“Don’t start a business unless you are passionate about it.”
I have heard that advice on countless occasions and I have also doled it out in speeches and via blogs.
The logic is that you will spend so much of your time on your business and you’ll sacrifice so much for it that you better enjoy it, otherwise it will consume you.
I’ve started three businesses. Two were deliberate and one I just fell into and looking back I question whether I was passionate about any of them.
Those who know me and who have dealt with me in business might be surprised by that because I have regularly been described as passionate.
But if I’m honest with myself what really floats my boat is the challenge of business itself, rather than the subject matter of any of my businesses.
I am that guy who likes to build things. I love the challenge of creating an organisation, a brand, a service offering, a business model where there previously was none.
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For any people out there who are into gaming, I am the geek who can spend ages strategizing on Civilization but couldn’t care less about car, shooting, arcade or fantasy games.
When the so-called experts talk about passion, what do they mean? Do you have to be passionate about your subject matter – your goods, services or the benefits they provide?
Or is it enough to be passionate about success, where your business is the embodiment of your success?
The two states are not mutually exclusive and ideally you would have both.
That said, I know plenty of people who have only had the latter and have built very successful enterprises on the basis of a drive to succeed that had nothing to do with what they were selling.
I tend to associate with these people more than the zealots who love their products and services.
The entrepreneurs who are motivated by the thrill of the game tend to go on to start more and more businesses. Some call them serial entrepreneurs.
The common trait among both groups is passion, which manifests itself in different ways.
The experts are right when they say entrepreneurship will consume you and that success comes at a price.
Without love for what you are doing resentment sets in very quickly.
The most public of my business ventures was a small magazine retail chain. I didn’t give two hoots about magazines prior to starting the business and yet no one could accuse me of not being passionate about all things magazines once I was immersed.
It wasn’t that I developed a sudden love affair with my product. It was just that my product was integral to a more holistic motivator.
I don’t feel hypocritical to say you need passion to start a business when I have felt very little personal affinity with the subject matter covered by my own entrepreneurial ventures.
Just saying the words “entrepreneurial ventures” gets my heart racing. I move through life searching for things that I can accommodate into my greater love affair of building a business.
Accommodation doesn’t sound like passion. But like a good marriage accommodation is sometimes necessary.
If you can live with what you do and are passionate about doing it who is to say it’s not enough for success?