Got Passion?

My wife Linda occasionally accuses me of having amassed an assortment of useless, physical skills.

I can ride a unicycle, spin a basketball on one finger, balance a baseball bat on the end of my foot, flip a teaspoon off a table and into a nearby coffee mug with a quick tap of my finger, and pretty much juggle anything. Oh yeah, and I can make an alarmingly realistic pig noise.

Most of these capabilities were picked up when I was a kid, in the days when we all spent more time looking for things to do than worrying about getting things done. I didn’t learn this stuff in order to learn it, it was just fun.

And because the learning was fun, I became really good at some of these things. I wasn’t more coordinated than the average 13-year-old, but because most of my peers considered “learning to juggle” a chore, rather than an obsession as it was for me, I easily stayed well ahead of the pack.

In my experience, the same holds true in business. The people who love what they do are really hard to compete with.

So let’s say, for example, that your thorough market analysis has uncovered a wonderful business opportunity in the field of gourmet leopard gecko food.

You’re still going to have a tough time going head to head with the (undoubtedly creepy) guy who owns 50 leopard geckos, is a past president of the National Association of Creepy Leopard Gecko Owners (NACLGO) and has “GCKOCREP” as his vanity license plate. He’s living it; you’re just selling it.

And so this time of year, as many people who have finally decided to “take the leap” and start their own business, call asking for advice, I share with you the same suggestion I share with them: Find your passion.

Before you worry about the business model or the competition or the economy, take time to pinpoint the kinds of things you love doing. If you make that your starting point, the “practical” things fall into place.

Why? Three practical reasons:

  1. It’s better. There tends to be a lot of overlap between what you love doing and what you’re naturally good at. So you can work hard if it makes you feel better, but there’s really no need. The marketplace couldn’t care less about effort; it just wants results. And you’ll provide better results by staying close to what you enjoy.
  1. It’s funner. If you begin with “Work I love,” then you’ll be doing work you love on Day One. (Do you want me to go over that again?) If your starting point, however, is “How do I make money?,” well, maybe you’ll get to the work you love part. And maybe you won’t. Why not take a direct path to where you’re trying to go?
  1. It’s annoyingly difficult to compete with. Did I mention this already? Leopard Gecko Man has got the leopard gecko market sewn up. Passion isn’t some “Do what you love but live in the poorhouse” compromise. It’s an unassailable competitive advantage.

Here’s the bottom line. As another year draws to a close, take time now to make sure your business (and life, as long as you’re taking time), has the one ingredient that so many of your competitors never bother adding to the mix. Find your passion and you’ll find your profits sitting right beside it.

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