“Believe in yourself. Don’t take no for an answer. Never quit. Don’t accept second best.”

Doesn’t that sound just like the language we–experts, teachers, entrepreneurs and even bloggers–use about starting a business? Passion is everything, never give up and so on.

Yes, I think so, too. We do hear that a lot. Which makes me more interested in yesterday’s New York Times piece Unhappy? Self-Critical? Maybe You’re Just a Perfectionist, by Benedict Carey.

Above all, be true to yourself.

That quote at the beginning of this post is straight from his lead paragraph. He adds, right after that:

It’s hard to argue with those maxims. They seem self-evident–if not written into the Constitution, then at least part of the cultural water supply that irrigates everything from halftime speeches to corporate lectures to SAT coaching classes.

He goes on to explore how perfectionism is less than a blessing when it’s related to depression, suicide and other mental-health problems.

I’d like to stick for a moment to the idea of “relentless move-ahead-no-matter-what-never-quit” as a characteristic of startups, successful businesses and entrepreneurship.

And say, with thanks to the reminder from Megan today, “no.” Not always.

That’s why you want to plan a business before you start it. Just dedication and passion and belief don’t mean your business will work. It takes market fit, market need and delivering.

And, following that reasoning, the summary of the Starting a Business chapter of Hurdle: the Book on Business Planning says:

I’ll always remember a talk I had with a man who had spent 15 years trying to make his sailboat manufacturing business work, achieving not much more than aging and more debt. “If I can tell you only one thing,” he said, “it is that you should never leave yourself without an exit. If you have no exit, then you can never get out. Businesses sometimes fail, and you need to be able to close it down and walk away. I wasn’t able to do that.”

The story points out why U.S. government securities laws discourage getting business investments from people who aren’t wealthy, sophisticated investors. They don’t fully understand how much risk there is. Please, as you start your business, make sure that you understand how easily money invested in a business can be lost.

If I could make only one point with budding entrepreneurs, it would be that you should know what money you need and understand that it is at risk. Don’t bet money you can’t afford to lose. Know how much you are betting.

I think that concept–know what you’re getting into and don’t do it if it won’t work–is as important a concept as “never quit.” This is business.

Seth Godin’s brilliant 2007 book The Dip has a related message. He talks about when and why to quit. In business, that’s important. It’s not personal; it’s business.

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