Ralph Waldo Emerson once wrote: "Trust thyself: Every heart vibrates to that iron string." In fact, your iron string may be key to your success: While love, support, and friendship can help, it's ultimately up to you to take yourself where want to go. Others can often disappoint by reneging on promises, or balking when the going gets tough. (How many co-founder relationships have severed in 2014 alone?) 

Self-reliance was definitely the greatest thematic takeaway from the film '71, an official 2014 New York Film Festival and London Film Festival selection, which I had the opportunity to preview last week. While the parallels between a British military thriller and modern small business leadership may not be immediately apparent, the necessity of independence rings true for both.

In fact, the desolate and increasingly foreign landscape in which British Private Gary Hook finds himself reminded me of the trying path to small business ownership generally. The question: "Who can I trust?" is one that Hook asks himself throughout the film, and increasingly, the answer becomes: no one. 

The film takes place in 1971 in Northern Ireland, during some of the violent conflict between the unionist (predominately Protestant) majority wanting to remain part of the United Kingdom and the republican (predominately Catholic) minority wanting to become part of Ireland. Shortly after Hook's British military unit arrives in Belfast, the Irish open fire in a sudden riot, and Hook gets separated from the rest of his unit. 

For the duration of the film--a macabre, yet artful take on one night during the early years of the conflict--Hook continues to accidentally make allies with enemies, ultimately to his own detriment.

For Hook, these mistakes are nearly fatal. The stakes are obviously rarely quite that high outside of action films -- yet it's true that choosing to trust the wrong people can fatally undermine your business. And the film leaves viewers with the nagging sense that our fate is ultimately in our own hands. Hook's survival is a testament to his own persistence, and little (if anything) else.

It doesn't have to be a depressing message: Studies show that self-reliance--or working hard to "earn" your own success--is key to personal happiness, and can even (quite literally) make you healthier. If you stop depending on others to get you through hard times, you start to find happiness by and through yourself.

Just ask multimillionaire and entrepreneur Jane Wurwand. Her father died when she was 2 years old, leaving her mother to provide for her and her four siblings by herself. Wurwand would go on to launch the skin care juggernaut Dermalogica, operating with the belief that "at the end of the day, you had to be able to rely on yourself, because ultimately, that was who was with you all the time," she told Entrepreneur.

So go ahead. Trust yourself, more than anyone else. You may be much more equipped to weather your problems alone than you ever fully realized. 

Published on: Nov 21, 2014