Are You REALLY Trying to Succeed?

I’ve spent the better part of the past two and a half years trying to build a business online while holding down a full-time, 9 to 5 job (and during parts of the year, working much more than 40 hours a week).  This blog, My 4-Hour Workweek, was born like many others – following the reading of The 4-Hour Workweek by Tim Ferriss.

Since that time, I’ve had a strong desire to build an online passive income business, and those of you who have been reading this blog for the past couple of years have seen my many ups and downs.  Recently though, I’ve called into question my own motivation: Am I really trying to succeed? Or has the once lit fire finally died out?

Looking At the Past

When I look at my success (or lack thereof) through the posts documented on this very blog, I’m disappointed about the way things have progressed, and for good reason.  Last October, I wrote a post that summarized my earnings history up to that point.

In November 2010, I earned a whopping $987.92.  If you saw that back then, you would think that today, almost two years later, I would surely be earning at least $1,500-2,000/month, right? Sadly, this isn’t the case.  You don’t have to look much further than my last income report, which shows an underwhelming $261.05 earned for the month of June.

Someone left me a comment to call me out on it (I disallowed the comment because it was a disguised promotion for his own MLM earnings scheme).  The gist of what he said was (and I’m paraphrasing here), “I appreciate your transparency, but dude, this is pathetic.  You should be earning much more than this by now.”

He’s absolutely right.  While I genuinely appreciate the positive, encouraging comments most people leave for me, they ignore a much more significant issue:  Why haven’t I progressed at all?

Motivation & Execution: Without Them, You’re a Failure

I’m writing this post from a coffee shop, because I knew that if I sat around my apartment today, it would take an entire day to write this post (instead of an hour or so).  This little tidbit about my Sunday afternoon is really a microcosm of the past year or more for me: I’ve been wildly unproductive.

I’ve been here before.  Most of the time, I can temporarily fix it with some kind of productivity mind trick, like some of these I’ve written about:

The truth is, you can’t trick yourself into being productive or motivated.  It doesn’t last. You need to fundamentally change the way you work – the way you plan your day.  While time is everyone’s major constraint, it’s never the core problem.  The core problem is being able to properly manage your time and prioritize your life’s obligations.

Do you want to know my most productive times?  The times where my earnings were high and everything was trending very positively?  Here’s what was happening in my life (#2 and #3 weren’t simultaneous):

  1. I was working an extremely stressful and time consuming job at one of the largest accounting firms in the world.
  2. I was training for (and ultimately completed) a half marathon.
  3. I was taking on the great fitness challenge of P90X.

What do my days look like today?  They’re not stressful.  I get into work about 7 AM and leave around 3:30 PM.  During tax season, I work until maybe 7:00 PM (a far cry from working until 11 PM or midnight at my first accounting firm).   I’m extremely inconsistent with exercise – I work out or run maybe once or twice a week, for 30-45 minutes.

Clearly, free time isn’t an issue.  The only thing I’ve been able to consistently maintain with my internet business is updating this blog once per week, something that I’ve been able to keep up for the past two and a half years with only a few exceptions (where there were maybe 9-12 days between posts).  But because I really don’t try hard to make money with this blog, I’m not really doing anything to actively increase my bottom line.

What’s the Problem Then?

Motivation and execution.  I was a lot more motivated to build a side business when I hated my job.  Because I’m content with my job right now, I’m not working as hard outside of the job. Don’t get me wrong – my ultimate goal is to still be independent and escape the 9 to 5 grind. But it’s not something I’m working hard to pursue right now.

I really admire those who are crazy productive.  Off the top of my head, Pat Flynn (from Smart Passive Income) and Sunil (from The Extra Money Blog).  The guys have built a wide array of successful online businesses.

And although they are both very smart individuals, the success is really a result of pure execution.  Hard work.  Putting in the hours and being productive.  As I write this post, I’m hit with a funny coincidence: Sunil recently wrote a post titled, “The Secret Ingredient to My Success“, and here’s what he says:

All successful individuals have certain key characteristics in common. There are several components that contribute to a successful venture, regardless of the nature, type or size of the initiative we take.

But there is one particular ingredient that is the “secret” ingredient that makes the mix complete, and successful individuals make masterful use of this ingredient.

So what’s this secret ingredient to my success?  It is no other than taking action, or speed of execution.

I’m actually laughing to myself right now, because this post he recently published supplements my post here so well.

You’ve probably read, no less than two dozen times, that in order to succeed you need to take action.  It’s a cliche in entrepreneurship, but it’s so fundamentally true that it’s worth repeating.

