Blog | Entrepreneurship

Key to Success in Business: An Entrepreneurial Spirit

When it comes to being successful, feeding your entrepreneurial spirit needs to come first.

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In December 1984, Robert and I sold all we had and left Honolulu to begin building our business in Southern California. It didn’t take long—two months to be exact—before we had gone through all the money we had. We were broke and without jobs or work. We had a long way to go before we were ready to launch our business. At times we were even homeless, sleeping in a beat-up Toyota Celica.

I can honestly say 1985 was the worst year of our lives. But when you have an unbreakable entrepreneurial spirit — a deep desire to seek out something different rather than follow the traditional path laid out for you — it’s amazing how much adversity you’ll endure to make your dreams come true.

Hitting rock bottom

When Robert and I had nothing, we blamed one another and argued constantly. Resentment built up. We were definitely not at our best. We were stressed beyond belief.

The worst part of it all for me was that my self-esteem took a nosedive. Before 1985, I was always a very optimistic, happy, decisive, and confident woman. But when we went through this taxing period, I began to question and doubt everything I knew and believed in, including my ability to accomplish anything. I’d ask myself, “Do I know anything at all?” What started as a few self-doubts quickly spiraled into what at the time seemed like a huge, dark hole that was impossible to climb out of. It was the lowest point of my life.

Ignoring the naysayers

I’m certain neither Robert nor I would have come through that year as we did, had we not had each other (even though we weren’t always as nice to each other as we should have been). All along we both had friends and family saying to us, “Why don’t you just get a job? Take the paycheck for a while until your business is up and running.” But we knew differently.

We knew that getting jobs would be a step backward. We had come so far and couldn’t quit at that moment. We also knew that, if we went for the comfort of the paycheck, then we might never build our business. Looking back, it was actually being in this horrible situation that was our driving force. It drove us to find a way out of the mess we were in. The way out wasn’t easy, and it wasn’t through getting a job. We were determined to build our business and honor our driving force: an entrepreneurial spirit.

Feeding the entrepreneurial spirit

Eventually, we came to the point where we simply had had enough of this chaos that we created. Robert came to the conclusion that no one was going to make his life better except him and that it was time for bold measures. I decided to stop feeling sorry for myself. I stopped blaming everyone else for my circumstances. And the two of us simply made the decision to take control of our future and to get to work. So we pulled ourselves up by the bootstraps and moved forward.

I recall much later in life when I heard Michael Hewitt, a PhD, and expert in health-and-exercise physiology speak about the three traits attributed to a long life.

Those traits were:

  1. Purpose

  2. Optimism

  3. Resiliency

I remember thinking “All women need to know these.” Now, I know these are also essential for the entrepreneurial spirit.


Having a sense of being of value—to themselves and others.

A sense of purpose is the core reason why you want to reach whatever goals you have in mind. It is something bigger than you and bigger than the perceived outcome (which might be money, for instance). Your purpose drives you to keep going, no matter what.

Being poor and homeless was hard. But even harder was the self-doubt that crept in during that time. Why did I quit my high-paying job for this? Why did I move away from my home to have no home at all? Was it all really worth it? But, when things were rough, I kept my purpose at the forefront of my mind. I knew my purpose was to reach financial independence and help other women do the same.

So Robert and I kept at it, and little by little we grew in success. Today, we’re financially free with millions in investments and a thriving business. But we could just have easily quit when the going got hard.

A quote I’ve been reflecting on lately is, “A woman’s spirit is that invisible power within that emerges when she is tested.”

Often, we want to avoid pain and tough times. But the problem with this avoidance is that we never really learn anything about ourselves, how strong, determined, and resourceful we can be.

As women, we should embrace challenges and tough times for what they are — opportunities to refocus on our purpose and show our spirit to the world.

Today, if you’re going through a hard trial, I encourage you to dig deep, zero in on your purpose, and tap into your spirit — your invisible power that the world needs to see.


Having a bright and positive outlook on life.

Optimistic people tend to have a strong sense of well-being and confidence. It’s been said that pessimistic people tend to be more accurate, but optimistic people live longer. That certainly was true in this centenarian study.

This reminds me of my sister, Wendy. She came home after a week-long trip and walked into her house to see a sheet of water cascading down the wall in her living room. Where most people would become frantic—yelling and running around—she calmly assessed the situation and said, “I guess we need to call a plumber.” And then added, “That wall needed to be painted anyway.”

Another time, Wendy was visiting her daughter who works in Hanoi, Vietnam. Her first day there, she had a surprising medical emergency and was told that the Hanoi hospital was not equipped for what she needed and that she must fly to Bangkok. She and her daughter flew to Thailand and received the treatment there. It was an incredible ordeal. When she told me about it over the phone, it was clear that she never panicked but simply did what she needed to do.

After she got out of the hospital, I asked her how she had managed it. She replied, “Well, I figured I had never been to Bangkok before, so we checked into the Four Seasons Hotel, had a martini, and the next day we toured the city. It was wonderful!”

Yeah, my sister Wendy will have a long life.


The ability to recover from a setback.

Resiliency is how quickly you can deal with, and bounce back from, adversity. Of the three traits, this is the one that I believe determines which people will see success instead of failure. This is the one that took us from homelessness, to where Robert and I are today.

Donald Trump once told me that the determinant to whether a person will succeed in business depends upon how she responds in tough times. Does she curl up in the fetal position, resolved to a life of failure? Or does she dust herself off, smile wisely, and get back to work, smarter from the experience?

Maya Angelou, a civil-rights activist, writer, and dancer, said it quite succinctly: “I love to see a young girl go out and grab the world by the lapels. Life’s a bitch. You’ve got to go out there and kick ass.”

Putting the entrepreneurial spirit to action

Robert and I knew what we were working for—financial freedom. That was our purpose and we knew this wouldn’t come from getting a “good job” and relying on a paycheck. We had to know how money worked and how to make it work for us. We had to build a business that would support us and invest in assets that would provide passive cash flow. And so we embraced our individual and collective entrepreneurial spirit and didn’t stop until we’d accomplished our goal.

Our optimism, our ability to celebrate little wins (like affording a motel room to sleep in and some KFC for dinner), is what kept us going. The bright side of every misfortune that struck us kept our purpose alive.

Finally, our resilience made it so that we never stayed down. We couldn’t; we made staying committed to our purpose simply a matter of survival.

What are you working for?

Today, when I talk with people who want to give up on their dreams, I simply ask, “What are you working for?” As they describe their dreams, they light up. Their energy levels spike. I remind them that they must always hold onto their dreams, even when the world wants to push them down. It’s the only way to keep going.

Another way to look at this is to determine “your why” — the reason, deep down in your heart and soul, that you want to reach the goal. Once you understand why your why is so important, you’ll stay focused and motivated on getting there. And when you get to the end, all the hard work and heartache is so worth it.

So, today, ask yourself, “What am I working for?” “What is my why?” Hold onto those answers and keep going no matter how many obstacles stand in your way. If you truly embody an entrepreneurial spirit and know that the status quo is not for you, you’ll never be satisfied with anything but achieving your goals. There will be stumbles and failures along the way, just like Robert and I experienced, so remember: it’s what you do with your failure that truly determines whether you’ll have success in entrepreneurship.

Original publish date: July 04, 2013

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