Ever since I was a kid, I wanted to be an entrepreneur. I still have trouble spelling the word, but I didn't let that stop me.

I've always believed that entrepreneurs are the unsung heroes of our economy. They're the ones who start the companies that create the majority of new jobs.

Eric Sevareid, the legendary radio and TV commentator, wrote: "Entrepreneurs are the lead players in the drama [of business]. In at least four specific settings, their role is crucial. A new industry … a new product in an existing industry … the one who opens up new markets … when, so to speak, the economic ground shifts … The category of entrepreneur includes all the people who set out to change the corner of the business world in which they find themselves — all the people, in a word, who push the system along its restless path."

Entrepreneurs are a distinct group. They often like to lead the pack. Fulfillment often means more to them than money. Entrepreneurs believe in making things happen. They are seldom content. They're constantly looking for new things. They have faith in their ideas and are risk takers.

In short, they aren't satisfied with the status quo. They need to improve, innovate and invent.

Actor Alan Alda, the star of the TV show "M*A*S*H," gave some great advice to his daughter: "Be brave enough to live life creatively. The creative is the place where no one else has ever been. You have to leave the city of your comfort and go into the wilderness of your intuition. You can't get there by bus, only by hard work and risk and by not quite knowing what you're doing. What you'll discover will be wonderful. What you'll discover will be yourself."

Maybe you don't want to start your own company. Maybe you aren't ready to strike out on your own. Maybe the economic climate makes financing tough.

But you undoubtedly want to be the master of your own career. You can let your entrepreneurial spirit come through whether you are your own boss or not.

Here's some valuable advice that's useful for anyone wanting to get ahead. You can apply these tips to your career and your life, whatever your path might be:

Network. The more people you know in your business and outside of it, the more sources of information, advice and support you have to rely on. The more you exercise your networking muscles, the stronger they get — and the easier networking becomes.

Don't listen to naysayers. Some people will always say you can't succeed. Listen to everyone, but don't pay undue attention to "friends" with negative attitudes.

Think creatively. Entrepreneurs succeed by finding new solutions to old problems. Don't repeat what everyone else has already accomplished. Instead, look for ways to achieve something different.

Learn from mistakes. You're going to make them. Most successful people fail from time to time, but they don't let setbacks stop them. Commit yourself to learning from your mistakes so you don't make them again.

Be honest. No matter what you're engaged in, you need associates, friends, employees, investors and other stakeholders to trust your word. Tell the truth at all times to build solid relationships.

Find a mentor (or two or three). Seek talented people willing to share their expertise and wisdom. You can't know everything, especially when you're starting out, so an experienced mentor can supply guidance that will help you avoid the obvious mistakes.

Mackay's Moral: Entrepreneurship is living a few years of your life like most people won't, so that you can spend the rest of your life like most people can't.

Harvey Mackay is a Minneapolis businessman. Contact him at 612-378-6202 or e-mail harvey@mackay.com.