COURAGE & DENIAL – The 2 Secret Weapons of Entrepreneurs

By John Peterson – Entrepreneur and Director of the Best Practice Program

It’s one thing to start a business; it’s another entirely to arrive at the level of self-employment that sustains your own personal income. However, that’s a whole world away from actually mastering that business – and that’s the world I prefer to play in; the world of Business Masters.

What if you knew, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that there was no way your big idea was going to fail? Would you do it differently?

My first business failure was at the age of 19. Looking back, it was such a non-event that it didn’t even make it into my very first book about being an entrepreneur. Yet at the time my self-esteem (like any kid when faced with the realisation of failure) took a pounding.

My second business failure was at the even riper age of 22. This time around, it still didn’t make it into my book. This was a more legitimate business failure, having leased an office and gone into some real debt.

In both examples, I was already demonstrating the secret weapons of the successful entrepreneur: courage and denial.

These very two same attributes were dominant in my third business failure which was 15 years later. This time, however, my losses were looking like a long distance telephone number – and yes, this time the example did make it into my book.

So, why am I talking about business failures if the purpose of this article is to discuss these two powerful attributes and how they can lead to success? Because, depending on who’s in control (Mr. Yin or Mr. Yang), both of these attributes can either make you rich beyond your wildest dreams, or lead you towards dismal failure multiple times over.


This wonderful – and dare I say – often over-used term is, in my opinion, at times misunderstood. The oxford dictionary definition is –

“A person who sets up a business or businesses, taking on financial risks in the hope of profit.”

Now, if you ask me, that’s not a recipe for success!

Whilst there is nothing wrong with being positive or hoping to do well, there are a few other things you may want to do as well as have a positive mindset, which we will cover in the near future. In the meantime, let’s dig deep into the pros and cons of our two topics of the day: Courage & Denial.


COURAGE (an overview)

Courage in significant doses may be required to embrace the concept that one day, soon enough, you will need to recruit or report to people smarter than you. These people will often have greater skills than you in certain things, which may even lead to them telling (if not at least advising) you what to do, as well as when and how to do it.

Courage is not a difficult concept for the entrepreneur, for it takes courage to even get started in your own business. However, it takes a lot more courage to go beyond the start-up phase, and to actually learn how to become a mature business owner, and eventually master your business.

Courage is what it will take you to come to terms with how much more you’ll need to learn to one day truly master your business. Courage will be essential if you intend to one day call yourself a Business Master. Courage to learn new skills, trust others, and empower them to help you take your business where you want to go and to let go of key functions within your business. All of these steps, and more, will become essential if you want to one day have a business that works for you – so you don’t have to work for it!

Even incredibly successful entrepreneurs like Sir Richard Branson understand this, because you can’t possibly have >600 companies and approximately 100,000 employees, without entrusting just about everything mission-critical to somebody other than yourself.



Courage can be a deadly toxin to an inexperienced budding entrepreneur or business owner. Put simply, every time you do something for the first time in business, you simply “don’t know what you don’t know.” To someone willing to take risks (like me), courage has the potential to lead to blind and impatient decision making. Having the courage to fail is, in fact, an essential ingredient so you may get started in the first place. However, there’s nothing about courage that guarantees your success – and since as many as 90% of all start-ups fail before their 11th anniversary, it’s good to know what you’re up against.



Courage is that wonderful attribute that proves you actually believe in yourself and your idea. Courage allows you to pitch your idea to potential investors, to create your business plan, and to start pursuing your vision. Without the courage to act, we would simply be ‘employees.’

To be courageous is to be willing to build and grow your brand in a particular niche or direction, to identify your ideal customer profile, and to be willing to say “no” to prospective customers that do not fit your model. Courage is to knock back the wrong offer from an investor that doesn’t feel right, to be willing to price your products/services based upon value and quality rather than price, and to be willing to FIGHT to win the business. Yes, in fact, courage is quite important indeed.

DENIAL (an overview)

Denial comes from a basis of inexperience, ego or both. Inexperience can be overcome with time and exposure to the right environments (and the right mentors), whilst ego is only dealt with through the evolution of emotional maturity from within. A famous Buddhist Proverb, “when the student is ready the teacher will appear” is quite accurate when considering one’s state of denial. What will be the lesson or the critical moment that will open the student entrepreneur’s eyes to the need for more knowledge, or a different approach?


Whenever a company turns to me for help because of their poor financial position or poor operational performance, it’s most often because the owner (or leader) of that business has spent some time in denial. Denial could also be described as stubborn, pig headed, or even naive. But in truth denial is just that; denying yourself of information (or facts) being presented to you in various forms. Your employees, banker, accountant, business partner, or even your spouse may be raising important signals, or even the bleeding obvious, but because you don’t want to hear it, you refuse to discuss it any further: denial.

I have seen way too many people in denial, only to come begging or realise long after it was too late to do anything about it. In most of these cases, if they only accepted their plight earlier, there was a better chance that we could have turned it around.


If you can evolve your level of emotional maturity, and be more open to factual data and external insight, then denial really can work for you rather than against you. An example of this is having factual weekly (if not daily) financial reporting data on how well your business is doing each day, week, month, quarter. This can be critical to help keep you on track, and alert you to when you might need to make a change in direction in managing manage cash flows or operating costs.

On the upside, denial can be a powerful attribute towards you achieving your goals and dreams. I say this because once you have a clear vision and have market tested your idea or opportunity, then you’re more likely to succeed if you can remain in a state of denial regarding external forces. For example, my darling wife once described me as being in denial in regards to my pursuit of my business’s vision. Yet only a short while later, one of my businesses was valued at >$5M USD – and had only required less than 10 hours a week of my time in eighteen months from start-up to achieve this.

Denial is a state you must appear to be in to others that “don’t get it”- when they look at your business from the outside. Or – when you need to make a tough call or change in direction, and your key personnel don’t like it, and didn’t see it coming – but you need to stand firm and make it happen. For example, you may have to do a 180 degree turn which blindsides people, yet it was mission-critical for the future success of your business.



“If you work hard at your job, you will earn a living and that is fine. But if you work harder on yourself, then you’ll earn a fortune and that’s super fine.” Jim Rohn.

Keep learning new skills because while your core skills may get you into the game, they may not be what it takes to master your business.

Until next time!


For more information, or to get in touch with John Peterson, please visit 

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