I have a friend who’s been self-employed in one way or another for more than ten years. She’s brilliant, caring and a really good communicator. Anyone who works with her immediately sees her huge range of gifts.

But this friend of mine – whose name I’m not going to mention – hasn’t made much of her business. Well, I should say businesses.

You see over the past twelve years or so she’s had, maybe, eight businesses. All have focused on providing some array of services based on her varied background. Each one has taken a somewhat unique approach to helping people overcome various problems in their lives. And each one could have probably been quite successful.

But here she sits, more than a decade later, struggling to make ends meat. She keeps wondering how she’s not successful when she has all these great ideas of how to help people and make money doing it. Yet she never sticks long enough in one business concept to see it become successful for her.

Can you relate? Early on in my work, I could. I used to bounce from idea to idea thinking this was the next great one – the one that would build my empire and let me retire at thirty. But thirty came and went and I was still just meagerly successful in the work I did. And now, meeting the woman I would marry, I knew I’d have to be responsible for a family.

Then I decided to take a long look at where I’d been and why I wasn’t successful. Like my friend, I felt I was pretty intelligent, honest, kind and had a good mind for business. I also knew how to run a successful business – how to organize and structure my time, create a clear marketing message, and reach people who I could help.

What I was missing was the commitment to a single business. I liked being able to change what I did on the spur of the moment. And like my friend, I’d be jazzed as I started with a new idea. This would last a few months and I’d get tons done toward my new direction. Then I’d enjoy a few months of the challenge of trying to make money off my new direction. And then, when the real work was needed, I’d get bored of my business and begin thinking of something new.

The problem, however, wasn’t that I was bored with my business. It was more that I hadn’t made the commitment to being successful. I could do all the preliminary work and begin making a living – that was easy and fun. But when it came to rolling up my sleeves and do the work it took to be successful, I’d turn to a new business idea. So, like my friend, I was always in the start-up mode and never engaged in the work it took to really be successful.

I’m so grateful that I figured this out. And I’m even more grateful that I chose a business and began building it with the idea of long-term success. What’s interesting is that in my commitment to one business idea, I’ve been able to be just as creative as when I was bouncing around. But now I have a successful business and the revenue to show it. And I have plans for a huge expansion in the coming months (stay tuned).

Unfortunately, my friend hasn’t understood that she needs to commit to a business idea yet. She continues to struggle financially as she scrambles month-to-month with the work she’s doing. There are probably many reasons for where she is. Even though I know her story well, I don’t want to be presumptuous.

And, just like everyone else, at some point she’ll either have to find one business concept and commit to it or stop being self-employed. Of course, she could always marry into money.

What I’ve taken away from all these years of business experience is that you have to give your business a chance…a chance to succeed. Some will succeed more, some less, some not at all. But it takes time to find out which ideas you have will. So commit to the one you feel has the best chance and go after it. Make the commitment. Put in the work. Get really serious about seeing it through. And see where it takes you.

And if you get stuck, ask yourself what’s one thing inside me and one thing outside me that’s holding my business back from being successful?

Do these stories sound familiar to you?

Are you watching a friend go through the same experience?

So, then, what is that one thing for you – for them? And what’s your strategy to overcome it?

Let's talk about it…

(note: image from PhotoLab XL on Flickr)

Reader Interactions


  1. rob says

    Being sure that I understand who wants my products and services, and knowing how to get my message through to just those who are interested, has always been a great challenge.

    Even if you talk to your clients, it doesn’t mean that you understand what they have to say to you. Most clients have their own language and metaphors that they use to protect ‘their position’ so that it’s often quite difficult to know exactly where their coming from.

    You know when YOU are coming from the wrong direction because they are quick to let you know, but getting it ‘on the money’ is not quite so straightforward!

    (hey Dawud as a P.S. have you ever thought of talking to your friend? I do that with mine, and sometimes shared experiences help:-)

  2. David Murray says

    To not try is failure. To give it all you;ve got 110% regardless of the outcome is success.

    What would you rather say more when you are about to leave this world, “What if” or “At least”?

    “What’s one thing inside me and one thing outside me that’s holding my business back from being successful?”

