Why Entrepreneurs Give Up

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Peter Shallard
CEO | Commit Action |

Whether or not to give up. It’s the question that hits every aspiring entrepreneur at some point. It’s rooted in the deepest of anxieties.

It’s scary because some business ideas SHOULD be given up on.

But there’s only one reason you should ever quit. Before we get to that, we’re going to list off all the insidious, bullshit, self-deception reasons that cause entrepreneurs to give up on their dreams.

You’re about to read ten far too common reasonsthat entrepreneurs use to give up on good business ideas prematurely.

Because of these different types of toxic thinking, people cheat themselves out of hope and possibility. They give up, and lose their ticket to the most powerful personal-growth experience of all: Taking a business idea and turning it into an empire.

Here are the mistaken justifications that entrepreneurs use to give up when they should not. Don’t do these things:

1. Expect fast results

Everything worth doing is worth doing precisely because not too many other people are doing it. There’s nothing of lasting, concrete value that’s been created by an entrepreneur that didn’t require significant patience.

If you started out as an entrepreneur expecting it to be quick, the only thing you need to give up is that expectation itself. Stick around. Play the long game.

2. Stop believing in themselves

They say that it’s mandatory that a great salesperson believe three things: The product they’re selling. The company that sells it… And in themselves.

They have to believe in their ability as a salesperson to do the selling.

Being a salesperson is far, far easier than being an entrepreneur. When you start out as an entrepreneur, you don’t have a product or a company to believe in. That only leaves you.

That’s why it’s a tragedy when people quit because they don’t think they have what it takes.

The truth is, all entrepreneurs are faking it til they make it. We’re all figuring it out as we go.

When we start, we don’t have any idea how to win – or the capabilities we need – so we develop them along the way.

Never quit because of a lack of self-belief. Everyone else who has succeeded before you felt it too… but they continued anyway. It’s the continuing that guarantees a big win.

3. Get stuck in the past

Entrepreneurship is all about dancing on the cutting edge.

Why is it that young people are so drawn to the entrepreneurial world? It’s simple: The cutting edge is where they grow up, they don’t know any other way to be.

It doesn’t matter what age you are though. If you want to be an entrepreneur, you have to stay future-focused. The most successful businesses capitalize on emerging trends. The most successful entrepreneurs are always looking at the pointy end of new innovations. They hunt to utilize that edge, to get an advantage in the marketplace.

Never allow yourself to quit because you can’t keep up. The thing about being cutting edge is that you qualify yourself to be there… just by going there.

4. Dwell on mistakes

As The Shrink for Entrepreneurs, I deal with entrepreneurial baggage all day long.

Got burnt by a partnership gone sour? A falling out with investors? A deal falling through?

Get over it. If you don’t, your baggage will prevent you succeeding in the future. Your backward-looking fascination with “figuring out what went wrong” will scare you from trying again.

Entrepreneurship requires crazy levels of optimism, which means that you simply have to reframe your past mistakes into learning experiences. Let go of the hurt and remember: You haven’t really “had a big learning experience” until you’ve executed on the learning and proved that it was correct.

5. Fear the future

Speaking of saying the future… don’t be one of those people who quits because they’re anxious.

Anxious of some future, imagined failure. Anxious of some imagined success. Anxiety is exactly that: It takes fear, and places it out in your perception of the future. Anxiety is worrying about things that haven’t happened, and may never happen. It’s the game of “What if?”

People give up because they’re anxious and afraid of things – both bad AND good – that might happen. They don’t feel prepared to face those things.

If you’re anxious, you’re forgetting something crucial: It won’t be YOU who faces anything. It’ll be your future self. And the cool thing about your future self is that it’s wiser, more experienced and more resilient than you are now.

It has to be, just to get there to the future. So long as you don’t give up.

Mega successful business owners have unshakable faith in their future selves to rise to any challenge. That faith let’s them boldly execute in the present, which levels them up and makes them more invincible in the future. Funny that.

6. Resist change

The only thing that’s certain is uncertainty. The only thing that is constant is change.

The entrepreneur who expects the market to stay the same is in for a world of hurt. Your customer’s wants and needs will change and evolve. Your team will do the same. Politics. Fashion. Economics. It’s all constantly shifting.

