Why pursuing your passion is critical to living a purposeful life, but meaningless in the absence of two other critical factors.
My experience of launching my first business and subsequent consulting work indicates that some members of the Millennial Generation have taken one piece of advice a little too literally.
It’s a saying we’ve all heard that goes something like this; “Find something you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life.”
It’s a wise saying…as far as it goes. But just because you are passionate about something, does not mean you are good at it and just because you are good at something does not mean anyone will pay you to do it.
If you really enjoy doing something and are great at it, but can’t make a living doing it, then it’s a hobby. If you find a way to make money at something you are passionate about but are not great at it, you’ve become a commodity. Finally, if you make money doing something you are good at, but not passionate about, it’s just a job.
It’s impossible to live a purposeful life in any of these scenarios.
Discovering my passion
I found myself in the third situation a few years after launching my first business, Fit2Go, to deliver fresh meals to busy professionals who wanted to live healthy lifestyles. Initially, I was very passionate about it. I was good at running the business and it made money.
But as time passed, my passion diminished. Eventually, running the business became less fulfilling and more of a task.
So, I doubled down. I worked harder. I launched new projects and iterations of the business, but I was unable to rekindle my passion Something was missing. I had lost my way.
That’s when I went through the Why discovery process and realized what my true purpose was.
It wasn’t delivering healthy prepared meals to busy professionals. It was finding ways to help professionals, entrepreneurs, and other high achievers live a purposeful life, or what I dubbed a life by design. Once I understood that, I was able to focus on a transition plan that would place day-to-day operations of Fit2Go in the hands of managers, so I could focus on launching my coaching business, The Profit Recipe.
Rediscovering “Good to Great”
During that journey, I rediscovered two ideas covered in Jim Collins’ seminal book “Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap… and Others Don’t.”
The first is a Venn diagram, companies can use to find the sweet spot where they can shine. That sweet spot is the intersection of what companies care deeply about, what they can excel at and what they can make money doing.
Much of my practice has involved helping entrepreneurs and their employees fill in the Venn diagram so that they can go from good to great.
The second idea posits that you can succeed in business when you distill what your business does into a single powerful idea and then focus relentlessly on becoming the best at executing that idea. Collins dubs this “The Hedgehog Concept” because it is inspired by a Greek poem about a hedgehog that always defeats the many ploys of a clever fox with the same simple maneuver of curling into a tight ball.
The 3 Ps of a purposeful life
You can then say that passion, performance and profit are equally critical to leading and sustaining a purposeful life. After all, if you aren’t good at what you do, and you can’t pay your bills, it’s tough to fulfill your purpose? It’s tough to feel fulfilled? It’s tough to be happy. It’s tough to live life by design.
This is what we should be telling our young people, including the nearly 17 million high school students and nearly 13 million 18-to-24-year-olds attending college in the United States.
Many college students will tell you they are passionate about what they are studying, but ask how they plan to pursue that passion and have a purposeful life and you may get a blank stare. They may be passionate about sports exercise science or sustainable development, but have no clue which part of the discipline they can excel at or how to use that skill to lead a purposeful life.
We are doing young people – and ourselves – a disservice when we encourage them to pursue their passion to the exclusion of the two others Ps.
Cesar Quintero is the founder of The Profit Recipe, a coaching firm that helps entrepreneurs live life by design. To learn more about what we do schedule your appointment with Cesar today.