Starting A Business: Convincing Yourself To Take Action And The Key To Behavioral Change

I’ve been writing this blog and helping would be entrepreneurs for nearly two years now and one thing I’ve discovered is that you can’t really push someone to take the entrepreneurial plunge. Either you have the desire to start your own business or you don’t and most people can’t get over the uncertainty that’s involved with being your own boss.

Photo By Anirudh Koul

Recently, I went through each and every email that I’ve ever received on MyWifeQuitHerJob.com and found that the majority of people get stuck on 2 main things when starting their business.

One, they can’t come up with a good business idea and two, they aren’t confident that they can succeed.

I Can’t Come Up With An Idea

I’ve found that most people who have problems coming up with good business ideas are self-deprecating.

  • “I’m not that creative. How am I going to come up with something unique?”
  • “The market is saturated already with what I want to do. Should I even bother?”.
  • “I don’t think I have the skills to take on the competition.”


If you fall into this category, then I suggest you go and read Seth Godin’s book “The Purple Cow” for some inspiration. As long as there is demand in your niche and customers with money to spend, what you ultimately decide to sell doesn’t really matter as long as you make your business “remarkable” in some way. Choose products that you are interested in and put your own unique spin on it. I’ve personally sold many different things in the past and the one thing that I’ve found is that you can sell almost anything if you do it right. Even if your niche is already crowded, the amount of competition doesn’t matter as long as you can stand out.

If you take a closer look at our wedding linens business, my wife and I essentially sell wedding favors on our online store which is a saturated and competitive market. But even still, we have managed to carve out a healthy six figure profit and it’s been experiencing double and triple digit growth every single year.

I also want to emphasize that everyone is creative. Maybe you’ve gotten too used to working a day job where your boss simply tells you what to do and you don’t have to think that much. Maybe you are simply out of practice. Set aside some time to brainstorm and exercise those muscles instead of complaining about it.

I’m Not Sure That I Can Succeed

Overcoming doubt is huge part of the entrepreneurial process but doing research will only take you so far. Having confidence in your business idea is largely based on knowledge but at some point you need to just take a chance and go for it.

The good thing about running a business online is that it doesn’t cost very much money at all to begin. So why not just throw something up and see what happens? This isn’t like the old days when you had to take out a business loan to start a brick and mortar store. We’re talking hundreds of dollars, not tens of thousands. There really is no excuse. If you don’t succeed, tweak your idea or start something else.

The Key To Behavorial Change

Early on when my wife and I were brainstorming business ideas, that’s essentially all we did for a very long time….we talked about it. We got stuck in an endless loop of research and couldn’t push ourselves to take the plunge for the same reasons outlined above.

But then something miraculous happened. For starters, my wife became pregnant which put us under time pressure and gave us a sense of urgency. But the real key to our behavorial change occurred when we started talking to other entrepreneurs and shop owners.

In fact, I remember having a very specific conversation with a former college classmate of mine from Stanford about some of my ingenious business ideas. Looking back everything I came up with was kind of silly, the kind of business ideas that would never make more than some weekend spending cash.

When it was my friend’s turn to talk about what he was up to, he casually told me that his side business was on track to make over 500K in profit this year. And I was completely flabbergasted. This whole time, I had thought that his online business was just a pet project that made no money but here he was spouting out numbers that seemed way beyond what I believed that I could ever make. In fact, his business success made me uncomfortable and I didn’t know what to say because he seemed like he was in another league.

What particularly resonated with me was that my friend was a classmate, a peer of mine, and someone who I considered an equal. If he could start a website on the side while working a full time job, then I could as well. Once I realized this, I got a huge boost of confidence and started asking my friend a flood of questions about his business. And after hanging out with him some more, I came to the conclusion that I needed to think about my future business on a much grander scale.

Your Environment Is Important

What’s interesting to point out here is that your perception of business success and money are all based on your current context. Your goals and your potential are largely determined by the people you spend the most time with and how you were brought up. If I hadn’t spoken with my friend that day, I might still be wasting time on ideas that would only make me a few hundred bucks a month.

