Tuesday, May 07, 2013

Passion Alone Is Not Enough

"Follow your passion"  "Make your passion your business"

Is common to see this suggested as a good thing to do.
But is it really good advice?

Some people like baking muffins so they think opening a restaurant might be a good move.
In reality, it could just be a good way to start to not like making muffins.

A better indicator for opening a restaurant might be if you can say –

  • I love serving people and
  • I’m good at finding ways to produce good quality food customers love
  • and that makes me good profit.
  • And - I am passionate about following budgets and know how to plan meals without waste.
  • And - I like working long hours, 7 days a week and
  • I don’t mind not making a lot of money.

If  you want your passion for muffins to be your business then you might test that out by working out...
  • How many muffins you need to make to cover the rent and the expenses and your wages and start making profit. And you know  
  • How  you can sell that number of muffins to make enough money to pay those expenses and make you lots of profit.  
  • And that you are content to make muffins, market muffins, sell muffins and live and breathe muffins and little else.

Even the things we like to do, can get old when we have to do them every day all day.

Sometimes if you like making muffins, it is a good idea to just make muffins when you feel like it.

Jim Collins, in his business book Good to Great suggests what he called his:

Hedgehog Principle

The question that we need to ask when we are considering turning our passion into a business, are our Hedgehog questions. There are three.

What are you passionate about?
What can you be the best at?
What can actually make you a living?

And the answer must meet all three criteria.

This exercise can also be used by young people trying to sort their way in life, their personal hedgehog, as much as a business trying to figure out what purpose they serve.

So if the answer to all  3 questions is Yes – following your Passion might be  a good idea.


  1. ·        You’re passionate about it
  2. ·        You can be the best in the world at it
  3. ·        You can make money doing it.  – And you know how.

Remember - And the answer must meet all three criteria. When you refine your thinking in this way – that clarity helps you to focus.

But be clear that this is the beginning  and in business your time will be spent on many things that  need to be done that don’t involve that element about which you are passionate. 

It’s said that:

“Successful people do those things that unsuccessful people are unwilling to do.”

Some people are unwilling to be uncomfortable. Learn to be uncomfortable and see it as a sign of potential personal growth.  That's a marker as a Good Thing.

A lot of things that the business needs doing, is stuff that we really won’t want to do. But must.

But what if I have a business that is not my passion?

Here’s what nobody tells you.

You can become passionate about anything.  
Your attitude will dictate how well that passion lasts.

Passion is the start point. Alone it won’t do anything.
Passion needs to be supported with good habits that get you the results that you need.

If you have a business that is not your passion you may still have good habits that let you make it successful.

Now … time to get passionate about it.

And it is not just the thing the business does – get passionate about how well you do what you do and how well you serve your customers and how valuable your business is – or will be – to the clients you serve.  Notice that you can do the same thing to enhance passion in all your relationships. 

If you are not already valuable to them – then that’s a sign that there are improvements to be made to bring your value up higher for them – and make your business one that you can truly be proud to own and to represent and to promote.

More important perhaps is to consider how well your habits are helping you to achieve the outcomes you want.

It's not discipline you need. 

We sometimes think we have a discipline problem. When in truth we have no problem with discipline. We can do habits that are not supporting our interests, easily and on cue every time! We just have the wrong habits for the results we want.  When you swap those for habits that go with the results you want – then you really have something.

Check your passion levels.

Are you feeling passionate about what you do?

If not –
  • What element of what you do can you ramp up feeling good about? 
  • Where can you push yourself to be the best at what you do now?
  • How much more of yourself can you bring to whatever it is that you do?
When we bring more attention to what we do – we change the way that we feel about it. We can focus on feeling proud of getting even better at what we do, and we can learn to love the strangest things, just because we can do it well and it has value for someone.  That’s a good start on passion.

If you are not passionate about what you are doing – you have two choices. You can do something you are passionate about – but that might not work.

Or you can get passionate about what it is that you are doing successfully now. 

And you can make those muffins in your time off... any time it pleases you.

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Stephen Bray said...

Well I'm unsure if I agree with this entirely, although I do fully agree with parts of it.

I think passion can take you a long way. Take Steve Jobs, for example, he insisted that the chips in his computers lined up inside their sealed cases, even though the customer would never see them.


Because he was passionate about aesthetics, and this really is what made Apple successful. Passion led to the elegance of Apple fonts, the cleanness of the design of the Mac, and later the iPhone. Passion for Apple was infectious in Jobs' day. His customers were so passionate about Apple they were advocates.

There are people who are passionate about sewage disposal, or breeding battery hens, but they are few and far between. I find it hard to believe that someone passionate about baking muffins could ever become one of them, although in our wonderful world miracles do sometimes happen :)

No, really your post is about naivete and doziness. Your muffin baker probably could do their sums and come up with a way to make money by following his, or her, passion, but not by opening a bog-standard restaurant in her local town. He, or she, would need to be really specialised and brand themselves and their muffins appropriately.

I know people who have done this. A friend of mine has been making marzipan sweets for over 50 years and people come from all over Istanbul to her little shop to buy them. Today she employs several staff and just supervises the process.

Another friend has a great life making brooches using the children's modelling plastic 'Fimo'. Her badges too are in demand. There are new ones every season.

lindyasimus said...

Yes that's correct Stephen. A business can be made from any interest. And no it isn't about muffins it is about the romanticizing of passion as being a cure-all that requires nothing more to attain fulfillment.

And those who seek to make a business out of selling empty promises to 'Follow Your Passion' and dudding their customers with empty promises.

As we see with so many businesses where technical aptitude is all that is done well in the business, Where management of the other aspects to run the business well, it is unlikely to be successful.