Your 3 Year Jail Sentence

July 27, 2010

Some people throw business advice around without giving a toss about the consequences. One that really gets my back up goes something like this: “Pick a business and start it right now. Don’t hang around – be like Nike and just do it.”

It’s fine if:

a) You already know what you really want to do.
b) All you care about is making money.
c) You’re young enough not to care if you waste a few years of your life on something that isn’t right for you.

Otherwise, it’s like giving yourself a 3 year jail sentence. And that’s the minimum term, because it is likely to take much longer to achieve a great deal of success.

So before you jump into bed with the “business is fab” cheerleaders, ask yourself if your new business idea is something that you will enjoy. And if you can’t say a definite yes, with no hesitation – cross the idea off your list.

Trust me, you won’t regret taking your time to choose the right business for you. I know this because I once started a business that I didn’t enjoy and it was a huge mistake.

Before it launched I had a gut feeling I was doing the wrong thing but I ignored my instincts. And I was foolish, because I focused on the potential financial gain, instead of my long term life goals.

After 16 months, I gave myself a choice - 1) Borrow a lot of money and stick with something I didn’t enjoy for another 5 years. 2) Sink the business and take a huge financial loss.

Nobody likes losing money, but I chose option 2 in an instant. I just couldn’t bear the thought of devoting another five years of my life to something I didn’t love.

You don’t need to put yourself in the same situation and I hope you won’t. Take your time to figure out what you want to do and don’t rush in, just because people are telling you that you should. Focus on the long term and create a business that you can be proud of.

Related Reading

Business – Sometimes You Should Give Up

Oops – I Sank A Business
Gerald Ratner – From Crap Peddler to Dotcom Millionaire
6 Things You Can Learn From The Man Who Had No Shoes

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31 Responses to “Your 3 Year Jail Sentence”

  1. Barbara Ling, Virtual Coach on July 27th, 2010 3:52 pm

    So very true. It’s beyond me how people can market “find these red-hot niches NOW!” and expect someone with zero passion for them to be success in them.

    Kudos to you for being wise.
    Barbara Ling, Virtual Coach\’s latest awesome post..3 cold-hearted reasons why your money-making sales are TRULY pathetic…and how to start fixing that todayMy ComLuv Profile

  2. Jeanne Dininni on July 27th, 2010 4:08 pm


    You chose financial loss over the loss of who you are, what you believe in, and the things that give you a reason to get up in the morning — in short, the things that really matter. You could have stuck with something you hated, in the name of “security,” but instead you were true to yourself, taking a bold move that I’m sure has paid off in so many ways.

    Doing something we hate or have no interest in because of its potential financial return rarely works and usually leaves us feeling dissatisfied.

    There’s a great lesson here for us all. Hopefully most of us can learn it without being faced with the tough decision you had to make. Thanks for sharing your experience and encouraging us to do what we love, which is the only thing that can bring real fulfillment.

  3. vered | blogger for hire on July 27th, 2010 7:12 pm

    I agree! I always do research before making a decision – why should business decisions be different?
    vered | blogger for hire\’s latest awesome post..Why Do You Like MeMy ComLuv Profile

  4. John Crickett on July 27th, 2010 10:05 pm

    I am all for just do it, on the basis of fail fast fail cheap. Better to start a small part time business now and find out if it is for you than spend a lot of time and money only to find that being your own boss isn’t for you.
    John Crickett\’s latest awesome post..Avoiding Sales PreventionMy ComLuv Profile

  5. cathlawson on July 27th, 2010 10:59 pm

    Hi Barbara – It’s crazy isn’t it. There are so many possibilities that there’s no need to choose something you’re not even remotely interested in.

  6. cathlawson on July 27th, 2010 11:05 pm

    Hi Jeanne – Doing something you love is so important. The trouble is, if you don’t have the confidence to make it work, or you haven’t acquired the necessary skills, it’s so easy to look for back-up plans instead. And those back-up plans can take you away from what you want to do.

  7. cathlawson on July 27th, 2010 11:13 pm

    Hi Vered – Exactly. I read somewhere that many people spend more time researching and planning their vacations than they spend on planning their life.

  8. cathlawson on July 27th, 2010 11:16 pm

    Hi John – I agree that part-time is the way to start for most people. I guess I should have mentioned that in my post and pointed out to folk that it wasn’t my first business. I would hate someone just starting out to think it was “the norm” to do what I did.

