Entrepreneur Beginners Guide
“Following Your Passion Is Bogus”
If passion drives you, let reason hold the reins. —Benjamin Franklin, entrepreneur; Founding Father, United States of America
One particular three-word phrase has become the mantra of entrepreneurs everywhere, used to inspire and to motivate the oppressed masses to liberate themselves from their chains of dispassion.
“Follow your passion.” Another version is the following: “Do what you love.” Any variation of this phrase has the same questionable assumption. It assumes that success comes from emotional satisfaction or from engaging in an activity for which you have a strong liking or desire, the very definition of passion. Considering that success in entrepreneurship is having a profitable business, this assumption is far from the truth. Contrarily, success comes from doing that which often gives you the least emotional satisfaction.
Despite this reality, many seasoned entrepreneurs perpetuate the passion myth when discussing how to be successful in business. Studies show that it is much easier to inspire and to motivate through positive reinforcement, but this approach undermines the importance of doing what’s difficult and uncomfortable on a consistent basis to propel a business forward. Instead of emphasizing that people do what they love, we should at least draw equal attention to the need to tackle with the same energy the things they hate.
What do I mean by “hate”? When you have a business, especially a young business, you inevitably find yourself doing things that are not enjoyable. Whether it’s making cold calls to generate more business or firing an unproductive employee, these unpleasant tasks are key to staying on the right path. The strongest and wisest entrepreneurs learn to assume these tasks diligently and without fail.
Recently, business mogul Mark Cuban caused quite a stir when he published a blog post that added a different take on the passion myth. Known for speaking his mind, Cuban wrote,
“Follow Your Passion” is easily the worst advice you could ever give or get. . . . There are always going to be things we love to do. That we dream about doing. That we really want to do with our lives. Those passions aren’t worth a nickel. . . . If you really want to know where your destiny lies, look at where you apply your time. . . . Don’t follow your passions, follow your effort.
Cuban’s perspective, which is different but equally valid, was the result of an honest assessment of the fallacy that money, happiness, and success magically appear when you follow your passion.
Entrepreneurs shouldn’t necessarily be encouraging people to follow their passion to attain success in business. This advice is more applicable to a lofty self-help goal in life. Business is about solving problems, improving the quality of life, creating new solutions, and yes, making money. These things involve a great deal of pain and drudgery, not endless euphoria. If you are able to align building a solid business with doing what you love, that’s great, but it certainly isn’t a requirement. Likewise, it’s a bad idea to try to monetize your passion without extensive consideration. Finally, whether your business has anything to do with your passion shouldn’t be the determining factor in why you want to start a business.