Entrepreneurship is hard, and as statistics show, not everyone makes it. Most of us fall somewhere along the spectrum—at times we succeed, and at other times, we fail. Yet, we’ve all heard of entrepreneurs who experience success time and time again, in different industries, with different teams and different market conditions. So what is it that these people have that most of us don’t—aside from the seven- and eight-figure bank accounts?
That’s what I've tried to figure out. And I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but based on my experience, the problem is you. When you ask yourself—“why have I been failing as an entrepreneur?"—what answers come up?
For some of us, the following subjects may feel oddly familiar, and it may shed some insight into why you haven’t yet reached your full potential. If you’re willing to work on yourself, it may even unlock the key to finally accomplishing what you’ve always dreamed of.
1. You’re afraid.
"So deeply seated is the emotion of fear that one may go through life burdened with it, never recognizing its presence.” — Napoleon Hill
Fear is a tricky fellow, and it is not to be taken lightly. Chances are, you have fears you aren’t even aware of that are holding you back in some significant way. Whether it’s cold calling, showing your product to the world, or pitching high profile investors, fear is capable of stopping most of us in our tracks. Unconscious fear often shows up as indifference, indecision, doubt, worry, over caution, procrastination, lack of ambition, jealousy, and a myriad of other ways.
If you’re showing any of these symptoms, ask yourself, what am I avoiding?
Some people are scared of the truth because they don’t want to admit their own shortcomings, and they fear embarrassment. Others may be afraid of success, because they don’t feel that they deserve it. Some are afraid of failure, and never try anything so that they can avoid failing. But perhaps the strongest grip of all is the fear to be different. We’re both biologically programmed and socially conditioned to fit in with the crowd and conform. It can be hard to break away and do something truly unique.
The first step to overcoming your fear is to accept that you have it. Feel the fear and do it anyway.
2. You don’t know how to let go.
"You can do anything, but not everything." — David Allen
Small-scale entrepreneurs and small business owners are notorious for wanting to do everything themselves. While you might think this is the only way to get things done right, your need for control may be standing in the way of real success, not to mention a little breathing room. If you can learn to let go, delegate, build a team of talented people and give up mental ownership—and perhaps financial ownership—of some aspects of your business, it could benefit you in a big way in the long run. It is better to have a percent of something large, than the entirety of nothing.
What can you let go of today in your business in order to concentrate on the high-value tasks?
3. You lack persistence.
"Many of life’s failures are people who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up." — Thomas Edison
When I talk about failing as an entrepreneur, I am referring to giving up entirely. Setbacks, temporary failures, uncertainty, and even failed businesses are all part of being an entrepreneur. It’s the individual who can keep getting back up over and over again who is going to be triumphant. Even the best of the best fail from time to time, but failure may become less frequent, less severe, and a greater teacher as you hone your entrepreneurial chops.
Sometimes it takes enduring effort or repeated rejections to get to where you want to be. My own app has been in the app store for more than three years and is just starting to gain real traction. Tim Ferris was rejected by 25 publishers before finding someone to publish his book, The Four Hour Work Week. The iconic book went on to launch Tim’s career as an author and investor and has spent over seven years on the New York Times best-seller list.
Are you willing to take 25 rejections to get one yes? How about 100?
Related: What to do when things fall apart
4. You’ve stopped investing in yourself.
“I think that much of the advice given to young men about saving money is wrong. I never saved a cent until I was 40 years old. I invested in myself—in study, in mastering my tools, in preparation. Many a man who is putting a few dollars a week into the bank would do much better to put it into himself.” — Henry Ford
Just like investing in a business, investing in yourself can pay heavy dividends down the road. If you ended your education with the end of your formal schooling, you’re doing yourself a disservice. The work roles of the future aren’t taught in school. They haven’t even been invented yet.
If you want to succeed in today’s fast-paced world, it’s best to continue to invest in yourself as if you were a business, whether it’s with courses, coaches, trainings, or even getting a personal trainer to stay healthy. Invest in yourself, and you may find yourself experiencing greater success not only in business but in all aspects of your life.
5. You’re getting things done, but not the right things.
“Efficiency is doing the thing right. Effectiveness is doing the right thing.” — Peter Drucker
Is it better to do the right things, than to get things done? Many of us feel like we are too busy to take a second out of our day to have a nice meal, or think about our future. But are all of us really busy—or are we just filling up our schedule with more and more things, failing to say no to the unimportant and letting our lives be dictated by other people’s agendas? I’m looking at you, chronic email checkers....
The thing you’re procrastinating is often the most important thing you could be doing. Tackle your most valuable task first thing in the morning before you do anything else, and you can make more progress in a couple weeks than you did all of last year.
6. You’re not a finisher.
“Look, young man. You’re like most people. You think the grass is greener on the other side. What’s going to happen if you go into another business is you’re going to spend another six months, another year, another two years, learning the technical skills of another industry, so you can go out and repeat the same bad business habits that have caused you to be a failure in this business. What you need to do, young man, is learn fundamental business skills. Because once you do, you can apply those to any industry. But until you learn how to make a business work, it doesn’t matter what industry you go into -- you’re still going to fail at it.” — from The Education of Millionaires by Michael Ellis
If you have a pattern of starting strong on a new project or business for a couple of months and then giving up, or switching to the next project, you may have a problem with finishing. It is only through persistence that you’ll confront your own personal limits and get enough momentum to get anything worthwhile off the ground. Overnight successes are almost always years or decades in the making. Know when to cut the cord on a losing endeavor, but don’t give up just because you aren’t a millionaire three months into your new project, or your new app hasn’t attracted VC funding yet.
There is one more thing I want to remind you of. You don’t have to be an entrepreneur all the time—it’s ok to take a couple of hours off and wear a different hat. Be a sister, or husband, or father or friend. Get some exercise, do what makes you happy and stay balanced and healthy. Your business will thank you.
If you learn from your mistakes, and get a little bit better every single day of your life, success will take care of itself.
Related: What failure can teach entrepreneurs
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This article also appeared on Entrepreneur.com. Minor edits have been done by the Entrepreneur.com.ph editor.