Get passionate about your business and your life

A lot of people start their business because they are passionate about their craft or being their own boss. It is often the passion that gets people to want to start their business in the first place.  They want to do things a particular way, not just from a point of control but to change something.  To be a "disrupter".  To make a difference to their work or their industry.  After a number of years it is easy to lose that passion. But it is vital that you get that passion back if you are to make your business as successful as it can be. But running a business can be a hard slog. When you first start out, passion is the fuel that keeps you going.  After the first 3 years which is the ‘I’ve made it mark’ as over 80% of business fail within the first 3 years, it becomes more challenging to keep up with There are many things that take you away from your actual craft, all of which can suck away the passion you once had. Sound familiar?

When I watch shows like the Margaret Pomeranz and David Stratton on the ABC TV Show “At the Movies” celebrating their 25th anniversary show, I wonder what keeps them going. To do the same thing for 25 years is an amazing achievement in itself. I don’t watch the show each week but what struck me were their passion for film and their passion for sharing film with their viewers.  They argued about what they agreed on and what they disagreed on.  Although a formula that worked, the passion that came through cannot be faked.  It is real.

You may think you are hiding it well but believe me it shows when you are not passionate about your business.  When you start to notice how you answer the questions ‘so what do you do?’  What enthusiasm and passion do you answer it?  How does this compare to when you first started in business?

Lack of passion also starts to show in your service and in your ability to grow and develop your business. How quickly do you get back to people?  Are you keen for the business?  Are you still hungry?  Or is the feeling like when you have already eaten and you are at a great restaurant that you should have starved yourself for but you haven’t?

And a lack of passion also rubs off on your staff. The fish rots from the head down or you can take any other analogy on leadership but when the owner is not interested in their work and really into it, it is hardly worthwhile for the staff to do the same?  Why would they bust their ‘chops’ and take extra initiative when the leaders and the business owner do not seem to care as much.  There is nothing to prove.  On the other hand when the owner is passionate about what they do, it is infectious.  People want to work with you.  They want to share ideas with you.

Passion has been associated with sports industries for a very, very long time. We associate that very easily. We say, when we're passionate about our sport, whatever code that we watch, whatever sport that we watch, but in the last five or six years we've now started to associate it a lot more with organizations.

We've also started to associate it a lot more with where we're actually starting to bring that into the value sets of the organizations. We absolutely know that we want to have passionate people working for us because that has a huge impact on our bottom line whether we're small, medium, or large businesses. It's something that's becoming a lot more common in the business language.

When I presented to the Australian Human Resource Institute on how to make staff more passionate about what they do, we looked at some shocking statistics on passion. The US Harris Interactive Study reveals less than half of people are very passionate about their work. There is some good news in that 44% of small business employees felt very passionate about their work, compared to 28% of people working in large firms. The figures are still very low.

To be a great leader you not only need a vision that you really believe in but you need to be able to communicate that vision. That is much easier to do if you have unlocked your passion and enthusiasm.

In business, if you are an entrepreneur like me, I want to do a million and one things at the same time.  What can you do to unlock or regain your passion?  How do you decide what you focus on?  Probably the most profound changes and shifts that started to happen to me was when I started to learn how to meditate. I didn't want to come from meditation really from a religious or even a spiritual perspective because my head goes off a lot.  I think of a zillion and one ideas, you can probably relate to that.

You've got, which ones do I do, which ones do I don't. It wasn't until I started a little bit of the meditation and even now, ten years into my meditation practice, with two young children, I probably get somewhere between five and ten minutes a day, so it's not a long period of time. One day, I'll get to the point where I can sit for an hour or so.  I started to learn how to meditate from different teachers over the years, the common message was, "Be present. Be mindful." All it means is, whatever you're doing, focus on that.

I don't get that right all the time, but one of the things I try and apply is that when I'm with my kids, I'm trying to be really present with them and not worrying about the fact that I've got those eighteen different jobs and e-mails and follow-ups, and all the things I didn't get to today that I need to get done when they go to sleep.

When I'm at work, I mean, unless somebody's not completely well, which is hardly the case, we have really healthy children and a really healthy family, when I'm at my work, I don't really think a lot about my kids. They're taken care of. There are nannies picking them up, or I'm picking them up, or they're going to after-school care. We've got all of that organized. I find that that really helps me.

When my mind starts to waver into other things in whatever I'm doing, whether it's a work, a business, a health, or whatever thing, or time with my partner, I try and be present. Whatever I do, and then at least I'll get most of it done. Otherwise, if I flip my head around all the time, my productivity reduces. I'm kind of doing it part for intellectual reasons, and part for sanity.

One of the other reasons we lose our passion is because we are very hard on ourselves. I remember, there's this whole notion of happiness institute, and seven steps to happiness, and eight steps to this. I've read quite a few books on happiness, and I can tell you honestly, I'm not happy all the time. People say, "Are you positive all the time?" I go, "God, no. Absolutely not." I have moments where life is a bit dark, or I think, "What am I doing?" Am I being the best mom?

I have the guilt that comes in about being a working mom and having businesses, et cetera. I think that that is very normal. I have to kind of remind myself that feeling light and dark, feeling happy and sad, feeling elated and a little bit depressed at times, as long as I'm spending most of my time in the positive, some of that negativity that comes in is so part of being human. When I meet people that pretend to be happy all the time and how fantastic their life is all the time, it's not true. It can't be true. We're designed to experience all of it.

Last year on mother's day, I got invited into the ABC studios, and there was a national interview. It's quite hilarious now when I think about it now. It wasn't hilarious at the time. The interviewer, who happened to be male, he says to me, "So, Shivani, do you love your kids all the time?" Let's just get the context right. It's mother's day, and I'm on national radio. I said, "No, not all the time." He was like looking at me as if I had three heads. I said, "Well, I think as a woman, when I was young, I was sold this illusion of how fantastic it is to be a mum. Look, I love my children. I wouldn't swap that experience for the world. However, there are times that I read the same bloody paragraph seventeen times and it really annoys me as I get interrupted so many times. There are times when I would love to finish my cup of tea, or eat my meal and actually chew it rather than swallow it. You know, there are so many interruptions that occur that I don't enjoy being a mother all the time."

I think it's a bit of an illusion. Anybody that says, I love my kids all the time is, you know, on something, I think. Anyway, the switchboard lit up and there were all these women and men that said, "Well, you must be so career-minded. It's because you run your businesses." Equally, the switchboard also lit up with people, particularly women that said, "Thank you for sharing that." As the conversation went on, I was on there for about half an hour or so, I said, "I love my kids, I just don't like them all the time. I'll always love them whatever happens, but I don't like them some of the time." It's so liberating for me to be able to say that, and I think as women, it’s okay to say that. That we don't like our partners and our children all the time, or even ourselves. That's okay, as long as we like them and love them most of the time.

Some tips to stay passionate:

  1. Ask yourself what you are passionate about. It may be that you no longer have a passion for your current business and are passionate about another one. It may be time to move on.
  2. If the passion for your current business is there but just dormant, then remind yourself of the specifics of the passion you once had. Try to outsource, delegate or delete the things in your business that you are not passionate about.
  3. Unlock your passion today as a first step toward a more prosperous and rewarding small business.

As always, if you have any questions or comments, you can always leave it here. I would love to hear from you.

With Love!

Shivani Gupta is the Chief Passion Officer of Passionate People Institute.  She is a recipient of many awards such as the Telstra Business Women’s awards. Ask Shivani anything and connect with her on www.askshivani.com or 0439722040.