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Follow Passion’ Is Awful, Flawed Advice

With a job being something that we can no longer count on and more demands than ever on our time, we seem to be in constant search of balance and fulfillment. This has created a huge “follow your passion” movement, which suggests that you should earn a living by creating a livelihood from your greatest life passion.

But getting intoxicated by the passion story is akin to “business beer goggles.” You aren’t thinking clearly or seeing the reality.

For businesses to be successful, entrepreneurs need to think about opportunities from their customers’ perspective as much as from their own perspective.

While I do believe that successful businesses have leaders — and often employees, by the way — who are passionate about the business opportunity and their customers, you do not need your life’s passion as a starting point. If you were passionate about the television show Dexter, I’m pretty sure that doesn’t translate into you starting a serial-killer business — despite being amoral and illegal, I don’t think the market opportunity is that large. But seriously, why do so many people think that you need to earn a living from what you love to do the most?

Passion isn’t a starting point.
Zappos.com is a business where passion followed opportunity, but wasn’t the starting point. I can’t imagine that Tony Hsieh is more passionate about shoes than most of the women that I know. He is, however, completely passionate about customer service, which helped take that business to the top of its game.

But people’s life passions generally aren’t around concepts like customer service, which drive successful businesses. Kids grow up wanting to be firemen, ballerinas, baseball players or Star Wars characters, not community builders. If you ask someone their passion, I can guarantee that 99 out of 100 times or more, you will get answers like golf, dancing, wine, scrapbooking or sex before customer service, community building and customer loyalty. If you start with passion, Imelda Marcos or Sex & the City’s Carrie Bradshaw end up running Zappos.com before Tony Hsieh.

Successful businesses identify a customer need or want — an opportunity. When the entrepreneur is incredibly passionate about filling that customer need and is uniquely positioned to be the best person to do so in some way, that’s where business success happens.

And here’s the brilliant part: As long as entrepreneurs aren’t a bandwagon hopper trying to jump on whatever is hot, they will likely find an opportunity from an area of interest. For example, if you have no interest in green technologies, it’s not likely that you will notice a customer need in that area. On the other hand, if you are a foodie, it’s quite possible that you will run into an opportunity in or around food.

The reason work is not called ‘fun’ or ‘hobby’.
One of the ways to truly have some semblance of balance is to try to keep your work life from seeping into the rest of your life. If you have something that you do to relieve stress or add joy to your life, do you want to layer on the requirement of earning a living from it? Once you depend on something to put food on your family’s table and to pay your mortgage, it changes the entire nature of the relationship. Sometimes, work can be fun, but it’s not called that for a reason. Plus, we weren’t designed to always be “on.” We need time to recombobulate and relax.

Passions are magical, but businesses are grounded in realities. Do you remember when Dorothy and the gang peered behind the curtain to find out that the Wizard of Oz wasn’t an all-powerful being, but rather, kind of a loser? Or when you found out that Santa Claus wasn’t real? Or when you figured out that your parents weren’t superheroes, just people with flaws? It sucked, right? Our hobbies are about escapism. There is a bit of magic and fantasy in them. When you make that your business, you are privy to the nuts and bolts. That tempers the magic.

It’s not all about you.
Having a hobby is a total self-indulgence. It is something that you can do that is mostly — if not entirely — you-centric. While you may think that you can have a business that is all about you, you would be wrong. A business is about your customers. In your business, you only get a say if it jives with your customers’ wants. Otherwise, they don’t buy from you.

We need to educate entrepreneurs that by approaching a business from what you are lacking or missing or passionate about, you are completely ignoring those who allow you to have a business: your customers. Again, our environment is fraught with competition. Customers, whose attention spans are contracting, are bombarded with messages and are harder to reach than ever. You have to make the customers the most important part of your business.

If you want to fulfill a passion, do it. That’s what hobbies and free time are for. But if you intertwine that desire with a business, remember that your passion does not pay your for goods or services.

