As first appeared on Forbes.com by Melissa Thompson.
I recently wrote about how entrepreneurs deal with setbacks. There’s little doubt that the life of an entrepreneur is often full of adversity as 9 out of 10 startups eventually fail. Indeed, the high rate of attrition is enough to scare most people away from even thinking about entrepreneurial pursuits. Most of us simply settle for the relative stability of employment and income.
So how do successful entrepreneurs actually pull it off?
Florida-based entrepreneur Gurbaksh Chahal is no stranger to adversity. Chahal was born in India, but moved to San Jose with his family when he was only 4-years old. Like many immigrants from a working class family, Chahal went through struggles early on in life. His father worked at a post office and his mother was a nurse at a local hospital. The family shared a small house in the projects. Despite the odds, his family aspired for a piece of the American dream.
Chahal dabbled in entrepreneurship at an early age. As a teenager, Chahal bought and sold refurbished printers online. After seeing the internet as a powerful tool for business and advertising, Chahal started his first company, ClickAgents. At the age of 16, he quit school in order to concentrate on his first successful venture. His next company, BlueLithium, was also a success and was eventually sold to Yahoo! for $300 million in 2007. Today, Chahal runs RedLotus, and the Chahal Foundation.
Chahal credits his roots and family for much of how he wdas able to navigate entrepreneurship and his eventual success. Here are three key lessons he drew from his roots and early hardships.
Never give up
It was in late 1997 when his family was readying to make the big move out of their house in the projects and into a better home. His father had previously invested heavily in stocks and was determined to fund their new home. Unfortunately, the stock market crashed on October 27. Early the next day, his father sold all his stocks to prevent further losses, only for the market to recover an hour later. The poorly timed sale cost them not only their chance for a new home, but also everything they had at the time.
His father was emotionally devastated in the days following the crash and was the lowest Chahal had seen his father. However, it was not long after for the older Chahal to snap out of it. He rallied his family together and convinced them not to give up on their dream. The family pulled together to make it happen. They sold several of their possessions and clipped coupons to save on expenses. His parents took on additional shifts at work while his siblings worked part-time jobs. Through hard work and determination, they eventually were able to move out of the projects.
His lesson from that experience: never give up. There were moments when Gurbaksh nearly gave up on his first company. His first business ground to a halt after a spat with his tech guy, but instead of letting the obstacle be the end, he worked towards a resolution. He got the other party to turn over access to the software, found a new CTO, and personally apologized to his customers. He was able to retain his customer base and the business eventually sold for $40 million.
Many of us look outward for heroes. Chahal chose to look inward and made those close to him his role models.
Chahal was also exposed to racial issues quite early. He wore a turban and that made him a target for bullies. He went through years of bullying from age 5 through high school. What kept him together through a difficult time was his grandmother who became a source for comfort. His grandmother grew up uneducated and poor, but served as a reassuring presence in the family. This made a lasting impact on Chahal.
The issues advocated by the Chahal Foundation echo these stories. The foundation was initially founded as a voice against discrimination in light of the Sikh temple shooting in Wisconsin back in 2012. The foundation’s latest efforts now focus on fighting against child labor and sex trafficking. For example, the foundation’s Be a Superhero campaign aims to be the pillar of hope and comfort to victims much like Chahal’s grandmother was to him.
Since Chahal’s story has been all about overcoming odds, you may be mistaken to think that he always acts as if the world is against him.
However, on his blog, Chahal emphasizes the importance of happiness and the need for balance all the while pursuing success. He preaches the importance of unplugging, taking time to learn new things, putting family first and avoiding worries. He also emphasizes keeping healthy and taking care of oneself.
According to Chahal, his experience of being bullied developed grit and courage, but also taught him forgiveness and making peace with your past. When asked what he would say to his past bullies during an interview with Oprah, he simply said, “I think being on the Oprah show is enough.”
Entrepreneurs have a lot to learn from Chahal’s experience. Running a business brings some hard challenges, but reflecting on your own personal struggles and how you’ve managed to survive them should convince you that you do have grit and determination to fuel your own success.
Indeed, you may not have to look too far for that source of motivation and inspiration. Your own story may be all that you need to succeed in business and in life.
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Read more blogs by Gurbaksh Chahal.
Watch Gurbaksh Chahal Interview with Oprah Winfrey.