Quitting everything and going after your dream, great idea or not? To be truthful, I have told many people that they had to find their own dream and pursue it. They couldn’t be me. Many people have paid me for advice, and until now, I was missing a step in the formula.
I have to give credit where credit is due. Cal Newport in his book “Be So Good They Can’t Ignore You”, pointed out something that was right there all along and I was glancing over it. There is a bit of irony here since I am taking a hosting and interviewing class right now from Marki Costello, and just about everyone in the class will glance right past the “bombshells” and go for the “safe” route. This is exactly what happens in business. As entrepreneurs we get caught up in our mission and forget to listen to the market.
Some time ago another entrepreneur friend told me “You have to keep a lot of irons in the fire, and go with the ones that get hot.” At the time it didn’t make much sense, and it is still not advice I would give everyone, but Cal Newport tells us there is some validity here.
The foundation of any endeavor that requires financial success as part of the grade has to first pass the test of the market. Simply put, you must do something people will pay you for. It doesn’t matter how good you are, if there isn’t a market need, and you can’t convince people that they have one, you can be the greatest, and still be broke.
Lets face it, money does matter. In a way it should right? Society rewards us with money for solving their problems, not ours. When you solve your problems you relieve a little stress, when you solve societies problems you are rewarded with money and power. That isn’t selling out, that is being real.
Cal Newport also points out that you might get lucky and find that your dream is also financially rewarding, but that is rarely the case. When you explore the lives of people we call “successful” in both life and financial rewards, he noted that they did several different things, and went with the one that worked best.
This is an interesting concept, that was sitting right in front of me, and I had been skipping right over it all along, and yet it is exactly why my residential technology business did well in California, and only average to boring in Texas. The market wasn’t as willing to pay for the technology in Texas no matter how good I (an my company) was.
This isn’t putting a lot of irons in the fire at once. Instead I think this is more like putting an iron in the fire, branding the cow, and seeing if anyone will buy the brand. If not, get another iron and try again. This is why truly successful people can have many successful ventures. Richard Branson comes to mind here. Once one Iron got hot and everyone liked the brand, he built it up and used that to buy the next iron. While we all know the brands that stuck, records, airlines and cell phones, I am sure there are just as many or more that didn’t take and we never heard of.
Looking back over my successes and not so much successes, it is clear that success is much more a simple formula than I ever gave credit for. Pilot? I got pretty good at it, and people pay for it. Business developer and consultant? Yes people pay well for what I have learned and my knowledge in their business. Actor? people are starting to buy it, so I’ll probably do more. Athlete? Never got good enough for anyone to pay me. Musician? Ditto.
At the end of the day, Cal Newport is right. Trying to become a Rockstar just ended in misery, I was in love with the dream, not the product. Trying to become a Pro Baseball Player was a dread because I hated the training. In business, flying and acting, for whatever reason I don’t have any problem pushing to new limits every time I go to work. There is the second key.
If you have been chasing your passion and it feels like you are chasing your tail, Cal’s book might help you get on the right track.