I used to think about passion a lot when I was starting my first business. It was a cause of doubt and frustration for me, because what I was working toward didn’t really involve any of my interests. I entered marketing because I was young, relieved to find out I was good at something I could be interested in, and convinced that it was a just a temporary stop on the way to my ultimate passion.
That’s the advice friends and society always gave: You can’t really be happy until your work matches your passion. Even as an entrepreneur who abandoned the traditional workforce, I think that’s horrible advice.
Now, that doesn’t mean I don’t believe in being passionate about what you do. As a matter of fact, I’ve been spending the last year exploring how I can put what I know and what I’ve built toward the work that really thrills me. I’ve learned that you can’t trust that you’ll get to do what you’re passionate about, but you can build your business so that you’ll always be ready when the chance to do what you really want comes along.
Use Up Your Mistakes
A lot of people wait too long to start their first business — or never try at all — because they feel almost paralyzed by the idea that they shouldn’t go for an opportunity unless it’s in a field they’re truly passionate about. Yet when that opportunity does come along, they don’t have the necessary experience.
I started out making next to nothing but got to understand a little about the deep, ugly depths of the internet marketing world. I made mistakes that forced me to completely change everything I was doing several times. I dropped things I had been practicing for years to jump on opportunities, only because I choose to pursue what was in front of me instead of what I was passionate about.
Even as I was floundering around, I was opening up to the world of digital commerce, and websites like oDesk (now Upwork), Fiverr and web marketing forums. It got me thinking about economies of scale and arbitrage. I didn’t even know that arbitrage was before then, even though every business I’ve built since then depends on it.
Make Connections in The Spaces Where You Want to Be
Not being involved in the field you’re passionate about doesn’t mean you can’t still participate in the conversation. Take advantage of the universal nature of social media to learn about the vendors and influencers who are in the space where you want to be.
Before I warmed up to Twitter and other social platforms back in 2009/2010, I met people and started conversations in forums. Finding your footing with other people is the greatest way to find some common ground: we bonded over the things we didn’t understand and the problems we solved, and some of the first people I met are still the people I look to now. Even if what you’re doing isn’t what you want to do, make sure you never pass up the opportunity to make those connections.
Build Infrastructure You’ll Need Within Your Current Business
Develop a business or a department within your business that can help you reach your dreams. For example, I’ve put myself in a position where I promote things. And while I use my work to promote other people now, someday I can use it to promote something of my own. You don’t have to choose promotion like I did; you could build a foundation for your passion by having or building a reliable manufacturer or developer team.
There’s more than one way to think ahead, too. I know that there will be a time when I will want to sell my business, and so I work hard to package it up in a way that will make it desirable for that future buyer. After all, another business I will want to build is right around the corner.
Don’t Let Doubt Get in the Way
Seizing the best opportunities doesn’t make you a sellout. Get out there, and when the chance to do what you’re really passionate about comes along, you’ll be better able to handle it than anyone who waited.
I haven’t had the chance to do what I’m passionate about yet, but that “temporary stop” grew into something that supports many families, and that responsibility has profoundly changed my perspective. I’ve also felt humbled in terms of what I thought my talents were, and where I truly fit best. I’ve been able to build something only because I chose to seize the opportunities that came along, instead of waiting for a perfect one.