In the last month, about 300 people have contacted me for career advice.

To be honest, it is a bit overwhelming. I've done my best to answer these inquiries, and I brought it on myself since my recent columns about career path included an open invitation to chat by email. What surprises me still is that many people started their message by explaining how they feel their job or new startup has not brought the success and happiness they've been craving. They are stuck.

I hate to bring this up, but there's one thing that might be causing the stagnancy.

It's you.

Is that too bold of a statement? Hurtful? Hard to swallow? True?

Sadly, the one thing that seems to cause the most problems for anyone starting a business or working in a career is a lack of effort. It doesn't just come out of thin air. A new marketing business is not taking off because you have not contacted enough potential customers. A mobile app is not getting any traction because you have not explored all of the advertising opportunities yet. That financial services business you started last year is faltering because you are hoping people find your Web site and your office almost by mistake or happenstance. You literally need to knock on more doors.

This is meant to be motivational, not a reason to get frustrated, angry, or depressed. It's a kick in the starter, as they say. Most small companies fail, which is a sad truth. But they don't really tell you the main reason why so many small companies end up in the DOA pile or on the cutting room floor. It's because the person with the vision and fortitude to start the business initially stopped trying hard enough.

Yes, there are many challenges, many risks, and many roadblocks. You created an amazing e-commerce business and then realized you could never compete with Amazon. You just don't have the resources or the bandwidth to turn your business into a success. OK. Now it is time to work harder and think of ways to differentiate your business and attract customers. Figure out what Amazon is doing wrong (something that will take quite a bit of work, judging from their revenue reports) or a market they missed.

The reason "the pivot" exists is pretty simple. Hard-working people know that when they reach a brick wall, you have to find another passageway. You have to change. You have to figure out what's wrong, work harder, persevere, and find another avenue for success.

Here's what is so great about this fact of entrepreneurship. Here's where things get really interesting. Here's where every single successful entrepreneur made a key decision that led to their rampant "overnight" success.

If you do work hard enough, you can build a company.

Many years ago, a founder of a famous company told me a story about how his business became a big hit. (I won't get into the details to protect his privacy and the fact that he wasn't on the record at the time.) He told me about how he met for lunch with over 200 investors and advisers in one six month period. You might notice something about that number. There are only 130 work days in six months. That means he either had lunch on Saturday and Sunday multiple times, or he had multiple lunches per day. I remember thinking he was a little insane.

Looking back, I realized he was just working hard. He was kickstarting.

What about you? How can you pound the pavement today? Which advertising model do you need to explore? Which investors do you need to meet next week?

Make it happen. No, seriously--it's the only way this works.

Published on: May 20, 2015
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