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How Wantrepreneurs Become Entrepreneurs The key to becoming successful at anything – your job, your career, or your own business – is not rocket science.

By Steve Tobak Edited by Dan Bova

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Over the years I've noticed how adept most would-be entrepreneurs are at making sure they never succeed. The problem is they waste precious time drowning themselves in useless content and over-thinking minutiae trying to solve problems they themselves create.

You know what I'm talking about: all the popular content about personal productivity, performance improvement, time management, personal habits, positive thinking, and the like. The irony is, all that nonsense is self-perpetuating. If you don't waste time on it, you never need it.

Look, the key to becoming successful at anything – your job, your career, or your own business – is not rocket science, folks. It's finding what you're good at – what you love doing – learning how to do it better than anyone else, and then doing it. That's what separates real entrepreneurs from the pack.

To be more specific, this is what successful business leaders do that wantrepreneurs, for lack of a better term, usually don't, and vice versa:

They do whatever it takes to get the job done.

Maybe I should back up a bit. For one thing, they have a job. Their work is the most important thing in their lives, or at least a close second to family. They don't worry about work-life balance. And when it comes to their work, they're flexible, adaptable, and geographically mobile. Nothing stands in their way.

Related: 5 Necessary Conditions for Entrepreneurial Success

They don't wait around for opportunities to just happen.

Maybe it's a cliché to tell folks to go out and create their own opportunities and make things happen, but that doesn't make it less true. It's wonderful to have dreams of making it big someday, but if you don't actually do anything to make that happen, it won't. Real entrepreneurs are doers.

They don't believe in utopia.

While it's definitely good to be driven and optimistic, business success doesn't come from strength of will alone. Your strengths, weaknesses, circumstances, and behavior all play significant roles in the outcome. The best way to become successful is to genuinely understand what's holding you back. Successful entrepreneurs are always grounded in reality.

They follow their own path, not someone else's.

They don't overthink it by worrying about what others think, say, or do. Truth is, nobody else has a clue about what you should be doing and how you should be doing it. Besides, don't you think you should be figuring that out for yourself through your own experience in the real world?

They listen to smart, accomplished people they know and trust.

I don't know exactly how to tell you this, but probably the vast majority of online content – more and more business books, too – come from content mills and wantrepreneurs just making it up as they go to get page views and followers. Don't drink the Kool-Aid.

Related: Why You Need a Good Shrink

They're disciplined about their goals and priorities.

I've always been 100 percent clear on my goals and priorities and my activities reflect that because I have discipline. Granted, we all want to be happy and have fun, but screwing around when you should be working accomplishes neither. On the contrary, it holds you back, big-time.

They don't take handouts ... ever.

Sure, we all squeeze our parents when we're kids, but once we reach adulthood, it's time to pay the bills with money we earn. All safety nets do is sap our self-reliance and ability to make it on our own. If you need money to start and grow your business, get to work and get investors, not handouts.

They don't whine and make excuses.

Complaining, making excuses, and blaming others are all victim behaviors intended to absolve us of responsibility for situations we're solely responsible for. Nobody can or will make your life better but you. If you act like a victim, you'll always be one.

They know business is about business.

The problem with the personal-branding fad is that it makes people think they're more important than they are. It feeds the narcissistic beast so many are becoming. Successful entrepreneurs know that business is about the value proposition their products deliver to customers. It's not about them.

Granted, it's a lot easier to pump your head full of nonsense and simply make believe things are going to work out for you someday than it is to be disciplined, focused, and realistic about what it takes to make it in the world. Believe me, I know how hard it is to work your tail off doing the right things, day in and day out. But trust me when I tell you it's the only way to someday build a business you can be proud of. The choice is yours.

Related: 10 Behaviors of High Achievers

Steve Tobak

Author of Real Leaders Don't Follow

Steve Tobak is a management consultant, columnist, former senior executive, and author of Real Leaders Don’t Follow: Being Extraordinary in the Age of the Entrepreneur (Entrepreneur Press, October 2015). Tobak runs Silicon Valley-based Invisor Consulting and blogs at, where you can contact him and learn more.

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