For a long time, whenever successful entrepreneurs and career coaches talked about making it in any field, they talked about following your passion. According to those guys, if you cared about a project enough and it was really your passion, then you could turn it into a career. Well, I’m not going to say you can’t (because that’s exactly what Daymond did), but it takes more than passion to get a business off the ground and running.
THE CASE AGAINST FOLLOWING YOUR PASSION
As I’ve been partnering with other entrepreneurs and investing in new businesses over the years, I’ve spent a lot of time learning about what drives the most successful entrepreneurs, and it’s not always passion. One expert — Michael Moritz, a billionaire entrepreneur whose investments include AirBnB, Yahoo!, PayPal and Google — says that he thinks “passion” is the wrong word for what entrepreneurs need to survive. Instead, he thinks we should advise entrepreneurs to follow their obsessions.
Along the same lines, Mike Rowe, who gained notoriety with his show Dirty Jobs, says that following your passion is bad advice. He says, pretty bluntly, “Just because you’re passionate about something doesn’t mean you won’t suck at it. And just because you’re determined to improve doesn’t mean that you will. Does that mean you shouldn’t pursue a thing you’re passionate about? Of course not. But ask yourself: for how long, and to what end?
I’m a pretty big fan of what both Moritz and Rowe are saying here because, if you read their statements in the right context, neither one is discouraging at all. You should be passionate about your work, yes, and you’re going to need to be driven by something more than just money and success.
PASSION IS ONLY PART OF IT
Daymond started FUBU because he was passionate about hip-hop and fashion. But that’s not the only reason. He started it because he saw a hole in the market. He saw a niche that no one was filling, and knew that he had what it took to fill it. Daymond worked a full-time job, and his mom mortgaged their house so that he could fund that label. And Daymond can tell you that he would not have gotten anywhere if he hadn’t sacrificed a lot of sleep and saved every penny he made for a long time before he really saw any success.
Does that really sound like “passion” to you? I think Moritz is right. I think it sounds more like obsession. As an entrepreneur, when you see an opportunity to create a successful business out of nothing, it needs to become an obsession for you. If not, then you’re probably not going to go very far with it, because you’re not going to make the sacrifices you need to.
FINDING YOUR OBSESSION
So how does that help you? How is it better for me to tell you to follow your obsession and find your niche than it is to tell you to follow your passion? You can be passionate about soccer or playing the piano, but if you don’t have a unique way to make money with that passion, you’re not going to turn it into a successful business.
If you want to find your niche, start with your passion, but don’t stop there. Look for your angle, the thing that makes you different, and for the space in the market that no one else is filling. If you can’t find that in your passion, then take a wider look at the situation. Look at different markets and niches. Find a hole that you can fill, and follow that. That’s going to get you a lot farther than just blindly following your passion.