I have always talked about not giving up in the face of difficulties and failures. In this column, or when I have opportunities to talk to young people — in commencement exercises for instance — I always talk about the importance of perseverance. It is the second part of the sipag at tiyaga (hard work and perseverance) mantra that I developed at an early age. Tiyaga (perseverance) is an absolute essential in order to get your nilaga (stew).
But how do you power through the obstacles in life? What exactly does it mean to be persistent? And how do you do it? People would say, “kaya mo ‘yan, laban lang!” But how does one exactly persist in the midst of tremendous odds? Say you start your small business and in the middle of it all you encounter disaster, maybe the sales were weak, or you had problems with employees and you’re losing a lot of money. It is a scary reality. How do you persevere?
In my experience, a crucial element in surviving challenges as an entrepreneur is motivation. Motivation refers to the reason or reasons one has for doing something. It is the underlying purpose or impetus for your decision to start a business. In other words, motivated individuals are persistent individuals.
Why did you decide to give up your job with a decent, regular monthly salary and take the plunge into the unpredictable world of business? What made you decide to use your savings in order to put up your small business? Why did you gamble on taking out a business loan from your bank in order to fund your business?
I became an entrepreneur because I wanted to improve the lives of my family. I wanted a brighter future for myself and those who I care about. I had a happy childhood but I did not want my children to experience poverty that way I experienced it. We lived in the second floor of a sparse three-story house in Tondo. Our family — nine of us siblings and my parents — would be cramped in that house together with two other families, the sisters of my mother, Nanay Curing.
I remember having Purico with asin as our ulam. For those who are young, Purico was the first-ever vegetable shortening manufactured in the Philippines. I still recall it was sold in carton blocks with the familiar yellow label. Poor families would mix that with rice and salt, or sometimes with patis and use it as their ulam. Sometimes, we would pour sugar and water over rice tutong (burnt rice) and that would be our merienda. The most lavish meal we would have was probably the canned corned beef and my mother would use every extender she knows so all 11 of use can have a share of the ulam (dish).
That was such a powerful motivation for me. And that empowered me to persevere no matter what obstacle I faced. Discovering your motivation, hanging on to it, is your most effective tool whenever you feel like giving up. It does not matter what it is, use it to remind yourself why you are doing what you’re doing. It is that motivation that will see you through.
When you experience failure, take a break, take a step back to assess. But use that break to remind yourself of your goal. Did you become an entrepreneur because you do not want to become an employee forever? Or, do you want to buy your parents a house and lot and their first car? There are some entrepreneurs who get motivated by their sheer pride. They were too proud to admit failure and they refuse to be defeated — “I will not be a failure.” It is our motivation that will allow us to succeed.
I can only tell you this, and self-help books can only suggest these pieces of advice to you. But at the end of the day, it is you who needs to face these obstacles. It is you who needs to show courage and persistence by reminding yourself of that very reason for your being; that thing you are willing to die for.