“Just follow your passion!”
I know you’ve heard it a million times.
It’s a popular slogan among entrepreneurs in this new economy.
And while there is merit and truth in that statement, misapplying “your passion” to your goals as an entrepreneur can leave you dejected and disillusioned with entrepreneurship altogether.
The Problem with “Following Your Passion”
On its face, “Just follow your passion!” isn’t bad advice for entrepreneurs. It’s just deficient.
Because while following your passion leads you to doing “work you love,” passion alone can lead to trouble.
Despite what some super optimists might have you believe, your passion may not be profitable. For example, I know a person whose number one passion is watching TV. They live for television. And even though it’s totally unhealthy, they consume close to 80 hours of television a week!
Now let’s say, Joe (that’s what we’ll call him for now), decides to build a business around his passion for television. Joe does some research and discovers that building member-only communities online based on specific TV shows is a proven business model. Joe jumps for joy as he starts to dream about all the TV he’ll get to watch while getting paid to build communities around it. So, Joe get’s to work.
And then, something shifts. What once was a source of pleasure and joy for Joe has now become an obligation. Joe didn’t think about the fact that people might not be interested in the shows he likes most, and the struggle to recruit members is frustrating.
Joe also didn’t consider the fact that even though he loves watching TV, discussing plots and characters with other people bores him to death. And, Joe especially didn’t realize that all the time he’s putting into getting one community started would take away from more than half of the time he used to spend actually watch shows.
Joe resents his “business.” Joe feels even more dissatisfied than he did before he started. And now, he just wants to give up, but feels like that will make him a failure. Joe is down and out.
I know this seems like an extreme or exaggerated example, and perhaps the content is, but I can assure you the context isn’t. I’ve seen countless aspiring entrepreneurs set out to launch passion-based businesses only to resent the business before it ever gets off the ground.
Although passion is a powerful asset to your business, passion alone is never enough.
Understanding the Power of Passion as an Entrepreneur
One definition of passion is, “a strong affection or enthusiasm for an object or concept.”
Passion for things or ideas can usually be spotted by recurring feelings of excitement, interest, and desire.
But not all passions are pure. And, because feelings are fickle or passions may change, I believe our true passions in life are given to us by God.
In Psalm 37:4, the scripture reads, “Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you your heart’s desires.”
I believe that many people misinterpret this verse, because they think this verse is saying that God will give you whatever you want if you delight in Him (with the emphasis being on your own personal wants).
But what I think this verse is telling us is that when we delight in the Lord (when our relationship with Him is our first priority), God will not only give us our heart’s desires (the things we want), but he will give us the wants we have (our desires will be from Him).
And then, there is Philippians 2:13 which says, “For God is working in you, giving you the desire and the power to do what pleases him.”
In my opinion, this verse echoes the sentiments of Psalm 37:4 because it tells us that, as a believer, God is working in you. That He is giving you the desire and power (the passion) to do what pleases Him.
That is the making of unstoppable passion. That is when you develop unrelenting desires for fulfillment that are God-given. Those are your life’s passions, and when your passions are from God they will point you to the purposes He has for your life.
How to “Find” Your Passion
The easiest way to “find” your passions in life are to look for the patterns in your life.
If you’re not clear on the things you’re passionate about, check out my free Find Your Sweet Spot! e-course.
In this five week e-course, I walk you through a series of exercises designed to help you spot the places where God has revealed pieces of your passions in life. Then, I give you 15 – 20 ways you can covert those passions into an online business.
That said, I believe God-given passions only become fully developed and discoverable when you’re ready to receive them. God has to prepare our character, through our relationship with Him, before He can fully reveal our passions to us. And, this is why so many people struggle with finding their passion.
For some, their God-given passion is abundantly clear from a very young age, but for the majority of us it’s not. I was a person in the latter category. But as I grew in faith and relationship with God, my “life passions” became more apparent and more appealing.
How to Properly Apply Passion to Your Business
If you build your business on a “passion” that doesn’t meet a need in the marketplace, or doesn’t do something extraordinary for others, it’s unlikely you’ll be very profitable. And if you’re not passionate about the business itself, you’ll find it difficult to preserver when you need to most.