    Looking at this question I can only speak personally but I think it resonates with just about anyone pursuing any goals or dreams – We are not afraid of failure so much as we are afraid of succeeding.

    Think about it. To succeed can be truly terrifying. You’ve achieved your goals and now you have to keep the dream alive. Failure is easy. Just don’t try or give up and start again… there is no risk there.

  3. @Stephen says

    I have spent my entire working life in the employ of someone else, helping them make their fortune.
    In November I started working for myself, with a small amount of success, that is growing each week and month.

    I am still working for someone else, but my success is based on my own efforts and can lead to a big financial gain. At the same time I am laying the groundwork for making my own business even more successful, and eventually self-supporting.

    I have learned some important lessons, and learned from some early mistakes. The next wave of marketing and business growth will be designed to scale, and to succeed.

  4. Dawud Miracle says

    I have spoken with my friend and there’s a lot in the way to having her hear me.

    Getting clear on your message is pretty vital. I like to think of it as a constant work in progress. It’s never really finished because I can always refine it.


    Failure is easy, so true. It doesn’t even take effort. Often the problem is that either people take the no action or the wrong actions in developing and growing their business.

    And I think you’re right, most of us have things to overcome internally before we can be successful. For instance, do we deserve it? So, do we?

    Sounds like you have a good idea of what you’re doing. What’s been the most valuable mistake you’ve made to date?

  5. Nicole Price says

    Sounds like a Jack of all trades and master of none. Perhaps you are right and if she stuck to something long enough she would become master of that trade and would not be in the position that she finds herself now.

  6. rob says

    Hi Dawud,

    thanks for your reply.
    I guess it’s easy for friends to get a bit hung up and unable to see the bigger picture.

    When it comes to finding the right message and the right audience, I thinkl it will always be a moving target. Hope you find yours!

  7. communicatrix says

    Dawud, I do NOT recall giving you permission to discuss me, even if you didn’t use my name! 🙂

    You’re right, of course: there’s no kind of success, financial or otherwise, without steady forward (and focused) motion.

    On the other hand, I’m getting a little weary of people telling me how much money I’m leaving on the table. I’ve come to the conclusion that I’m not *against* money, but I’m more *for* certain other things that focusing on a money-making venture would keep me from. It’s a choice I’m content to make for now, and one I’m willing to forgo if circumstances change.

    And part of me, I must admit, kind of hopes they do. I’m pursuing this path with laserlike focus because I must, but I miss the money from the more lucrative paths I pursued with laserlike focus before.

  8. Dawud Miracle says

    Quite the contrary, she’s actually a master at a few things. I think David hit it on the head, she’s just afraid to really be successful. Sad, but I’m certain she’s not the only one.

    What gets in the way for your business to be more successful.

    Sorry, couldn’t resist…you’re such a good story.

    It’s not all about money. Yet my own experience – both personally and professionally – is that it’s more about money than most people allow it to be. You’ve gotta want to make a nice living in order to, well, make a nice living. That means you need to be okay making some loot.

    What else are you focusing on as part of the success of your business?

  9. @Stephen says

    One of the most valuable mistakes that I have made was getting involved with a MLM organization that I really had no intention of participating in correctly. Once I saw what a crock it was, and how flawed the business model was, I got out.

    But I have learned to apply those principles in a more ethical fashion in building my personal network. Rather than attempting to create a pyramid, I am creating something more like a spider-web, where new connections can help all of us – some more, some less, but never at the expense of another.

  10. Home Recording says

    What a post and what a revelation! Since I got dragged into visiting Communicatrix in her blog through the good advise of Dawud, I had a sneaking feeling that the starter upper would possibly be C. It is wonderful to see the two of you banter like this.

    Coming to the crux of the problem. I know a few such people, who would rather be called serial entrepreneurs. Two of them, are actually very successful. The strategy that both follow is – when they start getting bored, which they must, being the kind of personalities that they are, they simply delegate to someone that they hire or enter into a partnership with, and get on with whatever appeals to them at the moment. I have seen this work. Why, because, it is not due to lack of commitment, it is due to lack of challenge that one gets bored. Some people simply need to be challenged all the time. They are made that way. Instead of losing a lot of money, I think that the strategy that these two people follow is a better alternative. It also allows them to experiment without it hurting their bank balances too much.

