I just read Les McKeown‘s “Stop Trying To Find Your Passion and Get To Work,” and, despite what you might expect me to say, I thoroughly enjoyed and appreciated it. (I’ll be giving away one of his books soon, so I’m no stranger to Les.)
I’ll share his concluding remarks so you get a feel for the post:
The passion-driven leader may be pretty to watch, but selling people on the concept that passion means everything for business success? No thanks. I’ll take competence — even mercenary competence – every time.
One of the non-secrets of my work with my clients is that we start focusing on them being creative professionals who deliver. They become leaders not just because they’re passionate, but because they become extremely competent at what they do and they do it consistently.
So, I’d add the important adjective “consistent” to Les’s statement: I’ll take consistent competence any day.
Yes, we can clearly separate passion and consistent competence, and yet it’s also true that entrepreneurial success requires a lot of stamina to make it. Few people have the discipline to drive through the ups and downs of business and get those 10k hours without the spark of passion, but notice the role of passion in this case – it’s instrumental to success by way of developing the competence, experience, and momentum.
We also have to keep in mind that Les is talking about businesses at a different scale. If you have 152 employees, not every position needs to be passion-fueled. To riff on his point, would you want your CFO to have Gary Vaynerchuck’s passion? Imagine trying to convince him of the good sense of a strategic investment that’ll cut into your margins in the short-term.
Sure, it’s great for your salespeople, training directors, and (possibly) CEO to have that kind of energy, but managing that across your total organization would be like trying to keep a pack of firecrackers with lit fuses from exploding. When I was leading troops, I was quite happy to have a very few firecrackers and a lot of disciplined, competent operators.
Passion has its time and place in business, and it helps to be able to tap into that deep well within when the going gets tough. It’s not necessary at all times, though. In general, the newer your business is and the fewer people you have, the more internal drive you need, whether that comes from passion, discipline, hope, ambition, or fear.
It’s also true that when you’re working in alignment with your values and the people you’re meant to serve, you’ll be more effective and find more joy in the work you’re doing. Notice that he didn’t say you couldn’t have fun and joy in your work.
What is necessary is continual commitment to show up and deliver value. Let’s use that passion as wind for the sails when we have it and be prepared to row when the winds aren’t as favorable.
It’s a hard sell to sell hard work, which is why we don’t hear a lot about it from people trying to sell us stuff. Thanks, Les, for doing the work.
Hat tip to Karri for sharing Les’s piece.
Elatia Harris says
Charlie, this is so good. Thanks!
Karri Flatla says
Hat tip right back atcha!
“It’s a hard sell to sell hard work, which is why we don’t hear a lot about it from people trying to sell us stuff. ”
I’ll be quoting you on that … on my blog today. (You beat me to the blogosphere, you brat!)
In terms of how we market our wares and decide WHAT wares to sell in the first place, this conversation is going to be increasingly important. There are lots of sparkly value promises being made based on *passion* but how many people (sellers incl.) are asking the nitty gritty questions about WHAT is really being delivered after the promise is made?
Les might have been speaking more directly to big(ger) biz than to the solopreneur, but indirectly there is a powerful message here.
Stay sharp Charlie. You’re poking and prodding in all the right places.
I am very impressed with how you manage to suck out good advices from the dark side. Then again I think you are being too nice.
My question for you is: Can you be consistently competent without some minimal amount of passion?
I like your new layout: pretty neat.
“Good pieces of advice”. Sorry about that, english is not my native language
I have worked in non-profit in a capacity that was very dear to my heart. Passion completely drove me…drove me crazy. I felt if I didn’t give 189% every minute I was letting down people who were counting on me. I want an opportunity to have a sense of accomplishment, but I no longer think my career must be passion driven.
I agree, passion is important but it doesn’t pay the bills if you don’t have the intellectual capacity. I know many startup founders who are passionate about their business, but most of them have nonprofitable startups… you need more than passion – you need market awareness, strategic thinking, and luck.
Henway is right. Sometime being passionate with your work can help but of course, having a strategic plan and executing these marketing plan effectively is still the key.
Alex Blackwell says
All good points.
In my opinion it comes do to this: Our jobs (how we earn a living) is what moves us through life; passion puts the gas in the tank to get us going.
Karri Flatla says
@Kristina I love what you said! I used to work in a big corporation and experienced the same kind of burnout.
Unbridled passion has its place (in the bedroom perhaps? ;0) but in business it must be balanced with knowingness, strategy and a deep “sense of direction.”
The more I meditate on this subject the more I come to feel that knowledge of self is really the only compass we have–and should have–in business. The rest is noise.
Les McKeown says
Hi Charlie – great thoughts, and a good balance between extremes 🙂
I would apply the principle to solopreneurs just as much – if not more – as to bigger businesses. Many solo-preneur business are started by dispassionate people, either because of historicity (how many perfectly competent, successful doctors or lawyers have you met who went into the profession just because it was expected of them from their family), sheer need (every first-generation immigrant business you see) or sheer opportunism (did Mark Zuckerman start Facebook because he was passionate about social networking? I think not).
Does the fact that these (then) solo- or micro-businesses were not built around a passion for the thing itself make these bad people? Or somehow redefine the businesses as unsuccessful?
Passion is lovely to have (mostly). It’s just intellectually deceitful (or at best wishful thinking) to teach people that they won’t have a succesful business without it. It’s sort of the start-up equivalent of the women’s magazines that perpetuate the myth that you can’t be happy unless you’re thin and ‘pretty’.
Thanks again, Charlie.
Joi @ Office Freaks says
Great stuff! If emotions were beverages, passion would definitely be coffee. I couldn’t get through a day without either… and have no intention of trying!
Roland Wijnen says
Hi Charlie, I like this observation: “In general, the newer your business is and the fewer people you have, the more internal drive you need, whether that comes from passion, discipline, hope, ambition, or fear.”
I recognize the need for (a lot of) drive (I’m in Early Struggle to speak in Les’ terms). In my case it comes from the mix of the elements you mention, passion being only one of it. I guess that’s a very good thing. Although I’m passionate about what I’m doing, passion doesn’t really help to structure and organize a business (externally or internally). That’s were discipline and other elements need to fuel the drive.
Kristy Swanson says
Thank you for this perspective–it dovetails nicely into a theme I’ve been pondering that shows up with my clients from time to time, which is that one must feel “passionate” or “motivated” in order to do great work. My argument is that motivation or passion is great when you can find it, but what is needed more often is persistence, stamina, and consistency–in other words, plain old hard work. So your analogy of passion being “the wind in the sails” and yet being willing to row when the winds aren’t favorable is perfect.
I’m off to grab an oar…
Marco Lee says
This can be true. My first thought was actually “Leave passion to artists!. I’m a musician and that’s something I want with fellow musicians but for business it is “okay”.
Enough passion is okay in business, but also much like in everything else. When the time comes that you’re achieving result, those results will be your motivator to be more eager to what you are doing.
sharad s chavan says
it was great and succesfull for business people, actually we have to study about the current market fluctuation and market deemands.
than our business should be grow.