If you plan to try anything challenging, there are two words you must never use. They are, “I can’t.” And when you hear the word “No,” it only means “Not now.” You will never fail as long as you don’t give up. Temporary setbacks are not failures, only part of the necessary learning curve to eventually achieve success.

Starting and running a business may be one of the most difficult things you can do.

Serial entrepreneur Elon Musk, the founder of Tesla, SpaceX and The Boring Company, says, “I’m not sure how many people would actually like to be me. They would like to be what they imagine being me, which is not the same thing as actually being me.”

Musk slept on the floor at Tesla when the problems of making an electric car were overwhelming. Musk risked everything, including all of his personal savings, to keep his company from going bankrupt and nearly lost it all. He is an insanely-driven person and definitely a clear example of a person with a never-give-up attitude. He may be the richest or second-richest man in the world now, but he also works too much.

Do you have to be like Musk to have a never-give-up attitude? Yes, even though you could pace yourself a bit slower; however, you must have the same unstoppable determination. If you do not already have a never-give-up attitude, this guide will show you how to cultivate one in business, in any endeavour, and in life.

1. Know Your Why

Frederick Nietzsche, the German philosopher, said, “He who has a why can endure any how.”

The “why” is your purpose. When you know your purpose and are committed to it, you will have the courage to take the necessary risks and remain motivated even when you face overwhelming challenges.

If you don’t know your why, here are four questions that will help you discover it:

  • What makes you feel the most alive? If you wake up each morning with a passion for doing something and would do it, even if you did not get paid, that’s it.
  • What are your talents and strengths? There is no point in being passionate about something you have no natural talent for doing. Search for the purpose where your skills and talents align with your passion.
  • How do you create the most value? Knowing your purpose, talents, and strengths in alignment with your passion allows you to select a journey, role, career path, and life’s work that will generate a sense of accomplishment and valuable contribution.
  • How will you evaluate your life? If you do not stand for something, you may easily fall for the wrong thing. Take a stand and live a life full of meaning.

2. Work to a Plan

Joseph Campbell, who wrote many books, including Follow Your Bliss and The Hero’s Journey, shares this wisdom, “A hero is someone who has given his or her life to something bigger than oneself.”

If you want to go somewhere you have never been, it helps to use a map. Make a strategic plan based on achieving your purpose. Make this plan a reality by breaking the goals down into doable steps and giving yourself deadlines to achieve them.

3. Embrace Change

Charles Darwin’s work was summarized by Leon C. Megginson, who observed that “It is not the strongest or the most intelligent who will survive but those who can best manage change.”

The only thing that is certain and constant is that change will come. “Be the change you want to see in the world” (a paraphrase from a Mahatma Gandhi quote). Instead of following trends, be a trendsetter.

4. Don’t Be Afraid to Fail

Yali Saar, CEO and Co-Founder of Tailor Brands, recommends, “Try, fail, and repeat until you succeed.” The only true failure comes from giving up. Pause to regroup after a setback. Evaluate what went wrong and look for ways to improve or other methods.

When inventor Thomas Edison worked on his improved design for an electric lamp, he experienced about 10,000 “failures.” He kept a journal of each experiment that was not successful so he could eliminate all the ways that did not work until he found the one way he was searching for that worked.

Your success path comes from being resilient. This strategy means you may not avoid making mistakes but are aware and learn from your mistakes and do not repeat the same mistakes.

5. Don’t Compare Yourself to Others

There is a temptation to compare yourself to others and set your goals based on being more like them or better than them. This strategy is not a wise choice. It is better to compare yourself with your own progress. If you have passion and are working on your purpose, you will improve your skills to achieve your goals. You are the best competitor for yourself. Your goal is always to be a little better than you were yesterday.

Nobody has your life’s purpose except you. Getting better at your skills brings you closer to success. The journey toward your purpose is your life’s work. The goals you set are the signposts on your journey. You will achieve milestones, which should be a time to celebrate. However, you will not arrive at a destination to finish your life’s work.

One day you will face your death. If you do not die suddenly in an accident and are lucky to have a moment of self-reflection before you die, you want to experience great satisfaction from a well-lived life. A Buddhist practice is to be ready to die at any moment and live each day in the here and now, being present for what you are doing as if today is your last day.

6. Just Do It®

The slogan Just Do It® was the brainchild of advertising genius Dan Wieden who died in October 2022 at the age of 77. Wieden invented the catchphrase in 1988 for the first client, Nike, of his newly-formed advertising agency.

Talk about hitting the ball out of the ballpark! The iconic short phrase debuted in a 1988 Nike television commercial. The commercial shows an 80-year-old man jogging across the Golden Gate Bridge.

Nike was a small sports shoe brand at the end of the 1980s. Nike launched the Air Jordan line that same year in 1988. The company went on to enjoy explosive growth during the 1990s.

The evolution of the brand’s slogan is demonstrated by the 1990 Nike television commercial two years later. This commercial has many athletes, as Nike had an amazing lineup of superstars and celebrity endorsements.

A never-give-up attitude says, “Just do it®.” Don’t question yourself, don’t hesitate, and don’t stop in pursuit of your dreams.

If you seem to be stuck, try to redefine your purpose with an expanded idea.

For example, if your dream is to become a professional NBA player and you are too short to make the cut, don’t despair. Instead, consider practising to become the best professional NBA 2K League video game player.

Dan Wieden is quoted as saying, “Excellence is not a formula. Excellence is the grand experiment. It ain’t mathematics. It’s jazz.”


Start with your vision of your journey with a life purpose. If you do not know your purpose, your job is to explore alternatives until you find it. Do not settle for mediocrity; give yourself a lifetime of experiences to find your way.

Here are three more quotes from Elon Musk:

  1. “If you need inspiring words, don’t do it.”
  2. “If something is important enough, even if the odds are against you, you should still do it.”
  3. “You should take the approach that you’re wrong. Your goal is to be less wrong.”

Never, ever, under any circumstances, say or think the words, “I can’t.” Instead, Just Do It®.

Feature Image by Marta Kulesza from Pixabay