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The 1 Major Difference Between Failed and Successful Entrepreneurs It all comes down to a mindset. Do you have it?

By Tom Popomaronis Edited by Dan Bova

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Klaus Vedfelt | Getty Images

Okay, maybe there's more than one thing. But there's one really important thing. Hint: It's not a piece of software, a management style or a willingness to innovate.

It's a mindset.

I'm talking about the mindset of, "Can I?" versus, "How can?" When you ask, "Can I [accomplish something]," you deserve a pat on the back. You're scanning the horizon for possibilities, which is more than can be said for a lot of people. But pats on the back won't help you validate an idea, attract (and retain) top-tier talent that are drawn to your vision or effectively scale a company.

All you need to do is make one teeny, tiny change, and you might just find yourself face to face with a whole new world of opportunity.

Ask, "How can I?"

When we ask "Can I?" our only real frame of reference is the past. Whatever it is, have you done it before? If not, then how do you convince yourself you can now? The question intrinsically limits you to a binary set of answers. At best, it's 50/50 whether you'll decide that "you can."

When we ask, "How can I?" instead, we're exploring without predetermined boundaries. For example....

This to-do list is really long: Can I complete it?

This problem hasn't been solved yet: How can I solve it?

Related: How to Create a Growth Mindset as an Entrepreneur

See the Difference?

This is also where the commonly quoted advice to "fall in love with the problem, not the solution" comes from. If you really care about a problem, niche or opportunity, you'll be comfortable spending time with it -- as much time as you need to figure out how you're going to make the most of it.

Bottom line, asking whether you can accomplish something is inherently self-limiting and largely unnecessary. If you're asking the question, you probably already know deep down that you can. By comparison, asking how you can accomplish something presents you with a path to action, and will yield a plan for actually accomplishing it. In practice, it's the difference between a fixed and growth mindset, and the importance of the latter truly can't be overstated, especially for entrepreneurs.

Tom Popomaronis

Executive Vice President of Innovation at Massive Alliance

Tom Popomaronis is executive vice president of innovation at Massive Alliance, a global agency that provides executive-reputation management and leadership-branding services.

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