You’re Going Out Of Business…But Did You Really Try? Or Did You Just Give Up?

“Oh yeah, I tried being an entrepreneur a few years back but it was just too hard and I went out of business.”

“I tried the whole blogging thing but couldn’t get it off the ground”

“I tried selling online but every product I could think of had too much competition”

I don’t know why, but lately I’ve become increasingly sensitive to people complaining about how things are just too difficult. Whenever I hear statements like the ones above, I can’t help but think to myself…

  • How hard did you really try?
  • How much time and effort did you actually spend?
  • Did you just give up after encountering the first obstacle?

Call me a skeptic, but I honestly believe that 90% of the time people complain about their failures and give up because they don’t really give things a chance.

Case In Point

“Oh yeah, I tried being an entrepreneur a few years back but it never went anywhere”

When I challenged the acquaintance of mine who made this statement, he showed me his website and claimed that he spent over 6 months working on his online store but never sold a single thing. Wow, a whole 6 months huh?

When I went to take a look at his website, I was appalled. Not only did his online store look like complete and utter crap, but it appeared as though he spent little or no effort writing his product copy or marketing his store.

To make matters worse, his product photos were all pixelated and distorted. It was no wonder that he never sold a single thing! What’s strange is that I always thought of this person as an intelligent individual.

Was this garbage of a website really the result of his best efforts?

“I tried the whole blogging thing but couldn’t get it off the ground”

Newbie bloggers are notorious for giving up so I naturally asked to see the so called blog that my friend could not get off the ground. Turns out that he only had like 10 blog entries and he was using the default WordPress theme!

Not only that, but his about and contact page still had the WordPress defaults! Given the state of his blog, how could he possibly have considered this trying?

“I tried learning how to program PHP but I never could get the hang of it”

Programming can sometimes be difficult to master so when one of my acquaintances made the above statement, I was sincerely willing to help him out and answer whatever programming questions he had.

I started out by asking him some very basic questions on where he got stuck and tried to introduce him to some of the simpler concepts of programming.

Turns out that he didn’t understand a single thing that I was talking about. When I asked him how he tried to learn how to program, he told me that he taught himself PHP by looking at some open source PHP code.

What!?! You can’t just learn a language by looking at some arbitrary code. Why didn’t he pick up a book and start with the basics? How could he possibly call this trying to learn the language?

What Does It Mean To Try?

working hard
I can’t even begin to tell you how many people I’ve encountered that claim to have tried something but never put out their best efforts. These people don’t give their all and when they get stuck, they immediately write things off.

In fact, the people that complain the most are the ones who give up before even trying. They bitch and moan about external factors when in fact they themselves are to blame for failing.

So if trying is more than just going through the motions, what exactly does it mean to try?

Trying Is Not Quitting At The First Obstacle

You can’t really claim to have tried something until you’ve overcome at least a few major obstacles. Most people who don’t try give up at the first sign of danger. They hit their first obstacle like a brick wall and then start making excuses.

Trying is sticking with something even though you feel like total crap. Those who have read my story know that our online store didn’t make very many sales during the first few months of operation and we contemplated closing up shop.

No one could find our store online and at the time, we had no answers on how to increase website traffic. But thankfully, we racked our brains and eventually found creative ways to attract business. Nothing is ever completely smooth. To try is to overcome.

Trying Takes Time

Sometimes, trying and succeeding simply takes time. Sometimes, nothing you can do will accelerate progress and you just need to be patient. If you give up too early, you might miss out on potential gains that are right around the corner.

With our online store, getting indexed in Google and waiting for our reputation to spread via word of mouth was simply a waiting game. Nothing we could have done could have sped things up.

Persistence was the key. What’s strange was that success came on like a switch towards the middle of our first year. All of a sudden we were getting lots of organic traffic and business really took off. If we didn’t stick around long enough, we would have missed out.

Trying Is Waiting For Things To Sink In

When you are trying to learn something completely new and foreign, certain things may be difficult to comprehend at first glance. The human brain works in strange ways and it sometimes requires time for concepts to sink in.

If you give up before allowing things to settle in your brain, you are not giving yourself a fair chance.

For example, when I first started looking at the source code for some of the open source shopping carts out there, my brain was completely frazzled.

Reading and understanding someone else’s code was not only difficult, but I could barely retain anything because there was too much information to absorb at one time.

