Last week, I fulfilled my promise to meet with and advise an out-of-state entrepreneur who bid $3,000 at an auction to meet with three experienced angel investors. The auction was to benefit the Heart and Soul Charitable Fund, a non-profit I have supported for 15 years that provides a Monday and Friday soup kitchen among other things.
The two other investors were Brian Cohen, Chair of New York Angels, and Tom Blum, Partner at G.C. Anderson. Both are friends of mine, and we cross paths intermittently when judging competitions or in other ways in the ecosystem of Silicon Alley.
The entrepreneur we met with had two running viable businesses and was looking for help in deciding which business to pursue. After evaluating both businesses, my colleagues and I offered him our thoughts.
I asked the entrepreneur if he was more interested in one of the businesses than the other as both opportunities had merit. I asked him which one he cared more about or was more “passionate” about.
When the word passion was mentioned, the entrepreneur said he wasn’t interested in passion. To him, it all boiled down to which business had the potential of making more money. One of my colleagues agreed, stating: “Passion is over rated. This is business and it is about making money.” I understand the “money is what this is about” point of view. After all, I worked on Wall Street for over twenty years. This discussion made me stop and think what is passion anyway and where does it come into play, and how necessary is it?
If your biggest goal is to make money, you will be attracted to certain professions like investment banking and venture capital. Can you feel the same passion for making money as making a contribution to the world? Making money is more of a goal than a passion. I have seen countless people make large amounts of money, and in many cases that money brings on more materialism and less happiness in an endless game of wanting more and needing more.
In my own life, I run a business to make money while providing women entrepreneurs ways to succeed. Like all early stage companies we are in a quest to find what people will pay for so we can make money to exist. At the same time, I know the importance of values beyond money. Long before business school I worked in the public sector and I have served on numerous non-profit boards. In all of these endeavors I have seen the role that passion plays. The more people care about something, the more they will spend time thinking about it, working on it, and bringing on others to help.
Passion to me is real. I know it when I see it and I know it when I feel it. I can not fully describe passion because it is an emotion. It is a compelling enthusiasm that cannot be faked and cannot be taught or willed. It is more akin to romance or infatuation—it makes the heart beat fast. It is very personal and dear.
It is the essence of a life well lived and something to strive for.
Because passion provides a high state of existence, it may take a lifetime to cultivate and find. The best advice I can offer is to build a career, life, and company related to what you feel compelled by. You will experience a powerful drive and purpose and you will create something that matters. With passion, if you don’t value it and aren’t looking for it, you’ll never find it.
By Deborah Jackson