  11. Adam Kayce says

    Hey C, he wasn’t talking about you, he was talking about me (and changing the gender to protect the guilty!)…

    It has been a challenge for me to stick with stuff in the past once my passion drains out of it. When I’m in, I’m in, but when I’m out, I’m out so fast the doorknob can’t even see my rear-end go by.

    And (in my own defense, a little), I think I’m learning more about myself in the process, and how to balance my desires with my responsibilities. The good news is, I’m onto something now that I really enjoy (of course I’d say that… now…), but I have no idea how long it’ll last. Could be a year, or ten. Not a clue.

    But how do you live otherwise? How can you give yourself to something fully when/if the steam runs out? (I do like Home Recording’s plan, though, of delegating/farming out…)

    The parallels to relationship are obvious here… and although I never dated anyone for more than a year and a half when I was younger, once I met my wife I knew she was the one – and we’ve been married ten years now. (so, I know the capacity to be enduringly solid is within me, at least!)

    Great conversation.

  12. Mark Silver says

    Well, several of you who have commented know me, and know that I couldn’t agree more with what Dawud wrote.

    And, the other side of it is that one can get too fixated, too tunnelled in, and the creativity can drain out.

    That hasn’t happened in a big way at Heart of Business, but I go through cycles of it- I’m at that other end of the spectrum, and I have to give myself permission to explore, change, experiment, or things go dead, too.

    Like most of life, the middle way is the more fulfilling. 🙂

  13. Omni Financial says

    This is spot on. Before starting my current company I had been trying to get startups going for years. It wasn’t until I really committed to something before I saw any real success.

  14. Li Evans says

    thanks so much for this post. wow, it really made me think long and hard about somethings. i’m really glad when i can find blog posts that can do that.

    a little self reflection and a tough, long look in the mirror is what this post gave me, and it’s something I really needed.

    Dawud, thanks for sharing this!

    ~Li Evans

  15. Email Protection says

    The kind of problems happen to me also. I have great ideas in my mind from time to time and I talk about them with my friends to exchange opinions. I feel the reason I can not be successful is that I lack the consistence after considering what kind of difficulties I will meet. And I am not brave enough to go ahead. Most people are like me. That’s also the reason that to be successful is not easy. 🙂

  16. vicemax says

    Some additional info:

    Give Your Startup a Fighting Chance
    1. Test first. Launch your product or service before you have funding. See how people respond to it before you have a PowerPoint and business plan – have something people can use, and go from there.

    2. Seek outside feedback. As you start building the product, don’t assume that you know all the answers. Listen to the community and adapt. We had a lot of our own ideas about how the service would evolve. Coming from PayPal and eBay, we saw YouTube as a powerful way to add video to auctions, but we didn’t see anyone using our product that way, so we didn’t add features to support it.

    3. Give partners what they want. Approach your business partners with concepts that they can get their heads around, and try to respond to their needs. An interesting example is what we’ve done with the music labels. With Warner and others, we saw an opportunity to protect the labels’ rights and create a new market. Now we can do things like add music to people’s travel videos. It allows users the freedom to create and to do it legally.

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  18. Ana Hegyi says

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  19. Carol L. Skolnick, Clear Life Solutions says

    You do have to follow through if you want results. But as you say, Dawud, following through does not necessarily mean you’re going to be a success. Thanks for pointing that out, even though it’s not the main point of the article, I believe this is a very important reality check. We can do everything “right” and if it’s not meant to be, it’s going to die, and it should; how else can you find the next thing that will work? I love that Churchill quote that goes something like “Success is going from failure to failure without losing enthusiasm.”

  20. john says

    wow that sounds familiar, i think thats the problem with most people. working for yourself sounds good in theory but when it comes down to hard work people tend to put it off and hope a business will continue making money. if it does not make money quick enough they simply give up

  21. Yanuar says

    i have spent more than 6 month to give more chance for my business to grow, and now i can have it. With patience and courage, you can make this happen

    Thanks for your article, i’m sure lots of people will get inspired

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