Struggling to decide what kind of business to start? Beware of the passion project syndrome…

 Expecting the world to treat you fairly because you are good is like expecting the bull not to charge because you are a vegetarian.”

~ Dennis Wholey

Do what you love…

How many times have you been told to follow your passion?

I bet more than you can remember…

And when you asked, “But what about money?”, you probably received the classic response: “Do what you love and the money will follow.”

Am I right?

I know. And if you think about it, it’s no wonder why that piece of advice is super popular. Who wouldn’t want to do what s/he loves and get paid for it?

But at this point, you’ll probably wonder: what that has to do with today’s post?

You guessed it: when you are stuck and try to figure out what will be “your thing” (namely, the type of business you’ll get into), following a passion and building a business around it conceptually kind of makes sense.

And today, as we usually do, will dive deep into the subject and see what’s true and what’s BS…

The case for following your passion

Let’s first start with the reasoning in favour of this business model.

According to ‘the believers,’ there are 2 core advantages of following your passion:

Advantage #1: It gives you the drive to persevere through setbacks and roadblocks

How about?

Well, typically the story goes something like this…

– Business is tough

– Plan A rarely works

– Sh*t happens so…

… unless you are all in (and deeply passionate about what you’re doing), chances are you won’t have the necessary mental strength and motivation to face up to the challenge.

Or asGautam Gupta, an advocate of this model, says: “anyone can start a business but it’s infinitely harder to grow and sustain it. When a company faces challenges and falls on hard times (and it always does), it’s your passion and commitment that ultimately get the business through to the other side“.

Advantage #2: It makes your workdays more fun and enjoyable

This doesn’t require a long explanation.

As Confucius said thousands of years ago; “Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life.

Kind of a no-brainer, right?

After all, doing all that hard work now, day in and day out, just for living for the weekends (and hoping for a comfortable retirement decades down the road) sounds rather depressing, don’t you think?

So, as they say, there has to be a better way…

Or maybe that better way (aka ‘follow your passion and everything will turn out to be just ok’) is a terrible advice in disguise?

The Fallacy of ‘Love What You Do’                                        

Yep, time to see the other side of this equation!

Why fallacy I hear you ask?

In the opinion of the “follow your love and the money will follow” critics there are 3 key underlying flaws behind this mantra.

Flaw #1: The money often will not follow!

Why do they suggest that?

Well, as they say, just because you’re passionate about something (and you want to turn it into a business) doesn’t mean that:

a) Many others will give a sh*t about and value your thing enough (because it’s a product/service they want or need) bypaying for it

b) You would be good enough (in that craft) to turn it into a living

That’s correct – just jumping into a passion project with total blinders on about its economic viability and, just like our artist friends (which btw, most are broke), force their thing into the market rarely ends up pretty.

Flaw #2: It’s not a prerequisite for doing great work you’ll end up loving

I know, we all heard Steve Jobs famous Stanford commencement speech about the importance of following our passion.

However, the fact of the matter is that Steve Jobs himself didn’t follow his own advice.

As Cal Newport notes in his best-selling book, So Good They Can’t Ignore You, “If Steve Jobs followed his overriding lifelong passion, he would have become a great Zen teacher. Instead, he meandered barefooted as a dilettante through early-adulthood, lacked follow-through, and only serendipitously stumbled into technology, management, and marketing.”

Many even suggest that expecting to build a business around something that will fill your soul each and every moment is wholly unrealistic.

Moreover, they add, that passion for something can be developed through the years and rarely struck you at first sight.

Flaw #3: Passions change with time

Last but not the least is the observation that often people’s passions change over time.

So even in the scenario that you set up a business around something you deeply care about, doesn’t necessary mean in 3-4 years down the road you’ll still give a damn about it.

Hence, why even bother in that obsessive quest in the first place?


My take?

Do it the Aristotle way!

Even though I have to admit over the years I’ve changed my mind (multiple times) about the validity of this business mantra, now I tend to agree with our old pal… Aristotle!

What did Aristotle said 2500 years ago?

“Where the needs of the world and your talents cross there lies your vocation.”

Exactly. Follow your (marketable) hard skills and what you’re good at provided there is an established market (that pays for these sort of skills).

Having said that, I do also think that building a business you actually give a sh*t about really matters.

And yes at least for me that means having an interest in the field before diving in is a necessary evil.

So, to sum things up, yes, follow your skills (and the cash) but don’t overlook that the (interest) grass should be at least a bit green to survive the startup game.

So, to wrap up today’s post, here are the key takeaways:

Key Takeaways

– Saying to people “do what you love and the money will follow” is BS advice

– Steve Jobs himself didn’t follow his own advice

– Where the needs of the world and your talents cross, there lies your vocation

Ok guys, that’s all from me for today.

If you enjoyed today’s post, check out my kindle book, The Aspiring Entrepreneur Entry Strategy: A practical step-by-step guide for finding a validated, winning business idea that stays true to who you are, that is currently available at Amazon.

I hope to see you soon.



“Work is easier when it’s just work; it’s much harder when you actually care”

– John Maeda

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