Why business fails: passion is essential but overrated. We need to focus on contribution and progress. 

Passion is a powerful word if the concept of the term is understood correctly. However, in my case, I misunderstood and felt that I had spent most of my life in a rabbit hole chasing my tale. 

According to Wikipedia, passion “is a feeling of intense enthusiasm towards or compelling desire for someone or something. Passion can range from eager interest in or admiration for an idea, proposal, or cause; to enthusiastic enjoyment of an interest or activity..”

This article shares how I was mis-driven, and now with a better understanding when I watched a video that changed my life and how I proceed in mentoring startup companies and entrepreneurs. 

Why this topic is so critical

The word of passion has been a confusing definition in most of my life. Moreover, I have noticed that some startup companies and entrepreneurs I have mentored and invested, have shared a similar path as I did in my two previous failed ventures. 

The misunderstanding of passion

Ever since I can remember, when I was in elementary school to my earlier 40s, the teacher, successful entrepreneurs, and even investors that I have encountered in my life have pointed out the need to follow your passion for reaching success in life and business. In the past 30 years, I have always thought that passion is the primary key to success for the longest time. During that period, I hired or co-founded people sharing the same passion and did not look at other character traits and actual achievements in my previous two failed ventures. 

Now I am 46, and I am so relieved that I finally realized my misunderstanding of passion. First, there is nothing wrong with the word of passion in life and business, as it is a critical part of achieving something great. The problem happens when we make a big statement that passion yield success.  

The quest to find the truth 

After my 2-times failed ventures doing an e-learning startup with my brother-in-law and his friend with 1 million USD raised in 2013 and a traditional consulting training company in 2007, I have been searching for the mistakes I have made. So during my research, I ask myself two big questions about the topic of passion: 

  • What is the difference among other terms like passion, vision, purpose, liking? 
  • What is the relationship between passion and success? 

The A-Ha moment came when I watched the life-changing graduating commencement speech by Ben Horowit at Columbia university in 2017, 4 years ago. The title of the speech is “Don’t Follow Your Passion: Career Advice for Recent Graduates”. Ben is the co-founder of world’s top VC firm Andreessen_Horowitz and is also a business person and book author. 

The message is so strong that it woke me up as if I won a billion dollars and found a new path to my 3rd venture of building an early-stage accelerator and investment. More importantly, this message has been giving me the strength to help more entrepreneurs.  

How now I advise myself and other entrepreneurs 

The big takeaway from the speech are: 

(1) Passion may not lead to success, but successful people are passionate.

In lots of advice given by entrepreneurs or people achievement, there is always advise about following your passion or do what you like. There is nothing wrong with that, but an untold or spelled-out underlying message is that. 

  • You will need to be good at what you do.
  • You will need to be financially sustainable during the pursuit of your passion. 
  • When you start to receive financial gain from your work or business, you will have the means and resources to go further. 

(2) We should all focus first on what we can contribute and start to build things on the foundation. 

  • One significant reflection is that as humans, we often pursue what we like or want to see happening but may not have the required resources, skillsets, or knowledge while abandoning the potential of what we are good at and can achieve. 
  • Suppose we all can start to focus on what we can contribute. In that case, we may be at more advantage when seeking resources and support. One can accumulate the required credibility by having quick personal wins and a solid foundation of a skillset at an early stage of life. 

Big takeaway

As entrepreneurs, we all need to figure out the hacks in life to produce measurable results with momentum. There is nothing wrong with pursuing your passion, but do keep in mind if you have the resource and skillsets to make things happen in time. Or another option would be if you can allocate the same source or help on what you are good at. It may not be something you are passionate about initially, but it can begin to build a solid foundation where you may find your passion or be the leverage for your true love shortly. 

In sum, resources and support will come to people who make things happen consistently. As long as you can achieve such momentum with the measurable result, it will be a positive cycle to contribute to what you are good at while enjoying the pursuit of your passion. 

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