Ask Celes – Can Everyone Be Successful in Starting Their Business?

Ask Celes

“Hi Celes, do you think everyone can be successful in starting their own business? I graduated from an Ivy League college in the U.S. in a science field. But since I couldn’t find any work I liked, I started my own online business.

After a year I had to close down. I failed. Do you think I can change my character to become successful as my own boss and in business?” ~ Max

Hey Max, first off, kudos to you for taking a dip in entrepreneurship when you were unable to find a job you like. :)

While most people would just settle for the first job that comes their way, you took a risk and started a business instead. While you did not get the results you were looking for, this experience has undoubtedly given you important life lessons which will come in handy in time to come.

Misconception of Failure

Before I get to your question, I want to address your comment about failing. Because as far as I’m concerned, the closing of your business didn’t mean that you failed; it merely meant that you had to close it down after it failed to generate your desired results within a year.

Many people have a misconception that failure means the inability to achieve X results in Y period. That’s not true though. True failure only happens when you give up on your goals and dreams prematurely. Closing of a business isn’t the end of the story; you can always return to starting a new business (be it in the same or different field) in the future, whenever you want to.

Example: My Fears of Failing Before Starting My Business

Five years ago before I pursued my passion in the form of my personal development business, I contemplated the possibility of failure. I was afraid that I was going to quit my job, dedicate X period of my life to my business, but ultimately fail, which would result in a waste of that part of my life (plus a loss of the money I could have earned from continuing my corporate job AND the jeopardy of my career path).

What if I were to fail? What was I to do then? were questions that circled my mind.

Interestingly, these questions drew blanks, for I genuinely could not think of anything I would want to do other than to be in the personal development field, work on my personal development business, and help others to grow.

Despite brainstorming for alternatives, be it to return to the corporate world or to work for some NGO which would provide some semblance of financial stability over starting my own business, these alternatives failed to enthuse me. My mind kept returning to my personal development business—basically to keep working on it regardless of the result.

I realized that even if I were to run out of financial reserves, it didn’t have to be the end of my business. I could always take up a part-time job or return to full-time employment to generate more savings, after which I could then use my spare time to build on my business. I could then keep repeating this as many times as needed until my business finally takes off.

This was when I realized that it was literally impossible for me to fail in my venture unless I decide to quit on it prematurely before seeing results. After all, as long as I kept going and kept pushing through, I was definitely going to succeed at some point. Whatever I would accomplish in my business prior to “making it” (defined as achieving financial stability) could never be a waste, because it would only give me the necessary knowledge to progress further.

Realizing this was a big aha moment for me. By expanding the time frame to work on my business to infinity, failure would be impossible and success would be inevitable. By looking upon my business as a project of a lifetime rather than something where I had to “make it” in X years, I could then make decisions and action plans which would ensure my eventual success, rather than hasty plans driven by fear and not in line with my bigger vision.

Having this long-term perspective was what helped me to succeed eventually too. Within six months, I was featured in multiple media outlets and I had one-to-one coaching clients lined up for the next three months. Within one-and-a-half years, I was earning a good-enough income, and after less than three years of inception, I was already generating a monthly revenue higher than my last drawn salary in my corporate job. Today, 100% of my income comes in without me having to do anything. And these results continue to build on themselves today.

Looking back, I would never have been able to achieve these results if I had anticipated failure at the start and constantly thought about when I should “quit” to supposedly “cut my losses”. I knew failure was impossible and success was imminent and this then led to my eventual success.

The One Time It Is Okay To “Give Up”: When Your Goal Does Not Resonate Anymore

So basically, my point here is that it’s impossible for you to fail unless you decide to give up yourself. As long as you keep persisting (coupled with smart work and hard work), you will eventually succeed. There is simply no doubt about it, and I’m a living example of that.

That said, there is one scenario and only one scenario where you should give up on a goal/dream/business. And that’s when that goal/dream/business does not resonate with you anymore, be it due to misalignment of values, change in life priorities, or change in your life vision.

