Overcoming Challenges

The entrepreneurial journey comes with challenges that can slow our progress or even destroy that which we’ve built. Many people may choose to abandon their journey when this happens because of the despair that failure can bring. This is a critical point because this determines whether we have the character to get up, carry on, and persevere.

The authors of the book, “A Field Guide for the Hero’s Journey” Jeff Sandefer and the Rev. Robert Sirico, talk about facing challengers in the entrepreneurial journey. In chapter 5, titled “Stones in the Road”, they ask what you will do when faced one obstacle after another (page 65). They suggest that, instead of deciding you are too week or ignoble to succeed, you can choose to see problems as opportunities, as challenges spurring in new ways of thinking and personal growth.

Rev. Robert Sirico tells the story of Nikola Tesla, a Serbian electrical engineer who worked for Thomas Edison. He resigned on a matter of principle and dug ditches while he planned a new and better way of power distribution, alternating current. This method is used today to power hour homes, street lights, and factories. He faced many obstacles in his life and died a poor man but he was an example of the strength of the human spirit. Despite criticism and being forgotten, he pursued his ideas, work, and interests tirelessly.

The book talks about the “Giant of Despair” in chapter 6. When your journey takes you into dark valleys, says the authors, the failing light can make even ordinary things loo dangerous (page 77). They recommend that in dark circumstances, call to mind your goals. “Focus on your purpose, not the present darkness.” If you are a person of faith, ask for the Lord’s help.

The authors quoted the following literature to illustrate that we can succeed in spite of challenges in our entrepreneurial pursuits:

  • The Pilgrims Progress by John Bunyan
  • I have a dream by Martin Luther King Jr.
  • Psalm 23 from the Old Testament
  • Be Like a Bird by Victor Hugo
  • Henry V by William Shakespeare

The authors suggest that when we find ourselves in a state of despair, that we should turn to things that lift us such as good friends, time outdoors, prayer, religion, exercise. They warn that temporary fixes actually cause more problems in the long run.

There are times when the challenge ahead is life-changing. In Chapter 8, the authors refer to this as a fire-breathing dragon (page 103). You need to prepare in advance for this moment by:

  • Developing your strength by fighting regular challenges
  • Developing wisdom by heeding to ethical guardrails
  • Developing perseverance
  • Learning to use your imagination.

The authors quoted a poem called “Invictus” by William Ernst Henley. Nelson Mandela, in the movie titled “Invictus” (about how the South African Springbok rugby team won the World Cup in 1997), Mandela is quoted as saying that the lines in the last verse of this poem gave him strength while imprisoned for treason,

It matters not how straight the gate,

How charged with punishments the scroll,

I am the master of my fate,

I am the captain of my soul.

Reading such words “puts life in you”, says Mandela’s character in the film.

We may never be asked to risk our lives to save someone, or go to jail for a principle, but the authors ask what things in our lives would we be willing to fight very hard for? Our dedicated police force and firefighters put their lives on the line every day for our safety and protection and they deserve our respect.

In a talk titled “However Long and Hard the Road given at BYU in 1983, university president Jeffrey R. Holland and his wife Patricia, spoke to the students about perseverance and hard work. Patricia Holland said, “The only limitations you have are those you set on yourselves. All of the tools and texts are here, right at your hand. But sometimes we cannot recognize the real purpose and significance of the moment which is ours to experience. That’s because too many of us learn only through our heads and not through our hearts!

President Holland, quoting from speeches made by former British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, said “I am asking you this morning not to give up “for ye are laying the foundation of a great work.” that “great work” is you—your life, your future, the very fulfillment of your dreams. He continued, “As you wage such personal wars, obviously part of the strength to “hang in here” comes from some glimpse, however faint and fleeting, of what the victory can be. It is as true now as when Solomon said it that “where there is no vision, the people perish” (Proverbs 29:18).

David Carrington ran a small software company when he bought a small memorabilia store selling NASCAR products. He started selling racing products online and became totally dedicated to his company at the expense of his family. After being diagnosed with cancer, he re-evaluated his life to focus on “things that truly mattered in his life”. He streamlined his business by closing down his brick and mortar stores which resulted in being able to spend more time with his family.

Taylor Richards, speaking at the Rollins Center at BYU in March 21, 2011, used Nephi as someone who always kept doing the right thing, always moving forward. The Lord helped Nephi accomplish great things and the Lord will help us as we keep the Lord in our lives. Don’t doubt yourself and the amazing things you can do with the Lord’s help.

Eric Ries, co-founder of IMVU and author of “Start-up Lessons Learned”, shared his recommendation for finding root causes, i.e. the human problem that caused the technical problem. In order to understand the underlying cause of a problem, he said we should ask the question, “why” five times until we find the human cause. For example, code is checked in and the site is brought down. Why did that happen…because the code was written by a new engineer that was not properly trained. Why were they not trained…because the engineer’s manager doesn’t believe in training. The manager is the root cause of the problem and the problem is repeatable.


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