Passion is Bullsh*t

Passion is Bullsh*t

Have you ever heard the saying, "If you love your work, you'll never work a day in your life?" That may be true if you work a job and build someone else's dream. However, if you want to control your destiny through business ownership you do not need to have a passion for the product or service that you provide. I know that sounds counter intuitive but it's true.

Scott Adams, the author of Dilbert, explains this idea brilliantly in his book, “How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win 51ihILFp7+L._SX324_BO1,204,203,200_Big,”

The excerpt below is copied word-for-word from pages 13-15 from Mr. Adam's book.  

You often hear from successful people that you should “follow your passion.” That sounds perfectly reasonable the first time you hear it. Passion will presumably give you high energy, high resistance to rejection, and high determination.  Passionate people are more persuasive, too.  Those are all good things, right?

Here's the counterargument: When I was a commercial loan officer for a large bank in San Francisco, my boss taught us that you should never make a loan to someone who is following his passion. For example, you don’t want to give money to a sports enthusiast who is starting a sports store to pursue his passion for all things sporty.  That guy is a bad bet, passion and all. He’s in business for the wrong reason.

My boss, who had been a commercial lender for over thirty years, said the best loan customer is one who has no passion whatsoever, just a desire to work hard at something that looks good on a spreadsheet.  Maybe the loan customer wants to start a dry-cleaning store or invest in a fast-food franchise – boring stuff.  That’s the person you bet on. You want the grinder, not the guy who loves his job.

So who’s right? Is passion a useful tool for success, or is it just something that makes you irrational?

My hypothesis is that passionate people are more likely to take big risks in the pursuit of unlikely goals, and so you would expect to see more failures and more huge successes among the passionate.  Passionate people who fail don’t get a chance to offer their advice to the rest of us.  But successful passionate people are writing books and answering interview questions about their secrets for success every day. Naturally those successful people want you to believe that success is a product of their awesomeness, but they also want to retain some humility. You can’t be humble and say, “I succeeded because I am far smarter than the average person.”  But you can say your passion was a key to your success, because everyone can be passionate about something or other.  Passion sounds more accessible. If you’re dumb, there’s not much you can do about it, but passion is something we think anyone can generate in the right circumstances.  Passion feels very democratic. It is the people’s talent, available to all.

 It's also mostly bullshit.

It’s easy to be passionate about things that are working out, and that distorts our impression of the importance of passion.  I’ve been involved in several dozen business ventures over the course of my life and each one made me excited at the start. You might even call it passion. The ones that didn’t work out – and that would be most of them – slowly drained my passion as they failed. The few that worked out became more exciting as they succeeded.

For example, when I invested in a restaurant with an operating partner, my passion was sky-high.  And on day one, when there was a line of customers down the block, I was even more passionate.  In later years, as the business got pummeled, my passion evolved into frustration and annoyance. The passion disappeared.

On the other hand, Dilbert started out as just one of many get-rich schemes I was willing to try. When it started to look as if it might be a success, my passion for cartooning increased because I realized it could be my golden ticket. In hindsight, it looks as if the projects I was most passionate about were also the ones that worked. But objectively, my passion level moved with my success. Success caused passion more than passion caused success 

Passion can also be a simple marker for talent.  We humans tend to enjoy doing things we are good at, while not enjoying things we suck at. We’re also fairly good at predicting what we might be good at before we try. I was passionate about tennis the first day I picked up a racket, and I’ve played all my life. But I also knew in an instant that it was the type of thing I could be good at, unlike basketball or football. So sometimes passion is simply a by-product of knowing you will be good at something.

I hate selling, but I know that’s because I’m bad at it. If I were a sensational salesperson or had potential to be one, I’d probably feel passionate about sales. And people who observed my success would assume my passion was causing my success as opposed to being a mere indicator of talent.

If you ask a billionaire the secret of his success, he might say it is passion, because that sounds like a sexy answer that is suitably humble.  But after a few drinks I think he’d say his success was a combination of desire, luck, hard work, determination, brains, and appetite for risk.

So forget about passion when you’re planning your path to success. You already know that when your energy is right you perform better at everything you do, including school, work, sports, and even your personal life. Energy is good. Passion is bullshit.

Topics: how to buy a franchise, franchise consultant