I call this conscious quitting, and I have written about it before in Quitting To Win which I recommend you to take a read.

The Role of One’s Character in One’s Success

As for your question of whether it is possible to change your current character to become successful in business (or anything for that matter), my answer is: yes, it is very possible. 

Just as weaknesses can be turned into strengths and talents can be cultivated from nothing, personalities are 100% malleable. No matter what your character is today, you can develop a totally different character, if that’s what you desire and that’s what is necessary for you to achieve your goals.

The whole process of character transformation is exactly what I have been doing throughout my personal development journey. While I am very assertive, directive, and fairly accepting today, I didn’t used to be like this in the past. These are traits which I honed over the years as part of becoming a better person and achieving my goals.

Be a Better Me in 30 Days Program is where I cover character transformation in detail. It comes with 30 tasks (for 30 days) including how to weed out undesirable traits, envision your ideal self, and develop your ideal traits to become your ideal self.

In Conclusion

In conclusion, anyone—in my opinion—is fully capable of success, be it in business or anything in life. I don’t see success as a function of your current or inborn character traits, as much as it’s a function of (a) your persistence, (b) hard work, and (c) smart work. Regardless of what your character is today, as long as you have the desire to achieve a goal, you will naturally change and adopt the right characteristics to succeed in that goal.

As Zig Ziglar said before, “It is your attitude, not your aptitude, that determines your altitude.

I would like to end off with this amazing quote on failure (and achieving success):

Inspirational Quote: “Life's real failure is when you do not realize how close you were to success when you gave up.” ~ Unknown

More inspirational quotes on Success at Personal Excellence Quotes

All the best in your ventures guys. :) Be sure to check out the other parts in the Passion & Money series:

Other related posts:

Image: Question mark

This is part of the Ask Celes section. If you have a question to ask me, proceed to the Ask Celes page. Check out past Ask Celes questions here.

  • Aaron Corder

    This is great advice for people like me. I have recently realized how unhappy I am living a “corporate” life. I do not wish to work for someone else’s wages, on someone else’s schedule, to someone else’s agenda. I want to do what I want to do, what I am passionate about. I want to use my own creative outlet to experience personal growth as well as help others do the same. I want to get a degree in psychology and hopefully be able to generate enough traffic and enough of a buzz to be able to help people for free. I have been helped more for free than I have paid for. This is why I started my own blog. To help me focus these goals, and possible help others realize their ability to focus theirs.

    • Celes

      Hi Aaron, I hear you! :) I wish you all the best in your goals. It sounds like you have a great heart and a deep-seated desire for your goals and I’m sure you will succeed as long as you persist. Should you encounter any naysayers, here’s a piece that will come in handy:

      • Aaron Corder

        Thank you for the encouragement. I will read the article regardless. I think we can something from everything we read even if it doesn’t apply directly to our life right now. Thank you again.

  • John (Jean C) Blais

    Right on Celes,

    I hope Max reads and rereads your post in answer to his questions. There are so many truths imbedded that they are easily missed on first reads. I have been around for a long time and I consider my life very successful, yet I have more “failures” in my career than I can count using both hands. The interesting thing is that some very important people viewed some of those as successes.

    I have found for myself that the degree to which I qualify a project as a failure is directly proportionate to my level of expectations. I learned a long time ago that unrealistic expectations were the result of an incomplete evaluation of the opportunity, the effort required and the potential that exists.

    So for your next project Max I would suggest you evaluate it in the most rigorous way possible, perhaps as if you were a consultant evaluating a business prospect for someone else. In fact, you might try and sell your business idea to a number of people you respect before you adopt it emotionally. Once it passes those tests then go for it. The ride is worth the risk. Best wishes.

    • Max

      Hi John,

      It is easier to “know” that there might be many failures behind a success, but to actually live it is something different. It’s good to be reminded of this concept by someone who’s been through it though. Thank you.

      If I ever try launching a new business in the future (something tells me I might ;) I’ll do my best to follow your advice, and become my own “business consultant/devil’s advocate” as well as run my ideas through people I trust.

