Can Everyone Be Successful in Starting Their Business?

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(Image: Jungwoo Hong)

“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 for taking a dip in entrepreneurship when you couldn’t 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. While you didn’t get the results you were looking for, this experience has undoubtedly taught you mportant life lessons.

The Misconception of Failure

Before I get to your question, I want to address your comment about failing.

Because as far as I’m concerned, closing down your business doesn’t mean that you failed. It merely meant that you had to close it down because it didn’t achieve your desired results in your specified time frame (a year).

Many people have this 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 down a business isn’t the end of the story. You can always return to start a new business (be it in the same or a different field) in the future, whenever you want.

Example: My Fears of Failing Before Starting My Business

Years ago before I pursued my passion with 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 loss of the money I could have earned from continuing my corporate job, and negative impact on the trajectory of my career path).

“What if I fail? What would I do then?” were questions that circled in 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 grow.

Despite brainstorming for alternative paths, be it to return to the corporate world or work for some NGO which would provide some semblance of financial stability over starting my business, these alternatives didn’t enthuse me. My mind kept returning to my personal development business — to keep working on it regardless of the result.

I realized that even if I were to run out of savings, it didn’t have to be the end of my business. I could take up a part-time job or return to full-time employment to gather more savings, after which I would then use my spare time to build my business. I would then repeat this as many times as needed until my business took off.

(I shared my realization above in How Long Would You Spend Helping Your Baby Learn To Walk?)

This was when I realized that it was literally impossible for me to fail unless I quit on my business 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 accomplished in my business before “making it” (defined as achieving financial stability) would not be a waste, because it would give me the knowledge to improve and progress further.

Realizing this was a big aha for me. By expanding the time frame for my business to infinity, failure became impossible and success, inevitable. By looking at my business as a lifetime project rather than something I had to achieve in X years, I could then take actions that would ensure my eventual success, rather than make hasty plans driven by fear and not in line with my bigger vision.

In fact, this long-term perspective helped me succeed eventually.

  • Within six months, I was featured in multiple media outlets and I had 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 from inception, I was generating a monthly revenue higher than my last drawn salary in my corporate job.
  • Today, 95% 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 achieved these results if I had anticipated failure at the start and constantly thought about when I should quit. I would be busy worrying about these issues rather than devoting myself fully to my business — mentally and physically — which helped me get results. Because I knew failure was impossible and success was imminent, this led to my eventual success.

When It’s Okay To “Give Up”: When Your Goal Doesn’t 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 succeed. There is no doubt about it and I’m a living example of that.

That said, there is a scenario when 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 a misalignment of values, a change in life priorities, or a change in your life vision.

I call this conscious quitting and I have written about it before in Quitting To Win and When Goals Stop Working.

The Role of One’s Character in 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 if it’s 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 wasn’t like this before. These are traits that I developed over the years as part of improving my character and achieving my goals.

Of course, the assumption is that you remain authentic, sincere, and truthful as a person. These things never change and they are core values that should guide us no matter the situation.

Be a Better Me in 30 Days is where I cover character transformation in detail. It comes with 30 tasks 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 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 quote on failure (and achieving success):

All the best in your ventures guys. :)

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