Resilience: The painful path to success

I do not read books on resilience; the university of life teaches me how to return to the battlefield.

By Dr Hajira Mashego
  1. Try 
  2. Try again 
  3. Try once more 
  4. Try a little differently 
  5. Try it again tomorrow 
  6. Try and ask for help 
  7. Try to find someone who has done it 
  8. Try to fix what is not working 
  9. Try to expand what is working 
  10. Just keep trying until you succeed 

Author unknown  


Establishing a business has taught me the meaning of the words above. If I had not resigned from my cushy job and ventured on my own, I could have read the same words but only understood them at an intellectual level. Now they run true at intellectual, emotional and spiritual levels. I have grown a lot in these three years of entrepreneurship.  

Wikipedia defines psychological resilience as the ability to mentally or emotionally cope with a crisis or to return to pre-crisis status quickly. It states that resilient people experience stress, setbacks, and difficult emotions, but they tap into their strengths and seek help from support systems to overcome challenges and work through problems. Resilience empowers them to accept and adapt to a situation and move forward.  

Many books and articles have been written on how to build resilience. I have not read any of them and do not plan to do so. I think that the university of life has taught me, and is still teaching me daily, on how to return to the battlefield over and over again.  

Personally, my resilience has been integrally linked to my fear of failure. When I resigned and used all my pension savings to establish Fitness Junction, the sleepless nights also started. As I meandered through the entrepreneurship wilderness and encountered horrendous obstacles that I could have never imagined, I started realising that failure was a strong possibility. My instinct to fight against failure then kicked in and is still on overdrive. I refuse to fail, so I fall and stand up over and over again. I refuse to stay down – that is failure! I believe that I will sustain multiple defeats but I refuse to fail.  

My refusal to fail is not only based on my psychological and emotional stubbornness. I do not see any other practical options. To me, returning to full-time employment is not an option. I left employment as it was killing my spirit. I have never felt as suffocated and numb as I used to feel every morning when I had to wake up and report to work. Returning to work is tantamount to suicide for me. I am now following my passion and my heart is dancing. I cannot kill my heart again. I have no choice but to make sure that my passion sustains my livelihood and the livelihoods of my family members.  

I view every day as an opportunity to impact the people in my life.  

Should I accept failure, I will not only be accepting it for myself but I will have lost the money of the friends and family members who trusted me enough to buy shares in my business and thus help me to launch it when my pension savings were not enough. These people trusted me with their hard-earned savings and I have no right to flush their money down the toilet in the name of a failed business.  

Fitness Junction currently has 14 permanent employees and 3 casual workers. One of the employees went to the extent of working for a full-year without a salary because he believed so strongly in my vision. How can I fail him? Throwing the towel will mean unemployment for the 17 people that depend solely on me for their livelihoods and also have a secondary effect on the unknown number of people that depend on them financially. I cannot afford to take bread away from so many mouths just because I have decided to stop fighting. That would be a very selfish decision to make.  

The community of Westview, Pretoria, trusted me with their money through patronising my business (and still does). They did not know me from a bar of soap but bought into my offering. Fitness Junction has become a home for them and their testimonials show that I am providing a much needed service for them. How do I then pull the carpet from under their feet in the name of giving up?  

What fuels my fire even more is that my family has bought into my dream. My mother, children, siblings and partner root for me on a daily basis. Through my doubts, sweat and tears they still see the goal post and believe that I will reach it. They see the mud and the darkness that mere spectators do not see but they still believe in my dream. I have to do all things possible to prove them right and build this legacy that they all so strongly believe in.  

The other side of the coin, the critics and the people who proved to have ulterior motives, also fuel me to keep walking. The only way that I can “fight against them” is by ensuring that the business is successful. And, ensuring that the business becomes a success means brushing myself off each time I fall and start again. “It ain’t over till the fat lady sings!”  

I cannot only attribute my resilience to my personal will and strength. God continues to play a huge role in my not succumbing to failure. He is God of the mountain and still God in the valley. He keeps nourishing my strength over and over again during the darkest nights, then the mornings look bright once again. I hold on to His promise as stated in Isaiah 41:10: “So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”  

All is well!  

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About the Author

Dr Hajira Mashego is the owner of Fitness Junction and a participant on the SAB Foundation’s Tholoana Enterprise Programme.

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