      Best wishes to you as well,

  • Ellen Katsidzira

    Hi Celes,I have been enjoying your response to Max and get encouragement to the fact that everyone who sets out to succeed eventually succeeds. I have been working in the corporate world for the past 25 years and I have always wanted to be my own boss
    and as I read your articles,I have drawn encouragement to identify and pursue my dream.Thank you Celes.

    • Celes

      Hey Ellen, I’m so glad that you have been enjoying the response and I’m glad that you have managed to draw inspiration from the post for yourself too! Please keep going and never ever give up on your dreams; you will realize them sooner than you may think. :hug:

  • Ruth

    I love this post, Celes! This is so timely, because I’ve just launched my new website, on which I’m building my business. As I embark on this journey, I keep reminding myself of something that motivational expert Brian Tracy said, which is that “There are no failures in life, just feedback”. Feedback about the strategies, methods, products etc. So what we need to do is to keep finding for that something that will work! Max, I hope this gives you a new perspective as well as it did for me :) Don’t give up on your dream, if starting a business is truly your dream and not just a wish. Max, may you live an abundant, fulfilling life doing what you love!

    • Celes

      Hi Ruth, I love that point regarding no failures, only feedback! That is so true and I absolutely believe in that. Failure is only in the mind, and if we understand that every seeming “setback” or “failure” is really just experience that helps us grow and ultimately “succeed” (where success is up to our definition), then really, there is no reason why any of us can’t eventually succeed and live the life that we want.

    • Max

      Thank you Ruth for your kind encouragements. I hope your new website works out! Building a new business can be both very exiting and scary at the same time.
      Good Luck!

  • Jennifer

    Hi Celes, you should have Max read The Millionaire Next Door. I don’t have a copy of the book currently so I can’t quote it directly but I seem to remember it saying that of those who accumulated their wealth through owning their own businesses, most had an average of 10 businesses fail before they found one that works.

    • Celes

      Hey Jennifer, thanks for the suggestion! I have listened to the audio book version of that book before, and it’s quite an insightful book with real-life statistics surrounding real, self-made millionaires and how they came to be as wealthy as they are today. Hopefully Max reads the comments section and takes notes of this.

      I’ve read about similar statistics through other sources (I believe Brian Tracy’s “The 21 Success Secrets of Self-Made Millionaires” covers that as well), where successful, self-made millionaires basically fail X number of times (where X is quite a shocking high figure) before they ever get to be where they are today.

      I think seeing these statistics reminds us that success isn’t meant to be some peach, rosy scenario and we should be prepared to “fail” to succeed. Many people who are successful today have failed countless of times before they get to be where they are today, and we only get to see their successes but not their failures, which then causes us to develop a very skewed notion of success.

      “I’ve missed more than 9,000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. 26 times I’ve been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.” ~ Michael Jordan (Grab this quote image here.)

    • Max

      Thank you Jennifer, I’ll check out the book :-)

  • Mohamed

    Very good article celes. Keep up your good work.

    • Celes

      Thank you very much Mohamed! :)

  • Ffion

    A beautiful post Celes, thank you for that :)

    I’m currently starting my own business and it’s got plenty of ups and downs but I’m making progress slowly and learning a heck of a lot along the way.

    This post is a wonderful motivation :D

    • Celes

      No problem Ffion! :) I’m very glad it has helped. Do check out the related links fo this article too, especially the business interview series. They contain many helpful tips which will help you excel in your business journey. :)

      • Ffion

        Thank you :) Will do!

  • Erial

    Hi Celes,

    Well said article. Everything we do in life depends on our attitude and I could not agree with more! :dance:

    I love, I quote “I don’t see success as a function of your current or inborn character traits, as much as it’s a function of (a) your persistence, (b) hard work, and (c) smart work.” Is the fundamental part of running a business even it is or is not successful. Your success is based on what you do daily and how you approach it with attitude.