Some entrepreneurs give up because they’ve been left behind. The real issue was that they believed they were operating in a fixed, reliable world. By building a company that relies on an unchanging environment, they gave up before they even started.

Be flexible and nimble instead.

7. Feel the world owes them something

Entitlement and the disappointment it brings is a disaster for business owners.

When an entrepreneur puts huge amounts of time and energy into a bad business idea, they sometimes develop a (false) belief that they’ve paid their dues. That now the world owes them something.

There’s no prizes for hard work alone unfortunately. Your pain and struggle means nothing to the market place. Execution is everything, but only when you’re clear on how to create value.

Quitting because of bitterness or feeling victimized by the world is the easy way out. What’s harder is leaning in. Leaning in to figure out what it was about your efforts that failed to create value for others. Those who give up will never find out the answer.

8. Fearing failure more than desiring success

This isn’t just a reason entrepreneurs give up. It’s a reason a ton of people with incredible potential never even begin in the first place.

The fear of failure is listening to the lizard brain. Hide under this rock. Don’t poke your head out. Don’t risk what you’ve got, because loss is disaster.

Unfortunately the human brain is wired to have a bias toward loss aversion. It’s been proven that everyone will work 10x harder to get back $1000 that was stolen from them, versus working to earn a fresh $1000 from scratch. Think about that for a second.

Fear of failure paralyzes entrepreneurs. It makes giving up feel like a relief. Business is inherently risky and no entrepreneur succeeds by avoiding all the risks. Rather, they succeed because their increase their resilience - their capacity for risk tolerance.

9. Overwork

So you worked yourself to death or close to it. Now what?

Entrepreneurs who quit because of burnout have made an idiotic mistake: They’ve told themselves the fiction that what matters is the hours they clock at their desk.

And yet, Bill Gates isn’t worth hundreds of thousands of multiples more than you BECAUSE he worked hundreds of thousands of times more hours than you did. Sure he clocked some long hours in the early days at Microsoft, but he also probably spent more time simply reading than you ever had.

Having to quit because you’ve overworked yourself is really having to quit because you haven’t figured out how value is created. You’re not a real entrepreneur because you haven’t created something bigger than yourself. You’re stuck as a cog in your own machine and no one is applying the grease.

Take a vacation and then get back in and figure it out. Don’t give up.

10. Assume their problems are unique

There are no prizes for inventing a new wheel.

Entrepreneurs derive a lot of self-satisfaction at the thought that their business is a brand-new, the-likes-of-this-have-never-been-seen idea. This leads to the kind of thinking that says, for example: Other people don’t understand our staffing issues, we’re a unique business.

Cashflow obstacles. Legal obstacles. Delegation obstacles. Customer support. Marketing. Security. There’s lots of obstacles.

Your product might be special and unique. Let’s hope so! But you’re not reinventing commerce. You’re not even reinventing leadership. Your obstacles are not unique.

Entrepreneurs who get lost in the belief of their company’s “specialness” start thinking they have to succeed as an island. They don’t take advantage of the wealth of support and wisdom available within the legitimate entrepreneur community because they think no one else understands. They become the tragic, miserably misunderstood kid (dressed in black) of the business world.

Then, they end up giving up because they hit some problem they see as unique and insurmountable… when actually, the answer was just a phone call away if they had the humility to dial the numbers.

When to give up and the one thing you shouldn’t ever quit

The one thing entrepreneurs SHOULD give up on… is a bad idea.

We outlined a simple framework for understanding when it’s right to do that, and when it isn’t, in this post.

The one thing you should never give up on is the game of entrepreneurship itself.

Ideas come and go. Every successful entrepreneur has seen ideas fail. That’s all part of it. The thing that all (successful) entrepreneurs have in common is their commitment to being entrepreneurs.

It’s an identity thing: To be an entrepreneur is to declare that your mission is to create extraordinary value in the world. It’s extraordinary because to do so you must create vehicles (businesses) for that value creation much larger than yourself.

To aspire to be an entrepreneur is to be on the path of learning how to do all of that ^^.

To give up on entrepreneurship itself, is to give up on that path of maximized value creation. There’s no reason at all to do so, ever.

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