From the April 2006 issue of Entrepreneur

A lesson I was taught early in Navy flight school was always to take off and land into the wind. Often, we do not learn a lesson until we test it. When I was a child and my mother said, "Don't touch the stove," it had no meaning until I touched the stove. The same is true with the lesson of taking off and landing into the wind.

One gusty day in Pensacola, Florida, my flight instructor had me taxi my aircraft onto the runway. Instead of taking off into the wind, he had me take off with the wind at my back. I pushed the throttle forward and began rolling down the runway. Soon, I realized my plane did not want to lift off the ground. It dawned on me that we were not going to clear the trees at the end of the short runway. Terror took over, and I froze at the controls.

"I've got it," my instructor said calmly as he popped the aircraft over the trees.

There was a long silence as the little aircraft bounced around the sky. "OK," said my instructor, "now land downwind." Once again, the experience of having the wind at my back was terrifying. After that day, I have never taken the direction of the wind for granted.

I mention this flying lesson because I've noticed that many entrepreneurs never get their businesses off the ground, or successfully take their businesses to the next level, because they don't keep their noses headed into the wind. The same is true when they land, and it often causes them to sell their businesses for less than they are worth.

One of the differences between small-business owners and entrepreneurs is that entrepreneurs keep their businesses headed into the wind. They do not take the easy road. They take on the tougher challenges that small-business owners avoid. They demand their companies deliver better products and services. They do what their competitors won't. They elevate performance standards. And they are always watching for a change in the direction of the wind rather than hoping things will stay the same.

In contrast, many small-business owners like the status quo. Most are content being small. They look for a tail wind and seek the paths of least resistance.

A true entrepreneur is focused on taking off, climbing to higher altitudes and landing. They seek more opportunities, higher valuations and greater returns for their investors and themselves. That is why true entrepreneurs keep the wind in their faces, while small-business owners like the wind at their backs.

Robert Kiyosaki, author of the Rich Dadseries of books, is an investor, entrepreneur and educator whose perspectives have changed the way people think about money and investing.