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Overcoming adversity: 5 principles for knowledge entrepreneurs

Entrepreneurs are generally made of rather sturdy stuff as they are, by definition, risk-takers. When you start an e-learning business, there are no guarantees that it will be successful. 

Even after “making it” there’s a great chance that great challenges can happen at any time. If the past two years have taught us anything, a lot that we had thought "would never happen" did. "Unprecedented" is one of the most used adjectives to describe the aftermath of the pandemic.  

5  Principles for overcoming entrepreneurial adversity

Some industries did thrive because they were focused on precisely what became immediate need (think online conferencing apps), but most businesses suffered. Some people are strengthened by adversity, but that does not happen by accident.

So, here are five principles for overcoming entrepreneurial adversity:

1. Learn from mistakes and failure

Most success stories have some amount of challenges and failures in their beginnings. Colonel Sanders (the creator of KFC) had a lifetime of adversity, both personally and professionally. He got fired from several jobs, ruined his legal career, and made it through a major fire, the Great Depression, and World War II. 

His recipe got rejected 1,009 times before he managed to create one of the largest food chains in the world. Hopefully, your journey won't be as eventful as his, but there's a valuable lesson in any challenge and every failure can be used as a pivotal point. It's essential to keep a positive attitude and learn from each event on your journey.

Read more: Debunking 5 myths about being an entrepreneur

2. Mind your own health

There’s no pouring from an empty cup. Facing and overcoming adversity requires being in good shape, both physically and mentally. Resilience is greatly influenced by your focus on your personal wellbeing and how much you invest in yourself. 

The idea that you need to work yourself to death to have a thriving business is a very dangerous myth. It's essential to take good care of yourself and get enough sleep, eat healthily, leave time for the things you enjoy in life, and be aware enough of your reactions and thoughts instead of allowing them to control you.

3. Foster good relationships

Networking is essential in the business world. Good navigators know that they need a whole crew to get through a bad storm. It's the same for entrepreneurs. Connecting and building mutually beneficial relationships with other entrepreneurs is good for when times are good and paramount in the face of adversity. 

During the pandemic, small businesses formed clusters to support and promote each other. Empathy and solidarity go a long way, as long as they are genuine and reciprocated. They say it takes a village to raise a child and, metaphorically speaking, of course, your business is your baby as well. 

Read more: How to choose the right co-instructor for an online course

4. Know your strengths 

Even if you have centered your business around something that you are very good at and passionate about, there will be aspects that you master better than others. You may be an amazing course creator but not proficient in finances or marketing. 

It’s important to know and accept these things about yourself, so you can find others to help you while you focus on building your strengths. These beacons will eventually see you through the storm, so you need to nurture them and believe in yourself. Focusing or obsessing over your weak points is a recipe for failure. Your resilience is built on what you know you can do and gradually improving what you can’t do so well, so be mindful of strong points and keep building on them even when things become challenging. 

5. Expect adversity

Many wars have been won by those who knew how to use the element of surprise to their advantage. The Trojan horse is perhaps the most notorious example. While you shouldn’t act as if your competitors or the world is at war with you, it’s best to expect adversity rather than smooth sailing. 

Those who were prepared for adverse events dealt with the global crisis a lot better than those who had no contingency plans. Expecting challenges does not make you “a negative person.” You're not expecting the shoe to drop but rather go forward with your business while keeping a small cushion close in case it does fall. 

Read more: 8 Rules for success every entrepreneur should follow right now


Adversity isn’t pleasant, but it’s a part of life, so the better you prepare yourself to deal with it, the easier it will be, as entrepreneurship already lacks predictability. If you guide yourself by these five principles, you'll manage to ride the storm, and your business will come out stronger at the end of it. 

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