Tenacity is the top characteristic of successful entrepreneurs. If starting and building a company were easy, the overall success rate of businesses would be much, much higher. Quite often, the difference between failure and survival comes down to tenacity.
As CEO of the Grommet, I counsel a lot of aspiring entrepreneurs. They all wonder, "Do I have what it takes?" I encourage them to look at their history, seeking examples of situations when they demonstrated a kind of prolonged (but not necessarily recognized) tenacity. The scientific version of this might be Stanford's famous delayed gratification marshmallow study, which tasked preschoolers to sit in a room with a marshmallow and not eat it, for the promise of a second one if they waited. Years later, the kids who had held off were found to be more successful professionally.
Here are three ways to go extreme and challenge yourself:
Do an extreme sport.
There is a high correlation between startup CEOs and marathon runners or triathletes. On paper, this makes absolutely no sense, because the time demands of both of these activities done concurrently are totally incompatible. But individuals who are willing or able to sacrifice some basic aspects of normal life, such as sleep or friends and family time, to pursue these extreme sports are the ones who have the mettle to succeed when faced with entrepreneurial challenges.
Move to a new city.
Much of the startup founder's journey is extremely lonely, especially for the CEO. It can often feel like navigating in the dark and not unlike moving to a foreign country. People who consistently seek the familiar comfort of known networks, geography, and activities are less likely to survive the rigors of an uncharted course. Perhaps the best thing to build your business is to start in a new locale.
Hit the Reset button and disrupt the path you are on.
Startup founders often make a dramatic departure from their chosen course of studies. This can mean switching majors in college, but more often founders launch a business that has no relation to their studies. I recently met a young founder who just graduated from Middlebury College with a degree in biology--a field in which he excelled by any objective criteria. Yet while at school, he founded a transportation network company. Other than the experimental-discipline aspect of his scientific studies, he really charted an unrelated course, because he stumbled upon a good opportunity. A similar situation for a postgrad would be making a lateral move to get into a new field or professional track, rather than a promotion in an existing line of work.
I left my first startup at the peak of my performance, because after five years, I needed to get back on a rapid learning curve. When I left, one of my peers said, "This doesn't add up. Who's going to pay you what you get here?" That person was right. I took a big hit to my income and a move from a VP to a director in a much bigger company. It was well worth it, for the career move.
Sometimes the boldest move is the best to take you where you want to go.