16 Habits of Ill-Fated Entrepreneurs

16 Habits of Ill-Fated Entrepreneurs

If you have read Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill, you may recall the following passage:
The majority of people are ready to throw their aims and purposes overboard, and give up at the first sign of opposition and misfortune. A few carry on DESPITE all opposition, until they attain their goal. These few are the Fords, Carnagies, Rockefellers, and Edisons.
It is may have been easy for us to overlook Hill’s discovery about persistence resulting from his extensive 20-year study of the behaviors of very successful people:  They not only persisted in the pursuit of their purpose and goals, but they ALSO persisted in matters that to the masses seem inconsequential.  
Persistence is one of the biggest differentiators between those who attain the entrepreneurial dream and those who do not!  In fact, Hill stated that in the accomplishment of great riches (in every aspect of life–not just financial), there is no substitute for persistence and if “one does not possess persistence, one does not achieve noteworthy success“.
In Think and Grow Rich, Napoleon Hill lists 16 symptoms of lack of persistence (Napoleon's words are the bold text):
1.  Failure to recognize and to clearly define exactly what one wants.  If you are struggling in this area, you have not defined your purpose.  In order to move toward your life purpose, you will need to feel as though what you are doing makes a difference…that you are capable of making a difference at least in your own life. Otherwise, there is no reason to bother. Whatever it is that you feel passionately about, you can do it! You were meant to do that thing more than anything else. Think about yourself in the terms that Alan Watts used: “You are the perfect expression of the universe exactly where you are in this moment.” Or, as Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote: “The eye was placed where one ray should fall, that it might testify of that particular ray."
When you begin to see yourself as a being who is connected organically to the rest of the world, whose personal wants are whispers of the universe, then you can begin to see your work as imperative, but less personally driven. Of course, because you are doing exactly what you want to do, you benefit as well. Following what you love and exploring the ideas and options that emerge is a great way to hone your ability to envision a different future for yourself and others.

