In business, passion is your biggest driver, or your worst enemy

Image credit: Andrey Mitrofanov

How many times you have heard said that you must find your passion? Especially nowadays, it’s popular talk that you must find a job you feel passionate about, or you must find a company that helps you pursue your passion? But is it really a good idea to follow that passion, and does that make you a better employee or entrepreneur? There might be much more important qualities to realize your dreams.

It has become trendy to find a startup; one could say almost like a hype. Of course, most people don’t do it, but they talk about it and dream about it. I cannot count how many people have talked to me about how they would like to start their own company and even shared their business plan with me. Then they have got to a point where they realize that “this is really my passion, and now I waste my time in this boring job, where I cannot implement my own dreams.”

It is, of course, nice that people have dreams and even better if they can implement them. But if you are not committed to realizing them it could just be a waste of time, although it’s still nice to dream. Many of these passionate business ideas also sound naïve or not that concrete. Because I’m not such a polite person, I often also say this to people. Some people answer that they respect my honest feedback, but some don’t like it very much.

I have personally participated in building many companies from scratch. Some of them have been more successful than others. I have also done something similar in other areas, like helping a person to start a political career and create some non-profit movements. Of course, the start needs some passion, but at the same time I haven’t seen many ideas fly very far with passion alone.

Especially, I have felt that success needs hard work. It also requires that you have luck (e.g. with timing and sometimes to meet the right customer or investor), but the more you try and work, the higher probability you have to be lucky one day. It is also extremely important to listen to feedback, learn from the market and to be able to adjust your offering and business all the time.

The last point, amend your business, is easily in conflict with your passion. You might have an idea to offer a certain type product, run one type restaurant or serve some customer segments, but the reality might be that that model doesn’t work, and you should change your concept. Then you must, at least, decide, if your passion is to create a good business or implement your original dream.

I have also seen wannabe entrepreneurs, who have read about great funding deals and big exits in a few years. Then they have, for example, proposed cooperation to start a company. Each time I become more skeptical about these, if the person has no experience to start and run companies. I have often seen that after two months they start to cry that their severance package runway ends soon, and someone must organize funding that they don’t need to take a hit to their living standards. Personally, they don’t necessarily see that it should be them who organizes the funding, because they have read from TechCrunch and Forbes, that the funding just comes to the company.

Quite often those people have also felt they have a passion to do something else than their daily boring corporate work. Then they are really surprised that to build your own company is not only to implement personal passion projects, but actually run many daily tasks to keep the company up and running and quite hard things too, including talking to dozens of customers and investors that say no to your passion.

My point is not to criticize dreams to start your own business, pursue things you like or first-time entrepreneurs that have a lot of things to learn. It is something that I have done, too, and made many mistakes. I want to criticize the recommendation to “follow your passion.” It is more difficult to really achieve something. I would say commitment is much more important than passion. It means that in order to do things to take you closer to your dream, you really are ready to go thru difficulties and find a way that works. Whatever you do, it has more and less motivating parts to it.

It is great and important to get more people who are ready to make the world better, change old businesses and also other things in the world and society. It is definitely OK to indulge in your passions, but don’t think that following them automatically creates results or success. If you want to achieve something, you must get it to happen, whatever it takes. And you definitely need commitment to get things to happen.

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