I will add to that, however, that action or execution is hard to sustain without motivation.  And while action can be measured and observed, motivation is so difficult to identify because it’s different from person to person.

No one can tell you how to be motivated, or what motivation is.  It’s kind of like love: you’ll know it when you see it.  (And yes, I’m kicking myself for this cheesy analogy).

One Final Question

I’ll end this post the way I started it – with a question for myself, and for you if you’re in a similar position: Are you REALLY trying to succeed?  Or are you tricking yourself into thinking you’re on the path to success?

This post was really self-serving, as I’m trying to kick my ass into gear.  I’m tired of sitting around and relaxing.  It feels good in the moment, but in retrospect, it’s destructive to my future.  This applies to business, fitness, and anything else in your life that requires motivation and execution.

The best starting point is to declare right now as your starting point.  Don’t put it off until tomorrow.  And with that, I’m going to go for a run and then write an article for one of my authority sites.  It’s not enough, but maybe it’ll get me back on the right track.

I look forward to reading your comments.

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28 Responses to “Are You REALLY Trying to Succeed?”

  1. Hey Eric,

    I’m in pretty much the same situation as you right now. I’m in high school so during the school year I only get to work from 3pm until I go to sleep. I’m pretty productive during that time, but every year I can’t wait for summer to arrive because I promise myself I’m going to be super productive and get a lot accomplished since I have more time. But now that summer vacation is 2/3 over for me, my productivity has been horrible comparatively.

    Definitely going to work hard to make sure I’m super productive the last 1/3 of my vacation!

    Thomas @ Mobile App Tycoon recently posted… Tasting Success with a Wine App: An Interview With Matthew Campbell – Developer of Tasting Notes


    Eric G. Reply:

    Hey Thomas,

    Given the fact that you are only in high school, I would say you are WAY ahead of the game. I’d kill to be able to jump in a time machine and get into internet marketing while I was in high school. :)

    Anyway, just keep at it, and you will find success. But don’t forget to enjoy your summer (and it doesn’t sound like you’ve forgotten)!


  2. thanks for the mention Eric

    you’ve hit the crux of the matter in this post. it really is about execution.

    if one executes, one can make the mistakes needed to succeed sooner than later. many will never know because they will have never tried.

    the interesting twist you have added to the discussion is the reason why we may not be motivated, which is very valid. if one is content with what they are doing, i can see them laying off on their side gigs, which is totally fine.

    i was in the same boat when i got started. but if that person has some desire to make the projects work, chances are they will plug into it even if not at full strength – which is also fine. there is no rule that one must be 101% dedicated to the side gig at all times. that is why it is a SIDE gig.

    time is the best teacher, and over time you will know when to work on those side gigs and how much effort to put in.

    on another note, we are our own toughest critic. when faced with adversity (we all get those mental thoughts sometimes that compel us to soul search), just think about how ahead you already are compared to most people….and more importantly, think about where you will be if you keep chugging along

    the fact that you were so hard on yourself in this post just demonstrates your motivation and desire to succeed in the long run. i have no doubts you will. it’s just a matter of time – not just for you, but for all of us

    nice one
    Sunil l Expediting Wealth Through Extra Income recently posted… The Secret Ingredient to My Success & How I Use It to Achieve More Success


    Eric G. Reply:

    Thanks for the thoughtful comment, Sunil. Your advice and insight is EXTREMELY valuable, considering you’ve “been there, done that.”

    I appreciate the encouragement too – looking forward to the day when I can reflect back on this post and say, “what was I all worried about?”


  3. Hey Eric.

    It’s always good to do a little reflection every now and then.

    I would recommend that you got yourself an accountability partner. Making a promise to one self is really easy but also easy to ignore.

    A promise to another person is much harder to break.
    Rasmus recently posted… The Autopilot Money Mindset


    Eric G. Reply:

    Rasmus, that’s excellent advice. I’ve love to find an accountability partner…even if it’s nothing formal, someone to touch base with every so often. This is something I’ve thought about lately – it’s just a matter of finding the right person.


  4. You are totally right about massive action. I’ve been messing around the last couple months and just this week decided to spend $1000 to push out some new sites.

    I ordered 60 articles for a site and ended up having the whole site done the next day: design, photos, ads, affiliate products, everything. So I went ahead and ordered articles for the next two sites. That was yesterday and I have the hosting set up and two unique site designs ready to go.

    So I think for me content (and probably seo) were two big roadblocks slowing me down. Once I had that out of the way, my productivity skyrocketed. Hopefully will have 10 sites done in the next two weeks. More than I’ve done in the last 3 months…


    Eric G. Reply:

    Wow Tyler, you’ve really been productive it sounds. Honestly, that’s the way to do it. As long as you aren’t burning yourself out, you can be extremely productive by carving out a chunk of time and just running with all the steps needed to get the site up and running.

