Your start up does not need your passion

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“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?

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9 comments
Ben
Ben

I think the word passion has become an obsiquious bow to the word ambition. Thank you Susan for bringing this question forth, thank you Matt for your submission that it is poorly understood by you (me too!). A metaphoric question to either or both of you with this story as a basis... could it not be said that passion as you may perceive it is needed as a fuel for whatever engine may be running when acting/being as an entrepeneur?

Ben
Ben

I think the word passion has become an obsiquious bow to the word ambition. Thank you Susan for bringing this question forth, thank you Matt for your submission that it is poorly understood by you (me too!). A metaphoric question to either or both of you with this story as a basis... could it not be said that passion as you may perceive it is needed as a fuel for whatever engine may be running when acting/being as an entrepeneur?

Susan Alexander
Susan Alexander

Matt: All well said. I think "passion" is a way over used word, like a lot of others we see bandied about (like "authenticity").

Once I saw a tweet that said "What are you passionate about? I love passionate people." The guy had something like 25,000 followers. Just for fun, I @ messaged him, asking how he defined "passionate." I didn't think he'd respond, but he did. Right away. He wrote, "Not sure. I'll have to think about that one."

I completely agree that looking to your best attributes is a great way to figure out what you should be doing. "Passion" is just a word - and it serves no useful purpose when no one's bothering to define it.

Nice post!

Susan

Susan Alexander
Susan Alexander

Matt: All well said. I think "passion" is a way over used word, like a lot of others we see bandied about (like "authenticity").

Once I saw a tweet that said "What are you passionate about? I love passionate people." The guy had something like 25,000 followers. Just for fun, I @ messaged him, asking how he defined "passionate." I didn't think he'd respond, but he did. Right away. He wrote, "Not sure. I'll have to think about that one."

I completely agree that looking to your best attributes is a great way to figure out what you should be doing. "Passion" is just a word - and it serves no useful purpose when no one's bothering to define it.

Nice post!

Susan

Gregg Fraley
Gregg Fraley

I'm reminded of the book "Good to Great" which has you asking yourself "what am I the best in the world at?" Your question to J was similar. I like your point about passion, it can flame out. I like also the idea that if passion is informed by a desire that matches your human preferences, it's more likely to burn constant. As always, great work here...how's that book coming?

Gregg Fraley
Gregg Fraley

I'm reminded of the book "Good to Great" which has you asking yourself "what am I the best in the world at?" Your question to J was similar. I like your point about passion, it can flame out. I like also the idea that if passion is informed by a desire that matches your human preferences, it's more likely to burn constant. As always, great work here...how's that book coming?

mstillman
mstillman

Passion is fine but it is a hot burning fuel. Best used in conjunction with a slower and steadier one.

True you can start a fire with kindling and you can keep it going with kindling but it takes a lot of effort and fuel to keep it going. Better to get a log on the fire that burns slowly and more steadily once the kindling is gone.

mstillman
mstillman

Passion is overused and poorly understood in my mind. But that story is too much and perfectly illustrative of the endemic. thanks for coming by...as always.

mstillman
mstillman

Thanks so much Gregg. Sorry I am late in replying. You know...things. Indeed passion informed by your own capacity can be of greater service. My book? It is coming. My book in improv is coming out soon.

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  1. […] Your start up does not need your passion from Stillman Says concludes “Passion be Damned” and suggests building a business based on your “best attributes” would do more to further your dreams. […]

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