Skip header Skip to main content
Illustration of Michele Romanow with a squiggly line-drawing behind her.

5 Lessons on Resilience from Michele Romanow

Written by Mary Levitski | Published on March 19, 2020

Investing Academy.  Knowledge Supports Success. Visit now.

When times get tough, the tough get tougher, but how exactly do they do it? We asked a successful and resilient entrepreneur, Michele Romanow, of Dragons' Den fame.

"The reality of starting a business is you're going to fail 80 per cent of the time," says Romanow. "And running a business is a high-impact sport. Every single week there will be two things that will blow up and I will have zero pre-warning that these are going to happen." You're going to get sued, you're going to have someone quit, you're going to have a huge public relations disaster, she says. These unpredictable events force Romanow into being reactive, rather than proactive, she says, "and being able to deal with those things calmly is enormously important as an entrepreneur."

Here are five lessons on resilience from the engineer-turned-venture-capitalist that can easily be applied beyond entrepreneurship to investing and, furthermore, to life.

1. Make stress a motivator

"I think it's important to figure out your own coping techniques so that stress becomes motivating, so you're taking failures and translating them into resilience, versus being broken by those experiences. We can't predict how our lives are going to unfold, but I think that the times that I've been most successful, I've taken the things that were incredibly hard in my career and translated them into reminders to myself that I'm pretty tough: I've lived through much worse circumstances than the one I'm seeing today and ultimately I should just keep fighting another day."

2. Embrace the (the right) problem

"I enjoy solving problems. It's the engineer in me. There's actually a lot of deep satisfaction in seeing something that's hard and complicated and complex, and figuring out how to do it. But there is a lot of listening in problem solving, as well. There's a reason we have two ears and one mouth. You want to really understand, are you solving the right problem? Why did this happen? Are there solutions that actually solve the root of the problem versus not?"

3. Scrutinize data

"When you enter a new space, you have to be willing to do that with extremely little data and pretty good gut intuition on what the future is going to be. And the most important thing when something doesn't feel right is not that you immediately U-turn; it's that you start pulling on those threads and asking a lot more questions to make sure that you're not being misled by your own data. Because if you're clever and you're smart, and if you're working with clever and smart people, you can make data tell almost any story you want."

4. Ask yourself, what is working?

"You need to deconstruct failure a little bit. Almost universally, it's not like everything doesn't work at once. And so what you're trying to figure out is what parts are working that you could double down or refocus on. And you have to continue the iterative process of continuing to try things, and eventually something is going to hit."

5. Seek new opportunities, always

"I try to broaden my perspective. I listen to audiobooks. I think about the bigger trends in technology and how they're going to have big effects. I spend a bunch of time reading the news, trying to understand the ethos of what's changing. And I cannot overestimate how much time I actually spend brainstorming. My favourite activity is to think about what companies and products the world needs."

Read more of what Michele Romanow and other innovative thinkers have to say about failure, problem-solving and more in Inside Six Innovative Minds.

RBC Direct Investing Inc. and Royal Bank of Canada are separate corporate entities which are affiliated. RBC Direct Investing Inc. is a wholly owned subsidiary of Royal Bank of Canada and is a Member of the Investment Industry Regulatory Organization of Canada and the Canadian Investor Protection Fund. Royal Bank of Canada and certain of its issuers are related to RBC Direct Investing Inc. RBC Direct Investing Inc. does not provide investment advice or recommendations regarding the purchase or sale of any securities. Investors are responsible for their own investment decisions. RBC Direct Investing is a business name used by RBC Direct Investing Inc. ® / ™ Trademark(s) of Royal Bank of Canada. RBC and Royal Bank are registered trademarks of Royal Bank of Canada. Used under licence. © Royal Bank of Canada 2024.

Any information, opinions or views provided in this document, including hyperlinks to the RBC Direct Investing Inc. website or the websites of its affiliates or third parties, are for your general information only, and are not intended to provide legal, investment, financial, accounting, tax or other professional advice. While information presented is believed to be factual and current, its accuracy is not guaranteed and it should not be regarded as a complete analysis of the subjects discussed. All expressions of opinion reflect the judgment of the author(s) as of the date of publication and are subject to change. No endorsement of any third parties or their advice, opinions, information, products or services is expressly given or implied by RBC Direct Investing Inc. or its affiliates. You should consult with your advisor before taking any action based upon the information contained in this document.

Furthermore, the products, services and securities referred to in this publication are only available in Canada and other jurisdictions where they may be legally offered for sale. If you are not currently a resident of Canada, you should not access the information available on the RBC Direct Investing Inc. website.

Electric vehicles on a background of trees.

Where is the Electric Vehicle Market Headed?

Decoding the Electric Vehicle market for investors.

Man surrounded by bills looking through telescope

How Travel Can Affect Your Investing Strategy

Here’s why time spent away can open your eyes to emerging trends, industries and markets.

You Know More Than You Think

A guide to investing in stocks.
Find out more