How Do You Know When To Give Up On Your Business?

I am a big advocate of persistence. That rare quality in certain people that drives them forwards against all the odds is something that I am fascinated by, and aspire to.

How Do You Know When To Give Up On Your Business?

Photo By Nikhil Kirsh

Having said that, blind persistence is rarely a good thing. Einstein defined insanity as “doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results”, and that is exactly what blind persistence typically leads to.

Persistence is typically a vital factor in determining your success, but can also be your worst enemy.

So when it comes to your own business endeavors, how do you strike an effective balance? When should you keep going, and when should you call it quits and try a different tack?

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When to Give Up

In my opinion, without persistence we have nothing. We should always persist on a “macro” level — i.e. we should never give up on our fundamental goals in life. The issue with persistence raises its head on a “micro” level — encompassing everything from our diet strategies to business ideas.

Related: Entrepreneurship: What Is Your Definition Of Failure?

My first rule of thumb is quite simple — if in doubt, persist. Personal experience has taught me that a near-masochistic level of persistence can eventually pay off. But that in itself is not sufficient. When it comes to assessing whether or not you should persist with a particular endeavor, there are three steps that I think you should take.

Step 1: Are You Still On The Right Path?

It is all too easy to get so involved with something that you completely lose sight of what you were trying to achieve in the first place. I do this all the time and regularly have to pull myself back to a state of greater awareness. So, if you fear that you are not achieving what you set out to do, remind yourself of exactly what that planned achievement was.

Related: Why Our Online Business Almost Failed And How We Recovered

For instance, when I was first starting out with freelance writing and was still in my full time job, I made a commitment to secure a couple of long term quality clients. My thinking was simple — I needed to establish a solid base of income from which I could take the leap and quit my job.

But before long, I was submitting pitches to some pretty low-quality clients and content mills. I felt like I was persisting in my efforts to find clients, but I was in fact going completely against my original aim (to find quality clients).

It was at that point that I stepped back, reassessed, and landed myself a great client that I still work with to this day.

Step 2: Get Honest And Objective External Feedback

When it comes to speculative endeavors, you will always have those that encourage you blindly, and those that are naturally pessimistic about your chances. Both groups are of little use to you when it comes to assessing whether or not you should persist.

Related: Stop Thinking You Are Going To Fail Just Because Someone Says You Should

What you need to find is those people operating in the middle ground — people who are willing to objectively assess your efforts and submit their opinion on your chances of success. Ideally, you would seek the advice of people who are experienced in whatever it is you are trying — their opinion is absolutely invaluable.

A lot of people make the mistake of making a decision based upon this decision only, but doing so is a mistake. Whilst other people’s opinions can be valuable, only you are best-placed to make the decision as to whether or not you should persist. And that leads me directly onto step three.

Step 3: Assess Your Chances Of Success

This is the most difficult part of the equation, but perhaps the most important. You need to answer one vital question: why haven’t you succeeded yet?

Answering this question requires an honest and objective assessment of your experience, skill set, and likelihood of success in the future. Your focus should be on the sum of the parts, rather than any particular factor.

For instance, a lack of skill does not necessarily mean that you should give up. I had barely even read a blog before June 2011, let alone written for one, but now I am a “professional blogger”. Skills can be learned and experience can be gained.

Related: Dealing With People Who Doubt Your Business Ideas

Perhaps the most important part of the puzzle is whether or not you can see a path to your intended target. Can you see how your actions today can ultimately lead to success, or is the path completely obscured?

For instance, when I first launched my blog I had a vague idea of it eventually becoming a source of income for my business. I didn’t really know how at the time, but already understood the basic principle of “traffic = income”. I figured if I built up a loyal fan base, the rest would follow. My plan was far from clear, but I was confident enough to persist, and it paid off in time.


Persistence can be a blessing or a curse. I am willing to bet that most successful people count persistence as one of their most valuable qualities, but blind persistence is a dangerous thing. The key is to have that drive whilst also being very aware of what you are trying to achieve, and whether or not what you are working on is likely to get you there.

Do you have examples of when persistence has either worked in your favor, or resulted in prolonged failure? I’d love to read your stories.

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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. 

7 thoughts on “How Do You Know When To Give Up On Your Business?”

  1. Steve| says:

    Personally, I’ve never completely abandoned a project that I’ve committed to starting. But while I haven’t quit, I’ve done plenty of 180s and have had many twists, turns and changes in strategy.

    I think there’s something to be said about sticking with an idea as long as the persistence isn’t blind. If something isn’t working, change it up.

  2. Heather Stone says:

    Hi Tom,
    Great post about a tough subject. This is not something any entrepreneur wants to talk about. But it’s something we must all be ready to consider. Small business owners must be realistic too.

  3. Cila says:

    Sticking versus quitting is something I have thought about a lot recently, and written about on my website at and broadly speaking, I’m in favour of quitting (when the moment is right). Because you can’t reach out for something new, or receive a gift, if you’re hanging on to your baggage with both hands.

    My experience is that people often stick for the wrong reasons – ego, the expectations of others, fear, or simple paralysis. As Tom says the key is honest self-assessment and the courage to act on your own convictions.

  4. Cassie says:

    Agreed, never quite your day job starting out and compare various sources of revenue options at the same time . Always do a self assessment and survey of performance a business needs to make a break even and if it costs or pulls resources from another avenue income two options de-invest and resolve it later focusing on your core earners. when those slow down to understand and analyze it to restructure or ditch ……..ask what will it cost what is the return rated if still a lot of money and still no guarantee or test subtle changes without change towards profits. You still have other avenue options.

  5. Scott says:

    “What you need to find is those people operating in the middle ground — people who are willing to objectively assess your efforts and submit their opinion on your chances of success. Ideally, you would seek the advice of people who are experienced in whatever it is you are trying — their opinion is absolutely invaluable.”

    The timing on this article could not be better, as I am at a point of having to make that decision to close.
    After more than a year of development, I released a “What I thought was cool” product that inexpensively turns a semi-auto .22 rifle into as close to a machine gun as it can get Legally.
    When I made it available to several gun forums, the overwhelming consciences was “No thanks”.
    It would be nice if there were a way to test market a product concept before you invest in a patent, tooling, etc.


    1. Tom Ewer says:

      Hi Scott,

      Surely in your specific case you could have approached gun forums before developing the product to get their feedback?



  6. Lisa Strickler says:

    I took business classes, talked to 30 different people who thought my business was a good idea. I researched over 100 hours and wrote 7 business plans until once was financed. I am Hearts Desires lingerie and adult night parties. I have a old fashion feel to my business. Very classy, never showing falic things or talking “naughty lady” I really thought people have come a long way… i pride my self on being a Romance Enhancement business. it’s been 3 months and I’v had 3 parties. I have spent $2000 in advertisement. for god’s sake I even put magnets on my car, sent out 100 professional flyers to all hair,nail and tanning salons. and I do all the normal stuff like pass hundreds of cards. I really thing this web site will help, but it’s been hard. Im exhausted, I work every day……I don’t know what to do…
    thank you for listening and consideration,
    Lisa Strickler

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