I recently delivered a keynote at a conference on modern entrepreneurship. A new entrepreneur asked me, “What three things do you think I should do to start a successful business?”

While there are a million pieces of advice to give to any budding entrepreneur starting with a laundry list of books to read and people to speak with, and ending with  getting used to eating ramen for a year or two, below are the three essential actions that any new entrepreneur will need to truly flourish.

Doing one of these things will help you succeed. Doing all three will turbo-charge your new business and set you on the path to success.

1. Burn your ships

Imagine for a second that you are a warrior and that you have just sailed to enemy territory. Moments before you begin your attack your commander says, “before we attack we must burn our ships!”

How would you feel?

If you’re anything like me you would feel terrified. And motivated. Suddenly, the only way you would return home safely was through victory.

As a new entrepreneur, if you really want to succeed, then burn your ships. Resolve yourself to succeeding and eliminate all possible alternatives. Do not contact your old boss to see if you can come back. Do not toy with the idea of going back to school if you’re not cash flow positive after 6 months. Do not take a part time job that will make ends meet to relieve pressure. Instead take a loan and let the fear motivate you.

Commit to your own success by burning all of your ships.

2. Get a mentor

Now that you have burnt your ships, add an essential person to your team: a mentor. A good mentor will show you how to navigate failure and speed up your success.

How do you get a mentor? Think about where you want to be 10-20 years from now. Find someone who is there right now in your city and email him or her. Ask if you can take them out for coffee, lunch, breakfast, or anything that would be convenient for them for 15 minutes.

Once you setup the meeting spend 80% of the time listening. Contact them again a few months later giving them an update on your work and ask for another meeting. Continue repeating this process until you have developed a stable relationship.

3. Stay playful

It’s trendy to tell new entrepreneurs that life is easy if you’re passionate and committed to your success. Unfortunately, I don’t think that’s true. While entrepreneurship is incredibly rewarding, it’s also an uphill battle for the first year or so.

The trick to surviving the turbulent start-up phase of business is to ensure that your life outside of your business is still playful and fun. Make sure that each week has at least one personal activity that you are truly looking forward to. This will revitalize you and give you more energy to channel into your startup.

Besides, life is too short not to have fun along the way.

Starting up is tough. In fact, most businesses bust before they ever even have the chance to become successful. Leverage the odds in your favor by burning your ships, getting a great mentor, and staying playful along the way.

Good luck!

(Photo credit: lamp head male writing something via Shutterstock)

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