We’ve all heard it regularly said that in life and business, you should follow your passion or you simply won’t find the rewards you are looking for. Personally, I believe that if you are starting a business, it needs to be something that you truly are enthusiastic about and that you are able to fall in love with daily. However, is the advice to “follow your passion” too simplistic?
What if, for example, your passion lies in a market that is already very competitive with little room for a new or more innovative approach? Or in a market that is so tiny that there is little demand? Would it be good advice to tell someone to jump right on in to that market and start a business simply because they are passionate about it? According to the University of Technology Sydney, one in three new small businesses in Australia fail within their first year, two out of four by the end of the second year, and three out of four by the fifth year. Of course many of these failed businesses will have started out with a founder who was following their passion, and while there are a multitude of reasons that a business may fail, following your passion doesn’t give an automatic key to success.
Of course there is validity in doing something that you are passionate about – life is too short to be forcing yourself out of bed every morning to drag your feet reluctantly to something which you don’t enjoy. However, perhaps the caveat should be something like; “do what you are passionate about as long as you can truly compete in the market”. In saying that, if you are starting a business purely to chase a money trail and you have no real interest in the field, at the very least that is a recipe for potential unhappiness and/or boredom on your part. How successful will you really be over the long term if you’re not enjoying yourself? (This coming from a point of view that success is about more than financial gain…).
So what’s the real deal? Marc Andreessen made some great points in a series of tweets a couple of months ago; his view is that better career advice may be “do what contributes” and to focus on beneficial value created for other people rather than stroking your own ego. His follow-up to that was that those who contribute the most are often the most satisfied with what they do and make the most money in high remuneration fields. If you are starting your own business, what can you do that contributes to really solving a problem and doing it better than it is currently being done?
Mark Cuban put it another way a couple of years ago when he said “don’t follow your passion, follow your effort”. What he means is to look at where you spend the most of your time – the chances are if you put a lot of effort into something, you then become good at it. Often your enjoyment is increased if you’re good at something, then passion is developed out of enjoyment.
When you think about different periods of your life, you will have been very passionate about a variety of things right? But if you’d started a business out of all of them you might not be in the best financial position now! Do what excites you, do it to contribute, do it well and do it in a market where there is demand and you can truly compete…