2.  Procrastination, with or without cause (usually backed up with a formidable array of alibis and excuses).   Many people have “justifiable reasons” for not doing certain things (short on time, short on money, etc.). The only thing worse than an excuse is a GOOD excuse. Too many people have too many “good” excuses!   A good excuse is an excuse that you actually believe.  An excuse that you don’t try hard enough to overcome.  It doesn't’t matter whether the excuse is big or small.  Believable or unbelievable.  Valid or made up.  There is no such thing as a good excuse or a bad excuse. Excuses that stop you from achieving your goals are all equal.
3.  Lack of interest in acquiring specialized knowledge.  Have you ever started a job or gone into a new profession without the training? Did you visit the local department store and order a kit to be a lawyer, a doctor, or an engineer? Of course not–to enter those professions, you need specialized knowledge.  What tends to prohibit people most in acquiring specialized knowledge is a low self-image. To learn anything requires a certain degree of confidence. You have to have a relatively decent self-image that you have the ability to learn what you need to. However, if you have too little confidence, you will think you are incapable of learning. If you have too much confidence, worse yet, you will think you do not need to learn anything! In all actuality, people who suffer from a low self-image do not need to know HOW to do the specific or specialized task. However, they do need to know how to find someone else who can.
4.  Indecision and the habit of passing the buck on all occasions instead of facing issues squarely.  (Also backed by alibis).   On Monday mornings you check your watch and realize it’s 8:30 am.  Most of the civilized world is on their way to work. They’re weaving in and out of traffic, racing to work so they can spend the next eight hours making somebody else rich.  They’re slowly killing themselves one day at a time through stress, anguish and fear.  But you… you’re different.  You decided you wanted more out of life, so you went and took it.  Sadly, most people will never be able to climb their way out of the hole they dug themselves.  That is because most people let fear and indecision dictate their destiny.  Indecision is one of the nails in the coffin of desire and achievement.
5.  The habit of relying upon alibis instead of creating definite plans for the solution of problems.  Many are in the habit of putting things off rather than taking care of them immediately. In the Decision chapter, Hill states that every successful person “had the habit of REACHING DECISIONS PROMPTLY and changing these decisions slowly, if and when they were changed. People who fail to accumulate money, without exception, have the habit of reaching decisions, IF AT ALL, very slowly and of changing these decisions quickly and often.”
Interested in developing yourself personally and professionally? Are you ready for a taste of what investing in your personal and professional growth feels like? Registration is open for the 2016 Think and Grow Rich Workshop where you will receive guidance and coaching around the Napoleon Hill's classic bestseller.  
6.  Self-satisfaction. There is but little remedy for this affliction, and no hope for those who suffer from it.  I believe Hill is referring to people who are smug, callous and insensitive here.
7.  Indifference, usually reflected in one's readiness to compromise on all occasions, rather than meet opposition and fight it.  This addresses our willingness to surrender or coward away from issues we may face related to our goals. The one thing necessary to move forward in any area of your life is true courage. Do you have the heart to keep moving forward even when everything seems to be going against you?  Every great explorer, inventor, businessperson or activist faced incredible adversity and opposition along their journey. When you are courageous enough to follow your dreams, you must be prepared for all of the challenges that come with that choice.  All of the wonderful things we have in this world are the result of courage. People who continued to move forward even when everyone told them it could not be done show courage.. Follow your heart and know that your courage will be rewarded. 
8.  The habit of blaming others for one's mistakes, and accepting unfavorable circumstances as being unavoidable.  Many businesses are guilty of doing this (e.g… “this thing happened and it was out of our control“). Although there are things that happen that are out of our control, many of us have relied on that excuse far too often during our lives.  It is actually really easy to blame everyone else, the economy, the government, the weather, and anything else you can throw into the mix, for why things are the way the are. The reason we do it is simple too. When you blame someone else for something which has taken place in your business or life, you don't have to do anything about it. There's no action required because it "their" fault. They made it happen.  If we really want to be honest with and challenge ourselves, we need to take a long hard look at this habit.  
9.  WEAKNESS OF DESIRE, due to neglect in the choice of MOTIVES that impel action.  People who are struggling or suffering from this need to refer back to Chapter 3 in Think and Grow Rich on “Autosuggestion”.    We need to have an overpowering desire to succeed. It is very important to establish your “why” to help you keep the dream alive.  Your "why" is important and personal to YOU.  Perhaps it is supporting your family, financial freedom or time freedom.  Make it a strong and powerful reason to keep you motivated. Write it down and post in a place where you can look at it on those days when speed bumps seem to appear around every corner.  Weak desire will bring you weak results, just as a small fire will give small amounts of heat. If you lack persistence, this weakness can be altered by building a stronger fire under your desires.