While you may find an opportunity from things that you are passionate about, I don’t think it’s the best starting place to create a business. Of course, there are exceptions to every rule. However, the exceptions don’t make for a good strategy. It is possible to win the lottery, but that doesn’t mean that you should invest all of your money in lottery tickets.

While you absolutely need to be passionate about making your business a success, you don’t need to make a business from your greatest passion in life. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. Find the opportunities that ignite a passion within you- that is where the success will happen.

Tips to Immediately Connect With Anyone

Too many people succumb to the mistaken belief that the ability to connect with others is a natural, unteachable trait that belongs to only a lucky few. It’s easy to fall prey to this misconception. In reality, this ability is under your control, and it’s a matter of emotional intelligence (EQ).

Research conducted by Matthew Lieberman at UCLA shows that being social and connecting with others is as fundamental a human need as food, shelter, and water. For example, Lieberman discovered that we feel social pain, such as the loss of a relationship, in the same part of the brain that we feel physical pain.

The primary function of this brain area is to alert us to threats to our survival. It makes you realize how powerful and important social connection is. We’re hard wired to be social creatures.

MRIs of the brain show that social thinking and analytical thinking involve entirely different neural networks and that they operate something like a seesaw. When you engage in analytical thinking, the social part of your brain quiets down, but as soon as you’re finished, the social network springs back to life.

The social brain is the end of the seesaw where the fat kid sits; it’s our brain’s default setting.

Given that social connection is such a fundamental human need, you’d think that it would be easy to connect with everyone we meet. Unfortunately, that’s not the case. Against our own self-interest, we get bogged down by shyness, self-consciousness, cynicism, pride, competitiveness, jealousy, and arrogance.

If you can get that baggage out of the way, you can connect with anyone—even those who are still holding on to their own. Here are some tips that will help you to connect instantly with everyone you meet.

Leave a strong first impression.
Research shows that most people decide whether or not they like you within the first seven seconds of meeting you. They then spend the rest of the conversation internally justifying their initial reaction. This may sound terrifying, but by knowing this, you can take advantage of it to connect with anyone.

First impressions are tied intimately to positive body language. Becoming cognizant of your gestures, expressions, and tone of voice (and making certain they’re positive) will draw people to you like ants to a picnic. Using an enthusiastic tone, uncrossing your arms, maintaining eye contact, and leaning towards the person who’s speaking are all forms of positive body language that high-EQ people use to draw others in. Positive body language can make all the difference in a conversation. It’s true that how you say something can be more important than what you say.

Be the first to venture beyond the superficial.
Our first conversation or two with a new acquaintance tends to be pretty superficial. We portray a careful picture of ourselves, and we stick to nice, safe topics. We talk about the weather and people we know in common and share the most basic details about ourselves. But if you really want to connect with somebody, try upping the ante and revealing the real you. You don’t need to get too personal, but it’s important to let the other person know what you’re passionate about. Most of the time, if you open up, the other person will follow your lead and do the same.

Ask good questions. If the other person seems hesitant to open up, encourage them to do so by asking substantial questions. “What do you do?” doesn’t further the relationship nearly as much as, “Why did you choose your profession?” Search for questions that will help you to understand what makes the other person tick, without getting too personal.

Learn from them.
In the course of his research, Lieberman concluded that our educational system would be much more effective if we tapped into the social side of learning, rather than trying to squash it. For example, the best way to help an eighth-grader struggling with math would be to have him get help from another student. Apply that same principle to your life, and be willing to learn from the person you’re trying to connect with. Not only does that make them feel more bonded to you, it makes them feel important. It also shows that you’re willing to be vulnerable and aren’t too proud to admit that you have much to learn.

Don’t make them regret removing the mask.
If your new acquaintance does you the honor of opening up, don’t make them regret it. Sarcasm, criticism, or jokes that might make the other person feel judged for what they’ve shared are major faux paus. Instead, empathize with their approach to life, which you can do even if you don’t agree with their beliefs, and then reciprocate by revealing more about yourself.

