By Dr. Ivan Misner, Founder and Chairman at BNI,

So, you’ve decided you want to be an entrepreneur. Congratulations! Starting and running your own business is something that many people dream about. Now that you’ve made this decision, you will want to do all you can to make it succeed. Hard work is important, of course, but I’d like to share with you what I think is an even more important factor to ensure that your business venture is a success: Follow your passion.

I taught courses on management theory, strategic planning, and social capital at a California state university for 16 years. Every quarter, I would have so many students ready to begin their career, come up to me and ask:

“What is the best business to go into?” or, “What is the hot new thing?”

I would always answer their questions with a question:

“Okay, what are you passionate about?”

Every time, they would look at me and say something pretty much like this:

“Yeah, no, no, my question is ‘what’s the best new business/hot new thing??”

To which I would reply:

“I hear your question, but what are you passionate about?”

I remember having this exchange with one student, who finally said to me, “You’re not listening to me!”

My reply was:

“No, actually, you’re not listening to me. I’m asking you what you’re passionate about, because when you tell me what you’re passionate about, then I can think about what’s upcoming that may have relevance to what you’re passionate about.”

Aspiring entrepreneurs (young or old) who pick a line of business that they think they “should” go into but that they are not passionate about usually fail miserably. There are so many options to choose from as a business person or entrepreneur. It is important to pick one that you are passionate about and think is a good opportunity.

I experienced that myself personally. I went through most of junior high school, high school, and my entire undergraduate studies with one idea in mind – I was going to be a lawyer and start my own law practice. All of the focus of my studies was to be able to get into law school. That was my idea of what I “should” do with my career. It wasn’t until I applied to law school and got accepted that I asked myself, “Do I really want to be a lawyer?”

It turned out that the answer was…no! I wasn’t passionate about law. And here I was, almost ready to enter a three-year law degree program!

I’m so glad I didn’t wait until I had started – or even completed that program to ask myself that question. As it turns out, I was passionate about business, and business relationships. I studied and worked in industry, eventually becoming a business consultant…and eventually started my own company that focuses on helping other business professionals develop and maintain mutually beneficial business relationships.

Yes, I went in a completely different direction from my long-chosen “idea” of a career, and when I look back today…I am so happy that I did. What if I hadn’t taken the time to find my passion before committing tens of thousands of dollars – and thousands of hours – pursuing something that I wasn’t passionate about, but wanted to pursue just because I thought it sounded like a good idea?

If you do what you love, you’ll love what you do – and I believe, you’ll be more successful at it as well.

Called the "father of modern networking" by CNN, Dr. Ivan Misner is a New York Times bestselling author. He is the Founder and Chairman of BNI (www.BNI.com), the world's largest business networking organization. His book, Networking Like a Pro, can be viewed at www.IvanMisner.com. Dr. Misner is also the Sr. Partner for the Referral Institute (www.ReferralInstitue.com), an international referral training company.