How did you start your day? Did you open your eyes thinking, “Wow, I get to run my business today!” and jump out of bed full of energy and expectation?
No? Me neither, my physical energy is like a freight train, the wheels start slow, then gather so much power and stamina it’s hard for me to stop at the end of the day. But my mental energy starts the day more like a bullet train. So many places to go and I want to get to all of them right now!
So my morning routine usually starts with me, my laptop and a steaming cup of coffee snuggled up in a comfy chair while I try to capture all that excess energy being generated by my brain. Solutions for clients, articles for publication, chapters in my next book; my work pours out onto the screen before my eyes are fully open. Yeah, I’m what is known as a “passionate entrepreneur.”
I’m sure you’ve been told to “follow your passion,” but you’ve also seen enough of the remains of businesses started by passionate people to know that passion alone isn’t enough to create success.
You might have also heard a few “motivational speakers” pronounce passion to be a form of excrement, because success is built on action and hard work.
Or maybe you read this; “Do What You Love? Screw That” which is a review of Cal Newport’s book, So Good They Can’t Ignore You: Why Skills Trump Passion in the Search for Work You Love.
So what’s the truth about passion? Is it vital to your success as an entrepreneur, or is it icing on the cake if you happen to stumble on something that lights your fire and makes a living? Is it a thing you love to do, or is it the feeling you get from doing something? And how the heck are you supposed to figure it out?
To answer the question, just do a little thought experiment with me. It’s Friday, you’ve worked your tail off all week doing things you don’t really enjoy, producing results you don’t really care about. In fact, the only thing good about this week is that you made a decent amount of income. How tired are you?
Probably you’re too tired to even do a TGIF happy dance, right? The weekend had better offer some time to recuperate, because you’re already dreading Monday when you have to go back and do it all over again.
Now compare that to how you feel when you’ve performed the same tasks and activities, and pulled in the same income, but your week has been spent producing results that make you proud, bring you joy and impact the lives of people you care about whether you know them personally or not.
That’s the energy of passion. That energy will keep you going when the tasks are unpleasant, the money isn’t coming in, and your physical energy has done left the building. It can be the one thing that earns the trust of your employees and customers. It will fuel your business when the economy gets tight and the competition gets fierce. Without energy, as I said in “3 Ways to Leverage the Resource You Can Least Afford to Do Without” you’re toast.
Passion is the energy that pushes marathon runners over the finish line, that keeps the artist chiseling, or painting, or typing, day after day and night after night. Passion without a plan, without action, and without hard work may be doggie do-do, but without passion you’ll run out of energy long before your actions yield the desired result.
I think people make passion way too complicated. What if you just thought about passion as your inner fire? What if you stopped searching for it in some external manifestation and just promised yourself that you would choose work that fires you up inside? And what if you also promised yourself that, when the work itself didn’t fire you up, you’d connect to something in the work (the outcomes, your abilities, the appreciation of others) to get fired up about. And finally, what if you promised yourself that, the day you couldn’t find something in that work to get fired up, about you would do the inner work to figure out why, and fix it?
How much energy would you have tomorrow morning if you knew that the work you were going to do when you got out of bed was going to impact the world in a way that would fuel your inner fire?
Go do that.