“Did you catch the fragrance of those roses in your garden? Did the mornin’ sunlight warm your soul and brighten up your day?” — “Mr. Businessman,” as recorded by Ray Stevens

Recently I had the honor of addressing a group of business school graduate students at a prestigious university. My goal was to impart something valuable about what it takes to be successful in business.

How could I possibly communicate the level of resilience it will take in coming years for these young people to succeed, I asked myself? Finally I hit upon a worthy metaphor. I described a plastic, blow up toy that my young nephew plays with in his back yard. It’s about his size, shaped like a person in a boxing stance, and when struck, tips over. But because it’s weighted at the bottom, it always bounces back upright.

The message to these young scholars? You’re going to experience disappointments. And mistakes are inevitable. But if you expect to enjoy success, you’ve got to be as resilient as my nephew’s toy. You’ve got to right yourself after every setback. Goodness knows there’ll be plenty of them, in this business and in every commercial endeavor.

Every business owner needs a personal mantra, an inner philosophy that they can repeat to themselves as they traverse choppy water. Mine? It’s five words: I will not be defeated. When times get tough, when I feel overwhelmed, when there’s more work than I have time and hands to accomplish, I repeat this simple slogan and return to the fray, more committed.

Ask business owners what qualities they rely upon to become successful, and most will tell you that resilience, determination and perseverance are at the top. These three far outweigh intelligence and a degree from a well-known college. Street smarts and life experience play a big role, too.

My dad used to say that the world is full of desk clerks who have read the classics. Nothing against being a desk clerk, as all of us work a desk at some time or another. But his point, when I was old enough to grasp it, was that intelligence and education will only take you so far. You’ve got to have something inside that hungers for achievement.

The successful business owner usually rises each morning with a sense of desperation. By this I mean they are feverish to accomplish something significant today. I’m not sure they teach this hunger in grad school. You’ve got to have it within you. The ability to overcome hurdles and challenges and continue to keep your eyes on the prize without becoming discouraged is more about character than I.Q.

Business mistakes and setbacks are inevitable. It’s how we react to them that defines us.

Margaret R. McDowell, ChFC, AIF, author of the syndicated economic column "Arbor Outlook," is the founder of Arbor Wealth Management, LLC, (850-608-6121 — www.arborwealth.net), a “fee-only” registered investment advisory firm located near Sandestin.