10.  Willingness, even eagerness, to quit at the first sign of defeat. (Based upon one or more of the six basic fears).  Hill names the six basic fears in order of their most common appearance: Fear of poverty, criticism, ill health, loss of love of someone, old age and death.  I also feel that It is very easy to work towards the attainment of our goals when the oceans are calm and nothing appears to be standing in our way. However, if we are not mentally prepared,  the second something begins to stir the waters and rock the boat, we begin to panic and struggle to deal with our circumstances. We see these problems and challenges as larger than life and chalk it up to defeat.
Life is a journey of self-discovery rather than just a mere combination of small destinations. It is a never-ending journey that has several unexpected turns, twists and surprises that make it worthwhile and fun.  When we are facing obstacles and challenges, it is important to understand that we are on a journey and that no one event or circumstance determines how our journey will pan-out over the course of a week, month, year or longer.
think and grow rich
11.  Lack of ORGANIZED PLANS, placed in writing where they may be analyzed.  Probably the single biggest reason I struggled in the early days of my business was simply my lack of organization. I carried a scheduler just like everyone else, and would have defined blocks of time set aside for meetings, appointments, training, and other things that were pre-set.  The rest of my schedule was simply left blank with the intention of using it to prospect for new business; however, those hours were spent aimlessly thanks to the lack of any real planning.  
Personally, I think every entrepreneur should draft a complete business plan, consisting of a system of systems. Even if all doesn't go as planned, you'll still be fairly certain of attaining at least 150 percent by doing so.  Why not go for it?  Business is really a lot easier than you think if you go about it in such a well-organized, well-planned manner.
12.  The habit of neglecting to move on ideas, or to grasp opportunity when it presents itself.  Have you noticed that sometimes you get an idea and immediately cross it out? When it feels so insane, stupid or worthless that even wasting another second of time is totally unacceptable for you? Stop doing that! What if that idea you are pushing away is the most brilliant idea you had so far? All ideas should be recorded. There is no space of evaluation during idea creation. Both processes use a different part of your brain. The moment you get into judging is the moment you cut yourself off from the flow of ideas.
13.  WISHING instead of WILLING.  Note that “willing” does not mean by force. It means to accomplish and move in the direction of whatever it is that we want by use of focused and concentrated effort.  What if, instead of “I wish”, we said “I will”?  Wish yearns for someone else to cause a positive change. Will puts you in control.
14.  The habit of compromising with POVERTY instead of aiming at riches. General absence of ambition to be, to do, and to own.  Not one of us is damned to live in poverty, because we all have the ability to change things. Every person has their own unique circumstances to overcome; however, each person has the opportunity to achieve anything.
15.  Searching for all the shortcuts to riches, trying to GET without GIVING a fair equivalent, usually reflected in the habit of gambling, endeavoring to drive "sharp" bargains.  The Law of Reciprocity focuses on becoming a person of increase, and as you give, so will you receive.  I have been mentored by Bob Proctor for years and he once told us that he never negotiates–he is not in search of a bargain.  He feels that he offers a fair price and others ask a fair price of him.  As you are giving, you will also attract things into your life. You will get what you give. This is the best part about living your soul purpose; you don’t have to try so hard.
16.  FEAR OF CRITICISM, failure to create plans and to put them into action, because of what other people will think, do, or say. This enemy belongs at the head of the list, because it generally exists in one's subconscious mind, where its presence is not recognized.   How many times have you had a certainty that you are brilliant and have greatness in a certain area of your life but may have felt hesitant to share it because of the fear of criticism or possible rejection?  Acknowledging your brilliance, your genius, and your greatness is a very powerful thing to do as long as it comes from the heart and also provides a caring, loving service to others.  The world is waiting for you to share what you have to offer! 
think and grow rich
Hill says that the above weaknesses are the real enemies standing between you and noteworthy achievement.  He also provides four simple steps to developing the HABIT of persistence:
  1. A definite purpose backed by a burning desire
  2. A definite plan EXPRESSED in continuous ACTION
  3. A mind closed to ALL negativity and discouragement
  4. A friendly alliance with one or more persons who will encourage you.  (This last point is really a Mastermind Group). 
I believe that modern day culture makes it tougher for entrepreneurs to be persistence than it was in Hill’s time.  Why?  Because we usually expect instant gratification and we are subjected to numerous distractions (we can be bombarded with more information in one day than people living in Hill’s time were bombarded with in an entire lifetime).
In our Think and Grow Rich Workshops, we study universal principles that strengthen our persistence muscle such as The Law of Gender, the Law of Cause and Effect — natural laws that governs the fundamental operation of life. 
For example, the Law of Gender states that seed has an incubation/gestation period.  We know that the gestation period in human reproduction is 266 days.  Your entrepreneurial dream also has a gestation period and, just like a physical seed, it will manifest itself in your physical reality if it is kept in an environment conducive to its growth during its gestation period!  We just don’t yet know how long it takes a non-physical seed to gestate.
Success compounds–its roots are established in our daily habits. We cannot see the magnificence of the great oak tree while its seed is germinating in the ground, right?  Well,  so it is for the success you desire in your business (as long as you persist in habits that serve that objective).
Remember, the most rewarding activities on the path to extraordinary entrepreneurial success are often the most challenging so be persistent!
About Online Biz Boomer Babe

