The mistakes entrepreneurs make are as varied as the entrepreneurs themselves, but there is a common one that almost always ends in disaster.

That mistake? Moving too far too fast.

Now let me be clear. I am NOT advocating endless study before you buy an extra ream of paper.

I am the world's biggest fan of acting over thinking. The only way you know anything for sure is by taking action. (Heck, I even wrote a book about the subject a few years back.)

But, and it a big, big BIG but, the action I am advocating is taking small steps toward your goal, whatever that goal is.

The problem with taking large steps is you are making an equally large commitment in terms of time, money and resources--and all three are in short supply.

If you make a mistake early on after making that kind of major investment, you can be in a lot of trouble.

That is why I always advocate the approach the best entrepreneurs invariably follow.

If there is a formula the most successful entrepreneurs follow, and I think there is, it looks like this.

1. Start with desire. You find/think of something you want.

2, Take a smart step as quickly as you can toward your goal. What's a smart step? It's one where you act quickly with the means at hand. You make sure that step is never going to cost more than it would be acceptable to you to lose should things not work out.

3. Reflect and build on what you have learned from taking that step. You want to do that because every time you act, reality changes. Sometimes the step you take gets you nearer to what you want; sometimes what you want changes. But if you pay attention, you always learn something.

4. Repeat. You take another small step and see what you learn from that one and build off that. The process continues until you achieve your goal, realize it can't be done or decide you want to do something else.

As you can see, with this approach you are constantly moving toward your goal. But that movement is created by taking small steps. And because the steps are small, it is hard to get too far off track. That means you end up risking far less.

Taking small steps toward your goal is a much better strategy for long-term survival.