Even though it was more than 25 years ago, I can still remember how it felt to sit on the floor of my dad’s office and listen to him run his publishing business. I remember the smell of the cigarette smoke wafting across his desk and the clicking sound of typewriters as my dad and Peter, his business partner, did their work.
I had a front-row seat to the operations of a successful business. You might think a little kid would be bored, but I absorbed everything I could.
The biggest lesson I learned? How to be resilient—how to manage the bad times and climb back from the bottom.
You see, my dad wasn’t always on top. He went from making tons of money to near bankruptcy many times throughout my childhood. The 1990s were especially tough on his business. One year, my brother and I would be living in a big house and going on vacations and to sleepaway camp; the next, we had downsized, and we spent the summer bussing tables.
I didn’t realize how much this lesson influenced my success until I started seeing other business colleagues experience extreme stress or even failure in the face of adversity. Watching them fall apart, I realized I had learned to react differently. I had confidence in my own adaptability, my own ability to figure things out. In other words, I was resilient.
How important is resilience? I’ll tell you: it beats luck every time. Most people who have enjoyed success in business didn’t get there with luck. Sure, luck may give you a little boost from time to time, but you should consider it a nice-to-have, not a need-to-have. Real success comes from a blend of working hard, taking risks, and having faith in your abilities.
That feast-or-famine cycle I watched my dad experience is a hallmark of business. Things are not going to be all sunshine and smooth sailing all the time. Being resilient means being ready for the rainy day—the one when your luck changes again, as it inevitably will.
It’s true what they say: luck favors the prepared. Part of what makes people truly resilient is being prepared for good times and bad.
Can you stay the course? Can you keep your hands on the wheel and drive forward, even when you’re in the gutter? That’s the mark of someone driving toward success. Scraping your way back from the bottom gives you the confidence you’ll need to not only keep taking risks when you’re at the top, but to feel safe knowing you’ll always be able to bounce back when things dive again.
That confidence, that resilience, is what makes an entrepreneur. Without it, you’re just someone with a dream. You have to stay strong, stay hungry, and work through whatever comes.
Life Will Test You
When my business partner Jason and I started our real estate firm, Meridian Trust LLC, in 2006, little did we know that life was about to test us in ways we never saw coming. The Great Recession was just around the corner, but even in 2006, the market was already showing signs of trouble.
Homes had stopped increasing in value, mortgage delinquencies had started to rise, and homeowners had stopped selling. With the fall of the subprime market in July of the following year, the “bubble” turned into a full-blown crisis.
The housing market had essentially collapsed, and banks were freezing most, if not all, lending. In that difficult environment, we struggled to find buyers and put together deals. We fought to find the right properties. We fought to get banks to loan us money. We fought to get investors to close. Prices were constantly changing—usually downward, falling as fast as they had risen in the previous years.
Every day was a surprise. Every day was stressful. Every day was a battle. It was a desperate time. It was hard to hang on to our positivity and confidence when there was just no money coming in. Investors and banks were backing out of deals, and we couldn’t close; and that meant we couldn’t capture revenue we needed to pay our bills.
Day after day, we held out hope that the investors would come back. Day after day, we were disappointed. By 2008, we started to run out of money.
Getting Pushed to the Limit
Coming into the office each day was like getting punched in the face. More than once, Jason or I said, “If this deal doesn’t happen—if this doesn’t happen today—we’re dead.”
One day he’d want to quit, and the next day I’d want to. If we hadn’t been so resilient, we would have done it. But we leaned on each other a lot and held onto hope.
We kept coming back to work, fighting battle after battle to stay in the game. For us, failure wasn’t an option. We had employees who depended on us, and Jason and I had both left our jobs to start this business. While my partner may have had a job to return to, I certainly didn’t.
Eventually, things started to turn around. Our recovery wasn’t just luck. Jason and I had solid systems in place for when people were getting back into investing, and when they started coming back around, we were ready for them. It took some creativity, and an incredible amount of resilience, but we were able to dig our way back up after waiting out the storm.
Things Can Always Go South
We recovered, but we never forgot the lessons we learned during that terrible time. No matter how good things get, the situation can always take a turn for the worse—and quickly.
I still remember what it was like to fight for our survival every single day. But we didn’t panic; we stuck with our systems and stayed the course. That’s part of being resilient, part of being a successful entrepreneur. Every day we would come into the office and just try to do the right thing.
These days, if we have a bad quarter, I only have to think back to how we got through the 2007–2009 recession. That keeps me from freaking out too much. Because we weathered that crazy downturn, I’m confident that we can weather anything the market throws at us.
As I write this, the market is up, but I know it won’t be forever. Even in the best times, you still need discipline and patience. You need the resilience and mental fortitude to keep showing up and working through whatever comes. I’m not saying it’s easy, but it’s the only way to survive as an entrepreneur.
You Can Do It
As an entrepreneur, I’ve faced market crashes, my business partner leaving, and my company hitting rock bottom. Each time, though, I’ve found a way to dig myself out of the hole and achieve even greater success.
That’s the thing about facing trials as an entrepreneur. The more obstacles you overcome, the stronger and more capable you know you are. You develop resilience with every single challenge that comes your way, and ultimately, you learn that you have what it takes to succeed.
For more advice on how to develop your own resilience, you can find A Renegade’s Rules on Amazon.