If you think about it, despite all the high-minded philosophical rhetoric, the driving force for the American Revolution boiled down to a very simple concept – Americans wanted to “be their own boss.” And they were willing to do what it took to achieve that end.

This notion of America becoming independent of the British Empire did not just pop up in 1776; the very idea of gaining the freedom to be in control of their own future was the motivation for colonists to come to America in the first place. The desire for a new country that would be free to “be its own boss” had been a dream of Americans for over two centuries. But it was not until after Patrick Henry expressed the passion of “Give me liberty or give me death,” that Americans rose up to realize that dream.

The yearning to be an entrepreneur in order to “be your own boss” is an American dream that has persisted for over 200 years. It would be difficult to find anyone, who at some time in their life, has not dreamed of being an entrepreneur and their own boss. For most, this dream is visualized in the form of starting their own business. It really makes no difference the size of that company; it can be anything from a car repair shop to a car factory, the impetus to be one’s own boss is the same. The perceived incentive for becoming your own boss is a deep sense of the freedom to decide your own future, unencumbered by the restraints of others. What could be more appealing than that?

Unfortunately for most, the dream of being their own boss is like dangling the carrot on a stick in front of a mule harnessed to a wagon. It’s right there encouraging them to plod forward, but the carrot always remains just out of reach; they never get close enough to take a bite. Often this failure to move ahead is not caused by a lack of desire or opportunity, but more a lack of true passion and fear that causes the dreams of so many to be their own boss to go “poof.” Instead they just keep pulling the wagon forward for others.

Where’s the Passion?

I can’t count the number of individuals who have come to me with dreams of entrepreneurial success and the desire to be their own boss. Some are still in the phase of “thinking” about making the leap, while others have already jumped. All have what they believe to be great ideas and plans for their success. Sure, some are just beguiled by the chance to be their own boss, but still they have specific plans and ideas.

As I listen to their presentations there is one thing I always look for and unfortunately rarely find. What is often missing from their dream is a deep-seated visceral passion for their vision. They lack the passion that causes them to simply have to do something, not just a want to do something. People may have an idea or goal and want to achieve it, but it is passion that makes them do it. Passion is the powerful motivator that not only fuels action, it steels the would-be entrepreneurial boss with the resolve to move forward, meet the challenges and overcome the risks to achieve their goal. It is true that passion can blind one to reality, but I would take “passion” over “want” anytime. Even if passion leads to failure, at least you know you attempted to do what needed to be done.

Many may want to be their own boss as an entrepreneur, but few have the passion it takes to initiate the action to do so or the resolve needed to see it through. I have known individuals who have complained for years about being unhappy and unfulfilled in their current situation. They may even have great plans for moving forward, but they are filled with more wants than passion, and so they keep plodding along chasing that elusive carrot. I have known others who were driven only by passion – lacking realistic ideas and plans – who may have failed, but they were still happier than the carrot-chaser, because at least they tried. (Who can really determine if a passionate person’s ideas are realistic? Was my passion to start a new life insurance company – LifeUSA – in an industry dominated by established giants, realistic?)

It may not be possible to see passion – it does not lend itself to detailed business plans – but you know it when you have it, because it is a feeling that keeps you focused, determined and driving toward a goal no matter what roadblocks are in the path. Without passion, there is little chance you will ever get what you want, because you may never try. With passion propelling you forward, at least you have a chance.

Fear is not what Should be Feared

One of the roadblocks faced by many who want to become their own boss is the fear of failure. They become frozen by the question: If I give up what I have for what I want, what will happen if I fail? This apprehension causes many to continue to dream of being their own boss, but they are forever paralyzed to act. The problem is that they are asking the wrong question. The real question should be: What will happen if I fail to even try to act on the desire to be my own boss?

Fear is as powerful an emotion as passion. Fear is either bad in that it cripples the ability to take action or it can be good in that it motivates action. Fear of trying and failing is threatening and can prevent acting on a dream, but the fear of what will happen if you don’t even try, can be a motivator to take action.

Many are prompted to take action to be their own boss out of fear that if they don’t, others will continue to control their future and failure will be guaranteed. Nothing can be quite as fearsome and demoralizing as looking back on life and thinking, “I should have at least tried.”

In the end, being an entrepreneur and your own boss comes down to having an unquenchable passion to do what you know you should do and the fear that if you don’t act, you will end up feeling more of a failure than if you had tried and failed. Trying and failing is one thing, but not having the passion to act and the fear of not trying is an even greater failure.