This is why passion isn’t first in the 9 Ps of Profit.
In the 9 Ps of Profit, passion acts as a checks and balance for P 1 (perspective) and P 2 (petition). And passion, being the third P of profit, leads you to P 4 – purpose.
If you recall, our first P (perspective) is about creating a God-given vision for your business. In that lesson, you were to create a vision for what your business will look like without limits. When you allow yourself to cast a God-given vision without limits, your true passions have a tendency to present themselves in your vision.
Look at your vision. Are elements of your passions present?
If you can see your passions in your vision, you know you’re on the right track.
The second P (petition) is about planning for your business in accordance with God’s will. In that lesson, I gave you a free planning tool called the one-page business plan to help you create a course of action for successfully executing the vision you have for your business.
When you look at your plan, can you see yourself doing whatever it takes to succeed at your plan (even it means you might have to change it – and you will)?
If you are truly willing to work your plan until it works, you know you’re on the right track.
What if I Don’t See Much God-Given Passion but I See a Lot of Profit?
Did you know I have two businesses? I do.
I run a very profitable niche healthcare marketing firm that I’m slowly winding down.
Why on earth would I wind-down a profitable business?
Because I followed the distinct signs of profitability, and left my God-given passions at the door, which left me just as unfulfilled and out of my purpose as being an attorney did.
If you’re hungry to make money, you might not believe this, but money is never enough.
When you build a business based on monetary objectives alone you won’t have as much impact, or be as profitable, as when you’re passionate about your business.
Almost daily, I get personal e-mails, comments, and tweets from complete strangers who are full of heartfelt gratitude for the work I do here at marleeward.com.
I get to see people grow and fulfill their call to entrepreneurship right before my eyes. I get to see how much their success impacts the people they want to serve and glorifies God.
These are things you just don’t see in business driven solely by its bottom line.
But this is not the only benefit in following passion plus profit as an entrepreneur. When you’re passionate about your business, your passion is palpable.
Several weeks ago I ran across this video that practically moved me to tears:
I want you to watch it, so I’m not going to tell you what happens. But I want you to know that this nine-year-old boy’s story demonstrates exactly what happens when you’re passionate about your business.
This video has been viewed nearly 3 million times, it’s raised $214,599.57 for the Imagination Foundation (in 4 months), and it’s been covered by every major newspaper in the country.
When you’re passionate about your business, it becomes inherently unique, it becomes intrinsically interesting, and people will resonate with your business in ways that move you.
Being passionate about your business will also serve as fuel for tough times ahead.
According to the SBA, only 44% of businesses survive the first three years. This is because setbacks and challenges come with entrepreneurial territory – especially as it relates to your purpose.
If you considering “giving up” an option, you may need to go back to the drawing board with your business. Maybe you’ve got the wrong vision. Maybe you’ve got the wrong calling.
Whatever the case, you have to acknowledge the fact that building a business (online or offline) is hard work. You are going to face challenges and you need to commit to overcoming them. Succeeding as an entrepreneur requires the willingness to pour blood, sweat, and tears into your efforts.
As the late Steve Jobs said, “I’m convinced that about half of what separates the successful entrepreneurs from the non-successful ones is pure perseverance.”
Passion + Purpose = Profit
Passion only matters in business when it makes an impact – when it pushes you towards purpose.
And it’s when you’re living your purpose as an entrepreneur that you bring the most glory to God. It’s when you’re doing what only you can do with the gifts, talents, knowledge, skills, and life He’s given you that you become most profitable in every sense.
If in reading this you feel completely lost, because you’ve created a vision and a plan that you like, but you don’t have a clue how your passions fit into everything. You may want to go back to the vision you created for your business and ask some hard questions.
Ask yourself if your vision is really what you believe God is calling you to?
Is it something you really want for yourself, not just what others want or expect of you?
Does your God-given vision for your business match the lifestyle you want to lead or things you want to do?
Does your vision push you towards purpose in a way that truly glorifies God?
Ask those questions, and take my free Find Your Sweet Spot! e-course to help you along.
If, on the other hand you feel enthusiastic about your next step, you’re likely right on track for the fourth P in the 9 Ps of Profit – PURPOSE.
We will cover that next week. See you then!