What is success? Is it money? Is it recognition? I think that any serious entrepreneur will need to face the difficult question: "What is my definition of success?" This would apply equally to the on-line world as much as non-Internet businesses. While this may seem like a strange position for me to take when there is so much hype about how to be successful around, I think it's an important point for reflection. And if you are reading this saying "that's easy, it's to make money" - think again. It really isn't that easy.
Starting a business takes such emotional energy and commitment it is likely to require significant sacrifices. If there are those out there who can start a business without much sacrifice, more power to them. I would suspect that for the majority of my readers, a significant personal, emotional and financial sacrifice is needed to really launch a business. And as you've already read many times, businesses don't start over night. They take time. Many times, they take far more time than we want or can afford.
After you've made it through the months or years of sacrifice that it takes to make things work and sustain, it is very likely that you have lost that initial vision of what success really was to you. There is a natural process that kicks in to help you through those difficult times. Your psychology is actually changing as you figure out ways to justify the sacrifices you are making and cope with the consequences of those sacrifices. After enough time coping and justifying, I believe it's quite easy to find yourself in a completely new place. A place you never dreamed you'd be in and one that certainly doesn't feel like success. The irony is heavy. You may have actually achieved all the success you were looking for based on your original criteria, however you don't feel that you have. In fact, your definition has changed along the way.
My main thesis here is that you need get clear with yourself and document what your goals really are. If you do not do this, you may end up in a very unhealthy situation. You can end up cheating yourself from the satisfaction that should come from a job well-done. Worst case is an endless loop where each time you achieve your goals, you simply make your goals harder. This can go on for a lifetime. This is ultimately why the "that's easy, it's to make money" answer to the why-work-so-hard question is just so dangerous. If you're smart and motivated, you will make money. But when is it enough?
For those starting out, I say spend an hour reflecting only on why you are doing what you're doing. Write those thoughts down and store them somewhere. Don't spend an abundant amount of time on this as you don't have that kind of time when starting a business. However, from time to time revisit these goals. Particularly if you are feeling discouraged, re-read those words and look for what might be working or not working. I believe this will help you stay grounded, focused, more healthy, and ultimately more successful.