Look for the good in them.
Our culture can often predispose us toward cynicism. We seem to focus on finding reasons not to like people instead of reasons to like them. Shut that cynical voice off, and concentrate on looking for the good in a new acquaintance. For one thing, that keeps you from writing someone off too soon, but more importantly, when you expect the best from people, they’re likely to deliver it.

Smile.
People naturally (and unconsciously) mirror the body language of the person they’re talking to. If you want people to like you, smile at them during a conversation and they will unconsciously return the favor and feel good about you as a result.

Use their name.
Your name is an essential part of your identity, and it feels terrific when people use it. You shouldn’t use someone’s name only when you greet them. Research shows that people feel validated when the person they’re speaking with refers to them by name during a conversation. When you meet someone, don’t be afraid to ask their name a second time if you forget it right after you hear it. You’ll need to keep their name handy if you’re going to remember it the next time you see them.

Follow the platinum rule.
We all know the golden rule, and it’s pretty easy to follow. The platinum rule is harder to follow because it requires us to treat people the way they want to be treated. Not only does doing so make the other person more comfortable—and therefore more likely to open up—but it also proves that you’ve been listening and have really heard what they’ve been telling you. And that shows extra effort on your part.

Don’t make it a contest.
We’ve all seen the stereotypical sit-com scene where two guys in a bar spend the night trying to one-up each other. The same thing happens when you meet someone new. Their accomplishments and life experience sneak up on you and make you feel the urge to make yourself look just as good (if not better). Doing so may stroke your ego, but it doesn’t help you to connect with them. It keeps you focused on yourself when you should be trying to learn about them and find common ground.

Turn off your inner voice.
One giant thing that keeps us from connecting with other people is that we don’t really listen. Instead, we’re thinking while the other person is talking. We’re so focused on what we’re going to say next or how what the other person is saying is going to affect us down the road that we fail to hear what’s really being said. The words come through loud and clear, but the meaning is lost.

You must turn off this inner voice if you want to connect deeply with people. So what if you forget what you were going to say or if the conversation moves in a different direction before you have a chance to make your point. If your real goal is to connect with a person, you have to shut off your own soundtrack long enough to focus on what they’re telling you.

Bringing it all together
The good news is that we’re programmed to connect with each other; we just keep getting in our own way. Try these tips the next time you meet someone new, and watch a superficial conversation turn into a real connection.

Know More When You Networking for All the Wrong Reasons

Call it a personal quest, but it’s a mission of mine to help redefine the way people think about the word “networking.” Why? Because “networking” has become synonymous with selfishness, when at its root, I believe it’s about selflessness.

I founded an organization in 2011 called Network Under 40 to help young professionals make friends and business contacts in a peer-to-peer environment. There, many 20- and 30-somethings share with me the challenges they face in building relationships after college. People’s paths diverge, bars aren’t an ideal location to make friends, co-workers aren’t always friend material and most “networking” events are just guises for singles scenes or pushy salespeople.

Recognizing my gift as a connector, I saw that I could create an environment to provide a solution. Ever since, thousands of people in multiple cities have forged new friendships and business relationships as a result.

Yet, all the while, I continue to hear things like, “networking doesn’t work” and “I don’t need to network,” with which I wholeheartedly disagree. Those who think it doesn’t work are generally looking to quickly gain something or are hanging out in the wrong places. And for those who say they have no need, the moment they need a resource from someone, it’s too late.

You need to be growing relationships at a time when you have nothing to take — only something to offer — so that when your time comes to ask, you don’t appear self-serving.

That being the case, consider checking out these organizations that are helping young people to redefine networking as what it should be doing: cultivating authentic relationships with those with whom you naturally connect — with no self-serving agenda.

1. Breakout
The impact-event company Breakout takes the innovative, creative and entrepreneurial-minded to some of the most interesting emerging U.S. markets for immersive under-the-hood experiences you won’t get as a tourist (or frankly even as a local).