In fact, the secret to behavioral change is to hang out with the right people, people who will inspire you to try new things and who will push you harder. Your mindset and your limits are all relative to your environment. If all of your friends work in dead end day jobs, then chances are you will too.

Instead of making excuses and self-deprecating comments, start talking to people who start businesses all the time. I guarantee you that you will get inspired and start believing that what was once an impossible task will now be within your grasp. Initially, you might feel inferior or uncomfortable but getting over these feelings is the only way to grow.

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32 thoughts on “Starting A Business: Convincing Yourself To Take Action And The Key To Behavioral Change”

  1. You seem like such a takes-charge and gets-things-done kind of guy that it was refreshing to hear you admit that you were uncomfortable and intimidated by your friends success. I think that it is key that you told him about what you plans were and discussed your plans with him, as without that you never would have found out how well he was doing and have had the chance to learn from him. It is a fine line to be confident enough in yourself to share your ideas openly and yet humble enough to see the opportunity to learn more.
    A thought for future blog posts; I would love to hear some more success stories about how you and perhaps others you have worked with got started in online stores, what the obstacles to success they faced and how they overcame them. Success is so inspirational!

    1. @Tyler
      I’ll take your suggestion to heart. I have several close friends and acquaintances who have started great businesses all while working a full time job. BTW, I’m not always a takes-charge get-things-done guy. Ask my wife. She’s always complaining how I never take charge to clean up the house more or take out the trash:)

  2. “Your goals and your potential are largely determined by the people you spend the most time with and how you were brought up.”

    I guess it is time to find new people to hang out with… Most of my friends are employees, and most of them think spending money on a web store is just a waste of money. They think save up and buy house or invest in 401k is the “safe” way to go.

    For me, I just hate the 9~6 everyday schedule, but I think it is really hard for people to even try to get out of the “rat race”. We always hear 9 out of 10 business fails, and most of them fail within first 3 years. There are many “fact” out there discouraging people to start a business.

    Your blog really helps on boosting confidence and gives a good guidance for me.

    Thanks!!

    1. @Jeff
      Looks like you have your act together. Your store looks pretty good already and with a few tweaks, you ‘ll be making money in no time. 9 out of 10 business failing is just some stupid statistic that represents the average. Don’t be average.

    1. @Alexa
      Good to hear from you!

      @Carla
      Practically all of my entrepreneurial friends have surpassed my wife and I in terms of revenue but not in terms of lifestyle. There are always certain tradeoffs that we have to make and we have to accept them. But it is always interesting to share each others tactics and success stories intimidating or not

  3. That is so true. I was brought up to believe that all I can and should do is complete school, maybe do some vocational school to get a “good job”. Boy were we wrong! Back in the early ’90s when I was in high school, we all had no clue were the economy would end up today.

    Thankfully, my associates are very supportive of my business, but its sometimes difficult to let go of those old patterns.

    I can see how hearing someone else’s success stories can be a bit intimidating. I know of someone whose business totally took off and surpasses anything that I have been able to accomplish and her business is only four months older than mine.

  4. I have to say, “Great minds think alike”. I did a post last fall on behavioral change called 6 Stages to Successfully Design Your Lifestyle (http://www.nunomad.com/blog/6-stages-to-successfully-design-your-lifestyle/)where I talked about the stages of change as defined by Prochaska and used the exact same photo you used on this post!

    You’ve got a lot of great things to say about the mind game involved in being an entrepreneur. I enjoyed reading the post!

    1. @Carmen The Nomad
      What a coincidence! And we chose the same photo from Flickr too? What are the chances of that happening? Thanks for sharing your article. I’ll go and check it out now.

      @Carmen
      Thanks! I’ve meaning to incorporate my son in the header as well but he’s still young and not as cooperative in front of the camera.

  5. While I agree that hanging out with the “right” people can definitely boost your confidence and motivation, it’s best to start DOING the things that put you line to meet the right people. It’s like the chicken before the egg (or is it the egg before the chicken?). Waiting for the right folks to come into your life isn’t going to bring them into your life.