    Here’s the big question though…what’s your SEO plan for this batch of sites?


  5. Anyone wants to be successful, but sometime its really hard to force yourself if you are not inspired and if there is no motivation that will be productive in your work or business.
    Becca recently posted… Hello world!


    Eric G. Reply:

    Very true – thanks for the comment, Becca!


  6. Very honest. You show that to build an online business, it’s not just a technical task, but mainly a matter of personal growth. It’s all about what we are and what we want to be. Thanks!


    Eric G. Reply:

    That’s definitely a big part of it!


  7. I feel you Eric.

    I’m totally battling with myself right now. I am the only obstacle that is holding me back.

    I need to actually work, not pretend to work. Being behind your computer and reading and looking around isn’t WORK! You need to be more productive. Take actions and get sh*t done.
    Kris @ Detailed Success recently posted… Started The SEO Process – 30 Day Challenge Day 13


    Eric G. Reply:

    That’s how I feel on a daily basis, Kris. Constantly doing non-productive activities that give you a false sense of accomplishment.

    Anyway, best of luck, hopefully we both find some REAL productivity soon.


  8. Crystal clear thinking, Eric. The key to this whole thing is not, in my opinion, hard work, it’s finding what motivates you. If you find it, you’ll spend 18 hours a day doing it and still not regard it hard work. I have a number of sites becalmed because I’ve lost interest, and it IS hard work to do anything on them. However, I can’t stop thinking about another, and I get edgy when I’m not working on it, but time flies by when I am. I so agree that I could do with someone else to work on it with me, to give encouragement, criticism, help, and to have someone to answer to. BUT they have to share your vision, and I have been looking for a long time and not found them yet!


    Eric G. Reply:

    Great comment Ron. It’s like the old saying goes: “If you love what you do, you’ll never work a day in your life.” I think a lot of people struggle when they can’t effectively monetize their passion, and not all passions can be easily monetized. Likewise, some people have no problem working on projects that don’t really fit with their passions.


  9. Eric, thanks for this great reminder – all it takes is motivation and execution.

    I was way more motivated last Nov & Dec when I had those $100 a day. I was very focus and working hard – woke up 6am almost everyday.

    Well, the success couldn’t be kept and this niche site business dies down due to Penguin update.

    I’m frustrated, took 2-mo “off” from IM and trying to re-activate my “core energy” again.

    Only dedication and hard-work will pay it off. I could get hundreds of daily traffic post-panda; I know I could have it again.

    Winners never quit. Couple dollars a day still keeps me moving forward.

    I’m going to fail ranking new sites; only experiment could tell if it works or not.
    Kent @ Niche Site Profit recently posted… I am in 30 Day Challenge (Day 1)


    Eric G. Reply:

    Thanks for commenting, Kent. It is easy to be motivated when you’re successful (which if often why people who are already successful can more easily start and execute new ventures).

    I strongly believe you can do it again…it may be a different environment, but it’s the same game. If you’ve “won” it before, you can certainly win it again.


  10. Hi, i`m a newbie so feel that i`ve learnt a lot from you today, I think motivation and execution are married with passion, if you are doing something you love then you put in all the blood, seat and tears needed to make it work


    Eric G. Reply:

    Exactly! Thanks for the comment, Vanesa.


  11. Introspective posts like this are my favorite. It’s great to see that you are actively calling yourself out.

    If your only motivation for working on your online income was that you hated your job then you have no reason to continue trying to make money online. Some people are content with just going to work 5 days a week.

    That being said, I have been following your blog for a while and I think you have the passion and drive to succeed in internet marketing. My personal opinion is that you should publicly declare your next goal- something like “make $1000 in the month of December 2012.”

    Thanks for taking the time to write all these awesome posts.

    Rock on,
    David @ Strival recently posted… CS: 2500 Word Websites [Part 2: Ordering Content]


    Eric G. Reply:

    Thanks David. I definitely wouldn’t say that hating my job was or is the only motivation. Regardless of how I feel about my “day job,” I have a strong desire to build my own business. This is the #1 motivation, although sometimes hating your job produces a greater sense of urgency for you to act on that motivation.

    I’ve tried stating income goals before, but often they are too arbitrary. I’m going to focus more on the actual tasks at hand, and I’ll have to see what kind of income comes from that. Once I gain some traction on a particular project, I’ll be in a better position to state an income goal and map out a way to get there.


