Starting a business is often one of the hardest decisions anyone can make. Very rarely is the path to success lined with yellow bricks or marked with street signs, and it definitely isn’t on any GPS. The uncertainty, risk, setbacks, and effort are all part of the journey. Yet, if the desire is there I can assure you of one thing, it can not be squelched. You can’t douse the fires of passion with any amount of rational well though out argument; perhaps for a short time, but not permanently.

“You can’t douse the fires of passion with any amount of rational well though out argument; perhaps for a short time, but not permanently.”

The problem is that far to many would-be entrepreneurs spin their wheels endlessly trying to make a decision based on known opportunities and challenges, when the greater part of the decision is based on the unknowable; the things that we cannot predict or anticipate. If you wait for those to reveal themselves you will forever be a permanent holding pattern waiting for the fog to lift, or, worse yet, allow the decision to be made for you. You can’t resolve uncertainty with a spreadsheet; you have to dive headlong into it.

Here are three simple questions that will guide you in making the decision that’s right for YOU.

Am I deciding based on what I want or am I deciding based on what I fear?

Fear is an ugly thing. It often presents itself in the guise of innumerable reason why something does not make sense. And if you try to squelch fear by asking others for advice the chances are overwhelming that they will err on the side of protecting you from what you fear and lead you to a place of security and complacency.

“Time may seem infinite but your time is not. Decide what you want and go for it.”

All I can tell you is that only path I know of to fulfillment is by deciding based on what you want, not by deciding based on what you fear. The latter only leads to regrets. Time may seem infinite but your time is not. Decide what you want and go for it.

Do I believe enough in what I’m doing that I would rather live with failure than with the memory of not trying?

There is no such thing as a guaranteed business plan or model; no such guarantees for anything in life. Sometimes everything can seem to be in your favor and still an unknown variable derails your plans. So, before you start, accept that not only is failure an option but one that you will have to live with if your dream does not materialize. Are you ready to live with that and still believe the journey was worthwhile; that you learned from it and are proud in having taken it?

Am I willing to commit to this for as long as it takes to see it succeed?

The single biggest thing every entrepreneur underestimates is the time it will take for their business to take off. It makes perfect sense. You already get the value proposition. You’ve convinced yourself and your team, But markets, partnerships, distribution channels, and infrastructure all take time to develop. While you can get a web site up in hours or days the many pieces of the business will always take longer than you had anticipated. Be ready to ride it out for at least 5 years and possibly up to 10 just to get to the point of relative stability.

Keep in mind that 50% of start-ups fail within the first five years. Getting beyond the five-year milestone is a key factor in determining your ongoing success. Far too many business run out of steam by the second or third year (30% and 40%, respectively) simply because they gave themselves an artificial time frame and then became impatient with the process of building by focusing on the near-term set backs rather than the long-term objectives. Momentum is your greatest ally. Focus on the successes and amplify their value by advertising them and learning from them.

Tom Koulopoulos is the author of ten books and founder of the Delphi Group, a 25-year-old Boston-based think tank and a past Inc 500 company, which focuses on innovation and the future of business. He is also an adjunct professor at the Boston University Graduate School of Management, an Executive in Residence at Bentley University, the past Executive Director of the Babson College Center for Business Innovation, and a frequent keynote speaker. The late Peter Drucker once said of his writing, that it challenges not only the way you run your business but the way you run yourself. Tom’s latest book is The Gen Z Effect: The Six Forces Shaping The Future of Business.

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