The Entrepreneur’s Survival Instinct: Got It?

Running an online business works in stages. Those stages are typically bemusement, survival and once in a blue moon, the luxury of thriving.

The majority of enterpreneurs are stuck in survival mode. Not because surviving is any easier than winding up bemused, but because most people give up not long after bemusement sets in.

So that leaves the rest of us. Surviving or thriving. What is it for you?

Many people believe their online businesses are thriving, but in reality, they are prospering on the edge of a cliff. Just one stiff breeze from falling in to the oblivion. It’s difficult to determine what distinguishes thriving from surviving, but in my opinion, the ability to take several setbacks in your stride is a decisive factor.

I know many affiliate marketers who are producing profits of five figures on a monthly basis, but I stop short of calling them thrivers. Why? Because they’re surviving in a marginal market. Their methods are the business equivalent of whoring out a one trick pony. If the products they sell change, or the advertisement methods they use disintegrate, it’s very difficult to recover. Such is the pain in the arse that follows any middleman in a volatile industry.

This isn’t to knock affiliate marketers (I am one), but to get to the bottom of the most important quality in a successful online entrepreneur – the ability to survive, at all costs, in rapidly changing markets.

We have to adapt to new methods of generating income, or fall by the wayside as yesterday’s dotcom optimists.

If you are based solely online, you are running a fluid business. By doing away with the brick and mortar, your rent becomes the price of staying aware of how the online space is changing – and how you can affect it.

I remember hating web programming because I resented the endless evolving technologies attached to the craft. Learn one language and I’d find it out of date, or the poorer cousin of a brand new language. In reality, all online businesses are prisoners to the chains of technology. The quicker technology develops, the more proactive you have to be to stay on top of your competition.

For that reason, I always say that it’s wise to build a business on flexible foundations. You don’t want to be so rooted in what you offer that the evolution of technologies predates you before you’ve even started. There’s simply no good in forming a belief system that Money Making Method X will always work, when Money Making Method Y is already the next hot shit.

Adapting to new technology is one requirement for survival, and it could also be linked to the second requirement: Never get lazy.

For the same reason that a World Champion boxer one day finds it difficult to hang with a younger, hungrier opponent, you too have to deal with your own motivations if you want to stay on top. Can you hear that sound? That is the sound of a thousand keyboards being mashed by would-be entrepreneurs all around the world. Everybody wants a slice of the online riches pie, and just because you’ve had a taste, doesn’t mean you have a right to the next bite.

Dealing with laziness and those mornings where the brain just doesn’t want to cooperate are fundamental to enjoying lasting success.

I think the difference between a successful entrepreneur and a persistent failboat is not the output when they’re both hyped and happy to work. The difference shows in the output when direct motivation is hard to come by.

The people I see thriving with the most successful online businesses do not work in bursts. We all love the rush of a sudden motivational kick up the arse to get some work done, but these kicks cannot help you every day. If it takes reading a blog post, or tearing through a self-help book, to spur you in to action, then you are prone to working in bursts.

We can all achieve excellence when we’re motivated and at the height of our games. But retaining that burning motivation as success arrives can be a difficult trait to master. But you must succeed. There are plenty of other entrepreneurs waiting to fill your spot if you don’t match them for work ethic.

Personally, my favourite method for combating laziness is to engage in projects where money isn’t my sole motivation. It’s the only way I can ensure that when money arrives, I won’t relent and consider my job done. Surround yourself in enough reasons to go that extra mile and laziness should never be a problem.

Listen to Bill Gates:

“I never took a day off in my twenties. Not one.”

This type of commitment – besides being practically unhealthy – simply isn’t possible if money is your only driving force.

Recommended This Week:

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About the author


A 29 year old high school dropout (slash academic failure) who sold his soul to make money from the Internet. This blog follows the successes, fuck-ups and ball gags of my career in affiliate marketing.


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  • Actually there’s a better quote from Steve Jobs: “For the past 33 years, I have looked in the mirror every morning and asked myself: “If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?” And whenever the answer has been “No” for too many days in a row, I know I need to change something….”

    As opposed to Mr. Gates I’m a big believer in days off. Workaholics are not happy people, and the ones trying to imitate workaholics are even more miserable. Unless what you do for a living is not really “work” (I’m sure Steve wouldn’t call his job “work”).

  • That’s the catch though. If you truly love what you do, it’s not really work. I doubt much of Bill Gates’ work in his twenties was driven by money. But rather by vision and passion.

    I do agree though. Workaholics tend to dig themselves early graves when they set out that way for the wrong reason, or to fill an emptiness.

  • I found in each and every project I am engaged in, there is a point at which frustration and doubt creep into the mix. It is precisely that moment when most people toss in the towel and quit. For me it is the point at which I must remind myself that I’ve done this before and I will do it again. Sometimes I must repeat that mantra for a while in front of a mirror but when I do so I find that the success I have been working hard to achieve seems to find me. It happens every time. The easy road is to give up, the road to success means that I repeat and tweak proven methods and trust that the process works.

  • Can you share an example of non financially-motivated projects you’ve been involved with?

    I tried one recently but it wasn’t right for me, so i’m still looking for the right thing…


  • I agree with the need to find motivation besides money. It has not worked for me in the past, so this time I am trying to change that, and find something to drive me besides making cash.
    So far so good, as I have far from lost my motivation.

    Even tough sometimes I really don’t feel like working – I still do, and once I start, I feel like I am just flowing.

  • You’re really brilliant with words, Finch. ‘…prospering on the edge of a cliff…’ that’s really how online business are faring 🙂 The competition is very tough and there are just too many competent competitors to compete with.

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