These weekends take attendees out of their daily routines and plant them in new environments, face-to-face with local leaders and change-makers. As a result, deep relationships are forged, and paths are laid out for collaborative impact through resource-sharing.

2. Daybreaker/Dusk
Want to meet wellness and fun-minded peers, but not over alcohol? Then perhaps Daybreaker (or its newest incarnation, Dusk) is for you. Meeting at clubs but at dawn or dusk, and without alcohol, attendees share experiences like yoga and “sober dance parties” and subsequently kick-start new connections.

3. Summit Series
This invite-only group Summit Series could well be described as a “Davos for the next generation.” Whether the setting is a gathering at the organization’s mountain retreat in Utah, or its chartered cruiseliner, those who attend, who want to grow, let loose, collaborate and dream big, meet here. The series is described as a place to “catalyze positive personal and collective growth,” and a place where quick and deep relationships are made.

4. Young Entrepreneurs Council (YEC)
Specific to entrepreneurs under the age of 40 with $1 million in annual revenue or the same level of funding, YEC mixes digital and in-person connections among entrepreneurial peers nationwide. It’s a powerful group of young business minds who willingly work together to share ideas and resources and inevitably make friends along the way.

5. Global Shapers
Want to make an impact in your city but not sure how? Then perhaps Global Shapers (a division of the World Economic Forum) is for you (if you’re between the ages of 20 and 30). This is a great place to be if you can snag a spot to sit alongside the future leaders of your city who want to give back in a tangible way. More so, this global network of hubs provides for an incredible web of contacts no matter where in the world you find yourself.

This list only scratches the surface, as there are plenty more organizations and methods to help you expand your network through shared interests, stages of life and experiences.

So if none of these is a fit for you, find alternate ways. My challenge to you is to not become content. Continue to challenge yourself by being around the right people and, in turn, seeing the power for growth, learning and sharing that comes from these networking relationships turned to so much more.

Tips to Be Successful by Embracing Change

Change is a big part of being successful. Not only is change good (if you don’t believe me, look at the fashions of the 70s and 80s), but it’s accelerating at an increasingly rapid pace. While it took 75 years for 100 million users to adopt the telephone, it only took four and a half for the Internet and just over a year for Candy Crush Saga.

This means that you need to keep adapting. It’s both a survival skill and a success skill.

However, change is difficult for people. For some of us, it’s pure laziness. But for others, we don’t like the lack of control or the uncertainty of worse outcomes, bruised egos, embarrassment or failing. People also seem to hate losing more than they love winning.

But, if you don’t learn to embrace change and if you don’t move forward, you will be left behind. So, whether it’s changing the focus of your business, having to learn new technology or replacing a prized employee, you need to know how to deal with change.

Here are four ways that you can learn to be comfortable with the discomfort of change and use change as a success tool.

1. Take small action steps.
When you get your mind wrapped around the concept of embracing change, the first tweak is to just take small steps forward. You are not going to be able to effect a full wholesale change overnight, so just find one small thing that you can do at a time, then do it and then, do another.

If you can start with an end goal, work backward and break your goal into small action steps until you can get to the very first one in the path. This is usually something that you can control or do yourself. Once you accomplish that milestone, then you can tackle another. These small steps make change palatable and easier to accomplish.

2. Be willing to go back in order to move forward.
Get your mind wrapped around taking a few steps back in order to be able to go forward. Visualize trying to jump across a creek. You can’t just jump standing from where you are. You have to physically move backward in order to give yourself the momentum needed to run and take that leap forward.

Success is not linear, though I wish it was, so expect that when you face change, there will be a time that you have to move backward. This may be in terms of status, pay or some other factors required to get to the next level. If your mind knows that’s part of the process and removes the uncertainly around it, it’s easier to embrace.