  12. Certainly there must be a place for people who are both motivated and doing the ostensibly right things, yet who are unsuccessful, right? It seems that the equation I see time and again is that success creates success. Pat Flynn got serious about monetizing when he offered a wildly successful e-book for sale and it went gangbusters. The hard work comes naturally when you have the positive motivation provided by success. People flock to your site to see what you’re doing, driving up profits, which then motivates you to execute at an even higher level. Then you become part of a group of people who are all successful, and who all pitch each other, creating even more success. I’m not saying that this isn’t about hard work, ability, etc., but I’m suggesting that there are tons of people out there with raw talent that will probably struggle and fail time and again. This is why I actually use affiliate links for small blogs that I like, leave comments, etc., so that they taste a little success and don’t give up. One little $65 BlueHost link on a small blog is incredibly encouraging– to Pat Flynn it is one of hundreds. I hope this comes across like I intend for it to. Great, thought-provoking post, Eric!
    Mike recently posted… Summer Recap (Part One): Tuning Out — Our Four-Day Challenge


    Eric G. Reply:

    Mike, I agree 100%. There’s no doubt in my mind that success breeds success. Those who have been successful tend to see MORE success, if only because they are more motivated and can point to previous successes.

    This is especially true in the “make money online” niche, as you have pointed with Pat Flynn. When you can show your success to other people, they will listen to everything you have to say (which generally equals lots of affiliate commissions).

    With that said, I think people with the raw talent and determination to succeed will eventually succeed. The question is, where’s your bar for what YOU consider success? Everyone defines it differently, but the more motivated people tend to set the bar higher, and therefore could struggle more to achieve it.

    What I always find is that people who are supposedly talented and work very hard yet don’t find success, typically aren’t working as hard as they could.


  13. Eric, I hope you find that passion and desire to succeed again. It makes it even tougher when the rules change every few months. But keep in mind changes always bring opportunity.


  14. I enjoyed this , found it searching for lack of success online……..
    I have researched so many gurus, but Rich Schefren’s work recently caught my eye, his free webinar is illuminating, best area to promote online your strength , worth a look anyway, I have not taken him up on anything as tried to call a halt to my online spending without action…. Actually the problem is myself , as you alluded to above, maybe personal development etc is the key and mindset, laptop entrepeuneur Mark Anastasi has been focusing on this lately, I am going to look at this next
    I need a mento, and maybe you too, could pay someone to mentor you, probably would get you to the next level, how about a group like minded people meeting weekly?


    Eric G. Reply:

    I’ve always wanted to start some kind of “mastermind” group, but I’ve never got around to rounding up a group of people that will all commit to “meeting” on a regular basis. I don’t doubt that I can find people interested, but it’s finding the right people that is a bit more challenging.


  15. I believe it’s all about anger.
    Anger can be the most destructive and at the same time the most creative feeling of them all. It is pure energy that can be used to fight for something good, as well as for something bad. The only thing that I’ve found to compete with it, is FUN. So you either enjoy something, or you’re so angry with a situation that your goal to escape from it fills your entire visual field!
    The “problem” is that as we grow up, it’s more difficult to get angry about anything.. We tend to call that “maturity”, but I believe that the word “surrender” more accurately describes what happens inside. And surrendering is all about “self-respect”. It doesn’t matter if you actually CAN achieve success. The ONLY thing that matters is whether you are willing to fall on your knees and say “it’s ok. most people don’t succeed anyway..”. And that part of comparing your failure statistically with the failures of others, REALLY gets the job done.
    So what can you do?
    There are only TWO possible things you SHOULD do:
    1) Stop trying and enjoy life with what you have.
    2) Stop trying. Yeah, that’s right. STOP IT! No one can run a marathon at the full speed of a 100 meter sprint. “Trying”, is EXACTLY that. If you where a charismatic person on that field you’re interested in, you would never have bothered to think about all this stuff in the first place. You would have already succeeded. But you don’t have to be charismatic to become a worldwide success in anything.. You just have to be a MASTER on it! And that, can be only achieved through ONE way, and one way alone.. : TEMPO .
    A steady increase of your skills on it. See it like a hobby that involves many riddles to solve, so you can slowly transform it into .. FUN! , the 2nd equally most powerful creative force inside us. And THAT, will also give you the psychology you need to keeping doing it, since ultimately you would end up being completely disconnected with the aspect of failure.
    You keep doing it, and you’ll DEFINITELY master it.
    But for tempo to be able to exist…
    … the finish line must seize to exist..
    ……. exactly like a marathon.

    Keep evolving everyone and..have fun!

    ..After all.. life is too small to be angry all the time..


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