By: Carmel Finnan On: February 25, 2018 In: hard work does not guarantee success Comments: 0

Here’s a few common beliefs that form the backbone of how most people run their businesses – and their lives:

  • You have to work very hard if you want to get ahead
  • If you want to succeed in business, you have to be prepared to make personal sacrifices, e.g. less time with family and friends, less personal freedom, less leisure time, less…
  • You have to work even harder than before, if you want to grow your business

How many of the above resonate with the stories you tell yourself every day about how you have to run your business?

One of them? All of them?


The False Equation

We have built our businesses on a false equation: Success = Hard Work.

The truth is there is no direct correlation between how hard you work and how successful you are. If that were the case, then why do more than 70% of small businesses fail? There are many reasons why businesses fail. However, it’s certainly not because the owners sat around surfing the internet or sipping coffee all day.

Yes, of course there are plenty of examples of successful businesses that are proud of their hard-work-ethic. And there are phases in every business when you just got to roll up your sleeves and work hard. But …

Do we ever hear about the personal cost of working so hard? Do we know the statistics for depression, burnout, or even suicide among business owners? The research is growing and the data is telling us a scary story about the shadow side of  entrepreneurial ‘hard work’. In fact we’ve almost come to expect that burnout is an unavoidable part of being a business owner.


Why do we push ourselves so hard and so unrelentingly?

Here’s one simple, straightforward answer.

We’ve been taught by parents, teachers and employers that to get on in life and become ‘someone’, you have to work your butt off. And social media churns out success stories every day about the busyness ladder to the top.


Is there a way out of the busyness trap?

The good new is, yes, there is! There are more and more stories about business owners redefining the term ‘work’ and reorganising their businesses to create a life that is financially rewarding AND aligned with a satisfying and integrated lifestyle.

The bad new is that a lot of these ‘alternative’ success stories arose out of personal crises that ‘forced’ a radical work-life reshuffle.


How to discard the flawed beliefs

One of the best places to start is to remind yourself why are you running your own business. Was it to be successful, regardless of the personal damage involved? Was it to do something that really mattered to you or to do something you loved doing?

Another step out of this busyness-labyrinth is to look for other business models that are based on different equations for success and explore the ones that resonate with you. When you examine other success-equations you will notice that they contain more than two elements. Why? Success is not static, it’s not singular and it can’t be standardised.

Here’s an equation a client of mine gave me recently when we talked about this very topic and how he survived the loss of his business in 2009 and the personal humiliation he suffered for years afterwards: success = satisfaction + balance + integrity. And here’s another one from my mentor who, in his own words, “lost it all” on his way to the top, but “saved his life in the process”: success = simplicity + consistency + creativity.


And my own?

I started my own business to have more personal freedom, to not have to work so hard, to have more quality family time and enjoy again the work I love doing – helping people become more self-reliant, creative and fulfilled. But I also landed on that slippery slope of hustle and effort for a while – until an unexpected illness last year sent me back to my original motivators and to question a few false beliefs I’d taken on along the entrepreneurial road.

My current equation: success = originality + risk + resilience.


What’s your equation for success?

  1. Just stop for a moment and think back to WHY you started your own business.
  2. Now, what are the beliefs that drive you in your business today?

Success = ?

I’d love to read your answers. To share, just hit the button here [email protected] or post on my facebook page .