3. Check your ego.
Typically, the biggest roadblock to change is you. Often, there’s little downside other than facing your own bruised ego when you evaluate change. To counteract this, quiz yourself about the downside of pursuing change if it doesn’t work out. If the downside is primarily concern about failure or people pointing and laughing at you, it’s time to get over it.

4. Fail correctly.
For some reason, most of us were never taught to fail. Our entire school system is set up so that success is given a gold star and failure is ridiculed.

This is unfortunate because failure, when done properly, is a good thing. It’s required for taking on risk and pursuing entrepreneurial endeavors. That is, if you do it the right way.

The right way to fail means doing it quickly, inexpensively and never the same way twice. You don’t want to have too much money or time hinging on any one outcome. If you do, then failure is bad, taking time and money away from other opportunities.

Testing your route on smaller scales in rapid succession allows for the risks to be lessened. So, try something that doesn’t cost too much or take too much time. If it works, take the next step. If not, your failure isn’t financially or otherwise devastating.

And, of course, you need to learn from your failures so that you don’t repeat them down the road.

Change is necessary and it’s not evil. Learn to love it and you will be poised for success.

Starting a Successful Business With This Tips

When you start your own business, you’re certain to hear a lot of different advice. Most of it will come from people who don’t know the first thing about running a successful company. Turn to the internet, and you’ll be overwhelmed by a multitude of articles and lengthy lists on the subject. Don’t make the mistake of overthinking and overanalyzing it all. A few simple steps now can start your business down the path toward success. Here, we outline the five basic tips we’ve followed to help us run our company.

1. Begin with a detailed plan.
This one is a must: Develop an in-depth plan that fully details how you’ll attack the challenge ahead. Your plan should define any opportunities you’ve identified, clearly state your mission, describe your target, establish measurable goals, and set deadlines for each milestone along the way. Remember that while it’s important to have a plan, it’s equally vital to be flexible enough to pivot when needed.

2. Get out there and network.
Our business would not be where it is today without all the professional networking we did when we first started. We continue to emphasize networking today. Until you’ve established your business, you’ll need to create your own word-of-mouth. Be your own brand ambassador, touting the benefits of working with your business and showing why people should give you a chance.

Start your own momentum. A wealth of events, trade shows, and networking groups exist to connect you with other professionals. These initial connections can lead to future business prospects, mentors, and strategic partners with the capacity to help grow your business.

3. Surround yourself with the right people.
The right mentors and strategic partners aren’t the only people with whom you’ll need to align. Surrounding yourself with a great team is equally important. Build your staff with smart, talented, and driven employees who share your vision. They can not only transform your business but also accelerate its growth. Hiring positive, can-do employees helps create a culture that encourages teamwork. Foster an environment in which everyone participates, so you can collectively celebrate your company’s successes.

4. Stay ahead of the curve.
You can’t afford to be rooted in the present and solely focused on the day-to-day. It’s crucial to keep one eye focused on the future, including upcoming movement in your industry. If you aren’t anticipating the next big thing, you’re destined to fall behind. Successful business owners study trends and anticipate what’s coming around the bend. This allows them to nimbly adapt and evolve.

Stay current on emerging issues in your field by faithfully reading trade magazines and websites. Keeping pace as your industry changes assures you’ll have your finger on the pulse to predict what customers will want — and which direction your competition might move.

5. Find a healthy work-life balance.
Running a successful business requires an inordinate amount of time and energy. It’s paramount to find a healthy work-life balance, even though it can be a challenge to do so. It’s easy to let work dominate your life. Don’t. It could result in your losing touch with those whom you consider most important. It’s also crucial to take care of your own health and well-being. Your business can’t run without you. You might believe you need that perpetual hustle to stay sharp and succeed. But that pace can and will burn you out, ultimately limiting how much you can achieve if you don’t take time for yourself.

Find ways to maintain perspective and preserve healthy relationships outside of work. Set aside time to get your body active in ways that energize and invigorate you, and schedule catch-up time with friends and family. They’ll help recharge your batteries and inspire you to persevere as you dream even bigger.