When people discuss what it takes to create a successful start-up, they'll talk about how you need to be smart, have the ability to recognize an unfulfilled market need, and know the business fundamentals.
All that is true, of course, but it is not the most important trait to have.
Unless you truly want to make something happen, the odds are nothing will. Without that desire, nothing else matters...or occurs. Your life will be filled in other ways.
So, the starting point when you are faced with uncertainty--and we could be talking about starting a new company or deciding what to do with the rest of your life--is this: What do you want to create?
You have some sort of idea of what you'd like to bring into being. That concept could be as vague as "I want to do something to make people healthier," or as specific as creating a better mousetrap (or sponge, or backhoe, or software app or potato chip or...)
Any idea you have could be great. But you need to do something to make it a reality. Thinking is terrific, but absolutely nothing happens unless you take smart steps to translate your idea into action.
If all you do is think, all you will have at the end of the day is a bunch of thoughts.
You need to put your thoughts into action to see if you are right about there being a potential audience/customer for your ideas (and learn what you need to change if there is not).
So far, so good. But what causes people to act? Why do some people feel compelled to move from thinking to doing, a step that the rest of the world--those folks who think they have a good idea for a book, nonprofit, website, retail concept, or civic initiative--never make.
That line of demarcation: Desire.
People who create something new wanted to do it; often they say they had to do it; they felt compelled. To reduce it to a word, what caused them to act was desire. They had a desire--sometimes an overwhelming desire, but always, at the very least, a desire--to act, to create something.
Now it could have a desire to get away from something they didn't like (e.g. "I just can't stand working for anyone else (and one might say this is simply a restatement of the desire "I want to work for myself," but it is desire nonetheless.)
Desire is a word we rarely use in connection with commerce. And when it surfaces, some people are quick to try to eliminate it because it sounds squishy, unbusiness-like, and, of course, hard to quantify and teach. But it is the right word, defined as it is as "a longing or craving, as for something that brings satisfaction or enjoyment."
Its synonyms are even more accurately descriptive: aspiration, longing, passion, and yearning, language that--as the Random House Dictionary of the English Language correctly points out--"suggests feelings that impel one to the attainment or possession of something . . . that is (in reality or imagination) within reach."
Desire is what compels people to create something new, something that they want to bring into being.
You can be as smart as anyone who ever lived, have a master's grasp on business, and have identified a dozen market needs, and nothing is going to happen unless you have the desire to make it real.