Congratulations! You’re normal—or at least as “normal” as an entrepreneur can be.

Starting a business is crazy, considering most of them fail in the first year, and only a select few last a decade or longer.

When you become an entrepreneur you close the door on the old, safe way of making an income where your time has a price tag on it, and you’re compensated accordingly.

When you become an entrepreneur, you enter a world where time is priceless in the purest meaning of the word—there is no price on your time, only on the value you create.

You could make a million-dollar decision in five minutes of think-time, or you could spend 50 hours a week checking off tasks that don’t move the needle and walk away broke.

Does that world sound terrifying or exciting? If you’re a healthy entrepreneur, the correct answer is both.

It’s normal to be terrified, to be afraid that you will fail. You’re taking a risk that most people won’t do more than dream of for that very reason—there’s a good chance you’ll fail.

Starting a business is scary, and there’s no guarantee of success. . . but isn’t that why it’s also exciting?

When you take the leap, you’ve won your first battle.

Starting a business is the external result of an internal battle, where you have already arisen as the victor in your battle of self-doubt and self-belief.

Now you’ve won that battle, but the war has just begun.

In the war to come, you will face resistance, and challenges, and unexpected setbacks that you could never predict because you’re in uncharted territory without a map.

There are many things beyond your control, but it’s not helpful to waste your time dwelling on problems without solutions (except where you can measure them if they affect what you do).

Instead, you need to focus on what you can control. With each step choose the highest leverage, most effective, use of your priceless attention and time.

At the outset, you need to decide to succeed. History’s great explorers never left home with one foot still on the shore, waiting for a “sure thing” before setting sail.

They sailed off the edge of the map, full speed ahead, without knowing what they would find. Some explorers found nothing, coming back empty-handed (or not coming back at all).

Others found lands that nobody had dreamt of, filled with adventures and resources that led to riches or a new place to call home.

There is a big difference between playing to win and playing to not lose.

When you play to win, you take calculated risks when the reward is much greater (potentially) than the time, effort, and resources you put in.

When you play to not lose, you play it safe. You take small risks where the potential loss is minimal, which usually means the reward is minimal as well.

When you decide to succeed you can’t help but play to win, because your brain flips from “What if?” to “How?” and you come up with creative solutions, and get to work.

That’s what you’re paid for now: creative solutions, executed well.

Employees are paid for input with a guaranteed wage for the time and effort they put in (even if that effort actually yields no results).

Entrepreneurs are paid for output with a reward for producing results by solving problems creatively, but no payment guarantee.

When you solve a problem, you get paid—but only if it’s a real problem where real people are experiencing pain or discomfort and want that pain or discomfort to go away.

Even if someone else has tried to solve that problem, you may be able to solve it better (which could mean a better solution, or just better execution, or a more effective marketing machine).

I want you to win this war and for your business to succeed.

I’m not alone in that desire, because our society is built on the backs of entrepreneurs who’ve gone before us and left behind solutions like railways and automobiles and airplanes (and don’t forget indoor plumbing and canned food).

As an entrepreneur, you are a weirdo, but all the “normal” people are counting on your success.

Why not share in their confidence and decide to succeed? What do you have to lose?

Actually, that’s the wrong question. A better question is, what do you have to gain?

Now, go forth and fight valiantly, fight proudly, and celebrate every success.


John Meese is the author of the #1 bestseller Survive and Thrive: How to Build a Profitable Business in Any Economy (Including This One). An entrepreneur himself, John is on a mission to eradicate generational poverty by equipping entrepreneurs with the tools and training they need to build thriving businesses from scratch. He is the CEO of Cowork.Inc, co-founder of Notable, and host of the Thrive School podcast.

4 thoughts on “Dear Entrepreneur Who’s Afraid Your Business Will Fail:

  1. This was timely for me. I was just telling my husband tonight that it feels risky putting so much time into something I can’t guarantee will pay off. But it also seems the education I’m getting as I learn and apply can serve me long-term in many ways. Thanks for your insights!

  2. John. DANG. And I’m headed back into the land of “input” (wages) as my way of staying in it to win with “output”. When I first saw this new reality it felt like a loss on my entrepreneurial scorecard. Now I recognize that my jobs are only going to sharpen my focus on those creative solutions. People tell me every day that I’m fulfilling a need for them. Getting this thing from idea to revenue – commitment, adjustments, consistency – is the same magic that’ll take those revenues north into the future. Thank you for this stunning article, and for your voice in my journey!

    1. I’m glad that this resonated with you, Mike. You can do this. It’s tough work, and it’s unusual. That’s non-usual. Keep it up!

      Like you said, sharpen your focus.

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