“Be Like the Bluebird who never is blue, for he knows from his upbringing what singing can do.” –Cole Porter, Be Like the Bluebird, 1934
There are many, especially in the upcoming generations, who believe it’s best—and even most productive—to make a career by living your passion. These days, it’s becoming more and more popular to pursue a creative path—a life choice that is slowly taking the place of the previously mandated doctor-lawyer-businessperson mentality.
Not that some don’t enjoy those professions, but in the past it has been common for many to abandon their creative dreams in exchange for these more typical, and usually more lucrative, roles; now, there is a new paradigm coming to fruition even in mainstream culture, that advocates setting out on a path that is unique and brings you joy, fulfillment, a healthy life balance, and at the same time, ideally, income.
Is it really possible?
According to Business Insider, and data provided by Paul Graham, the CEO of startup school, Y Combinator, only 1 out of every 10 entrepreneurship ventures succeed! This seems like quite a discouraging statistic, and certainly a far cry from the tempting and romantic call to “follow your passion”. But if this is true, then why has there recently been such a surge of success stories about people starting their own businesses?
One thing to keep in mind is that the statistical definition of “success” may be different from yours. Paul Graham counted a business successful if was worth over forty million dollars. The spectrum of success may look different for different people; maybe you are looking for something fulfilling that simply pays your bills and keeps you financially comfortable while making a contribution to the world. It’s not a given that this definition of success, since it would look different for each individual, is taken into account in the reporting of the 1-in-10 statistic. So don’t give up yet!
Because it’s also likely that the stories we hear about new businesses that have skyrocketed, are in fact about the unique ten percent who have found a way to make it. And while it might look like there’s a minuscule chance of becoming one of them, luckily, there seems to be a few fairly agreed upon tools, techniques, and attitudes that, when combined, create a blueprint for success.
But how do I find my passion?
So now that we’ve addressed some practical aspects of how to realistically turn your passion into an income-generating business, let’s return to the romantic. Because you can’t transform your passion into anything if you don’t know how to find your passion to begin with!
There are, of course, many ways to go about this process. The following are just a couple suggestions.
In How to Find Your Passion, Lisa Gerard says that, “Rob Levit, an Annapolis, Md.-based creativity expert, speaker and business consultant…suggests making a list of all the things you remember enjoying as a child….(and) asking yourself these questions to get started: “What can be translated and added into your life now? How can those past experiences shape your career choices now?”
Childhood is often the time in our lives when our hearts are most open to the world, and to new possibilities. What were some of the things that you loved most as a child? Experiences? Foods? Events? Items? Going back to these free-spirited moments, and learning to incorporate them into the present, can often help spark parts of yourself that may have gotten buried along the way.
Girard also encourages us to “take a break from business thinking”. Get out. Go for a walk. A swim. A drink with friends. Let your mind and body relax so that there is enough space to generate new ideas. And to receive incoming inspiration.
Another unique perspective comes from Kent Healy, in his article, The Raw Truth About Finding Your Passion, in which he encourages readers to jump whole-heartedly into the present instead of waiting to be “swept up by a Hollywood injection of divine inspiration”.
He advises that, “Before passionate (and successful) people find their true life’s passion, they are passionate about doing great work – whatever that work entails. The worst thing someone can do is stay in neutral, waiting to ‘pull the trigger’ until they can pull it passionately. Waiting for the perfect moment to commit 100% to something they think they will be passionate about is the ideal recipe for passing life up.”
Instead he advocates a “grow as you go” approach. Put passion into whatever it is you’re doing right now, and then remain open to new opportunities as they come.
So it seems that while finding your passion may be a romantic concept, it’s certainly not a passive one. It requires creation, cultivation, reflection, and most of all, openness.
Reality or fiction?
After all is said and done, it’s up to you. If you treat starting your own business as a real venture, putting into its creation everything you’ve got, obtaining and using the proper tools and resources, and being prepared to devote yourself one hundred percent to your business—even to its failures, and then to its shifts, recoveries, and growths—it can be just that: real. If you view it as an easy pastime, something that you can suddenly pop into existence in order to suddenly live the life you want without having to work for it, you may be crossing the line into fiction.
The good news, though, if that’s true, is that success would boil down to two basic and self-controlled factors: 1) the belief that it’s possible and, 2) the unconditional commitment to making it work.
Maybe that’s why exercises like walking across hot coals with bare feet are regularly used at new-age inspirational trainings for business and life success—because to reach the other side without getting burned, you must do exactly that…believe without question that it’s possible, and be committed to making it, unscathed, to the other side.
The proof of the effectiveness of these two states of mind is in the thousands of people who have completed the challenge successfully.
And it’s also in the (perhaps more than) one out of ten who have created lucrative and impacting businesses based on what they love to do. You—yes, you—could be one of them.
“There is no greatness without a passion to be great, whether it’s the aspiration of an athlete or an artist, a scientist, a parent, or a businessperson.” –Anthony Robbins