Are You Mentally Tough Enough to Start a Business?

Street smarts and business skills are what got you into business. Your mental toughness and staying power will be what keeps you here.

Staying power is everything when it comes to building a business. Mental toughness isn’t just for athletes – it’s the cornerstone of success in everything we do. Entrepreneurship is no exception – in fact, your ability to keep going is why your business will still be standing in ten years’ time, when 98% of the businesses launching with you have fallen away.

“Courage doesn’t always roar. Sometimes courage is the little voice at the end of the day that says ‘I’ll try again tomorrow’.”
Mary Anne Radmacher, author of Courage Doesn’t Always Roar

  1. Build a compelling vision

Self-help gurus love to speak about the importance of having a vision and purpose, but in start-ups, there are very practical reasons why you need both.

  • Launching a business is hard. It’s probably the toughest thing you’re ever going to do. If you don’t have a strong reason for doing it, it’s unlikely you’ll be able to stick it out.
  • You’re going to be dedicating a lot of hours to your business. You’ll be operating on minimal sleep, and most other areas of your life will be sacrificed in some way or another. You need to know what you’re prepared to do to achieve start-up success.
  • Entrepreneurship is just like any other skill. It takes hard work, dedication and commitment. If you don’t really care about what you’re doing, it’s unlikely you’ll put in the hours to achieve it.

“The separation of talent and skill is one of the greatest misunderstood concepts for people who are trying to excel, who have dreams, who want to do things. Talent you have naturally. Skill is only developed by hours and hours and hours of beating on your craft.”  
Will Smith, Grammy-award winning musician, Oscar-nominated actor

  1. Develop a positive, solutions-orientated mindset

Entrepreneurs tend to be positive people. This is important because it makes them focus on solutions instead of problems.

When a successful entrepreneur looks at a challenge, they don’t walk away because they only see the things that can’t be done. Instead, they ask this critical question: Where’s the opportunity? How can I solve this?

It’s this mindset that creates solutions that ultimately change the way businesses and individuals do things.

If you’re a professional cyclist, you can’t keep complaining that you have a sore bum from a bicycle seat. There is no alternative; it’s part of the deal and you have to learn to live with it. Business is the same.”
Allon Raiz, founder of Raizcorp, Africa’s largest business incubator

Allon Raiz says that this is some of the best advice he’s ever received. In business, crises and failures happen. People let you down. Allon was agonising over everything until a friend told him to ‘change his relationship with the bicycle seat in his business.’

In other words, accept the good and the bad as part of the deal, and look forward – always forward.

  1. Become a master of time management

If you have the grit and determination to persevere in the face of all your start-up challenges, and the positive mindset to find solutions where others have quit, the next step is becoming a master of your own time.

‘To do’ lists can quickly become overwhelming, and many entrepreneurs get stuck working on whatever seems most urgent instead of what’s most important.

If your goal is to grow your start-up, it’s essential that you are able to:

  • Differentiate between revenue-generating activities and non-revenue activities.
  • Focus on the areas of your business that need you the most, and delegate the rest.
  • Eliminate distractions.


Time blocking

Create time in your diary that lets you focus on tasks without any distractions – switch off your phone and your email, and tell your team you’re unavailable.

Eat the frog

This simple trick is designed to help you avoid procrastination and also get the most important things out of the way first thing in the morning.

Make a commitment to yourself each day to ‘eat the frog’ – do the toughest task first, while you’re still fresh and before the day gets in your way.

The important thing is to create time for important tasks and to ensure that it’s blocked off in your diary. Then switch off your phone, your emails and lock your door.

  1. Learn from your mistakes

One of the hallmarks of perseverance is learning from our mistakes. A good way to approach this is to work with a business coach or a mentor, because both will ask you the tough questions. It’s also to accept when things go wrong so that you can take the hard-won lesson, make much-needed changes and move on.

“I know I’m not a great businessman; I’m an okay businessman. But I don’t give up, and because of that, I’ve made more money than I’ve lost, and I’ve learnt a lot.”
Tim Hogins, founder of GOG Lifestyle, a group of lifestyle and adventure parks

“I’ve made mistakes, negotiated badly and had dumb ideas that cost me money along the way. That’s the reality. As long as I don’t make the same mistakes twice, I’m moving in the right direction.”

Tim Hogins was a township kid born in South Africa who managed to get a job as a security guard. He then focused on self-development, taking any free course he came across and managed to get an IT position, all the while dreaming of launching his own business.

It took a lot of grit, determination and hustling, but Tim achieved his dream – with a lot of bumps along the road. He never let failures keep him back or hold him down. He learnt from them and pushed forward.

Are You Mentally Tough Enough to Start a Business?