If you’re thinking about pursuing an entrepreneurial dream, do this mental exercise to make sure you’ve got the passion to make it work.

A friend of mine bought a coffee shop. It was his dream. Now he owns a dream–but alas, a dream is not always a business. Nor is it even, for him, a passion.

And as you might imagine, the dream of owning a coffee shop and the business of running one are very different.

What’s the difference between a dream and a passion? A dream often is a snapshot moment of idyllic perfection. A passion is an ongoing burning that compels you. I believe in having both. If you are going to have a business for a long time, it will take passion to make it succeed.

I had a dream once: I wanted to be a lawyer. (Cue sappy player-piano music.)

I didn’t know much about law or the practice of it. I liked the trappings of it–the respect, (this was 35 years ago), the suits and briefcases, the importance of it all. I went to work as a high-school junior in a very big company’s law department as a summer intern. By the end of the summer, however, a number of the lawyers had taken me aside and said, “Kid, don’t go into law.”

They had no passion for the law–they just liked the money and trappings. I would ask about the job and their eyes would go dead. In a moment, the topic would shift to the car they were working on or the beagles they were training or the trip they were taking…and the lights went on inside of them again.

Quick Balance Check

Do you have a dream, or a passion? Use this mental exercise to figure it out.

1. Envision your business in its opening-day dream state: size, customers, employees, finances.

2. Envision your business at its 3 year-anniversary dream state.

3. Now write out the list of the things you will personally be doing every day to get the business from day one to the 3-year anniversary. Be detailed and make an estimate of the amount of time per week you’ll be spending per task.

4. Separate out the tasks between “passion” and “things I have to do.”

5. Double the time estimates for “things I have to do” and cut the time estimate on the “passion” list in half.

6. Ask yourself: Can you live with your life like that for 3 years?

Know Your Passions

I encourage you to understand your passions. What makes you passionate about the business you have or are starting? I’m not talking about the events–the grand opening or the perfect moment of an incredible customer interaction. What is it about the day in, day out operations that will keep you excited? What will get you in early, cause you to stay late and go home bone-weary with a smile on your face?

I have friends who dream of owning bed and breakfasts, others who want to open T-shirt shops on the beach, and still others who want to make their fortune in social media services. I encourage every one of them to take the next step–to discover whether they have the passion for the owning-running-and-sacrificing part of being an entrepreneur.

Dreams can become drudgery if there is not enough passion to sustain the day-to-day, unglamorous parts of running that business.

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