Surviving the entrepreneurial spirit

By Nilooka Dissanayake
The title is not a mistake. What I mean to talk about today is how to survive if you possess that admirable quality called the entrepreneurial spirit. Let us see how to keep it alive and to survive despite it because there will be times when you wonder whether it is a blessing or a curse.

Firstly, I do not really know whether I possess this quality. And secondly, it is not clear whether I am an entrepreneur. Then again, it does not matter because I am simply delivering a message.

But, I do know that I possess one quality that turns entrepreneurs into successful business people persistence and the never say die attitude. That quality, more than anything else, accounts for the fame and fortune of successful people.

Two days ago, a gentleman called me and introduced himself as a reader of The Sunday Times. He spoke to me of a product that he had developed through his own research and efforts with the help from research and development organizations. It was an interesting product and I wondered why no one thought of making it before. Or perhaps someone did and gave up before making it commercially viable. After all, not everyone has the spirit of Thomas Alva Edison who claimed that he found 1000 ways of how not to make the light bulb before he found the right way of making it.

My caller was seeking for finances to go into production. And it is the usual story you should guess it before I complete this sentence. The financial institutions have told him to put in some money before they put in their share or to find a partner willing to finance the project.

“I am not a young man,” said he, and my gut response was that “Age is only a number.” That cheered him up to no end. There was really nothing much I could do other than give some contacts and a lot of encouragement. And that is what got me thinking of surviving entrepreneurship.

I went to bed last night thinking of this and woke up today with a couple of sentences ringing in my head. And as fate would have it, they are about persistence!
They are from the Dhammapada, hardly the recommended text in business schools. As you rightly guessed, it is not about business; it is about qualities that bring you fame. And before you accuse me of getting religion mixed up in the unholy field of business, let me remind you that Dhammapada is philosophy rather than religion. It talks about a way of life. And business is part of the business of living.

The English translation of the words can be translated as follows: “Whoso is strenuous, constantly recollected, pure in conduct, deliberate of his actions, self-restrained, righteous of life, and vigilant the fame of him increases.” - Dharmarthadeepanee, 1936.

For me, “strenuous” has negative connotations. However, it was translated long before “Work smart; not hard” slogan became popular.

“Constantly recollected” would in popular parlance be “cool, calm and collected”; but it really refers to having your wits about you and being mindful of everything that you do.

By vigilance, Dhammapada refers to watching yourself and your faculties so you avoid the undesirable. However, applied to business, it would mean keeping your eyes and ears open and your antennas tuned so you receive all signals that are important for growth and survival. Opportunities and threats, both are born in the business environment. You must be vigilant and be ready to spring into action when opportunities or threats arise.

I do believe that business people can be “pure in conduct”; they can be pure in their thoughts, actions and words. It is the same about leading a righteous life. It may be difficult, but it is certainly not impossible.

According to Daya Rohana Athukorala, speaker and writer, his book titled “Laxapathiyaku Wana Maga” is his best work so far in the way of positive attitudes.
However, many of his usual readers shun the book because of its flagrantly monetary sounding title. So, among thinking people, money is dirty after all. But, should it be? You be the judge. Your decisions and the values on which you base your decisions will have a big impact upon your future.

As an entrepreneur, it is up to you to set your own standards. Of course, if you are not so goody-goody and become rich anyway, you can always pay a PR agency later to whitewash you so your fame grows in line with your fortune!

That, by the way, is not a piece of advice; that is simply my natural cynicism escaping the barriers of restraint.

To get anywhere you need deliberation. Take the story of every successful business and you will see the entrepreneur was deliberate regardless of whether it was a he or a she.

Whatever you do not possess of the qualities above, one essential quality you will need to survive with the entrepreneurial spirit is persistence; never giving up; going ahead despite all barriers. Rome was not built in a day; nothing worthwhile ever is. So, every time your entrepreneurial spirit is sagging, think of Edison and such stories.

Please send your comments and questions to or call Athwela on 074-304112. We look forward to hearing from you.

The writer is the Managing Editor of Athwela Vyaparika Sangarawa (Athwela Business Journal), the only Sinhala management monthly targeting the small and medium sized business operators and its English version, Small Business International magazine.


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