Business Advice

‘Don’t give up’ is easy to say: How to keep going when you hit rock bottom

Yemi Penn /

rock bottom business

W Squared Coaching founder Yemi Penn. Source: Supplied.

According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, more than 60% of small businesses cease operating within the first three years of starting. Whilst there are multiple factors that potentially contribute to this, in many instances, entrepreneurs can find it’s all become too much of an uphill struggle, and call it a day.

It’s an easy, throwaway comment to say, ‘don’t give up’ to someone, but often it isn’t that simple and these words sound empty. I’m really fortunate to now be running three businesses, but my path hasn’t been easy, and having hit rock bottom, I’ve learnt how to adjust the way I look at the world to completely modify my thinking, feel positive, and keep going.

Aged 24, I found myself pregnant and homeless, while my friends from university were busy climbing the corporate ladder. I was determined that this wouldn’t be my destiny and made a decision to do whatever I could to change this trajectory.

Now, 13 years later I’m running three successful businesses, dividing my time between Sydney and London. Through my latest enterprise, W Squared Coaching, I work with businesses and individuals to empower them to change their way of thinking and live a life that suits them, rather than doing what society tells them.

My experience has taught me while circumstances can make you feel like you have no escape, it’s how you react to things that may be out of your control that ultimately affects your future. Here are some of my tips for pulling yourself out of the slump, no matter what life throws at you:

Firstly, it’s about completely taking responsibility for yourself and your actions. Acknowledge that life can be harsh and unfair sometimes, but you alone have control over how you react to difficult situations.

Once you realise this, you’ll feel empowered. I urge others to free themselves from a victim’s mentality. Yes, other people or wider influencers can derail you, but you ultimately control how you react to these situations. Accepting full responsibility for your life and how you live it is freeing and it allows you to be bolder than ever.

Once I acknowledged this, and moved on from the blame game, it became far easier to realise my untapped potential and identify where my skills and future lay.

The other vital piece of advice is around knowing your ‘why’. So often we find ourselves on some kind of treadmill, in work and in life, unhappy but continuing because we feel it’s what society expects of us.

If you’re unhappy with a situation, such as continuing with an unfulfilling job, be brutally honest with yourself and understand why this is the case. It may be that deep down you want to be your own boss, and you want to do something really special, but are fearful of the change.

If that ‘why’, such as leaving a legacy for your family or rewriting history, is strong enough, you’ll be able to make that change. I anchor all my goals⁠ — business and personal⁠ — on this and ensure any decisions I make fits with my values.

Finally, learn to exercise gratitude. It may feel when you’re down on your luck that life is against you, but remember there are always people in a worse position.

Having truly hit rock bottom, sleeping on the streets, I can look back and be grateful for all the things we all take for granted, such as my sight, my kids, fresh air ⁠— or even little things like easy access to office supplies or the smile of the bus driver on your way to work.

This attitude does take some work, and it certainly took me a while! But you’ll notice that when embracing it with intention, you’ll reach a state of indescribable appreciation.

Changing your attitude and the way you react to situations is life-changing. If I hadn’t experienced the tough times, I know I wouldn’t be a successful business leader, I needed to go through that to alter my mindset. While the words ‘don’t give up’ may sound hollow, by resetting the way you look at the world and truly putting in perspective the reasons why you’re fighting on against the odds, you’ll find the freedom to reach your potential.

NOW READ: Imagine the worst-case scenario for a startup founder. It happened to me

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Yemi Penn

Yemi Penn is the managing director of Penny Consulting and W Squared Coaching.

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