Experience Shared

Ted Stearns Entrepreneur Advocate

How to keep your motivation up after staggering setbacks

Johnson v Jeffries

Before I was a business owner, I was a boxer. Albeit, not a fabulous boxer, but I liked the blood and the grit – nothing can give you more satisfaction than seeing your opponent bleed as a result of you. I’ve noticed that both boxing and business have something in common: Whether you’re growing a company or taking punches to the face, you need to learn how to shake blows off quickly.

When you start a new business,  you encounter so many hurdles that you never dreamed of, along with countless sleepless nights. One day you will answer the phone or get an email with some really bad news, and it will feel like someone just did a right, left combo to the nose then to the jaw. First it stings like you just snorted wasabi paste, then your eyes will water, and you may even blackout for a second. If you don’t shake it off immediately when he comes in for another jab left hook you’ll be laying face down ass up on the floor. You’ll be out of the ring and your motivation to win is gone.

Early in your startup you can have ten serious setbacks before you finally have any big win. That is why it is crucial to stay motivated. Mark Cuban, a billionaire entrepreneur and regular “shark” on ABC’s Shark Tank admits he has failed to close several key sales deals which resulted in having to shut down a powdered milk business. He was on trial twice for Insider Trading, once his case was dismissed and the second time he was cleared of all charges. Cuban’s first big win was to start Broadcast.com and sell it to Yahoo for $5.7 billion in stock in 1999.  He has said, “What I do isn’t rocket science. It just requires an unrelenting effort.” Cuban now owns the Dallas Mavericks and is the Chairman of AXS TVCuban had the determination and motivation. He shook off every punch to the face. When others would have thrown in the towel, he kept going.

Here’s my advice, first redefine what you think is “bad news”. Understand it is you who is defining the information that is being delivered to you and it is you who is defining it as bad. It is actually just information, you label it as you’d like. If you define it as “bad”, then you’ll have to shake off the bad news, get up and keep fighting. Your motivation will vanish if you allow setbacks to shape your vision.

Many high powered entrepreneurs have experienced devastating setbacks and retained their motivation to win. Elon Musk, the billionaire who once co-founded Paypal and now sits as CEO at Tesla and Space X, said that he financed Space X with half of his money from the sale of Paypal to cover its first three satellite launches.

Each of those three launches failed.

The other half of the money from his Paypal sale went to founding Tesla. He admitted to borrowing money from friends to keep Tesla from going bankrupt in 2008. He almost lost both businesses in the same year but he didn’t allow these setbacks to change his vision. He could have shut one down to save the other, instead he persevered on both fronts. Musk said in a 2005 interview, “You don’t learn when everything goes smoothly, and if you aren’t learning, you can’t adapt to the changes or the future.” Today, Space X is now profitable boasting several NASA contracts, and Tesla expects to be profitable by the end of 2016.

Mark Cuban and Elon Musk persevered time and time again and you will too, as long as you are able to shake off every setback and keep fighting for the big win. To paraphrase Henry Ford, “Whether you believe it is possible, or it is not, either way you are correct.”


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Entrepreneur Advocate

Ted Stearns

As an entrepreneur myself, my passion is to help create an environment where business owners have the best odds at success. -Ted Stearns