But I stuck with it and over a period of several months, things gradually began to stick. No matter how smart you are, it still takes time to learn, absorb and digest new things.

Have I Always Tried?

I always find it interesting to look back on some of the failed projects that I’ve worked on in the past. Sometimes I question whether I gave it my all.

Sometimes I question whether I put my complete heart into it. Sometimes I wonder whether things would be different now if I simply tried again.

If you have a free moment, you may want to take some time and reflect upon your past as well as revisit some old projects. Sometimes all it takes is a new found perspective in order to revive an old passion. Who knows? It might be worth giving things another try.

photo credit: sleeping worker Uphill Struggle Studying Top of the Hour

Ready To Get Serious About Starting An Online Business?

If you are really considering starting your own online business, then you have to check out my free mini course on How To Create A Niche Online Store In 5 Easy Steps.

In this 6 day mini course, I reveal the steps that my wife and I took to earn 100 thousand dollars in the span of just a year. Best of all, it's free and you'll receive weekly ecommerce tips and strategies!

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About Steve Chou

Steve Chou is a highly recognized influencer in the ecommerce space and has taught thousands of students how to effectively sell physical products online over at

His blog,, has been featured in Forbes, Inc, The New York Times,  Entrepreneur and MSNBC.  

He's also a contributing author for BigCommerce, Klaviyo, ManyChat, Printful, Privy, CXL, Ecommerce Fuel, GlockApps, Privy, Social Media Examiner, Web Designer Depot, Sumo and other leading business publications.

In addition, he runs a popular ecommerce podcast, My Wife Quit Her Job, which is a top 25 marketing show on all of Apple Podcasts

To stay up to date with all of the latest ecommerce trends, Steve runs a 7 figure ecommerce store,, with his wife and puts on an annual ecommerce conference called The Sellers Summit.  

Steve carries both a bachelors and a masters degree in electrical engineering from Stanford University. Despite majoring in electrical engineering, he spent a good portion of his graduate education studying entrepreneurship and the mechanics of running small businesses. 

37 thoughts on “You’re Going Out Of Business…But Did You Really Try? Or Did You Just Give Up?”

  1. carla | green and chic says:

    My first website looked like crap and I didn’t sell anything as a result. With research, following the footsteps of those who came before and soliciting professional feedback, I’m doing better than had I just given up after I launched my first sites design. With that said, I am still working on improving the business. Running a business (on and offline) is a process of evolution. If you don’t evolve, you don’t grow.

    1. Steve says:

      Nobody could ever accuse you of giving up:) I think that you’re definitely a fighter given everything that is going on in your life. I have faith that your business will succeed

  2. Middleway says:

    Great post for Business and Life!

  3. log says:

    i completely agree.

  4. Valerie M says:

    I really liked this post, Steve. There are plenty times in my life where I’ve quit and when I look back I realize I didn’t really try at all. Even today there are times where I want to quit because I think I don’t have “what it takes” or because I’m having a pity party. Even if I try to be positive most of the time, it’s still a full time job to kick myself back on track.

    I think what happens is when you see someone else’s success, like a problogger making 6 figures a year or an amazing programmer, it’s very hard to see the months/years of effort needed to get there. We just see the end result and we expect to get there immediately. Also not everyone gets success in the same way, so there’s no point in trying to compare.

    1. Steve says:

      I hear you. Looking back, I gave up on a bunch of projects because I didn’t see immediate returns. If only I stuck with some of those ventures, I wonder where they could have gone. You’re definitely right though. It’s easy to get impatient when you read about success stories like Darren of problogger and John Chow

  5. Chi says:

    Good to see you back on here Steve

    1. Steve says:

      Thanks bud. Things have been tough lately.

      Yep. If only I had the knowledge then that I had now.

  6. Seamus Anthony says:

    I totally concur. When I look back at my numerous failed ventures, it is plain for me to see that the number 1 reason they flopped is because I gave up at the first sign of trouble. Success has a great deal to do with persistence.

  7. than says:

    Winners never quit and quitters never win but if you never win and you never quit you are being foolish.

  8. Chanie @ Sage Media says:

    I stumbled onto this article via a Twitter RT… rarely do I get through a full article like this without losing interest. But this is a real gem.

    I started my own business from the ground up in ’04. That first year was a roller coaster – and not the good kind. Struggled to gain leverage in a ruthlessly competitive field, learned some hard lessons, and paid dearly for the mistakes I made. But I never gave up.

