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As Seen on TV

Mark Burnett knows a little something about survival. Listen up, and you will, too.

Entrepreneurship is an adventure. So there may be nobody better to get survival tips from than Mark Burnett, executive producer of CBS' Survivor and USA Network's Eco-Challenge, which debuts next month. Small wonder Burnett, 41, whose production company, SEG Inc., brought in more than $80 million in 2001, felt qualified to write Dare to Succeed: How to Survive and Thrive in the Game of Life (Hyperion Hardcover). All this from a guy who used to be a nanny, and later sold T-shirts in Venice Beach, California.

Your book is called Dare to Succeed. Are you suggesting that fear plays a big role in entrepreneurs not succeeding?

Mark Burnett: Completely. You've heard the saying, "Analysis creates paralysis." You can't be 100 percent sure of anything. Obviously, I was scared to death on [the first] Survivor. I had no idea if I was doing it right. You just have to have a gut feeling--going with 50 percent logic and assuredness, and the other 50 percent, you don't know. It's your gut feeling. I think those who [are successful] follow their gut feelings. If you want to be certain, you should never get married. You should never change jobs. In fact, you might as well just stay home. Because I don't know anybody who is certain. That need to be certain is just procrastination.

Your book lists seven principles for success. Which is the most important for entrepreneurs?

Burnett: "Be right or wrong, but make a decision." I look at decisions like--it's like an Indiana Jones movie. The guy comes to a rope ladder, and he's being chased. There's uncertainty on the other side, but he knows when he gets to the other side, he's going to take his machete and cut the rope ladder behind him. He has no retreat. He's just going forward. And that's how I look at it. When you make a decision, you're cutting off routes of retreat.

My mantra is: Realize you're going to fail all the time, and accept it. That doesn't mean I'm not frightened of it. I still don't like the idea of failing. [But] if you don't take risks, you're not going to make it big. You have to embrace uncertainty.

Geoff Williams has written for numerous publications, including Entrepreneur, Consumer Reports, LIFE and Entertainment Weekly. He also is the author of Living Well with Bad Credit.

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This article was originally published in the March 2002 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: As Seen on TV.

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