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Finish First

In business, crossing the finish line second is not an option.

One of the more exciting parts of Navy flight school was dogfighting, or aerial combat. The student pilot takes off, flies over an area and waits to be jumped by the instructor pilot. Because it was a beautiful day as I flew 8,000 feet over tree farms, I took my mind off the lesson. My peaceful flight was suddenly interrupted, however, when my instructor rolled in on me, screaming over his microphone, "Bang, bang, bang!"

I immediately slammed on the throttle and pulled the nose of the aircraft up, hoping to shake the "attacker." My instructor stayed tight on my tail and after about five minutes of my desperate maneuvering, he said, "Class is over. You're dead."

Later, my instructor said something I would never forget. He said in our world of combat, there is no second place. There are only winners and losers. In a real dogfight, only one pilot goes home.

One of the reasons I believe I came back from Vietnam alive was that my co-pilot and I practiced constantly. And we flew to win. Before every flight, I would remind my crew that our job was not to give our lives for our country.

I've learned more about being an entrepreneur from military training than I did in school. In business, they say, "If you aren't the lead dog, the view is the same." They also say, "Second place is the first loser."

As entrepreneurs, it's important to be winners. It's important to be first in the minds of your customers. If you aren't practicing and playing to be first, then maybe you shouldn't be an entrepreneur.

Robert Kiyosaki (www.richdad.com), author of the Rich Dad series of books, is an investor, entrepreneur and educator whose perspectives have changed the way people think about money and investing.

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This article was originally published in the November 2006 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Finish First.

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