(img: nicolas raymond)
In our very humble opinion there has been no single piece of advice that has stopped more people from stepping out of the rat race and getting on with a life they truly want than this:
"Follow your passion."
"Do what you love."
"Follow your heart and everything will work out."
"You need to follow your passion so you have the energy to stick with things when the going gets tough."
A few years ago we thought this piece of advice was beaten down and proven useless but it still circulates as though it was law.
Here's the thing...
If you wait until you have found your passion to start your own business or a new career or whatever, you may be waiting a very long time.
Not only are you wasting time waiting for the passion lightening bolt to strike you in the head, you're more than likely not developing any skills that are going to be of use to you during this waiting period.
And that's a massive waste of time.
The very best ideas and skills we've ever learned came from things we actually didn't like and weren't passionate about.
In fact, we hated some of them.
And that's why they likely failed badly.
The skills and knowledge we gain from starting and running those projects have proven to be very valuable.
When I began working at Oracle Corporation, I quickly realized that a long career inside a cubicle wearing a name badge felt more like a prison sentence than living.
So I began reading a laundry list of the classic motivational book stack.
Think & Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill, got me really believing I could craft my life into anything I wanted.
But I didn't know where to begin.
Then I read some business books that said I had to find my passion and that if I didn't, my business would likely not have the energy it needed to survive.
And these books would cite some crazy stats like 98% of all businesses fail within the first 18 months or something ridiculous.
So I then began looking for a passion.
This process was horrible and my internal dialogue would go something like this:
"Hey, I like sports, maybe I should do something with sports, yeah that's it. Ah, that's stupid, I don't really like sports. Ahh, maybe I should become a motivational speaker, that looks fun, that's my passion ... but who would listen to me ... hey maybe my parents would .... ah, but that wouldn't be a good start because it's impossible to get my Dad to smile so that would likely depress me after my talk ... he's only cracked a smile twice in his life I think, I could never see him jump up and down on our kitchen chairs in a state of inspirational bliss, this isn't going to work, and would our kitchen chairs even support him if he did jump on them ... ok, let's focus here ... I like to train people and teach, maybe I can be a teacher, yeah, that's it a teacher! But wait, what would I teach, I'm like 26 right now and haven't really accomplished that much of anything. Man, this is frustrating as shit ... I hate this, finding your passion sucks. I'm starting to get passionate about hating finding my passion ... something is very wrong, ahhh. Maybe I don't have any passion and I have a problem, I'm losing it, this is crazy, life is crazy, my boss is crazy, this world is crazy, ahhhhh, ahhhhh, ahhhh!!!!!! I gotta read more books, I'm missing something here."
At least a year passed while I searched for my passion.
During this time, I kept reading and somehow crossed over from the motivational books into more and more of the business, sales and marketing books.
Then I read something that really struck a cord with me, one marketing author said something like:
You need your own audience, an audience is like having your own group of customers and that's valuable, that's a big asset in your life. And we live in a world that it's pretty easy to build an audience. Find out how to help people and in exchange for your help, collect their email addresses to build an audience.
That got the wheels turning.
I began to think I shouldn't focus on "my passion" and instead I should focus on what I can do to "help" people.
This seemed like a big idea.
It's not about me, it's about them!
So the wheels began turning some more...
"What do people want? What do I want? What do young people want? Old people? What do men want? What do woman want ..... hey wait, got it, woman want to shop! They want to shop and they want sales!! That's it, sales!!!!"
I then decided that I struck gold and asked my new wife to cut out all the sales from the newspaper each week and stack them on my IKEA desk for me.
I paid some unbelievable sum of money to have a website built that consisted of three pages that would collect email addresses in exchange for getting a weekly newsletter outlining all the "sales in the city."
I would then type all of those sales from the newspaper into my little email program and fire it off.
The freakin' thing began to go viral. I was collecting email addresses in bunches... At first, one or two a day, then five, then ten, then twenty.
With no advertising.
I was even written up in a national woman's fashion magazine without my knowledge.
My logo, my website, my service... All mentioned in this magazine for FREE.
More emails started to pile in.
I was building my audience and I was pumped!
And then it all failed.
I began hating typing up the silly sales after I learned that retailers basically always had a sale going on ... it was a parade of never-ending sales that seemed useless.
Not only did I hate sales I hated shopping.
So one day I just stopped sending out the emails.
Boom, done, just like that.
And then it struck me?
"Damn! I failed because I didn't follow my passion."
And it's true, I think that experience did fail because I absolutely hated it.
I didn't have a passion for it and it showed.
But I did learn some amazingly valuable things:
1. How to build a little website.
2. How to collect emails.
3. The power of the media.
4. To focus on giving people what they want.
I took those new skills and applied them to another little website that had a longer and more profitable run but ultimately also crashed and burned.
But then I learned more:
5. I learned how Google did Search Engine Optimization.
6. I learned how to write articles and put them on a website.
7. I learned how to make money from online commissions.
I took that knowledge and got myself a straight up sales job and began to study marketing.
And then the passion light bulb went off!
I realized that during all this time there was something I was passionate about.
I was passionate about creating personal and financial freedom for myself.
And I was passionate about sharing my journey!
And then it hit me, during all this time I've been buying rentals and flipping properties with my brother and some friends.
"I actually like the financial options real estate provides people. Maybe, together with Nick, we can turn this into a business we actually like! It helps people and it helps us! Yeah baby!"
We got to work.
And all those "build an audience," "email newsletters," "article writing," "SEO strategies," "sales skills" came rushing in to power us forward.
It was like rocket fuel.
We were passionate.
We were waking up at the crack of dawn and burning the midnight oil.
Loving it all.
Rock Star was born!
Now someone reading this may take it the wrong way, like we are tooting our own horns or something.
And that would be wrong, we feel like we haven't accomplished a fraction of what we want to yet.
What we want to share is that if you're standing around waiting for the passion lightening bolt to strike, you may be standing around for a very long time.
In the meantime, begin something right now.
Start some new path, some new adventure today.
Pick up a new skill that the market rewards: in sales, in marketing, in speaking, etc.
By picking up skills in website building, or joint venturing, or sales, or writing right now, you'll be in a better position to take advantage of your passion when it strikes.
One day the passion light bulb will go off... It always does.
But it doesn't seem to ever go off if you are standing still, looking around aimlessly, scratching your head.
Until next time ... Your Life! Your Terms!
Great perspective Tom! Hope you are doing well!!