Dark Helmut: “No you fool, we’re following orders. We were told to comb the desert so we’re combing it.” Dialogue from Spaceballs, the movie.
When I hear aspiring entrepreneurs discuss what, at times, seems to be their “mission,” I often think of this scene from one of my Mel Brooks favorites. Standard advice 101 for a new entrepreneur – maintain your vision and do not let others distract you from that vision. This is usually accompanied by the standard “you have to remain passionate about what you believe” speech. So, why discuss this subject at all? I believe, too often, these concepts are confused which can work to the detriment of the aspiring entrepreneur. At times, the concepts get taken too literally and many even interchange one for the other. But, they are separate and it is important to understand the distinction.
A vision is the “why” in what the entrepreneur sees for his company. It is the basic premise that helps define how what they are creating either solves a major problem or disrupts a market making it easier, safer or more convenient for a customer. My standard example of the former is LinkedIn and the latter Zappos. The value of being able to access currently employed individuals for new hire opportunities or provide easy access to shoes you might have to visit a half dozen stores to find was not lost on either of these creative company founders. But, their original vision was not exactly on point. They were both centered a bit more on their target communities and communication yet they were able to pivot to become market leaders. While they let their companies evolve, they kept their vision (the “why”) clearly in the forefront. By the way, my favorite read on this subject is Start with Why by Simon Sinek.
Passion on the other hand, is the fuel that allows an entrepreneur to continue to move forward despite the usual litany of obstacles (which usually center around people, money or a combination of both.). Passion is always among the top three (vision and perseverance are the other two) mentioned when describing admirable attributes of an entrepreneur. Note it is not just energy – energy is like gas and one can run out of fuel. But, passion comes from the heart and as we all know (at least those of us who are living) the heart doesn’t stop. It is this endless energy that helps entrepreneurs to survive; to outlast the elements and the trials and tribulations of the journey. So, what is the problem?
Passion at times becomes the real or perceived reason to remain on a course when some solid objective evidence shows that maybe it is time to veer off the road for a bit. The famous “pivot” is difficult to achieve when one is passionate to a fault. Sometimes referred to as the “passion trap” an entrepreneur is lured into what becomes a death spiral because he fears a lack of passion will keep him from achieving his vision. The world has changed but passion has blinded the entrepreneur’s perception of reality. While there is no easy answer to this dilemma if you keep coming back to the “why” your vision will triumph and this will lead you to your ultimate goal.