Many employees view starting a business as an opportunity to follow their dreams. When you’ve become accustomed to taking orders from someone higher up, it’s natural to yearn for the ability to call the shots. As the boss, you’d get to do the work you really want.
Of course, not everyone has the means, opportunity, or drive to really act on those impulses to get into entrepreneurship. But even those who do take the risk might be disappointed.
Starting your own small business gives you the freedom to follow your passion. Yet passion and business success aren’t always aligned. There’s a link between the two somewhere, but we need to understand it with a greater level of nuance to maximize that connection.
Passion advice can be misleading
As common as it is to receive career advice along the lines of “follow your passion, and you’ll eventually turn out OK,” there are many who rebuke this logic.
Billionaire businessman Mark Cuban calls it a lie. Author Cal Newport argues extensively against it in his book, So Good They Can’t Ignore You. And Stanford research has recently found that following the ‘passion advice’ can actually make you less successful.
The same effect extends past employment and into the world of business. If you love cooking, opening a restaurant might seem like the logical next step. But the business of running a restaurant is a very different challenge and may even take you away from doing what you love.
Likewise, an audiologist might not be thrilled with the day-to-day management of their practice. Eventually, selling it through a group like HH Acquisitions may make more sense, allowing them to refocus on innovations in patient care and hearing aids.
A flawed concept
The problems most people encounter when acting on advice to follow their passion typically stem from a flawed concept. The common understanding of passion lacks nuance. Not everyone has clearly defined passions, and not all of the things we care deeply about can be applied to work. Thinking through this lens can be misleading. We’re not very good at fleshing out what really makes us happy, which can blind us to other options.
Quitting your job to start a business doesn’t change that. In fact, it only raises the stakes and risks. If you go out on a limb to try and make money by following your dream but don’t possess the competencies required to make it a profitable venture, you’ll fail. Hard and fast.
Mastering your business
A seeming paradox arises in business because we are also conditioned to follow people who are passionate about what they do. Entrepreneurs who genuinely care and speak from the heart are more likely to convince investors, motivate employees, and win over consumers.
The contradiction can be resolved, however, when you focus on what these entrepreneurs are really doing. What are they passionate about? The short answer is mastery. Business success relies on constantly refining and tweaking business models based on various metrics and feedback. It’s a never-ending process that enables you to maintain profitability and achieve growth targets.
Anybody can take the common advice and apply it successfully by acknowledging that passion requires several components to work out. You need autonomy, which entrepreneurship naturally provides, but also competence and relatedness. You have to embrace acute failure in exchange for chronic gains, be present, and patient.
You should embrace the process over the outcomes. Don’t conflate your personal interests with the demands and needs of running your business. If you can be passionate about the constant improvement and growth of your business, you’ll achieve sustainable success.