Are you passionate about work? This is a moment of truth – time to be honest. Don’t worry, whatever your answer, your small business can flourish.
Passion at work is a key factor in shaping happiness and productivity.1 But the idea that it’s the only way to achieve entrepreneurial success is a myth. In fact, we’ll share later how it can actually cause problems.
Life isn’t all sunshine, wildflowers and lemonade. It’s work. Hard work. And while entrepreneurial passion isn't a prereq for a long and fruitful self-employed career, it can definitely help to temper the daily grind.
Because at one point or another, running your small business can feel like a massive struggle. And when this happens, we have a message for you…
The root of all passion is suffering, literally.
Let us explain.
The root of all passion at work
The word passion comes from Latin pati, meaning (roughly), ‘that which must be endured’.
‘Must be endured’ – interesting, hey? Especially for someone who’s self-employed. Ask any freelancer why they ditched the 9–5 and you’ll likely hear something like,
‘It wasn’t a choice, so much as a calling.’
A passion project, amped up by a longing for freedom and the power to prompt real social change. Or maybe you’re just in it for the money – that’s fine too! But more on this later.
First off, a super brief history lesson for you.
The dark origins of passion
Around the year 1100, Old French adopted passion from passionem (stemming from pati). Passion here meant ‘Christ’s passion, physical suffering’. By 1300, its meaning had broadened to the sufferings of all martyrs, and to pain more generally. After all, these were the Dark Ages, right?
But soon, passion reunited with its long-lost boring brother passive (from the same Latin root), and made a new, vital association. Now, passion was ‘the state of being affected or acted upon by something external’.
‘When freelancing, do you ever feel like your passion controls you? Like it comes from above, works into your soul and guides your motions?’
It wasn’t till the 1400s that passion moved from its negative sense of ‘ailment, disease or affliction’ to a new, brighter one, that of ‘an emotion, desire or feeling’. Later, this evolved to ‘intense emotion or desire’. Whoa, getting hot!
Then people went a bit crazy (as they do) and started using passion to mean ‘any lasting, controlling emotion – zeal, grief, sorrow, rage, anger, hope, joy’. Skip forward a few centuries and you arrive at today’s meaning:
noun. A strong and barely controllable emotion.'
What a journey!
A guiding force in self-employment
One fascinating peer-reviewed study shows that there are two types of passion in the workplace: ‘obsessive passion’ and ‘harmonious passion’.
Obsessive passion can create conflict between work and life because the person can’t let go of their work. This conflict can lead to burnout, which is ultimately bad for business.
Harmonious passion, on the other hand, prevents conflict while contributing positively to satisfaction at work. And job satisfaction is the antidote for burnout. It’s this harmonious passion that helps entrepreneurs succeed!
Tip – Facing a challenge? Find your sisu
Sisu is an old Finnish concept that roughly translates to a mindset of bravery, stoicism, perseverance and determination in the face of adversity. It can help you through hard times. Read more on sisu here.
The suffering is real(ly good)
So you see, from its very beginnings passion has been intimately tied to the notion of suffering. After all, if you’re truly passionate about something, you’ll pursue it with all your might. You should expect some level of difficulty.
Nothing comes for free, and nothing truly worth having comes easy.
Oprah Winfrey suffered.
Sarah Blakely suffered.
Mark Zuckerberg has probably suffered.
All the big-name entrepreneurs have suffered. The small, equally important names too. And, though you are exceptional, you’re no exception.
Oh, the inevitability!
If you’re not passionate about your job, that’s okay. Entrepreneurial passion isn't absolutely necessary for success. As one book puts it, there are other factors that make you happy and successful in your professional career, like ‘talent, brains, ambition, energy’. But if that’s the case, you might be plagued by worries like, ‘Am I living my best life? Is my job worthy of so much of my time?’ Cue suffering and existential dread.
Likewise, if you are passionate about your work, you’ll also suffer. But this is a special kind of suffering. You’re not suffering for the joy of it. No, not you. You’re not a masochist. (Or maybe you are, that’s cool too!) You’re suffering for something you believe in.
You’ll continue to endure, to undergo, to experience. To embrace the spirit of pati – that which must be endured. And this experience will be uniquely yours, because you are your own boss and you’re in control.
You’ll continue to learn, to be consumed by your passion.
Late in the night, your limbs will move furiously of their own accord, as if suspended by invisible strings – a marionette whose motions are guided by a formidable master: your passion.
This force will motivate you to grow in areas you’re not passionate about – things like business banking, invoicing, bookkeeping and shameless self-promotion – to help make sure your business succeeds, and keep the dream alive.
There will be hardships, sure. There will always be hardships. This life doesn’t let anyone off easy. But there will be meaning in the suffering you endure. Obstacles you encounter will challenge you to grow. Each sacrifice will build character, knowledge, skills. And there will be purpose.
Oh, there will be purpose.
And it will be yours.
Find balance in work life