    But, even on a part-time basis, people stand more chance of success if they research what is right for them, before just jumping in.

  9. John Crickett on July 28th, 2010 9:21 am


    I agree research is good, but view trying out a ‘starter business’ as part of the research. That’s the idea behind my ‘diet coke test for entrepreneurship’ (

  10. Andrew Heaton on July 28th, 2010 11:36 am


    Great advice.

    You would never go to a shoe store, see a great pair of Nikes and buy them right away without even trying them on. Simple common sense would dictate that whilst they may indeed be good quality shoes, they may not be the right fit for your foot. Instinctively, you know that you have to first try them on to see if they are suitable. Taking that few minutes extra in the store to find the right fit and most suitable style nearly always proves to be well worth it.

    It’s no different in business. You wouldn’t buy shoes without checking the correct fit, nor should you rush in to buying or starting businesses until you are confident that you have found the right industry for you – one in an industry which is a suitable match for your talent and abilitites, where you will enjoy the work and have a good chance of making a reasonable rate of return on your investment.

  11. cathlawson on July 28th, 2010 1:31 pm

    Hi John, that’s a great test to get folk to move beyond their comfort zone and increase their confidence. And it would be a useful part of their research. As you say, starting a business is not for everyone and many will fail at the research stage because they don’t have the motivation to do it. And if you can’t even summon up the enthusiasm to research your new business, it’s not right for you.

    I once did the research for someone who wanted to start a business, because they weren’t motivated to do it. They said they would be more enthusiastic when it was up and running as it would feel like a “real business”. And I wouldn’t do it again – it just isn’t helpful. Without my input, they would have either not got to the point of starting the business to begin with, or they would have pushed themselves to do what was required.

  12. cathlawson on July 28th, 2010 1:53 pm

    Hi Andrew – I like the comparison with shoes. You’re going to be wearing them a lot, so it would be crazy not to try them on first.

    Choosing an industry that is right for you is so important. If you enjoy what you do, it’s easier to remain enthusiastic.

  13. John Crickett on July 28th, 2010 3:15 pm


    I’m now a firm believer that you should always do your own research on a business idea and prepare your own business plan. Failing to do it yourself suggests not enough motivation to make a business work, and not doing it yourself deprives you of the valuable insights to be gained from the process and it’s the process not the final document that provides the value in my opinion.

  14. Patricia on July 28th, 2010 9:10 pm

    some very wise words here Thank you
    Patricia\’s latest awesome post..Stopping to Smell the FlowersMy ComLuv Profile

  15. Tess The Bold Life on July 28th, 2010 9:20 pm

    Where were you a few years ago?!? I agree never spend your life doing what you dislike. Without passion is like being the walking dead. Yuk!

    Oh and your comment about me speaking without notes…it’s memorization and practice, practice, practice. Thanks for watching my video. I appreciate your time and support;)
    Tess The Bold Life\’s latest awesome post..Why Is Life GoodMy ComLuv Profile

  16. Tweets that mention Your 3 Year Jail Sentence | Catherine Lawson -- on July 28th, 2010 9:45 pm

    [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Catherine Lawson, The Bold Life. The Bold Life said: Your 3 Year Jail Sentence [...]

  17. cathlawson on July 29th, 2010 12:30 am

    Exactly John – it’s definitely the process that gives you the most value. It’s like writing a shopping list – if you do it yourself, then you accidentally leave it at home, chances are you’ll remember everything that’s on it anyway. But if someone else writes it for you, you wouldn’t have a clue what you need.

  18. cathlawson on July 29th, 2010 12:31 am

    Hi Patricia – you are welcome.

  19. cathlawson on July 29th, 2010 12:33 am

    Hi Tess – It does feel like the walking dead. It is brilliant that you were able to memorize all that. Even with notes I make mistakes. I really enjoyed the video.

  20. Davina on July 29th, 2010 5:18 am

    Take your time and don’t rush in. That is good reason to make sure you have some $$$ set aside so that you have the time to take. I think a lot of people rush in to make that quick buck you mentioned. And, there is a lot of fear in the economy these days too. That drives people into trying to make that quick buck; yet consumers are holding even tighter to their bucks.

    The other mistake people make is creating an identity or a business plan and thinking they’re done. Nope. It keeps changing and being flexible and open to that change is important.
    Davina\’s latest awesome post..Where I’m from is ElementaryMy ComLuv Profile

  21. Cath Lawson on July 29th, 2010 1:45 pm

    Hi Davina – Those are excellent points. Money behind you is important. I know we’ve talked about this before and how much you need depends on a lot of things but money to live on for 3 years would be ideal.

