Passion isn’t something one gets––it’s something one merely allows.

Suzanne Falter-Barns

When I start talking about discovering your passion in my seminars, I notice that some people begin to look uncomfortable. I can almost hear their thoughts: “Passion? Do I have a passion? I took piano lessons when I was a kid, but that didn’t turn into much.”

Sometimes people come right out and say, “I have no idea what my passion is.” Obviously, they’re doomed.

What’s going on here may be a matter of semantics, of having a definition of passion that is limited to things that we think of as creative pursuits or relaxing pastimes. When it comes to dreambuilding, however, passion encompasses an enormous range of possibilities.

Passion is Bigger Than We Think

While it’s true than many  businesses get started because a person is wild about antiquarian books or fixing luxury cars or designing houses, just as many come from having a passion for the activity of running a business.

They’re the ones who love taking a new idea and bringing it to life. The product or service is secondary. It’s business itself that excites them. Richard Branson, whose Virgin enterprises began with selling records and now includes an airline, banks and numerous other divisions, is such a person.

Whether or not you can identify a specific product or service that you consider your passion, I’d like to suggest that there may be dozens of other passions that you possess that are going to be crucial to your entrepreneurial success. Here are a five to consider:

Independence–the desire to be in charge, to take responsibility, to make decisions is a huge catalyst for many an entrepreneur. Being in control of your time, writing your own rule book, and doing things in your own way  isn’t an act of selfishness. It’s the healthy desire for self-reliance.

Individuality–wanting to explore fully what makes us unique. This is increasingly difficult to do in a world that seems bent on conformity. “Nobody can be exactly like me,” said Tallulah Bankhead. “Sometimes even I have trouble doing it.”

Reveling in our uniqueness and making it an integral part of our business can be an on-going exercise in creativity.

Personal growth–giving ourselves a  lifelong project of self-discovery is enticing for many who come to the conclusion that self-employment does just that. As Paul Hawken points out, “Being in business is not about making money. It’s a way to become who you are.” Amen.

Serving others–knowing that our efforts make life better for other people can be a powerful motivation. As my handyman student Al says, “I have always wanted to help people and I’m doing that now and have never felt so appreciated as I do from my customers. And then they pay me on top of that!”

Curiosity and adventure–as many entrepreneurs have learned, you don’t have to trek through Nepal to have adventure in your life. The nature of building an evolving business is that it always has new discoveries to make.

“Just when you think you’ve arrived,” says singer Melissa Manchester, “you find there’s another mountain to climb.”  Curious adventurers understand that.

In a world where people like to talk about things they just might do someday, the Joyfully Jobless consider where his or her passion lies and then gets busy living it. Passion shows up bearing marching orders, after all.

Philosophers have often reminded us that what we are is more important than what we have. Passionate entrepreneurs live that every day.


I nearly went into a swoon yesterday when I read Frank Hyman’s New York Times piece called I’m Making a Living From My Hobbies. It’s a delightful example of putting multiple passions to work. Check it out and notice, also, what he says about investing in himself.

14 Responses to “Make Passion Your Business Partner”

  1. Rasheed Hooda

    Thank you, Barbara, for shedding light on the broader meaning of the word Passion. Now I can see where my passion lies and how I can pursue it better and more often and widely.

    Thank You, Thank You, Thank You.


  2. Barbara Winter

    Thanks for saying so, Rasheed. I also think that we think passion is noisy and emotional, but it’s often very serene and gentle.

  3. Sue Sullivan

    Ooh, Barbara, I love what you said, “…we think passion is noisy and emotional, but it’s often very serene and gentle.”

    I was so relieved to see I’m passionate about the five you listed for entrepreneurs. In fact, when I watched the mountain-climbing movie “Touching the Void,” I thought wow I love risk and adventure but in the area of business rather than scaling snowy mountains. I could totally relate to what they were going through.

  4. Anna Barlowe

    This is a great way to think about passion. That passion for having a passion can be a passion in itself! 🙂 I hadn’t looked at it like that before. I liked the linked article as well, and have bookmarked it for future reference. I like to do a lot of different things too, and have a hard time picking just one, so it’s nice to know that may not be necessary (or even a good idea). Thanks much!

  5. Barbara Winter

    Thanks, Anna. So have you not read MAKING A LIVING WITHOUT A JOB? Don’t know about multiple profit centers? Highly recommend you check out that book.

  6. Anna Barlowe

    Oh, I’m familiar with the concept, of course, but I’m a very singleminded, one-at-a time, simplify-my-life sort of person. I have to budget my energy for health reasons too. But there are a couple of things I’m interested in, so maybe I’ll try not to restrict myself too much. I’ve been writing a blog lately, and that is a lot of fun. I write about really strange things, though, so I dunno if there is any money in that!

    P.S. I think my mom lent me that book once, but it was such an old version the pages were yellow. I don’t think it even mentioned the Internet yet! So I would probably need to get a newer copy. 🙂

  7. Barbara Winter

    You are so right, Anna. Making a Living Without a Job was first published in 1993 just as the Internet was dawning. Amazingly, it never went out of print despite the changing technology. The updated version came out a year ago and the Internet (and lots of other changes) are included.

  8. Anna Barlowe

    Coolness. I will have to pick up a copy. Can I get it on iBooks, and read it on my iPad? Now THAT would make me feel hip! 😛

  9. Barbara Winter

    Don’t know the answer, Anna. It is available on Kindle so perhaps.

  10. Anna Barlowe

    Oh, awesome. Did not know that, thanks! You have salvaged my nonexistent coolness! 🙂

  11. Barbara Winter

    Thanks, Sue. I didn’t know that. I have so much to learn about my iPad and no nearby Apple Store to teach me.

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