“In this economy” is sad cliche of the last few years.
Sad because the state of the economy has driven so many people into frustrating situations around employment, money and feelings of lack of stability.
I am hardly immune.
I started offering creative approaches because I was laid off from a consulting job. But the rejoinder is said so often because it is true – it is used an an excuse, as solace, as encouragement. It is also more broadly used to spur many people how to reconfigure their work and consider how to seize their own employment future and to be happy.
After we introduced ourselves and J’s wife walked away the first words that J said to me as he sat down were:
In this economy…
J was a bit of a quiet talker, not a whisperer. It was as if his voice was turned down to 3 on a stereo. I had to lean in to hear him which gave our talk some intensity because our faces were pretty close together.
In this economy you got to get out there and try doing your own thing now.
J continued by saying that he is trying to start a new online business and he needed some ideas about marketing. His business of choice?
Real estate. House flipping in particular.
The way that J said it – it could have been anything. He didn’t sound particularly interested or not. It was just a thing that he decided, seemingly, because you can make money doing it – the condition of the housing market aside.
So we chatted a bit more about his potential business with all the standard marketing ideas but I really wasn’t getting any excitement from J. He clearly knew something about real estate, I mean he wasn’t a dummy, but it had no import and no passion. There is much new economy buzz given around “passion” and its critical nature for making a business succeed and I can see that. But it seems that “passion” can still be too aspirational, too distant and maybe even too intense and not sustainable. And it misses something. Something even closer. So I asked J a simple question.
What is your best quality?
And as in uffish thought he stood the answer came not with eyes of flame like the Jabberwock, whiffling through the tulgey wood, but slow and one-noted:
Isn’t it obvious? Knowing about real estate!
“Bullshit.” I said.
Do you mean to tell me that the measure of your kindness as a human being is less than your knowledge of real estate? That your capacity of a being a good friend is beaten out only by your capacity of calculating interest on mortgages?”
I was a little sharp, but in a friendly way. J got the point and thought and said with conviction here-to-for unheard by me –
Service. I love to serve people. Anyway I can I love to help them.
Suddenly a vision of what J’s business could be actually opened up for me. Before it had just sounded flat. I told J:
This might be a terrible idea and you shouldn’t do exactly this…but let it take you somewhere. What if along with real estate you offered some sort of service? A problem solving for them of some kind. Real estate plus money counseling or real estate plus relationship counseling since houses and relationships go hand in hand. Maybe partner with a psychologist. Real estate plus feng shui consultations? I don’t know. Find what you can serve people with and offer that. Don’t just be a transaction node.
This was vague to be sure but J perked up and started wondering more about what this new “it” could be. At this moment J’s wife came back and I quickly recapped where we were and she said “Oh, yes he’s remarkable at serving people. That would be great if he could have a business that incorporated that.”
And now it became clear – J had to bring his best qualities to his business whatever his business was. If he didn’t it would be destined for mediocrity for sure. His business might need to change or perhaps not but he had to find a way to bring his best qualities into the plan. J started brainstorming aloud in a preliminary way with his wife and they said that building on a desire to help people folded into real estate felt more solid to them. They thanked me, gave me ten bucks and were on their way.
Passion is important certainly. But the idea that passion lasts as solid fuel for a business is a falsehood. Passion for a job or a business can be quite forceful and burn hot and brightly and perhaps even bring tremendous success. But an under rated but perhaps more reliable power that must be integrated with passion is ourselves. Our best qualities – whatever they are have to woven into the mix. That is harder to burn off. It could be service, it could be reframing or cheerleading or supporting or anything. But look. That quality that people praise you for when you aren’t around…start there.
Build your business on your best attributes – passion be damned.
What are you building? And with what?