Beware passion – a cautionary tale

Beware passion – a cautionary tale

Jacqui Hocking, co-founder and COO of social enterprise Gone Adventurin says that quitting a corporate job to chase dreams is “dangerous” thinking. She goes on to explain that if you cannot see opportunities within your organisation, it is unlikely that you will be able to make those outside it work. Her basis for this thinking is that most people don’t know what their passions are. You can say that again, Jacqui!

Strong support for her thinking comes from Cal Newport of Georgetown University. He wrote bestseller “So Good They Can’t Ignore You”. Both Cal and Jacqui have grasped several of the essentials of enterprise. You must enjoy what you do but not so much that you can’t kill it if it doesn’t work. Hard to exterminate passions. Hard, also, to confine your passion within the good – often difficult – business decisions you know you must make.

Many years ago there used to be a wonderful roadside restaurant in Petaling Jaya, Malaysia which sold the best roast duck in the world. I love crispy duck. I wanted to start a version of it in Singapore. We launched PJ Duck. I was passionate about it. It failed. We simply could not train chefs to match the extreme sensitivity of the PJ restaurant owner who knew precisely how much to burn each duck – and when to stop. So we closed PJ Duck. Instead we bought the Pizza Hut franchises for Singapore and Malaysia and hired a highly professional team who built them both to considerable value. It wasn’t my passion but it succeeded.

All work is boring at times. One may hate the business of accounts, another may find the commercial side of customers excessively tedious. No job is unremitting fun; all demand perseverance. Passion is great when you set out. Our new ‘starts’ in life are the times when we see a brilliant future and the road looks smooth and satisfying. But the stones appear, the ruts in the tarmac hinder our progress, stray impediments stop us from progressing as fast as we would like. The prize then goes to those who stick with it.

So take heed of your passion and don’t let it dictate silly commercial start-ups. But equally, don’t confuse passion with purpose. When you describe the business you want to start you must describe both your purpose and the purpose of the business. And the answer is not “to make money”. Making money is a consequence of a successful business, not its purpose.

What, then, is the role of passion in purpose? The answer is that passion is created by achievement, not the other way round. The toil and sweat you must apply to build your business is the source of your passion for it. That is why a CEO who sells his business and has to watch others (as he sees it) screw it up always feels deprived, even though he has made some money. He persevered over making it only to see others enjoy the result.

To see a perfect example of the development of passion, watch the movie Longitude.

It will stir your thoughts and concentrate your mind – with a passion.