The most overused catchphrase in business today is "find your passion and follow your bliss." Next to "buy high, sell low," this might be the worst piece of business advice ever.
Don't misunderstand me. I think having a passion and feeling bliss are fabulous parts of the portfolio of success but they are just not the most stable foundation on which to build financial success.
I happen to have started, grown and run a couple of multimillion-dollar businesses. My passion is music and my bliss state is when I am rocking out to said music either at a concert or on a plane ride headed for adventure.
As it turns out, however, and despite my trying my hand at more than three different instruments and having taken a couple of vocal lessons, I will not be making any money with my passion or following my bliss.
I make my money doing two things I am gifted at: developing relationships and math.
You might be interested to know that since on average some 80 percent of businesses fail in their first five years, if the pursuit of passion and bliss in business had payout ratios in Las Vegas like roulette and blackjack do, the list would look something like this:
Roulette: You win 1 out of every 37 tries.
Blackjack: You have a 4.75 percent chance of having 21 dealt to you.
Focusing a business around passion and bliss: You have a small chance of success and therefore only a small hope of keeping passion and bliss alive for the things you once were passionate and in bliss over.
I would prefer to speak about gifts and purpose rather than focus on passion and bliss in the business world.
In every successful business I have had, I mixed building relationships with my capacity for doing math, and money resulted. Cash flow resulted. The lifeblood of a business -- cash -- arrived from my use of my gifts to propel the business along.
Money alone will not keep an entrepreneur alive, however. Entrepreneurs are a funny breed of people who feed on a diet of success, which is often baked from a mix of the desire for financial freedom, the wish for challenge, a thirst for fulfilling adventure and a dash of nonconformity. I am driven by having an acute sense of purpose -- feeling intensely that I must do certain things.
My ultimate purpose is to have more freedom in general. I like to enjoy my free time by indulging in my passion for music and by experiencing the bliss of hanging out with my three kids.
My gifts are for developing relationships and doing math, which -- when applied to certain industries -- results in successful businesses.
I can tell you that If I had started out on that long road toward building a career in music, the business would have been a casualty. I would have stopped rockin' as soon as the money wasn't rollin' in. There would be no passion or bliss for long.
This is not to say that there are not rare cases when individuals' gift and purpose align with their passion and bliss. But those instances are so rare that you are likely not included in this set of people.
So before you start that cupcake store or yoga studio, develop the next app or start a band, please consider your gift, purpose, passion and bliss.
That may be the best piece of advice you get (aside from "buy low, sell high."
Here are five questions to consider when sorting out your passion, gift, bliss and purpose:
1. What would you do all day, even if you never got paid for it, so that you would still walk away happy? (Tip: Having sex could be your answer but should not be unless you are considering the oldest career in the book.
2. What are the two things you do that people always compliment you on or that you always excel at -- even when you're not trying very hard?
3. Is there ever an occasion when you completely lose track of time and your mind is open to possibilities and opportunities? What are you doing when this happens?
4. Where do you do your best thinking? What do you do when you feel you need to recharge?
5. What do you hope you will have accomplished if you were to die tomorrow? What if you have five more years to live? What do you hope you will have accomplished by then?
If you answer all these questions with the raw truth, you will be able to sift out your passion, gifts, bliss and purpose.
Then go out and use your gifts with purpose to support your passion so you can feel bliss.
You score bonus points for making millions or changing the world while doing so.