    I’m no millionaire today, but I’m very proud of what I’ve accomplished. Rewards don’t come without effort. Thanks for the read.

    1. Steve says:

      Thanks for the kind words. I sincerely hope you stop on back. You are always welcome

  9. Ross says:

    Go Steve!

    I love this post, and the examples help to put things in perspective… How do you find the time to juggle so many things you have going on at once in your life – you must be one super busy guy!

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  11. Pingback: Learn to quit with confidence by asking why « I Think Therefore I Am
  12. The Arabic Student says:

    Really encouraging post. You can’t half ass things when you’re trying to succeed online. There are too many people giving it their all who want it really badly for you to gain anything with a lame attempt.

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  14. Martin says:

    I spoke to a very well-off pro wrestler the other day who told me that when chasing your goals, you can either do your best or do whatever it takes.

  15. Bruce, a newbie says:

    I have tried an online business more times than enough. Having said that, it still is very appealing to me. I feel it would give me a sense of worth and accomplishment. I have the time and some resources . I feel my problem has been to be close enough to someone who has done it before me and knows how to do it and is a good teacher,.

  16. Brian says:

    Great points in this article. Ive had big ups and down online for 5 years and back at reset mode. I think every business model works online with proper focus and some get a little luck. I think a lot of people have shorter timeframe online vs offline…and a lot of people online are more wantrepreneurs. Thanks for good info….your success is inspiring but makes me feel a little dissapointed in my progress.

  17. Tony says:

    Great post. Thanks for sharing.

    Also, subtly motivating. I mean if the competition out there is THAT weak to cave at the first obstacle, then the hordes buying courses and streaming onto the internet every year really can be ignored.

    Just wish there were some solid factual stats about what happens to people who actually TRY…


    1. Steve C says:

      For the most part, I ignore the quantity and focus on the quality of who I’m up against.

  18. Jeremy says:

    Honesty Steve, I think the problem is that people don’t have realistic expectations because they fall for titles like:

    How To Create A Niche Online Store In 5 Easy Steps

    Building an online store is easy with tools like Shopify and the like. Finding products to sell is easy. Actually making money selling products online is extremely difficult because, unless you are selling your own products (and even if you are) the internet represents a situation very close to perfect competition.

    In fact, there is only one reason why any business fails: because they run out of capital (time or money). Many business ideas are simply not viable and people are wasting their time and/or money pursuing them. It takes careful planning and capital investment to launch a business, not simply a willingness to Try Harder – though I suppose “Try Harder” could mean that too…

    While you may have been able to start a business for a few hundred dollars, this is exceptional and not a realistic goal for most. It also doesn’t take into consideration the opportunity cost of one’s time. In fact, YOU are exceptional in your knowledge and background – plus you benefitted from a head start, having started your store several years back, before the complete commoditization of e-commerce software platforms.

    You have great material but how its pitched on the surface is much different than the reality of what you are selling. I’ve seen you allude to this in other posts, but I think this one is an oversimplification.

    Respectfully, Jeremy

    1. Steve C says:

      Hey Jeremy, Thanks for the thoughtful comment. I actually rarely get these anymore:)

      I agree with your comment that people don’t have realistic expectations on time frame because they don’t see the hard work behind the success stories. However, I don’t believe that the Internet represents perfect competition. If that were the case, then the stock market wouldn’t behave the way it does. There are always outliers that you can profit from and it’s all about establishing a moat around your business.

      I also don’t believe that small internet businesses like my own fail because they run out of capital. I could run my store on a hundred bucks a month if everything went south. My blog would cost even less to run. It’s not about trying harder…It’s about being persistent and constantly looking for new ways to grow.

      And in terms of starting a business for several hundred dollars, it’s entirely doable and I have real students in my class to show for it. So ultimately, is it difficult to start a successful business? Of course. But for the side businesses that I encourage people to start, it’s more about dedication than money.

    2. Steve C says:

      BTW Jeremy, after visiting your website, I can see why you made the comments that you did based on your experiences. Starting a lifestyle bags business from scratch is very difficult and I can see how it would require a lot more capital to manufacture. I think the right entry point for most people in the world of ecommerce is to start with private label and then gradually transition over to creating your own products. Kudos to you for making it work!

  19. Jeremy says:

    Hi Steve,

    Thanks for the response.

