Photography Creative Ideas

Why You Should Work Dispassionately

Passion: I was raised in a generation that was spoon-fed it three square meals a day. My parents' generation, who were raised by the survivors of World War II, had a more tempered outlook. Then came my generation. We were systematically told we could be anything we wanted. The phrases, "live passionately" and "follow your passion" summoned us out of bed with ardor and launch full force into our dreams. My generation flocks by the millions to Burning Man and Tony Robins' conferences hoping to get another hit of zeal to keep going.

What happens, however, when our bright bold future isn't delivered? The emails aren't turned back with "no", they aren't even dignified with a response. We are ignored, we are dismissed, and all our zeal for this bright future we had been spoon-fed fades into disheartenment.  We grow up and realize that all those passion-filled sentences were just part of the elementary school curriculum and now it's time to join the ranks of the real world. Or so it feels that way.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics:

49.7% of businesses fail by year 5, 

53.6% of businesses fail by year 6

56.8% of businesses fail by year 7

60.5% of businesses fail by year 8

So, what are we doing wrong? I believe part of what we are doing wrong is that we are working from a base of passion. Passion is an emotion. Oxford defines passion as, " A strong and barely controllable emotion." If we dig into the word emotion, we find this definition, " A state of mind deriving from one's circumstances, mood, or relationships with others." Emotion based on circumstances is not a solid foundation on which to build, run, or sustain a business.

In his book, Ego is the Enemy by Ryan Holiday, he calls us to work "dispassionately". I remember when I heard that phrase in my audio book the first time. I stopped editing and paused to listen. Dispassionately? Work without passion? It was the exact antithesis of everything I had always been taught or believed. But then, as Holiday always does, he said that phrase that created a fundamental shift in my thinking.

"Don't work from a place of passion, work from a place of purpose."

Webster defines purpose as, "Something set up as an end to be attained. An intention. A resolution. A determination." 

Passion is an emotion. Purpose is a dedication to something. The word purpose itself carries the connotation that achievement will require dedication; it expects difficulty, it requires strategy. Passion is like a pouring of gasoline on a flame: it flares up and burns off quickly. Purpose is like coal: it is a quiet ember that burns steadily. 

I read many years ago about the 10% rule. I can't recall exactly where I read it, but the book stated that we get 10% of what we try for. Since I've heard that, every time I get a "no", or more annoyingly, I am simply ignored, I remind myself of it. "That's another 10% down towards my 'yes'." That is operating from a base of purpose. It's a resolution towards a goal that is not based on emotion. 

My father once told me a story that marked him as a young adult. He asked his uncle Russell, a farmer who spent arduous days in the sun earning a living by the sweat on his brow,

"Did you like being a farmer? Was it fulfilling?" 

His uncle replied, "That's not a question we asked ever asked ourselves. We simply got up and did the things we had to do."

I'm grateful that I was raised in a generation where self-fulfillment was spoon-fed to me. Those indoctrinations are what got me where I am today. Sometimes though, I do feel like our generation lacks a little Uncle Russell. 

Am I saying that we don't need passion to be successful? Most certainly not. Passion is still what wakes me up in the morning. I love photography. I mean, I love it. I can't not do it. I am energized by creating images. I am driven by the satisfaction of blowing my clients away. I love seeing my work on the shelves of ULTA beauty. I am extremely passionate about my work. I do believe that we need passion to be successful photographers. What I am saying though, is that passion is not enough. Passion cannot carry us without the base of purpose. Passion must be paired with dedication. Passion must be married with tenacity. Passion must be coupled with strategy. Passion cannot sustain a business without purpose. We need a little Uncle Russell when our passion gets a reality check.

As you know, my favorite part of being a writer is hearing your feedback. What do you think of this concept of passion versus purpose? Have you been a photographer, or a business owner for over seven years? (Congratulations! You beat the odds.) If you have been, what are some of the strategies that have sustained you? Leave a comment below and I'm wishing everyone a great week of working purposefully.