‘We can remain prisoners of our past or be the architects of our future’

I've been inspired recently by two very different men, James Mworia, CEO of Centum Investments and Peter Ouko, a former death-row convict. Both started out with the odds stacked against them.

At our recent TBN launch in Kenya, James spoke of how he began his career at Centum as a filing clerk. Initially he felt humiliated that, despite his good qualifications, he was stuck in a lowly position. However, he decided to make the best of his situation and learn all he could about the company. Over time his integrity, humility and expertise were noticed and he was gradually promoted. That challenging experience coupled with his vision for transformation allowed him to succeed. Now James is the CEO of largest publicly traded private capital firm in eastern Africa and he's only 37.

Peter spent 18 years on death row in Kenya for a crime he didn’t commit. He was framed by the police for murdering his wife, his family was torn apart and his freedom was taken away. It would have been easy for him to sink into despair. But instead, undeterred by his circumstances, he became a leader for transformation within the prison. (View his Tedx talk here) He became the first Kenyan prisoner to achieve a Diploma in Law from the University of London and founded Crime Si Poa, an anti-crime advocacy group. He was pardoned only six months ago and has been active since his release in supporting the rehabilitation of prisoners.

The testimonies of James and Peter have been a real challenge to me and inspiration to our Kenyan entrepreneurs. Often we feel trapped by our circumstances - a key employee quits, the business is making significant losses, or our best customer cancels a contract - and we give up on our entrepreneurial dreams. However, evidence shows that the most successful entrepreneurs are able to overcome challenges and failure. So how do we become resilient?  

5 steps of a resilient entrepreneur

Discover your purpose

When we discover a higher purpose behind our work it motivates and energises us and enables us to endure the most challenging circumstances. As Peter reflects 'I never thought I could end up in prison. But when I realised that I could make a difference there, it gave me hope'. Why did you get into business? What do you want your legacy to be.

Journey with integrity

When we feel trapped our natural instinct is to escape by whatever means possible. We can be tempted to take shortcuts, whether paying a bribe, short changing a customer or circumventing a law. In the short-term it may appear to resolve the challenge but ultimately it will come back to haunt us.

Build a community

Entrepreneurs often feel lonely. We are responsible for creating vision, making tough decisions and leading a team of disparate people. It's important, in the busy-ness of work, not to cut ourselves off from friends and family. On our death bed we won’t say ‘I wish I’d spent one more hour in the office’ but rather reflect on the time spent with our spouse and children. So close your laptop and switch off your phone and make sure that evenings and weekends belong to those who matter most.

Create your LUCK

‘Luck stands for Labour Under Correct Knowledge’ Stuart McGreevy, TBN co-founder and serial entrepreneur likes to say. Many people consider him ‘lucky’ as he established his professional services firm at precisely the right time to benefit from regulation change in the sector. However, it was his hardwork (labour) combined with his deep understanding (correct knowledge) of trends in financial services which enabled him to benefit. Be curious and invest time in continuously learning.

Learn from failure

Finally, we are likely to experience failure at some stage in life – after all entrepreneurship is inherently high risk. It is always a shock but it’s not the end of the world. The question is how do we respond. Be thankful for what you have - your health, friends and family. Learn from the failure and use it as the basis to enact changes that will prevent you from repeating the same mistakes in the future.