snuff out the confidence to bring great ideas to life.
But imposter syndrome can be conquered. YEC member Jessica Moseley, CEO of TCS Interpreting, explains, “For a period of time I was so fearful of being looked at as a fraud. I thought I had to be the one with all the answers and when I didn’t people would see through me. What I realized was those thoughts were tied to my own insecurities and my lack of confidence in my abilities. Once I turned to my team and let them in, the business grew exponentially.”
This means a determined entrepreneur can conquer imposter syndrome with three simple mental toughness strategies:
- First, refuse to quit.
- Second, acknowledge that you don't know everything, and that’s ok.
- Finally, invite people with complementary expertise to contribute, and accept their help.
No one knows everything. Don’t doubt the knowledge and experience you do have, but always be open to building a support team — you know, to support you.
You will fail.
Wait, what? Doesn’t that kind of contradict the last bit of this post?
Yes. Good attention to detail.
The fact is that even when you have a great idea, a great team, and plenty of confidence, sometimes things go wrong. You just can’t anticipate everything. Remember 2019, when we were all running around pre-COVID, just living our lives? Yep. Things happen.
So you’ll fail sometimes, at some things. But as an entrepreneur with a tough mind, you can be ready to fail, learn something from the failure, and get going again. YEC member Shama Hyder, CEO, Zen Media, says, “Just like in nature, everything ebbs and flows. There are highs and lows, and you have to be able to ride them out. Be grateful for your highs and graceful in your lows.”
The key with failures is learning from them and moving on. Put your new wisdom to work for you, and keep going. Check out the flowchart below to see how this works.
The Path to Success: A Mental Toughness Flowchart
Please note that “give up” does not appear on the map. Success is the only endpoint. Mental toughness is, more than anything, resolving to stay on the path, wherever it takes you, until it takes you to success.
If you’ve created a business, you’ve already done something most people will never do. You’ve got a vision and skills. Do not let naysayers, self-doubt, or failed efforts keep you from pursuing a better world.
- 177 Mental Toughness Secrets of the World Class: The Thought Processes, Habits and Philosophies of the Great Ones, 3rd Edition by Steve Siebold
- The Mental Toughness Advantage: A 5-Step Program to Boost Your Resilience and Reach Your Goals by Douglas Comstock
- Micro-Resilience: Minor Shifts for Major Boosts in Focus, Drive, and Energy by Bonnie St. John and Allen P. Haines
- The Resilience Factor: 7 Keys to Finding Your Inner Strength and Overcoming Life’s Hurdles by Karen Reivich and Andrew Shatte
YEC members, who have successfully founded and built businesses that generate a minimum of $1M in revenue or have a minimum of $1M in financing, offer great advice on aspects of mental toughness in the posts below:
On the YEC blog:
- “10 Negotiating Tips Every Woman Needs in Her Arsenal” by Beth Doane, managing partner, Main & Rose
- “Ask an Entrepreneur: How Can I Push Through Tough Days?” by Jinny Oh, founder, WANDR
- “Ask an Entrepreneur: What Can a Female Entrepreneur Do in Response to Bullying by Male Partners?” by Jennifer Barnes, founder and CEO, Optima Office
On Forbes.com (links to published articles can be found in each member's profile):
- “Three Powerful Ways Entrepreneurs Can Challenge Self-Doubt And Boost Self-Acceptance” by Thomas Griffin, co-founder and president of OptinMonster
- “How To Use Positive Self-Talk To Improve Your Self-Esteem by Jared Atchison, co-founder, WPForms
- “Three Tips For Women To Fight Imposter Syndrome” by Candice Lu, co-founder, Onprem Solution Partners
- “How To Overcome Internal Resistance To Boost Your Career” by Syed Balkhi, co-founder, WPBeginner
Are you looking for a group of resilient peers who can help you face the challenges of growing your company? Find out if you qualify for YEC, a community of the world’s most passionate, driven entrepreneurs.