“Passion is not something you go after as an end in itself. It’s rather a symptom of your engagement with anything into which you are fully immersed. It’s also not something you usually know you have. Others notice your full involvement with something and they call it ‘passion’. I just call it doing what I feel like doing.”
- David Allen, the originator of “Getting Things Done”
- How my dreams came true
- Everyone wants to build a startup
- Passion… or the lack of it
- There are several types of passion
- All these types of passion are related
- The element of surprise
How my dreams came true
I discovered the Internet in 1996 (half-way through high school). Wow. Being able to connect from the comfort of my home to a person on the other side of the globe was magical. With this, I thought, anything was possible.
I started college in 1998 and began to understand how business could be done over the Internet. Going through the “Internet bubble of 2000” I discovered the concept of a “startup” and of course, a few months later a concept of a “bubble” and “a failed startup”. Somewhere in between there was another concept of “new economy” which I never understood so let’s just leave it at that.
Even though most of the Internet startups failed at that time, I was lured into a dream of running a company that could exist only on the Internet and offer products or services to people all over the world digitally. I thought it wasn’t a “new economy” but it most definitely was a new “paradigm shift”.
I graduated in 2003 and even though I was advised to apply for one of these hot-shot top jobs in my country, I decided not work for a big corporation. I had a great resume, spoke several languages and had a chance at a great career in a multi-national company, but I just wasn’t interested. Still remembering that fall of 2000 in Germany and my failed .COM project, I had a dream and I was desperate to make it a reality.
I started small and opened up my web consultancy (focused on e-commerce and Internet marketing) and apart from working for many clients and helping them sell their merchandise over the Internet I kept on building my own “startup projects” on the side.
I failed several times (which I’ll explain later in more detail) until I finally succeeded by launching Nozbe in 2007. It was the moment of the Web2.0 “wave” and the idea of having, running or working for an Internet Startup became popular again. I’m running Nozbe to this day and I’m loving it.
Everyone wants to build a startup
What I found out soon after launching my startup was that in countless cities and campuses in almost every corner of the world young entrepreneurs meet to talk about projects they are building. These were very informal meetings aimed at exchanging ideas and connecting to build fantastic companies of the future… together.
I launched my startup completely alone (I was a one-man-shop) and in a city I didn’t know well (back then, my wife and I had just moved to Warsaw, the capital of Poland). That’s why talking to like-minded folks felt like fun and I began participating in many of these “startup meetings” and had a great time learning from my peers and sharing my experiences.
What I quickly discovered was that I wasn’t so special. My “startup friends” were making the same mistakes I was, and repeating them at a rate similar to mine - all while trying to build something great. Or so they thought. Or so we all thought.
However, as common knowledge has it: “most startups fail” and I witnessed many failures over the past few years and I discovered that most of the time it all came down to one major reason:
Passion… or the lack of it
Passion is what inspires you and what gives you the drive to move forward. It gives you a reason to live. Working on a startup takes a huge amount of time and requires sacrifices in your private life with your family and friends. You have to work on a project without knowing if it will ever succeed. You have no clue if your effort will ever pay off.
That’s why it is so important to be passionate about what you’re doing. Without this, you are ten times more likely to fail.
“I think as long as you’re passionate about something, a similar audience will find you.”
- MG Siegler, venture capitalist
There are several types of passion
Passion shows up in many shapes and forms and you just don’t get to be passionate about one thing or one aspect of your company. There are many types of passion and over here I’d like to comment on the ones I have discovered and that have played the major role in my success.
Ready? Let’s dive into this and hopefully inspire you to build your passionate startup.
1. Passion for the Money
I know. This sounds strange. You really shouldn’t be too passionate about money, or you’ll make all kinds of wrong decisions. It’s just so important to approach money from the right angle. When you’re “doing it for fame and fortune” you’re doing it wrong, you’re just being greedy.
Money is crucial for running a healthy business and it should be viewed as a means to an end and not an end in itself. It’s a benchmark and earning money is a tough skill to master. That’s why I’m starting with money in this book. First, to explain the right attitude towards money and second, to have it out of the way and to be able to focus on all the other passions.
