Extra points for blind pivots.
How to Pivot Your Passion
How many times have we heard “find your passion”, “follow your passion”, “you need to have passion”. In the world of entrepreneurs, if I had a euro every time I heard this (along with “hardware is hard”) I’d pay back the Greek debt before they default.
Yet, we also hear “pivot!”. Can you pivot your passion?
Maybe there is a way to reconcile the two. Hear me out.
1. What is Passion?
“Passion” is one of those “semantic prisons which do not permit us to think straight” (from Aldous Huxley, The Human Situation).
It’s one of those words that are repeated so often that we all think we know what they mean. We never revisit their actual meaning, which sometimes reveal confusion or massive semantic drifts (I would put “democracy” in there too).
Google suggests “strong and barely controllable emotion”, “a state or outburst of strong emotion”, “intense sexual love”, “an intense desire or enthusiasm for something”.
The problem is that emotions are not controllable (“I want to love this”), nor predictable.
What could be a renewed source of passion?
2. Sources of passion
Looking for the root cause, we can wonder: what brings renewed enthusiasm? Some would say a mission or deeper meaning (a la Viktor Frankl).
But is that all there is?
When we consider the variety of businesses out there, many don’t achieve a general consensus on their positive contribution to the world. Yet they are lead by passionate entrepreneurs.
From what I observed across many entrepreneurs, passion arises from wanting to see how far you can grow a project.
Success fuels passion.
Just like someone trying a new activity might be motivated by an initial good result, or praise, the motivation beyond the start can come from the joy of progress.
3. Pivot and Passion (can) go hand in hand
Under this light, an entrepreneur can start from either a desire for autonomy, an interest in a technology, a wish to get paid/made/laid (h/t @davemcclure), and sometimes a sense of mission regarding a problem of the world.
As a side note: the “change the world” mantra is so overused I think many entrepreneurs feel embarrassed to be elevated as saviors when their motivation is freedom/autonomy/technology. Of course any creation “changes the world” but I doubt such selfless generosity is the primary motivation in most cases. This mis-perception is likely reinforced by the initial idealism of journalists (before realizing they are working for the man / need to bring in pageviews / “masses” don’t care about what “matters”).
Creating a new business is difficult. When, among the many attempts and mutations rendered necessary for survival, something starts to work, it surely brings some relief, hope and curiosity about how far it can go.
This is where pivot and passion meet for the long-term: an entrepreneur deciding to be at the service of an idea because it is starting to work.
4. What matters most?
Passion can run out if business/progress slows down or stalls for too long.
In some (most?) cases, the initial entrepreneur is not the best suited for long-term impact. Can he/she grow with the organization? The skillset that is necessary evolves a lot.
Is the organization better off without the initial founder(s) or should it be part of another? There are many conflicts of interest between desires for autonomy, ego, and maximizing impact or financial returns.
For those of you watching the HBO show “Silicon Valley”: what do you think fuels the passion of the main character? Technology? Challenge? Changing the world? Is it evolving as the show goes on? I’m curious about your take on it!