One of my first times traveling abroad was to Brazil, where I had a chance to experience a new culture with new foods and music. I was there during one of the World Cup tournaments, and it was an awe inspiring event to watch as pretty much the whole country shut down to watch these soccer games. It was entertaining to hear the elevated tones of the announcers as the ball past midfield and work into a fever pitch before exploding in a shout of “GOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOAAAAAAALLLLL!!!” as the player did a version of a touchdown dance before being mobbed by the rest of the team. The passion for the game helped me appreciate a sport that I had not paid much attention up to that point, and I’ve been a fan ever since.
Previously, I asked you to consider what you really want from the entrepreneur experience. Something that frequently comes up when you begin to reflect is the question of what to do that gives you purpose or that you are passionate about. You hear that kind of advice a lot when it comes to start-ups and careers in general — do something you’re passionate about.
This was always a frustrating piece of advice as I considered what to do with my life because I didn’t think I was really passionate about much. I thought this way because I didn’t really do anything that produced this intense emotion that I ascribed as passion. As I have talked to aspiring entrepreneurs and others who struggle with career choices, I realized I wasn’t the only one. If you already know what you’re passionate about then I hope you’re getting a chance to actually be involved in it on a regular basis. I hope to share a few ideas that might guide those of us still looking for our passion.
In the start-up world having a passion for something becomes important because it requires a lot of time and effort and you need internal motivation — that’s why the desire to get rich isn’t necessarily the best reason to do a start-up. It may take a while before that happens. In the mean time, if you don’t like what you do or who you do it with, it can get old really fast. So how do you identify what you’re passionate about?
One of the first things you can do is think back to when you’ve felt the most accomplished or the most energized. In fact, don’t worry about narrowing it down. Come up with 3-5 experiences and write them down (it just easier to look at your thoughts when they’re outside your head) or tell someone. Then notice why you felt that way. What you were doing? When was the exact moment you felt the best? Was it the accomplishment? The activity? The fact that others complimented you, or because they praised the result?
This exercise is meant to help you determine some of your internal drivers. A similar exercise is to reflect back over the various jobs that you’ve had or roles that you’ve played and look for a pattern. What are things or activities that you naturally gravitate towards doing even if it wasn’t part of your job? Think about your ‘to do list’ — what are the things you want to do instead of have to do — chances are they may not even be on the list because you’ve already done them.
Now these memory exercises assume you’ve had those kinds of experiences. If you haven’t, then your assignment is to write down five things that sound fun or enjoyable (it doesn’t have to be roller coaster-thrill fun to be a passion) and do one of them or at least talk to someone who has (a little vicarious learning). After you find your passion, then you can worry how you’re going to leverage that into a business. For now, try to find that thing that makes you smile when you think or talk about it — even better if it makes you do a dance like you’ve just scored a “GOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOAAAAAAALLLLL!!!”