What you are dreaming about is called entrepreneurship.
The origin of the word is entreprendre, French for "to undertake." Notice that this word emphasizes an attempt to act, and not the outcome of that action: you undertake something, and the implication is that what matters is that you have started on a journey and accepted that it's an open-ended one.
Someone who needs an extremely high level of security might be challenged by an entrepreneurial lifestyle, yet a lot of people who don't think of themselves as embracing risk become entrepreneurs. The key is that although a successful entrepreneur takes risks, those risks are measured. Though entrepreneurs frequently go out on limbs, the ones that make it generally test that limb first to make sure it has a good chance of bearing their weight.
Entrepreneurship can be applied to virtually any field or profession. No matter what products and services are currently on the market in your area of expertise, there are always opportunities to improve them and to better serve the customers who buy them. That said, if you're a true entrepreneur, you likely possess the following key characteristics:
• You are driven to succeed. You're so motivated to achieve your goals that you are prepared to overcome obstacles that would likely discourage or stop others.
• You are a self-starter and go-getter. Rather than waiting for someone to issue instructions, you take initiative. And you can be innovative—you constantly think "out of the box" when attempting to meet challenges.
• You routinely see opportunities where others see problems. Rather than feeling defeated when you encounter roadblocks to your goals, you feel energized. Challenges spur rather than deter you.
• You take control of your own destiny and bear responsibility for your own actions. The buck truly stops with you when it comes to dealing with the results—both positive and negative—of decisions you make or actions you take.
• You are willing to give up the security blanket of corporate life. You don't mind working without the safety net of a regular paycheck or the benefits and social structure that an established employer provides.
• You thrive on change. In the entrepreneurial world, change is a given. But rather than fearing it, you welcome it and enjoy the excitement of the ride.
• You understand the importance of making a profit. You know that all of your best intentions and actions are for naught if you aren't actually making a profit—that is, bringing in more money by selling a product or service than it costs you to provide it.
Does Failure Mean You've Failed?
One of the key defining factors for successful entrepreneurs is the ability—or rather, determination—to not view failure as failure. Rather than taking setbacks personally or becoming discouraged by them, successful entrepreneurs seize them as an opportunity to learn—and to apply that lesson to their next attempt. Indeed, many venture capitalists and other investors in entrepreneurial ventures won't provide funds to anyone who hasn't had at least one failed business.
There are any number of people who eventually made it big who tried and failed first. More than a decade before releasing its iPhone to huge success, Apple introduced an early personal digital assistant (PDA), the Newton, which died a quick death. The founder of FedEx, Frederick W. Smith, got a "C" on a business paper outlining his idea when he submitted it to a professor at Yale. The now-ubiquitous Post-its failed all the market tests that 3M routinely uses to determine whether to release a product to market. Scratch the surface of most successful entrepreneurs, and you'll find at least one significant "failure" that they've used to gain valuable experience.
The Economic Importance of Small Business
Entrepreneurs make enormous economic contributions to societies around the globe. In the U.S., for example, according to the Small Business Administration (SBA), small businesses represent 99.7% of all employer firms, employ half of all private-sector employees, and are responsible for more than 45% of the total private payroll. Moreover, they generate between 60% and 80% of new jobs annually. In terms of innovation, they also lead the pack: small firms produce 13 times more patents per employee than large businesses, and their patents are twice as likely to be among the top 1% cited by other inventors submitting new patents.
Most importantly, entrepreneurship is a road to financial freedom. The U.S. Federal Reserve reports that equity in unincorporated businesses made up the second largest share of total household wealth, second only to home equity.