From the April 2002 issue of Entrepreneur

Are you possessed? No, I don't mean by the demons that enabled The Exorcist's Regan to turn her head a full 360 degrees. But I have a theory (previously unspoken) that most successful people are possessed by some force (or spirit, if you will) that drives you toward your goals. Sometimes this can manifest itself literally as a voice in your head. Or it can be just a feeling you get in your gut that leads you in a certain direction. However your possession manifests itself, it's important to pay attention. Too many of us are so fixated on the real and tangible that we ignore the more ephemeral, though it can lead us to the answers to our questions and challenges.

Now, I'm not telling you to go on a retreat, head for the beach or take up meditation or yoga. (Not that those are necessarily bad suggestions, but I, for one, am incapable of clearing my mind.) Frequently the best solutions come to you when you aren't even actively seeking them. Suddenly a "what if" pops into your head. The key here is to not ignore the niggling thought, but to play it out. What if you lowered your prices? Would you make more by selling more? What if you changed your marketing message? What if you targeted an entirely new audience for your products and/or services? What if you teamed up with a partner or another business for easier expansion? You get the picture, right?

I have two good friends in the sunglasses business. The tight economy (sunglasses are an impulse purchase) and the terrorist attacks (they sell their sunglasses primarily at tourist attractions) have hit their business hard this year. Though revenues still easily top the million-dollar mark, they've had to scramble to keep up. They've done everything they can to roll with the punches: lower prices, offer discounts and give away accessories. These ideas have kept them afloat, allowing the business to ride out the tough times.

But in the middle of the tumult, one of the owners had an idea. It wasn't fully formed, but jumped into his head in the form of a "what if." Without giving away his idea, I'll tell you he basically came up with a whole different style of sunglasses to sell. In a few short months, they had prototypes made, logos designed, a business plan written and alliances forged. They're about to go to a trade show to see if this idea will fly. The key is, when the idea sprang into one of the partner's heads, he was open to it.

If you think ideas never come to you like this, I would argue that you're not listening. A psychic once told me every one of us has psychic abilities; some just pay more attention than others. So if the ideas are not popping into your head, make them. Play the "what if" game. Just write down all the "what if" questions you can think of that are related to your business. Then look over your list and see what's doable. Before you undertake any radical changes, ask yourself, what's the worst that can happen if you do this? If your answer is, it could put you out of business, don't do it. If not, why not try?

This has been a rough year for many of us. As I've said before, rough times don't last forever. Many of us have gone back to business basics, which is a good thing. But now is the time to go forward. Spring is about rebirth. 'Tis the season to try something new. Something different. Anyway, that's what the voice in my head is telling me.