    What you say about fear is so true and that drives people towards getting involved in sucky get rich schemes and MLM.

    The last point is interesting. A business plan should always be flexible and you need to change and update it frequently. I know you have had a lot of experience in this – first widening your niche and now you’re narrowing your focus and rebranding.

    I would like to interview you about that when you’re done, because I think it would be useful to a lot of people.
    Cath Lawson\’s latest awesome post..Why You Are Letting Your Blog Readers DownMy ComLuv Profile

  22. Bob Foster on July 30th, 2010 6:03 am

    The extremely successful entrepreneur Mark Cuban, offers rules for starting a business, and his first two are: Rule 1) You must be obsessed. Passion is not even enough—your love for what you want to do must be total obsession. Rule 2) If you have an exit strategy, you’re not obsessed.

    When I counsel new entrepreneurs I tell them to pick something they are extremely passionate about (obsessed?); plan well (and change often); set a start date and hit it with everything they have. If their business is going to fail (and every real entrepreneur will have failures sometimes), make it fail hard and fail fast…so they can move on to the next one.

    I believe a person cannot start a successful new business by niggling it into existence…if it fails when doing this, they will never know just how successful it could have been had they given it their all. “You cannot cross a chasm in two jumps.” (Disraeli)

    Great post and discussion Cath.

  23. cathlawson on July 30th, 2010 12:59 pm

    Hi Bob – Those are useful rules. I used to believe in exit strategies but now I’m not so sure. My exit strategy for the business I mentioned felt like a jail term.

    Failing hard and fast is good advice also, then there is no way you’ll make the same mistake again. I really thought long and hard about what I wanted to do next after that mistake. Mind you, I didn’t really need to, as deep down I always knew what I wanted to do.

  24. John Crickett on July 30th, 2010 1:59 pm


    Nice analogy with the shopping list, must remember that one next time I try to explain it to someone.
    John Crickett\’s latest awesome post..I Need Your Help!My ComLuv Profile

  25. cathlawson on August 1st, 2010 9:55 pm

    Thanks John – I guess it’s an easy way to explain it.

  26. Elmo on August 2nd, 2010 3:06 am

    I’m still young, but I do care with earning money and making an investment for my future. So more or less, I’m torn between A and B. I’m after to the money I’m earning as well as the I’m happy on what I’m doing.

  27. cathlawson on August 2nd, 2010 9:12 am

    Hi Elmo – It is difficult to make those kind of choices when you’re younger, because you do still need to make money too. I think you’ve got to find a way to make money from doing something that makes you happy. Good luck.

  28. Hilary on August 4th, 2010 7:53 am

    Hi Cath .. wow .. what a decision to have to make – but you’re so right .. it’s better to get on and do it – so you can focus forward, rather than worry about the negatives in the background and previous irritations etc ..

    You’ve had some experiences .. and it’s great that you share your knowledge with us ..

    It’s better to be slow and sure .. and it builds better relationships .. secure for the future ..

    Have a great rest of the week .. Hilary
    Hilary\’s latest awesome post..Could this be a sitcom – or a break out sitcom Ever had a one word – at a time – conversation Fish and Chips – how do you spell itMy ComLuv Profile

  29. cathlawson on August 5th, 2010 12:18 pm

    Hi Hilary – Thanks for the email. I was pleased to hear you were ok – I was worried about you. Will reply v soon.

    Worrying about negatives in the background – especially things that are ongoing can make life so difficult and it does make it tough to move forward. Reading the Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle, really helped me a lot with that.

  30. Alien Ghost on August 8th, 2010 7:41 pm

    Hi Cath,

    For several months I’ve been thinking on doing a business but never got the resolution to get started; after analyzing why I discovered that it just didn’t seem something I would enjoy doing, I was just thinking on that because of the possible income. I dropped the idea. I felt guilty and irresponsible but now I found your post. Thank you for the advice, I feel a lot better now :)

    Alien Ghost\’s latest awesome post..The Problem With LifeMy ComLuv Profile

  31. cathlawson on August 11th, 2010 11:42 am

    Hi Raul – It’s good that you didn’t wind up going ahead with something you wouldn’t enjoy. And now you don’t need to feel guilty anymore.

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