Waiting for passion

There are a lot of people on the planet waiting for passion. That is a bit like a person walking around waiting for bird poop to land on their head. Someone they met told them that bird poop is a lucky charm that will change their life and that they knew of a couple of other folks whose lives transformed when they had bird poop land on their heads.
So, this person roams around feeling certain that it’ll show up. And, when it does, they believe they will be on the path to success.

passion, waiting, choose

Jack Welch’s famous people evaluation systems at General Electric had a large weight for passion. But, passion for what? It turns out that it didn’t really matter. As he said, passionate people are passionate about everything. It didn’t matter if it is their kid’s softball team, their musical instrument or their not-for-profit, people who choose to be passionate will be just that, passionate.

Cal Newport wrote a whole (very good) book debunking the idea that finding your passion is bad advice. His thesis was that you work your way into getting good at something and that’ll lead you to passion. Starting with an attempt to find passion will take you nowhere. Instead, get good, become awesome, and you will likely find passion. It is an approach that is almost guaranteed to work.

My only addition to that would be – “Choose to become passionate.” Passion isn’t something you need to wait for. At some point, you just need to choose to give a sh*t, to care about what you do and who you spend time with. You can start anywhere you want – it doesn’t matter. You just need to care enough to sweat the small stuff.

The moment you do that, you will find that once you are passionate about something, you will care and be passionate about everything.

And, yes, you will be transformed.

Ben Horowitz on adding value and not following your passion

As I’ve written here, I don’t generally watch videos of talks as I think they’re largely a waste of time. However, Ben Horowitz is an exception. Every bit of content I’ve read or watched from him has been incredibly high quality. His blog is fantastic and his book, The Hard Thing about Hard Things, is the closest I’ve seen a book come to an entrepreneur’s bible. So, I did what a fan would and jumped on watching this 16 minute video during breakfast yesterday as I just expected it to be really good. And, it was.

These are my three lessons from his talk.

1. Think for yourself because you add value to the world when you bring to life a belief that no one believes to be true. This was the story of Brian Chesky at AirBnB. He believed that we would rent a mattress in our home to strangers. While most people thought this was absurd as you could be housing a serial killer, he did 2 things. First, he ran an experiment at home and it turned out to be just fine. Next, he dug into why hotel chains exist. He soon realized that hotel chains are a fairly recent invention. In the old days, people stayed at inns. However, these inns had too much variability as you could have some very bad experiences at some inns. He realized that, with the internet, information and reviews could make this transparent and enable people to choose well. It is that insight that’s led to a company valued over a billion dollars.

2. Don’t follow your passion. You don’t know what you are passionate about. And, besides, passions change. Start with what you are good at – you’ll get to passion. (More on this thanks to Cal Newport’s excellent book on the subject here)

3. A period of great opportunities. Yes, there’s global warming, terrorism and many bad things happening all over the world. But, there’s also the following facts (a few of the many he cited) –
– the number of people in extreme poverty today is the lowest it has ever been and one-fifth of what it was in 1900
– child labor is in steep decline and fell 1/3rd between 2011 and 2012
– expenditure of food as a % of income fallen in half since 1960
– Life expectancy has increased and we have grown taller (a measure of nutrition) oin the last 100 years
– Worldwide battlefield deaths are down, violent crime and global supply of nuclear weapons, also, are down
– In 2014, carbon emissions were flat for the first time in the last decade

There are still issues but you have technology available to you as a tool for change. But, if you contribute and think for yourself, you will be the generation that unlocks human potential.

Fantastic, as always. Thanks Ben.