2. Passion for the Solution
I say you should “scratch your own itch” and focus on solving a problem not only you have, but very often thousands upon thousands of people from all around the world suffer from.
Your solution should become your obsession. It starts with solving the problem in a small way and then iterating it all the way until you can solve it for hundreds, thousands or even millions of people from all over the world.
3. Passion for the Product
This helps you focus on delivering the best user experience for your customers and ultimately build a product everyone in your target audience wants to use. You need to use your product daily, tweak it, work on it, be crazy about each detail. Hate it. Love it. Hate it again…
You have to be the “product guy” and instead of looking at your competition, you must be focused on building the best product you can make that solves the problem you’re trying to fix.
4. Passion for the Industry
Your industry is usually not the “startup industry” at all (this is the industry of Venture Capital companies). Your industry is where the problem you’re solving is at. In the case of Nozbe I operate in the “productivity” industry. I know, I could have called it “domain” or “sector”… but I think the word “industry” makes the most sense here.
Understanding and being passionate for your industry helps you understand the problem better and gain more insight into your customers and their needs. Ultimately creating a better solution for them. Thanks to this passion you are constantly learning what is working, you have an opportunity to give back to the community and receive from them intangibles like trust, respect and most of all - great know-how. This is where you have a chance at over-sharing which can result in out-teaching your competition.
5. Passion for Growth
You live, you grow… so you need to be passionate about not standing still but constantly growing. You want to get better, you want your team, your customers and everyone involved to get better and grow.
You need mentors, people who you respect and admire to help you make your decisions. You need to take risks, fail and keep dusting it off and trying again. If you are not constantly moving forward, you’re actually taking steps back.
6. Passion to Help
This is a big one. It proves you understand your expertise can help others and can make the world a better place. That you’re in for the long haul for yourself and everyone around you. I repeat this to my team every day: “Just think about it, every day thousands upon thousands of people from all over the world are planning their day with our software. Nozbe is where they start. How cool is that, right?”
I’ve been having an amazing experience helping others succeed both in my “startup community” as well as my “productivity community”… as well as “the community” as a whole. You want to give back even more. There’s nothing like it. It’s the best drug ever.
7. Passion for Synergies
Speaking of drugs, when two drug-addicts meet, they’re on an all-time high. This is exactly what happens when two (or more) passionate people get together. I was surprised who I was able to meet because of the sheer fact that we both shared passion for a common thing. And we wanted to talk about it, to learn from each other, to hear each other’s stories… and in some cases even work together to join our passions and create synergies. Sweet.
All these types of passion are related
As you undoubtedly noticed, these types of passion are related to each other and actually grow from one to another… but they are all there. All of them are different and unique in their own way and make your life richer and more fulfilling. There are no shortcuts, it takes time to go through all of these phase and after you’ve uncovered them all, your journey gets even more interesting. And as they say, “the journey is the ultimate destination”.
“How do you find your calling? People get confused on this point. They think they need to hear an audible voice from God or there is something mystical about it. I don’t think so. My premise is that you will find it at the intersection of three components: Passion, Proficiency and Profitability. All three of these components are important. Each of them is necessary, but none of them is sufficient in itself. If you have passion and competence without a market, you don’t have a calling. You have a hobby. If you have passion and a market without competence, you don’t have a calling. You have a failure. If you have competence and a market without passion, you don’t have a calling. You have boredom. It really does take all three of them.”\
- Michael Hyatt, blogger, author of “Platform”
The element of surprise
If you keep on pursuing your dreams and following your passions, you’re in for a treat. Life will surprise you in so many ways it’s beyond belief. After each type of passion I’ll try to explain what kind of surprises you can expect from being a passionate person and following your heart.
And it’s not just me, I’ll be adding examples from people across industries have been surprised many times over by where their passion has taken them - and what they discovered, who they met, who discovered them and which doors opened for them.
In my journey I’m being constantly surprised by all this. I’m still blown away by how my passion attracts others and helps me achieve a lot more than I thought was ever possible. How opportunities present themselves that I’ve never thought were within my reach.
Thanks for letting me take you along on this passionate ride. Let’s go!