How to be resilient – What I learned from many “Plan B #Entrepreneurs”

On your journey towards creating your startup and growing it, there will be multiple opportunities to quit. Startups are much harder than anything else you will do in your professional career, so you will have display enormous resilience to bounce back from “near death” experiences.

Over the last 3 years as I have watched multiple entrepreneurs from the sidelines, and about 20% of them have been “Plan B entrepreneurs”. These are folks that were thrust into entrepreneurship, not by choice or deep desire, but by circumstance. There is a story of a successful executive at a large SI who was laid off and found himself on the wrong side of the age equation, so he was “over skilled” for another position, and decided to be an entrepreneur instead. Another story, is that of a good friend, who graduated at the middle of her class and found no “jobs” for an entry-level developer, so she started a training school for average developers who can be placed at smaller companies.

I have noticed that plan B entrepreneurs are more resilient and they tend to display 5 primary characteristics.

How to be Resilient
How to be Resilient

The set of steps they might go through is denial, acknowledgement, acceptance, analysis and finally action, but the time spent on action tends to be the most.

Resilient people have a bias towards action and their action steps are immediate. Surprisingly the ones that I respect the most rarely “Sleep over it”. In fact, a mini-setback really spurs them towards exploration of multiple actions or options. That seemed counterintuitive to me at first, since the advice most people give is to “sleep over challenging situations”, but I guess different people are wired differently.

Second, they display the maturity to understand that setbacks are normal. They realize that the path to success is littered with multiple mini-setbacks. So each of these “mini-setbacks” only convinces them that setbacks are not failures, but successes posing as an obstacle.

Third, they have a “true north” that keeps them going. That true north is usually written down, not in “their head or their mind”. They tend to revisit the “true north” every so often, maybe a month, a week or every time they encounter a mini-celebratory moment or a mini-setback.

Fourth, they are always making a backup plan for the backup plan. It is almost as if they realize their first plan will never work out, so they always have a Plan B, or plan C. Their plan A, many have mentioned to me, almost never has materialized. They spend as much time coming up with plan B as they do plan A, which leads me to believe, that plan B’s are those that take more time, more effort, but are also responsible for progress.

Finally, they tend to be more disciplined and setup small routines to build momentum. Building momentum by identifying smaller steps that display progress tend to help them bounce back, is what I have heard. Some of them celebrate success so small, that they build a great culture in their teams of enjoying themselves a lot more together.

Related to this but on a more personal level, I read and re-read the touching note by Sheryl Sandberg yesterday on Dave Goldberg. It is an amazing read. I’d highly recommend it. Many things are worth highlighting, but the Option B part of the note is most relevant for entrepreneurs.