In my role as mentor to many aspiring entrepreneurs, I often find folks are convinced that all you need to start is a unique innovation or idea and now you are ready to jump in with both feet and enjoy the ride.

Unfortunately, from my own experience, it's not that simple. Not doing some preparation first can easily result in stress, lack of satisfaction, and a hard road to success.

Over the years, I've discovered practical steps which will give you a better foundation, minimize the risks, and greatly increase your chances of wealth and happiness from your first new venture. I'm certainly not saying that all of these are required, but they are certainly all worth some consideration:

1. Get some business education, as well as technical.

Remember that being an entrepreneur is all about starting and running a business after the initial invention. If you are a technologist and business just isn't your thing, then find a partner you trust who can complement your technical skills with a passion for business. You can win as a team.

In my view, practical business courses in school are better than an advanced degree or MBA. A breadth of understanding of common business principles, such as management, personnel, and finance, is more important than a depth of knowledge in any specific area.

2. Join an existing startup for a reality check.

Of course, working for a startup is not like running one, but it will give you a feel for the lifestyle implications, the mindset required, and how things look from the inside out. The education will be invaluable in setting up your own business, managing a team, and learning how to deal with constant challenges.

Other successful entrepreneurs, including Jeff Bezos, worked in corporate jobs for a few years before deciding to step out on their own. They always give credit to the many things they learned, and the resources they needed, before risking their own career.

3. Actively share info with entrepreneur peers.

It's amazing how much you can learn from people who have been there, and founders love to talk about their successes as well as their failures. Aspiring entrepreneurs who are determined to operate in stealth mode for fear of giving away their secrets will find they lose more than they could gain by sharing.

In many cases, you can learn more from someone in an industry not exactly like yours. Bill Gates, for example, maintained an information-sharing relationship with Warren Buffett for many years, and both will attest to the learning they achieved from the other.

4. Do in-depth research on relevant startups and leaders.

Use networking, the Internet, and personal contacts to really understand the 'how' and 'why' behind related success stories. Don't be afraid to contact insiders directly, reach out through social networking, and reserve some time each day to expand your insight until you understand their story.

5. Enlist a mentor and advisor who is not a 'yes' person.

For some reason, aspiring entrepreneurs seem to like to surround themselves with friends and family who are quick to tell you what you want to hear. You need critical guidance, tempered with experience and a positive outlook, to overcome obstacles and tune your strategy for the real world.

6. Start a 'practice' business to learn the ropes.

I'm always impressed when I see very young people running a lemonade stand, selling t-shirts, or servicing a newspaper route. These activities may be low-risk, but they teach volumes about the entrepreneur mindset, as well as the challenges and potential satisfaction. Find your level of passion early.

7. Write a business plan for your first startup.

Don't believe the myth that business plans are a waste of time, since investors never read them. In reality, the business plan is for you, to make sure you have answers for all the relevant requirements, including costs, revenue projections, competition, marketing, and operational considerations.

All of these steps will force you to assess the depth of your motivation and preparation to be an entrepreneur. If you want to start a business because you see it as a path to easy money, an escape from an existing boss, or a response to family pressures, it's better to learn earlier rather than later that startups don't work that way.

If you do your preparation, the entrepreneurship lifestyle can be a labor of love, and lead to great personal satisfaction, as well as positive change in the world for the rest of us. Don't take shortcuts to make it happen.