    I take myself as an example. I don’t have any friends that I hang out with on a regular basis who are driving towards the same goals as me. Most of my friends are cube lifers, and their perfectly happy being docile little servants. But what I am doing is putting me in line to meet those folks who have the same aspirations as me. Online communities are also an effective means of meeting people who are in the same boat (like this here kick ass blog!).

    I’ve learned that you have two choices: you can choose to wish, wonder, and dream or you can choose to act on your desires. Trust me, once you start creating some small victories for yourself, the motivation and passion will come. The key is to get busy creating.

    1. @A-ron
      You know what they say…..You always get more motivated and passionate when you start kicking ass. Most people are passionate about what they are good at and it’s just a matter of getting to that same level with their business.

  6. Great article. Start-ups need to think big at the initial stages of their business. They should have a growth plan and select vendors keeping in mind that the need might increase.

  7. Mandy says:

    It’s hard to start a small business and keep it going, especially when you feel you don’t have time nor money to spend on marketing or advertising your business, let alone doing everything else. I’ve found an inexpensive tool called advertising180.net that teaches businesses the ins and outs of marketing and advertising. You should check it out for yourself. It might help.

  8. Steve,
    Your blog posts are so inspiring and really hit home with me. I am in the middle of creating my online store and finding this blog and reading your posts have helped and are continuing to help me so much.

  9. Hi Steve,

    This is awesome insight and advice! You know, the funny thing is that we all know that what you say is true, yet we don’t do much about it….

    We sit in our comfort zones…

    We never force ourselves to get around people that are doing the things we want to do…

    Our brains are more powerful then we could ever know, and if we could just let ourselves dream a bit, and see that what we wish could become reality, then the world could truly be ours….

    Cheers,
    Jeremy

  10. Just as an aside: one of the best books about making changes in your life (or in organizations) that I’ve read is Switch by Chip Heath and Dan Heath. Rock Your Day (a blog) also has good tips about this topic.

  11. Hi Steve! We have been lucky enough to receive your E-Book about starting an online business. Thank you so much! We have started an e-shop last year and although we are not there ‘yet,’ we know we just have to be patient and continue believing in our vision.

    Thank you for all the sound advice and the sharing of your experiences! For would-be entrepreneurs out there: It is really a difficult path to take but with patience and hard work, you will definitely reap the rewards later.

    All the best to all!

  12. Ricky says:

    Inspiring post Steve, fear is biggest resistant of creativity and innovation.

  13. I found this site through the blog roll of a Semmy winner, but anyway I like how more people realize that environment does matter and that you are a by product of it. It is of course not the only thing that matters but I remember getting frowned at by people who knew/thought nothing of details like that. You must come up with a game plan and get started, more details will fall into play as things get rolling.

  14. Its always challenging to step into the unknown, especially when starting up a business that you’ve never tried before.

    Well, its worth the risk my friends!

    Muren @
    feng shui master, singaporere

  15. This article has inspired me to go ahead and start again. I’ve been debating about if I should try again or not for a long time after I lost about 500,000 on my last venture. But what you said about getting customers even in a saturated market is what I needed to hear.

    Regards,
    Jamie

    p.s. I apologize if this is a duplicate comment, I tried to post from my Ipod and it kept coming up as a blank pages when I submitted it.

  16. I get inspired on this blog, I learn something, thanks for sharing this very elegant and beautiful inspiration blog you have, great job.

  17. I can’t agree with you more regarding the two reasons why we are not all making money online. I always think that I have great ideas. I research them and find a little competition and my dreams are on to my next idea. I have a few ideas that keep sticking and I keep going back to them. What would you say is important to determine before you make the plunge and start? Passion, so you stick with it?

    What I have realized lately is that you have to start something that you know you will do or can do for a certain time period. This will give the idea a shot to be successful. A good way to see we’re something started and where is is now, is to look at websites when they started and how they progressed. It is a good representation of a good real life example.

    Do you have any other money generator besides bubblebee linens and this blog? How did you determine the name of your linen business?

    Thanks!

  18. Only a strong foundation can support an enduring business growth. Get your basics right. Once the business gains pace and you gain control on the way forward, success is sure to follow.

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