Rachel Lavern is a Certified Business Coach and founder of My Booming Online Business--a blog for middle-age, global, uptown women. She is on a mission to transform entrepreneurs' finances by teaching the action set, mindset and skill set needed to get launched + make money.


  1. I so love this, Rachel! If any endeavor requires persistence, it’s book publishing 🙂 To be Traditionally published–our gold standard–takes time and effort and blood, sweat, and tears. It takes resilience and fortitude and well, all things persistence. I’ve watched so many writers give up–for all the reasons Hill describes. Then again, I’ve watched so many finally make it–sometimes after a decade of trying.
    As I say to my editorial clients: “It’s those writers who persist that make it.”
    Thank you for this! Great motivation for me this morning!
    Susan Mary Malone recently posted…This Texas Winemaker Found Bliss On The VineMy Profile

    • That’s great Susan. I imagine that to became a successful writer you need three character traits: persistence, empathy, passion. The persistence is the inner strength to keep going when the going is tough; empathy is the ability to tune into your readers, and passion as the strong desire to communicate what is important to you.
      Online Biz Boomer Babe recently posted…Calendaring : Clustering and Clumping TimeMy Profile

  2. I love this, Rachel! I agree that persistence helps an entrepreneur succeed. We all need to be able to step back and observe what we are doing and determine what we want to make sure that our goals true to us. Thank you for sharing. This is a great reminder.

  3. Thanks for a great checklist. I have suffered with most of these to some degree at some point in my entrpreneurial journey. Many of these habits/attitudes can come back to haunt when I least expect it. I love having this to refer to when I’m feeling stuck or stagnant.

    • I believe most of us have Jane. Remember, the word ‘entrepreneur’ comes from the French verb, ‘entreprendre’ which means ‘to undertake’ or ‘to commit’…an ‘undertaking’ is a journey of promise, or a ‘quest’. That’s when we make a commitment to achieve something and then off we go to fulfill that commitment.

  4. One trait I know I’m strong in has been persistence. It helps to like projects, completion, be self generating. I read N. Hill
    s book so long ago & appreciate the refresher.

    • I’m working on catching up with Bob Proctor…he’s been reading Think and Grow Rich at least once a year for approximately 56 years 🙂 Since 2009, I’ve been reading it once a year and also running workshop or mastermind with others where we study and apply it.

  5. If you are looking for someone who “knows” what persistence looks like, it is me. Especially when it came to transforming my health issues. I think this is a checklist for life, not only for business and I think each of these points is something we all can relate to and recognize in our own lives. As far as procrastination, I do believe there is a “right” time for all things and often I do wait until my intuition lets me know it is time to act. Being in action all the time can definitely create exhaustion and having done it throughout many of my younger years, I do not support doing for the sake of doing. Rest and contemplation and trusting your inner guidance, have become increasingly important for me in my life.

  6. Loved you article Rachel. You have shared all the practical points. Thanks a lot for sharing your experience with us.

  7. Great post. I loved his book, and the quote “The only thing worse than an excuse is a good excuse.” Oh yes…good excuses abound.

  8. Everything in this post is so true. Persistence is vital to success. Also taking responsibility and solving, rather than blaming. Having a passion for what you do makes it easier to stay focused and work towards your goals.

  9. Rachel, this is the best commentary I’ve seen anyone put out about Think and Grow Rich. If there’s one thing we don’t teach in school is persistence. People want to attain great things but so many cop out and do it in a devious manner. Then we all find ourselves paying for their mistakes. Really a super great post.
    Joyce Hansen recently posted…Business Success Clue – NappingMy Profile

  10. Hi Rachel 🙂
    Definately the MOST important skill to have in business and in life is persistence! So many people give up way too soon. Especially as entrepreneurs we need to make sure we stay consistent and never lose sight of our goals by being persistence in everything we set out to do!

    Thanks for sharing this awesome value from “Think and Grow Rich” 🙂

    Great post and reminder to stay with it and never give up!

    • So true Joan. I’ve intentionally built consistency into my business so I can count on a solid baseline income each month. It may look boring, but knowing good money comes in each month is a “boring” I’m willing to accept.

  11. Great interpretation and share… very true, if you don’t determine where you want to go, you’ll never get there.
    Kristen Wilson recently posted…Why Bother with Guest PostsMy Profile

  12. Hi Rachel,

    Good post featuring (only) 16 habits that trip up the success of would-be entrepreneurs. Number 12 is probably my Achilles heel, although, at one time or the other, I think we’ve all had to deal with each of them. Thanks for the reminder,

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