Say what? Doesn’t advice like “follow your opportunity” directly oppose following your passion? But we all know that life’s all about going where your enthusiasm leads you, don’t we? Hmm?
by Carol Roth
With a job being something that we can no longer count on and more demands than ever on our time, we seem to be in constant search of balance and fulfillment. This has created a huge “follow your passion” movement, which suggests that you should earn a living by creating a livelihood from your greatest life passion.
But getting intoxicated by the passion story is akin to “business beer goggles.” You aren’t thinking clearly or seeing the reality.
For businesses to be successful, entrepreneurs need to think about opportunities from their customers’ perspective as much as from their own perspective.
While I do believe that successful businesses have leaders — and often employees, by the way — who are passionate about the business opportunity and their customers, you do not need your life’s passion as a starting point. If you were passionate about the television showDexter, I’m pretty sure that doesn’t translate into you starting a serial-killer business — despite being amoral and illegal, I don’t think the market opportunity is that large. But seriously, why do so many people think that you need to earn a living from what you love to do the most?
Passion isn’t a starting point.
Zappos.com is a business where passion followed opportunity, but wasn’t the starting point. I can’t imagine that Tony Hsieh is more passionate about shoes than most of the women that I know. He is, however, completely passionate about customer service, which helped take that business to the top of its game.
But people’s life passions generally aren’t around concepts like customer service, which drive successful businesses. Kids grow up wanting to be firemen, ballerinas, baseball players or Star Wars characters, not community builders. If you ask someone their passion, I can guarantee that 99 out of 100 times or more, you will get answers like golf, dancing, wine, scrapbooking or sex before customer service, community building and customer loyalty. If you start with passion, Imelda Marcos or Sex & the City’s Carrie Bradshaw end up running Zappos.com before Tony Hsieh.
Successful businesses identify a customer need or want — an opportunity. When the entrepreneur is incredibly passionate about filling that customer need and is uniquely positioned to be the best person to do so in some way, that’s where business success happens.
And here’s the brilliant part: As long as entrepreneurs aren’t a bandwagon hopper trying to jump on whatever is hot, they will likely find an opportunity from an area of interest. For example, if you have no interest in green technologies, it’s not likely that you will notice a customer need in that area. On the other hand, if you are a foodie, it’s quite possible that you will run into an opportunity in or around food….