    Celes, I am doing your Passive Income Course and I’ve definitely had those ‘aha’ moments through and through. I now know with absolute certainty what I was missing and these past 5 years, I’ve been looking through the glass mirror rather than actually looking at the reflection. The reflection is ME!!! I am what’s holding me back.

    Now, when I read this article about whether character is needed to be successful, I believe you need to look at one self and ask do you need to change your person or does your goal need refining? Trust me… Took me 5 years of denial to open with myself and look deeper into the mirror to realise that persistence, hard-work and smarter work really pays off. We all deserve success and you Celes, are the example of which many of us strive for.

    I hope this reaches you and you are well.

    • Celes

      Hey Erial! :) I’m so glad that you are doing the P.I. course now and finding “aha”s through it. I assume you are referring to one’s limiting beliefs about money when you mentioned about “what’s holding you back”. I absolutely agree with you that the only person holding us back is really ourselves all the time. Even if it may be money or resources holding us back, the fact that we perceive it holds us back is already a self-limiting belief in itself.

      I hope you are doing well yourself too! Thank you so much for your support of PE and my work. :)

      • Erial

        Hi Celes :) Thankyou for responding. Its nice to hear from you :P
        I believe 3 or more years ago, Personal Development transformed my life and in the last recent years, its delivered me from limiting beliefs and depression. FYI, no rebounds for 6 years! And without medication.

        I addressed many issues esp limiting beliefs on the concept of money. I believe my beliefs were not focused on the usual you hear as in: money is the root of all evil, money makes you greedy, moeny can’t buy you happiness and wealthy people are selfish and into drugs etctrca. For me Celes, mine mainly focs on the now and future aspect. This was my ‘aha’ moment (one of many). You could say, the never-ending cycle of cause and effect syndrome, allowing what you are afraid become law; the real focus. In saying this, I have allowed my partners believe-system influence me into negative habits resutling in of being frustrated and worried about what’s coming and leaving the bank every week. Something I desire to change.

        Now, the plain is to.. How did you put it, I para-phrase: “putting the horse before the cart”. I know with absolute certainty that my business is going on a re-vamp for 3 months and focusing on it’s foundation and building block ie: turn bad fruits/no fruits into bloosoming fruits/growing healthier fruits – P.I Course :)

        Lastly but most importantly, thankyou for your love and the passion you endorse into your atrciles and programs.

  • Max

    Hi Celes,

    Thank you for answering my question! I’m also very thankful for all the kinds comments from your readers.

    I definitely viewed failure as “the inability to achieve X results in Y period. ”

    In my case the “y period” was a very big part of my success/failure though, because my visa depended on it.

    I’ve found work somewhere else and I’m taking the time to review what went wrong and what worked in my business (some things definitely worked out… but the scale was too small. My business could sustain itself, but could not sustain my life).

    Next time I start a business I’ll make sure to implement a system that would allow me to keep on working on my business – even part time if needs be – until it grows (and I with it) to a point where it is pretty stable and can sustain my lifestyle.

    All the best to you,

    P.S: Your successful business interview series was definitely inspiring!

    • Celes

      Hey Max, sure! While the time period for the business to take off was dependent on your visa, my point was that the story didn’t have to end and it actually hasn’t ended yet too. That one-year period you spent working on your business could well be phase one of your journey with this business. You can well restart the business now if you want to, while using what you learned in that one-year for this new phase.

      Of course, you can also start a new business if your interest in the old business idea is no longer there, of which it wouldn’t be a failure — it would merely be that you chose to forgo this old business idea/goal because it no longer resonates with you.

      I’m glad you found the business interview series inspiring! :) Glad that it was of value to you!

  • Dr Jitesh Arora

    Hey Celes, this post of yours inspires me a lot of pushing forward, I am also trying to build an online business. I have a question for you? What you think how many hours a person needs to spend per day, to earn a full time online income.

