The Mind of an Entrepreneur –
In the Stephen King novel, “Needful Things” a soft spoken entrepreneur, named Leland Gaunt opens an antique shop in the fictional town of Castle Rock and sells items which the townspeople became passionately connected to. Unfortunately, Leland destroys any potential for market growth or a loyalty program by manipulating his customers to carry out spiteful acts on each other with fatal consequences. Yes, there are supernatural forces at play but the book hinges on how human emotions like passion, love and gratification make us disregard rational thinking and leave us open to manipulation.
But while every bush isn’t a demonic business owner with questionable ethics, is Stephen King’s tale that far removed from reality? The phrases “blinded by passion” or “crimes of passion” don’t exist because passion is an emotion that heightens one’s reasoning. So if being passionate can muddle our decision making skills, then why is passion so intrinsically linked with entrepreneurship?
In every text about entrepreneurship, the word ‘passion’ pops up like yet another franchise of a relatively new, but already well-known Bajan bakery. “You need to have passion to start a business!”, “It must be something that you’re passionate about.”, “If you’re passionate about what you do, you’ll never work another day in your life.” Motivational speakers thrive on reminding you to keep your passion levels on high because without it your business won’t be enjoyable.
Merriam-webster.com has three main definitions of passion. 1. A strong sexual or romantic feeling for someone or something. 2. A strong feeling such as anger that causes you to act in a dangerous way. 3. A strong feeling of enthusiasm or excitement for something or about doing something. Believe it or not, you can experience all of these definitions as an entrepreneur.
The Working Horn Theory
Being passionate about your business when everything is running smoothly is very similar to being in love. You know that honeymoon phase when everything about your partner is sexy… even their farts! So it’s not a stretch to say your business can also break your heart. It’s even worse when something totally out of your control happens. You’re just going along fine thinking about the future, and then BRADAPPS!: A global pandemic hits (or you find out yuh getting horn); you cannot believe it (you refuse to believe it); you do research and it’s true (i.e. your lover says it’s true); you blame the Government (you blame yourself); the economy slumps (you get depressed); leaders pledge to beat COVID-19 (apologies and promises); bills pile up (resentment grows); losing money (trust is lost); you try to make it work (you try even harder to make it work); every day is a challenge (every day is a challenge); the passion is fading (de passion gone). Both equally heartbreaking events because owning a business is like a strong sexual or romantic feeling for someone.
According to cntraveler.com, the cancellation of Crop Over cost Barbados 32,000 potential travellers and an estimated $120 million dollars in overall economic activity. Outside of Covid19, unlucky things just happen, freak accidents, equipment failure, losing big contracts, and it all can affect your passion and how you feel about your business. You can even begin to hate your business, like you hate your lying ex.
One of the first times a business left me heartbroken was an online wedding magazine that my best friend and I created called, “Isle I Do”. We were both like 24 at the time and very passionate about the project. We were so passionate that we went to the “Forever I Do” wedding exhibition and didn’t even have the website completed. We had a single laptop set up with a static display of the site, handed out flyers and collected emails. With a simple folding table in between other exhibitors’ grandiose displays, our passion sold our product. We ended up getting over 250 emails for our mailing list (it was like 2007 and mailing lists were still a thing). That was encouraging and we both totally immersed ourselves. I was reading a bunch of bridal magazines and writing articles from a female perspective and my best friend taught himself advanced HTML coding to build the website. Everything was going well. We finished the site, did a few more wedding showcases and started a Facebook page. Then, a competing company called and said they wanted to buy the website.
We were new at this and didn’t even know how to react. They convinced us that we had to sell them the website because we won’t be able to compete with them anyway. So after much discussion, we decided to sell but we wanted to remain a part of the team in order to continue developing because our vision was for “Isle I Do” to become a regional/global brand. However, the purchasing company didn’t have that in mind. They just bought the website to eliminate their competition. When I realized we were manipulated, I was devastated. So I did what any heartbroken 24-year old would do, sent an email cussing out everybody! And I tagged everyone, from managers back down! In retrospect, I could have handled things differently. We were paid well but like a jilted lover, I was blinded by passion. It was: a strong feeling such as anger that caused me to act in a dangerous way.
Passion Only Goes So Far
You can be passionate about something but terrible at it. Like me and karaoke. Or you could be good at something you love but you’re inhumanly gifted at something else.
A known fact about Usain Bolt (other than being the World’s Fastest Man) is that at school he enjoyed football and cricket. Yes, he was a sprinter but he preferred cleats over spikes and claims cricket as his first love (biography.yourdictionary.com). In an interview with American sprint champ, Michael Johnson, Bolt admitted that he didn’t enjoy the gruelling training regimen that sprinters had to undergo. While Bolt was initially not very passionate about sprinting, with his success, his love for the sport grew and he found passion in interacting with his fans as well as being able to provide for his mother and his community in Jamaica.
This expansion of passion can go for any occupation because no business is only one thing. For example, mechanics could be passionate about troubleshooting engines, interacting with customers, building project cars or participating in rally events. The mechanic for Bar Cutters, Duane Johnson of Johnson’s Auto found a new passion in metalwork and fabrication and now builds trailers for mobile businesses along with his automotive repair. A business can spawn several passions and as the passion for one aspect fades another can arise. A strong feeling of enthusiasm or excitement for something or about doing something.
Yes, passion can make us irrational and open to manipulation but it’s such raw human emotion. It grows and fades organically with life’s experiences. Maybe “passion” is oversold as a buzzword but it’s so entrenched in an entrepreneur’s journey that it can’t be overrated. It’s right there as you cry with every failure or toast to every success. You don’t need to force it or find it, as an entrepreneur, passion is par for the course.