As I mentioned earlier in this chapter, avoiding the passion trap does-n’t require that you suppress your enthusiasm or commitment. In-stead, the solution lies in elevating and focusing your positive energy,creating a more pure, potent, and sustainable brand of passion. Yourstartup idea deserves no less.
Here are four principles for purifying your startup passion, whilealso avoiding the dangers it might bring: understand it, connect it,strengthen it, and direct it.
UNDERSTAND YOUR PASSION
When I was nine or ten years old, I remember telling my dad that Ihad butterflies in my stomach before a little league football game.“That’s okay,” he said. “It means you’re excited, and you want to do your best.” Those words shifted me from anxiety to positive antici-pation. I felt that if I put my best foot forward and had a good time,everything would turn out well. My father had put a useful framearound the energy I had inside, and that made all the difference.
As you chase your big idea, here are three strategies for putting auseful frame around your passion and energy:
Clarify your reasons and goals. Get clear on why you want tostart a business and how these motivations will influence yourstartup plan and approach.
Distinguish the fire in your belly from the weight on yourshoulders. The first feeling comes from true passion, a can’t-wait-to-get-out-of-bed feeling, while the second is one of ob-ligation and compliance. You will feel some of each as anentrepreneur. Look for roles that maximize the fire and min-imize the weight.
Understand what you bring to the table. Acknowledge and ac-cept your personality, skills, and motivations, all of the di-mensions of founder readiness outlined earlier in thischapter. This self-awareness will drive your healthy and skill-ful use of entrepreneurial passion.
CONNECT YOUR PASSION
Business is personal. We all want to personally connect to the workwe do. Many of our strongest drives—to create, to achieve, to relate,to make a difference—play out in the arena of work. The fact thatbusiness is personal is the very reason many of us choose to becomeentrepreneurs in the first place. It’s the reason employees leave large,impersonal companies to join new ventures. It allows us to connectour startup passion with people who share it or support it. Ap-proaches for connecting your passion are:
Personalize business. In building D1, J.C. Faulkner used ritu-als and practices to create a workplace that valued and high-lighted the personal nature of work. As an example, he paidfor professionally photographed portraits of all headquarters employees’ children and loved ones, giving copies of the por-traits to each employee for their home use. In addition, every portrait was hung along a prominent hallway in the headquar-ters building, creating a mosaic of the faces most importantto the hundreds of people who worked in the home office. Itwas a poignant reminder of why most of them came to workevery day. This became a touchstone of the culture and addedperspective and depth to interactions in the building.
Enhance your team’s alignment and readiness. Keep in mindthat the principles of founder readiness apply not only toyou, but to everyone else on your team as well. Bob Tucker,J.C. Faulkner’s business attorney, recalls J.C.’s awareness ofthis fact. “He once told me,” Bob says, “that he wanted thepeople on his management team to never have felt smarter,to never have felt more confident or more capable than theywere in their D1 jobs. Anything and everything that could bedone to achieve that outcome he wanted to do.”
Find “your people.” This useful concept comes from Pamela Slim, author of Escape from Cubicle Nation, who has built herthriving consulting, coaching, and writing practice by attract-ing people who share her passion and not losing sleep overpeople who don’t.
STRENGTHEN YOUR PASSION
Here are four strategies for fueling a healthy, sustainable enthusiasmfor your new venture:
Clear your way. Free up energy by relinquishing old obliga-tions or time-wasters that no longer align with your startuppriorities.
Feed your curiosity. Learn everything you can about yourbusiness concept, the markets you are entering, and the play-ers and competitors in the industry. The more you learn, themore confidence and energy you will bring to your foundingrole.
Refill your tank. Pay attention to how you perform, how yourecover, what renews you, and what depletes you. Based onthese observations, build regular routines and rituals to con-tinually strengthen your energy and performance.
Welcome adversity. In startups, as in life, we cannot predict thefuture, nor can we fully protect ourselves from the challengesand crises to come. Adversity can strengthen an entrepreneurand a team like no other force, especially when approachedwith the attitude captured by German diplomat and psy-chotherapist Karlfried Von Durkheim, who said, “Only to theextent that a man exposes himself over and over again to an-nihilation, can that which is indestructible arise within him.In this lies the dignity of daring.
DIRECT YOUR PASSION
Finally, aim your passion in ways that will reduce the danger offalling into the passion trap and increase your overall odds of venturesuccess. For example, cultivate.
- Passion for your customer, rather than your product
- Passion for learning the truth, rather than being right
- Passion for exploring contradictory data, rather than holdingon to old beliefs
- Passion for learning about your competitors’ strengths, ratherthan dismissing them
- Passion for finding and attracting the best possible talent foryour venture team