    • Celes

      Hey Jitesh! To be very honest with you, as many hours as the person can put in. The point is if someone just puts an hour a day, it’s evident that the person is never going to achieve success as quickly as someone who pumps in 12 hours a day. I devoted my full days to building my business in my early years of starting it, and that’s why I got results quickly. If I just put in a measly two, three, or even four hours a day, I doubt the business would have taken off even after a few years.

      Think of it as getting a car up a steep incline, perhaps even a mountain. If the person is just going at a 5km/hour pace, the car will forever be stuck at the bottom of the hill. You need a disproportionate force to launch the car up the mountain.

      This is the way with starting businesses and making them succeed too. The fact is that the market is saturated, there are increasing numbers of online businesses due to the low barriers to entry, and everyone is trying to dip their feet into creating online businesses because of the seeming easy payoff.

      I recommend not to try to quantify this whole process into a “How many hours do I need to put in to succeed?”, but rather “What can I do to make this succeed?”. Those who will succeed are those who are willing to devote their full selves into making their venture succeed, rather than trying to make it a numbers/hours game, which is a very process-oriented way of thinking. Putting your maximum amount of effort/time into the venture should be a baseline default for all aspiring business owners.

      At the end of the day, the amount of time/effort put into one’s venture is not the *only* factor that’s going to determine success — there will also be other factors like one’s business savviness, knowledge level, research done, skill level, and so on. The related links I’ve provided at the end of the article are great resources to help anyone who is thinking of starting their own businesses.

      • Dr Jitesh Arora

        Thanks for the prompt reply, you have answered my question in an illustrated way. Have a great day.

        • Celes

          I hope you have gotten what you needed from the response. Have a great day as well! :D

  • Bob

    Hi Celes,

    I’m intrigued by each readers answer to Max’s question. There are some extremely good suggestions about:
    - getting advice from a consultant,
    - there’s no failures only feedback
    - books The millionaire next door, The 21 Success Secrets of Self-Made Millionaires
    - reviewing beliefs
    It all boils down to information and knowledge. At the end of the day the person who consistently applies the best information and knowledge is going to getting great results.

    Re. “it’s impossible for you to fail unless you decide to give up yourself” excellent point Celes. Some things I find easier to deal with in life because I have had previous experience whereas others take longer to learn. As soon as I stop resisting and look why it is bothering me I start to grow because I take the time to understand and master the difficulty.

    Re. “Personalities are 100% malleable” – I think that by looking at extremes, for example Donald Trump and a Tramp we see the range of development one can reach by mastering certain faculties of our mind(something you do very well Celes). It may not be overnight, but with time, analysis, synthesis, observation and application change will come. A mistake is exactly what it is a ‘miss’ + ‘take’. Failure definition – a lack or deficiency of a desirable quantity, ie. this means that more work is required.

  • Christina

    Hi Celes!

    I really love this article! I love how you state that your business is something you would continue working on regardless of circumstances–exactly how I feel about mine, but it’s good to hear it said! I also loved reading your time line for your business progression–so inspiring. A very beautiful and elegant response to the question.

    Thank you!


  • HT Lee

    Hi Celes, I just want to say that you’re really inspirational by blazing the trail. I mean your actions and examples speak louder than words. I admire your passion and resilience to make your business thrive. All the best!

    • Celes

      Thank you so much HT Lee! :) I really appreciate your kind words!!

  • Ithamar Fenerson

    You rock Celes!

    I’m a big advocate of the fact that building a business starts from the inside and grows outward. If done right, your business will have an impact on your life long before you impact the lives of others. Too many people give up before the magic happens. I know, I was one of them.

    I made the decision to build a business five years ago, only to give up twice and go back to the safety of working a 9 to 5. Although I was getting that safe paycheck every week, I was miserable on the inside because I wasn’t pursuing my dreams.

    Just four months ago, I decided once and for all to go all in and build my business. Although the money is sporadic, I have never been happier! I love being my own boss, working my own hours and seeing the fruits of all my labor blossom every day!

    It’s people like you and your passion and dedication to helping people be the best they can be that inspires me to keep pushing until I achieve my dreams. Thank you.

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