I have a beef with the whole “follow your passions” thing. I’ve blogged about it before, and if you’ve ever asked me about it in person, over coffee or cocktails, you’ve probably found my soapbox.
It’s not that I think passions are bad. I believe they have a purpose, in business and in life. But I think they’re being incredibly misused and misunderstood.
I think people are using the whole “follow your passions” thing as a justification for action — and it’s laying the groundwork for bad decisions!
But let me back up.
There’s an interesting start-up model out there that my friend Jeff Goins introduced me to. It doesn’t have a name, but he calls it the Passions-Competency-Demand Model. Thought leaders Scott Belsky and Michael Hyatt have also both talked and written about this model.
It’s a simple model (that needs a real name, for the love!). Until a guru names it, I’m just going to stick with calling it the Passions-Competency-Demand Model. You can click through those links above and read the articles about it, but I’ll summarize the concept for you here:
- Finding your purpose or your life calling starts with passion, also defined as your interests, your heart, and what brings you joy.
- Next, look to your gifts and skills, or your competencies. What abilities do you have and what crafts have you mastered? What are your strengths and what are you good at?
- Last, look to market demand. What problem do you solve, and what value do your passions and strengths offer the world?
All good points, all good questions.
But here’s where I take issue: They’re in completely the wrong order.
In the entrepreneurial sphere, we get so hung up on that first point. “Follow your passions,” we’re told. “Do what makes you happy!” “Chase your dreams!” “Follow your heart!” “Do what you love and the money will follow!”
We buy into this, forgetting that the world is not about us, our dreams, our passions.
We forget that what makes us happy isn’t necessarily what makes the market happy. We seem to have been brainwashed to think that if we like it, we can somehow convince the rest of the world to like it as well. And we forget that our heart is a flighty, unreasonable thing that all too often convincingly leads us astray, straight down the path of passion.
I would argue that the world needs you to get out of your own heart and into your own head. The world needs your problem-solving skills. I realize that statement doesn’t cater to the current instruction in chasing your big entrepreneurial dreams — or does it?
Let’s look at the Passions-Competency-Demand Model from another perspective. Instead of starting with our passions, what if we first looked at the intersection of our strengths and market demand?
In other words, what if we analyzed our gifts and resources, and tried to pair them with solutions that the world needs?
Individual strengths and market demand are two very important, and often overlooked, parts of the Passions-Competency-Demand Model. Let’s look at why.
First up, strengths. Strengths are talents, skills, and abilities. Are you good at playing the piano, solving a Rubik’s Cube, or debating? Do you have unusual or unique abilities to relate to others, or listen, or analyze data? That list could go on and on.
Strengths can also be a different type of resource. Maybe you have a lot of time on your hands, and you could learn to master a new skill. Maybe you have the financial resources to hire someone who is an expert where you are not.
The amazing thing about strengths is that we’re usually passionate and confident about things that we’re good at. By looking at strengths before we look at passions, we often hit two birds with one stone.
Your strengths also position you as an expert. And the label of expert creates trust, and trust creates value, and value is what you need in order to make money.
Did you catch that?
You don’t need another product, or another service, or another offering to make money or pay the bills. You need to create value. Or, if creating value seems like too much work, we could take another step back and look at the last piece of the Passions-Competency-Demand Model.
Demand. If you’re anything like me, the mere mention of that word sends you into twitches as you flashback to college economics class. But bear with me. Demand simply means that someone wants what you’re trying to sell. And if they want what you’re trying to sell, it’s because they value it.
See what we did there?
So maybe people won’t value your strength of Rubik’s Cube Wizardry. Maybe they don’t want to pay to sit there and watch you debate about something. And the thing is, no matter how good you are at those things, and no matter how much you love them or are passionate about them, you’re never going to be able to create value in a potential customer’s mind.
But let’s say your neighbor needs a new sofa, and it just so happens that you’re an expert in upholstery selection, thanks to that furniture job you had in college. Or your dad needs help with taxes, and it turns out you’re pretty good with numbers and forms.
You’re helping people. And when you’re helping people, you don’t have to worry about selling to them.
You don’t have to worry about them wanting your product or not. They will naturally want it, simply because you’re meeting a need in their life, or, in a different sense, you’re offering them a hand.
I’m a big believer that “your calling” presents itself to you in the form of the needs of others. When you open your eyes and your heart to the needs of others, you’ll quickly start to realize that you have all sorts of strengths and abilities to offer, and guess what, you’re passionate about a few of them as well.
So don’t follow your heart, unless it’s leading you down a path of helping others. Don’t do what makes you happy, because it’s probably going to burn you out in the long run.
Look at the world around you and see what it needs.
Pick one or two things that the market needs, that you’re experienced enough in to be considered an expert, that interest you just enough…
And bingo, you’ve got your sweet spot.