Every year in the United States, half a million men and women decide to take the biggest risk of their lives in pursuit of a dream. To get there, some of them take out a second mortgage on their homes. Some of them wipe out their savings. Others borrow money or seek investments from friends and family. Some drop out of college. Others uproot their families. And some leave high-paying jobs with corner offices at prestigious companies.

They all do this in order to start a business of their own. To be their own boss. To create jobs for people in their communities. To make something entirely new, or perhaps just something much more efficient. And, yes, frequently with the hope of making millions of dollars.

These risk-takers decide to leap despite the fact that the odds they face are, by any reasonable measure, absolutely dismal. About two-thirds of the businesses they start, according to the Small Business Administration, will fail within 10 years. And that’s a sunny estimate! Forbes magazine claims that the number of deaths is closer to 90 percent.1 A Harvard Business School professor recently studied 10 years of data on more than 2,000 startups that were so well planned and positioned that they received venture capital funding. But even 75 percent of these best picks failed to return their initial capital.

When you read those statistics it seems a miracle that so many Americans even try to start a business, knowing it might mean going broke; losing money borrowed ...

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