    I would argue that it’s also nearly impossible to beat the Stock market for the same reason (perfect competition) and in fact most people who work full time at it also fail

    So, knowing that outliers exist and actually finding them are two different things. My point is that if you are looking to invest your time/money, a pure e-commerce play is a longer shot than most people realize – your succesful students not withstanding :-).

    Also, I think you are not taking into consideration the value of your time when you talk about running a store for a few hundred dollars a month. After all, you could be earning a salary in that time that you invest.

    All the best, Jeremy

    1. Steve C says:

      Right now there are tens of thousands of people killing it on Amazon. Why? It’s because the market isn’t saturated yet. It’s similar to EBay back in the 90’s. People were making money hand over fist. Back in the day, Google Adwords was super cheap and I was making up to 100X returns on my ad spend. Facebook ads are still pretty cheap too.

      There are always new ways to make money that constantly pop up. I’m not sure what your definition of “pure ecommerce play” is but I have students putting up products on Amazon, some aren’t even unique, and making 5 or 6 six figures a year relatively quickly. Will this last? Probably not…but for now it’s a great opportunity.

  20. Lisa says:

    Thank you for this timely post. It is amazing that I was just thinking that I should give my online store another try and then I read your post. Everything you said applies to me. I knew I hadn’t tried hard enough. At Christmas I was thinking about bagging up my products individually and give them away to strangers as a free gift on the street. I told my husband I’m better at giving things away for free than selling. But I didn’t give them away nor did I close my online store account (it’s under construction and has been at that status for a while now while I was not knowing what to do with the store). Thank you again.

  21. Karen Nierlich says:

    This is spot on. I’ve read a big chunk of your articles and opened a store. I may be along for more help in time. In the meantime, I want to thank you for the good information you put out and your trustworthy presence.

    Best, Karen

  22. StudMuffin says:


    I’ve been reading your blog for about four months. THIS is the finest post you’ve made.

  23. Julia says:

    Thank you so much, Steve, for such amazing blog and time you put into it. I opened my online store back in November of 2015 and have not sold anything so far. I make my products at home and very like them. However, it does not mean people will like them too. I’ve sold a few items to my husband’s co-workers before Christmas. Also, I’ve tried to sell some on local art market, but only heard “This is so cute!” 🙂 I know I can try to sell on Etsy, but I don’t want to pay all these fees they are charging. As for right now, I contacted my host company to help me with attracting customers through Google keywords and also set up ad on Facebook. Will wait if it worth it. Will be very glad if you check my store and tell your opinion. Thank you!

  24. Alvin Wolff says:

    It is very easy to give up on a business when things get hard. This is especially true in the legal industry. Most people that create their own law firm have to struggle through the first five to ten years. A lot of these legal professionals don’t even up becoming successful with their own firm because they cannot handle the risk.

    As with all businesses, no risk likely means no reward. It is nice to reach your article on this top. Thanks for your hard work.


  25. Bob Colvin says:

    It is so very easy to give up quickly these days with all the options available. It seems that every time we turn around there is another “get rich quick” scheme we can try to make enough to “support our lifestyle”. Sometimes it is simply the case that we need to persevere through the tough times.

    Personally, it took me a number of roadblocks to finally get to where I wanted to be. Today, I am glad those roadblocks were there.


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  27. Jeff Moore says:

    This is such a great post. It is much easier to give up which is why the large majority of businesses fail. One of the main reasons I have succeeded is because of my failures. We don’t truly fail unless we do give up. Keep plugging away and you will find something that works.

    Jeff Moore

  28. Fred says:

    Consider this, you have done extensive testing on all the possible ways Not to run a business. So perhaps you now know more than anyone else about what not to do when starting a business. Perhaps you can put those skills to use.Also, you might want to look for common themes as to why you haven’t been successful.. Not saying that this is you but my sister in law is an artist. And a fairly talented one. But she is a terrible business person. She had a stall at a market a few years ago. All day she looked really pissed off. It was like she was daring people to come up to her. She looked like an oncoming storm. And then she was surprised that no one bought anything from her. They didn’t dare. But she couldn’t see it.

  29. deborah rogers says:

    Creating demand for a product very few people are searching for is a challenge. Without relying on Amazon FBA or ebay, it seems many ecommerce businesses are reliant on google and facebook ads. It can take high margins to make it work.

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